Huge win for car owners! All TSBs to be made public. The Center for Auto Safety just made the NHTSA (US Government) make public the full text of all TSBs from now on. They are the same organization that has petitioned the NHTSA & filed lawsuits to protect car owners over exploding gas tanks & other major safety issues. Whenever you drive in your car, you are safer thanks in part to a lot of work over the years by this small but very effective consumer advocacy group.

Please take a moment & say thank you by donating $5 or whatever you can to the Center for Auto Safety. Notes: The 2003 Honda Accord suffers from widespread transmission failure & problems with the stereo backlight failing. We recommend avoiding this model year like the plague.

The transmission begins slipping & eventually has to be replaced, typically soon after 90,000 miles & with a repair cost of over $2,000. Transmission failure has been a huge problem for the Accord & several other Honda models all through the early 2000s model years. Honda extended the transmission warranty to 93 months/109k miles for the 2000-2001 Accord as a class action lawsuit settlement, but owners of other Accord model years with transmission problems are out of luck.

The stereo backlight problem has been an issue since these Accords were only a few years old. Honda eventually issued a recall which covered the repair for 7 years/100k miles, which was nice while it lasted but now that period is over. Honda initially was replacing the entire radio ($800) but eventually began replacing just the PCB which at ~$300 is much cheaper. That sounds like a deal, but keep in mind we're talking about a backlight bulb that costs $2 to fix in most other cars.


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
2 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
4 / 0
Average Mileage:
109,534 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2003 Honda Accord drivetrain problems

drivetrain problem

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2003 Honda Accord Owner Comments (Page 6 of 16)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #206

Aug 202013


  • 51,507 miles


Transmission was downshifting hard. Talked to an independent shop that told me Honda's have transmission issues, which the internet confirmed, but the dealer or Honda usa wouldn't. I opened a case with Honda usa. On a side note, I had transmission serviced at 26,000. So I took it to dealer who only serviced the car & all services were up to date. On 8/20/2013 they filled & drained transmission 3 times (mileage 51,507). They said all was fine. On 9/11/2013 transmission won't shift out of park, used emergency procedure out of owners manual to get it out of park (mileage 51,811). Dealer says it's the ECU (part#37820rad415) $1000 to repair, I'm still not sure this is the issue, it could be the transmission. Honda usa says "we don't care" due to the age & mileage. Seriously" an 03 with 51,500?! always garaged & serviced at the dealer" as of this writing the car is at the dealer, I'm deciding if they should do the repair.

- San Jose, CA, USA

problem #205

Sep 022013

Accord 4-cyl

  • 98,000 miles
2003 Accord coupe 4 cylinder: When driving 35 miles per hour and came to a stop sign, car revved up but would not advance. Towed to mechanic, says transmission failure, gears are bad/ slipping.

- Miami, FL, USA

problem #204

Sep 022013

Accord 6-cyl

  • 146,194 miles
Was at a stop sign went to drive and heard a loud screech car would not go forward went to put it into park car screeched car rolls back even when in park...transmission.

- Boston, MA, USA

problem #203

Aug 162013

Accord 6-cyl

  • 42,000 miles


My sister-in-law was driving the car on the highway at 60mph when it started to violently decelerate, as though somebody had jammed on the brakes. This happened approximately 6 times within about 4.5 miles. She got off the highway and managed to drive the car to the dealership. When they tested it the next day the transmission destroyed itself and they barely managed to get back to the dealership. If it had failed the day before my sister-in-law could have been killed.

- Redmond, WA, USA

problem #202

Aug 102013

Accord 6-cyl

  • 108,000 miles
While traveling at about 60 mph on the highway the vehicle stalled out, and due to light traffic the driver was able to pull over safely. The transmission would no longer take, when placed in any gear. The vehicle was towed home.

- Lawrence, MA, USA

problem #201

Jul 012013

Accord 6-cyl

  • 58,866 miles
2003 Honda Accord 2 dr coupe, V6 with 5sp auto-58K mileage-transmission locking, vehicle without any warning shut itself off, coasted, drifted no power, all electrical power shutdown while driving 0-30 mph, three lane road creating dangerous potential for driver without any capacity to engage hazard lights, temperatures 105+ degrees. Vehicle nearly rear ended as it occurred in middle of road. Vehicle towed to dealer. Sensor installed at $322 cost to owner. No goodwill. Less than one week once again transmission locking without any warning shut itself off, electrical power remained intact, driver immediately put on hazard lights, yellow light came one for service, tow arrived 60 minutes later three lane hwy hot weather conditions. Impeccable service records, all from Honda dealer, owner diligent with every required maintenance and extended warranty. Honda dealer mechanic diagnosed needs new transmission assembly approximately $6,267 w/ 3 year warranty and Honda manufacturer offered less than 6 1/2% toward replacement, owner responsible for remainder (dealer volunteered credit of 23%) dealer provided free loaner car for one week at their cost as Honda did not cover the loaner. Decision pending after Honda is contacted directly to remedy this dangerous, recalled defect noted to millions of others in transmission recall. Had great potential for owner to sustain injury or fatality, two locking incidents, one with all power failure too.

