American Honda Motor will provide extended warranties on approximately 1.2 million Honda and Acura models equipped with automatic transmissions due to problems that may result in premature wear or failure, the company said in a statement.

The newspaper USA Today said the moves came after angry owners swamped online forums and appealed to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for a safety recall because of a transmission that could slip out of gear, not go into gear, abruptly downshift or refuse to shift.

The problem varies with each model, but a Honda spokesman told USA Today that the culprit is a bearing inside the transmission that could break apart or premature wear of a third-gear clutch part that could scatter metal bits inside the transmission case.

For vehicles still under the three-year/36,000-mile warranty given when the vehicle was purchased, Honda had been replacing the transmissions. But owners with problems after the warranty expired were required to pay for the new transmission, USA Today said.

Some owners told the newspaper that their transmission had to be replaced with as little as 1,200 miles on the vehicle.

David Champion, director of Consumer Reports magazine's Auto Test Division, told USA Today that owners should reasonably expect a transmission to last for 120,000 miles.

The Honda statement said the extended warranty would cover affected transmissions for seven years or 100,000 miles.

The standard bumper-to-bumper warranty for Honda vehicles is three years or 36,000 miles, while Acura vehicles are covered for four years or 50,000 miles.

Vehicles covered by the extended warranty include 2000 - 2001 Honda Accord, Odyssey and Prelude; 2000 - 2002 and some 2003 Acura 3.2 TL and 2001 - 2002 and some 2003 Acura 3.2 CL models.

Honda said that only 2% of these vehicles had experienced transmission problems but it would provide extended transmission warranties on all potentially affected vehicles.