- Silver Spring, MD, USA

problem #200

Aug 052013

Accord 6-cyl

  • 91,085 miles


While driving my 2003 Honda Accord V6 coupe, at around 55 mph, the vehicle suddenly dropped to about 20 mph. The RPM's jumped to 7000. The check engine light and "maintenance" lights came on. After nearly being rear-ended by the vehicle behind me ( rush hour traffic), I pulled over and turned the car off. After waiting several minutes, I turned it back on and drove home, never going above 20 mph. When I finally got the car towed to landmark Honda (alexandria, va) I was told that I would need a remanufactured transmission at the cost of $5085, parts and labor. Granted, the vehicle is 10 years old with 90K miles, I was a little dishearten. I was able to find a transmission specialist in the area where they are rebuilding the transmission for $2800. I am extremely disappointed in Honda and especially with their reputation for dependability. I strongly feel that Honda is aware of this problem and needs to rectify the issue and compensate all Honda owners who have had this similar issue.

- Springfield, VA, USA

problem #199

Jun 092010


  • 119,000 miles
After getting a transmission flush (fluid was dark and apparently already damage to the transmission had already occurred), a week later the transmission would violently upshift and downshift repeatedly. This occurred on side roads at 20 miles an hour and on the highway at 45-50 miles per hour. At 45 miles per hour it would up and downshift every 5-10 seconds on the way to the transmission shop. I did not drive faster than that in order to avoid a resulting accident. This occurred with about 119,000 miles and required a rebuild of the transmission at a cost of $2,800. Honda says they had issued a transmission recall in 2004 but I never received a letter. Also all searches by VIN on Honda's site had failed until yesterday. When I went to the dealer they said it was fixed for my car. But I never brought in my car for this work, and they have no record of fixing it that I can see. Honda should put a new transmission in my car as the rebuild is not the same as a new transmission and I already paid for it.

- Burnsville, MN, USA

problem #198

May 012012

Accord 6-cyl

  • 110,000 miles
When driving both on street and highway the vehicle suddenly shift gears on its own. The rpms will go up and the car violently slows down. For some time after the vehicle will not shift up and will not go above 25 mph.

- Paramount, CA, USA

problem #197

Jun 282013

Accord 4-cyl

  • 148,820 miles
Car started burning oil at 100,000 miles. Tail pipe is full of black soot. I have to put 2 quarts of oil in the car every 700 miles. Car has been regularly maintained. On June 28, 2013, at 148,000 miles, the gears started slipping as I was driving. The drive light in the dash started blinking. Car would not shift gears properly. Reverse would not work. Mechanic stated transmission needs to be rebuilt - costing $2,800. I thought Honda's were supposed to last longer than this. I've already complained to Honda about the car burning oil but they said that is normal. What other options are there" does anyone want to get a class action lawsuit together" I've read about many instances where the motor burns oil and the transmission fails, even way earlier than mine has. It's too bad it would take a fatality for Honda to respond.

- Saint Louis, MO, USA

problem #196

May 092011


  • 160,168 miles


The transmission started having a slight flare in 2nd to 3rd shift around 150,000 miles. I got it serviced at mel rapton Honda on 3/20/2012 and was told about the flare issue. Now at 180,000 the transmission will not go past 3rd gear and needs to be replaced.

- Sacramento, CA, USA

problem #195

Jul 112013


  • 63,498 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. The contact stated that while driving 40 mph, the vehicle downshifted and independently decelerated to 10 mph. The contact stated that the speed began fluctuate independently. The vehicle was not taken to the dealer for inspection but was not repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The failure mileage was 63,498.

- Plymoth, IN, USA

problem #194

Jun 032013

Accord 6-cyl

  • 61,652 miles
I was preparing to exit a parking area when the engine rpms jumped up to 4000+ but the car did not accelerate. The transmission was in D but the car would not move. I allowed the rpms to drop to 600, shifted to N then back to D. repeated that process a 2nd time and the transmission did engage. The next day the local Honda dealer checked but could not verify a transmission problem. At 61740 miles the same transmission slipping occurred in traffic. The transmission is now being replaced. We purchased the car in November 2002. This vehicle had an easy life and less than 62000 miles. The 2004 recall for Accord V6 automatic transmission 2nd gear did not fix the problem.

- Oakland, CA, USA

problem #193

Jun 292013

Accord 6-cyl

  • 112,000 miles
While driving on a busy ca freeway going 70mph in the fast lane, suddenly the car started (I thought) braking very violently. I crossed the lanes to get to the shoulder all the while it was still braking violently. Narrowly missed being rear ended several times. We had it towed to our Honda mechanic and it turns out the transmission was slipping from 4th to 2nd gear. I have subsequently read numerous stories exactly like mine. Looks like Honda knows of the problem and is waiting for someone to be killed or seriously injured before they do anything about it. Yes, the car is 10 years old but this is a serious safety issue and they need to acknowledge and try to help their loyal customers before they are killed or injured.

- La Habra, CA, USA

problem #192

Sep 242010


  • 85,000 miles
I was driving down the highway at about 65 miles per hour. All of the sudden my car forced itself into a lower gear. My car jerked violently and skidded on the highway. I was lucky that nobody was around me at the time, or I could have definitely hit somebody. I drove my car straight to the dealership, and they said the transmission needed to be replaced at the cost of $4,500. I had no choice but to pay the fee and fix my car. Seems ridiculous that there is no recall for this, when so many people are having the same issue. There is clearly something wrong with these transmissions.

- Queen Creek, AZ, USA

problem #191

May 292003

Accord 6-cyl

  • 200 miles
This vehicle has been defective from the outset. The wrong lug nuts were on the wheels. I got a ride of vibration for 13,000 miles and 25 trips to the dealership and independent tire shops. This was followed by a differential which failed and two transmissions after the original for a total of three. I never got one mile of the new car ride a new car would normally provide. Countless trips and stop gap repairs, I am now afraid to take a trip. I have asked Honda for a new car three time including Japan and they have declined 'stating they cover the 3rd transmission with a warranty and have helped. I have been stranded 5 times the many trips to culver city from van nuys were not all documented as\ the work orders were redacted by [xxx], who Honda claims since have been released(fired).I have invoices of over almost 5 1/2 inches wide collectively. If ever a car was 'fraudulent' in terms of a vehicle that did not ever mesh mechanically this is the 'prototype' Honda Accord if there is any justice a new car would be provided and be deemed a most appropriate resolution on this matter of the car which never worked from the outset. Information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Van Nuys, CA, USA

problem #190

Jun 242013

Accord 6-cyl

  • 148,298 miles
The automatic transmission on this car is horrible. My daughter was driving this car on the highway and the transmission suddenly quit on her. Fortunately she was not rear ended. Hackettstown Honda quoted me $4500 to replace the transmission even though there was a recall notice about relating to this (#04-037 dated April 2005) and the car has been in for a variety of other recalls. I also own a 2003 4 cylinder and have not had any problems.

- Marlboro, NJ, USA

problem #189

Jun 212013


  • 149,000 miles
While driving on the highway in rush hour traffic the transmission started to have issues while shifting down into first, a small knock. When I was able to get up to normal highway speeds as traffic opened up the car violently slammed into first gear causing my tires to lock up and sent me veering to the right. Luckily I was in the right lane and the car behind me was at a safe distance or I would have been toast. Afterwards I was able to limp home in first gear as no other gear is working including reverse. Looks like its off to the dealer to buy a new transmission. I don't understand how there can be hundreds of complaints of catastrophic transmission failure at highway speeds and there is no concern of safety from either Honda or the NHTSA, but they are quick to tell you to replace the ignition interlock because it's unsafe! please do something about this before someone gets seriously hurt!

- Saint Louis, MO, USA

problem #188

Jun 082013

Accord 6-cyl

  • 200,000 miles
Automatic transmission disengages from drive line. ( it felt like the transmission had been placed in neutral). It doesn't do it when cold. If engine is turned off and started after 5 minutes car will move. Transmission specialist quoted $2000-$2500 to rebuild trans.he said the trans filter was not accessible from outside the transmission and the clutch pack disintegrates and clogs the filter rendering the transmission unreliable. Transmission fluid had been replaced as per Honda recommendation, now it smells burned and is brown instead of red. Honda quoted $500 trade in value towards another newer car. Honda wants $3000-$4000 to replace with rebuilt unit. Research indicates that this is a not uncommon for this model over many years. How many fatal crashes have occurred due to this problem but were attributed to other causes?

- Union, IL, USA

problem #187

Jun 082013


  • 115,000 miles
While driving at apx. 45mph car violently downshifted into a lower gear, and then went into neutral, I pulled over to the side of road and shut it off. A minute or two later I restarted and it went back into gear. This happened 4 or 5 times over the next 3 miles to get car home. Spoke with Honda service advisor same day (6/8/13) and she basically told me it is a common issue and I was looking replacing the transmission for apx.4 - 4.5K! over the phone and not having seen the car! called Honda customer service (6/10/13) and after 20 minutes on phone with rep he told me to have car towed to dealer, have them look at it and deal with them! fat chance I'll do that, having it towed to an independent transmission shop. We bought the car new from dealer in may, 2003, has apx. 115,000 miles and has been maintained. Very disappointed in Honda, more so after "googling" the above issue and seeing it is a very common problem with this model! never to be a Honda owner again!

- Roseville, CA, USA

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