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CarComplaints.com 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.

8.3

pretty bad
Typical Repair Cost:
$3,212.00
Average Mileage:
95,165 miles
Total Complaints:
37 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace entire transmission (19 reports)
  2. not sure (18 reports)
2003 Honda Accord transmission problems

transmission problem

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2003 Honda Accord Owner Comments (Page 1 of 2)

problem #37

Aug 212011

Accord EX 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 183,933 miles

A D V E R T I S E M E N T S

Purchased the car used unfortunately and had it checked out. Nothing noticeable and drove good considering miles. Started noticing jerking in transmission. Went on recall website and noted that the vehicle had several recalls that had not been fixed by the previous owner at the original recall. Called the local dealership and advised them that I was the owner and the problems on the recall I was experiencing with my vehicle. I took it into a scheduled appointment and was told that the part for the transmission recall had to be ordered and that everything else on a separate ignition switch recall was completed. After getting the part that was on order for the transmission recalled it drove great for a few days and then started again. This time I was entering the highway and as I went from 2ond to 3rd gear it begin to ramp up high then decelerate and the check engine light came on. Thank God it was not much traffic. I immediately called the dealership where I had the recalls completed and was told by the manager that the head technician checked it out and said it was operating in good condition, but what I was describing could only be checked by a diagnostic that costs $99.00 and my transmission had to be flushed and filled which was $150.00 before he could do anything else. he went on to say that from his experience I will need to replace the transmission. As we are STILL ON THE PHONE, I asked the shop technician how can you fix a recall part for the transmission and don't suggest or see that the transmission fluid should be changed and if that's the case how can you say that I need a new transmission without running a diagnostic. he said he has been doing it long enough to know. I immediately hung up and called HONDA customer service and explained my situation to them . I got an "unfortunately the miles are outside the recall recommendation mileage and that no Goodwill assistance could be issued. I tried to explained to him that the last owner did not for some reason take part in the original recall and if they would have this probably would not have been an issue with my vehicle. I told him that I thoroughly understand that the mileage on my vehicle is high, but it should be honored to some degree by Honda to help fix this problem. Of course all this fell on death ears because he still would not do anything stating that he apologized for the inconvenience. I also wrote in a letter and comment card to HONDA Corporate customer service , but as of today no phone call or followup. Still today a year later the problem still exist. This is the forth Honda in my family and we have never had a problem, but I guaranty the next one vehicle I purchase WILL NOT be a Honda!

- , Greenville, SC, USA

problem #36

Sep 012012

Accord LX 3.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 136,702 miles

I bought my accord and it is in excellent condition. Friday the family decided to travel to Niagara Falls from Ottawa which is about 550KM away. We left late Friday and drove all the way to Niagara stayed in a hotel for the night then next day we went to African Lion Safari where we drove slowly and had the A/C on. When we left after few hours, we drove to Hamilton 60 KM away from Niagara and pulled in to the store to purchase few things for the kids. When I started the car, it would not reverse, I waited 30 minutes then tried again and it reversed fine. I drove it down the road then suddenly the car shook and D light was blinking and TCS, caution light. then the car down shifted to second and since then, it did not Shift to third. The car never had issues before and it was shifting smoothly. Maybe overheating bad thermal design caused this. I was very nervous because it was saturday and long labor day weekend and nothing was open. I drove the car to the Hotel and waited couple more days for mechanics to open. Meanwhile, I was stressing out about having enough money to fix my problem. I also did my research online and found out that this is a common problem with those 2003 accord. I am very disappointed because I just paid cash for this car few months ago and now this problem. I had my two kids with me 1 year old and 3 years old and my wife. I took it to Honda Sterling dealership in Hamilton and they refused to acknowledge that it was a common issue and they did not want to look at the car without $100. I paid and I waited an hour then they told me everything I already knew. Replace tranny. so wasted 100. Called around and luckily I found JDMauto in Toronto and agreed to replace the entire tranny for $1700. brand new Rebuilt with 20K / 1 year warranty. I drove the car from hamilton to toronto at 60KM an hour on the highway. Very stressful and my kids and wife were in the Hotel waiting. I dropped off the car and rented another car. after two days, I picked up my car and the new tranny is working fine now. It is now Friday and it has been a week since I left Ottawa and I am still not back home. This entire trip costed me $4000 dollars because of faulty Honda design. It was risky having the kids in the middle of this whole issue and this was my third honda all tranny problems. This family vacation was a nightmare thanks to Honda. I WILL NEVER BUY A HONDA AGAIN AND WILL SELL THIS CAR ASAP AT A LOSS. Mechanic recommended Toyota Camry. Best car with an engine and transmission that will never break. This was a stressful week for my family and I hope the new tranny will take us home back to Ottawa tomorrow and not fail on us again.

- , Ottawa, ON, Canada

problem #35

Jul 292012

Accord EX 3.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,662 miles

I have read quite a bit about the 2003 Honda Accord transmission failures. I guess in comparison to some of the 'low mileage' failures I have done pretty well. I just had the front and rear brakes done; the timing belt and the water-pump replaced. I have changed the oil and filter diligently at 4500km. and the transmission has been flushed and the fluid replaced twice. The car looks like it just came out of the show room. It has performed very well and I have put it through it's paces. However I did not expect this. I think it is apparent Honda is wholly responsible for an inferior design and yet they have not been held accountable nor are they willing to admit their mistake.

- , Abbotsford, -- select state --bc, canada

problem #34

Mar 272012

Accord EX L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 126,000 miles

A D V E R T I S E M E N T S

For Honda accord 2003 EX L I see accelerator doesn't accelerate and the rpm meter goes beyond 5 between the speed of 20-35 and the problem was sporadic for about a year and from past 3 days it became worst and checked with the dealer and they said the transmission has to be replaced and costs around 4400$ and the minimum quote i got is for 3500$.

- , Mountain View, California, USA

problem #33

Jun 012011

Accord EX

  • Automatic transmission
  • 115,000 miles

Just bought the car a month ago and transmission shifted fine, a couple weeks it started getting rough and now it wont shift into 3rd gear

- , Post Falls, ID, USA

problem #32

May 042010

Accord V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

I have a 2003 honda accord that I purchased in 2008 used - It was fine for the first year & a half with regular maintenance and no issues. Then in 2010 I was driving on the interstate and it acted like it slipped out of gear and the RPM's shot up, I was only going 55mph & it was at 5000 rpm's. I immediately pulled over and put the car in park. Luckily I was right by my exit and made it home driving on the side of the road. When I got it home it would not go into reverse. Next day I drove it to Honda dealership & they replaced the "coil packs" they then said I needed to get new O2 sensors. But I did not have the $ for it at that time... My car drove fine for about 6 months. Then started again with not being able to shift into 3rd gear as I accelerated. It would stick between 25-30 mph. & it will rev until it jerks and gets into gear. I am at a stand still - should I pay to get it fixed or just try and trade it or sell it???? please someone help!!

- , Indianapolis, IN, USA

problem #31

May 142011

Accord EX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 150,000 miles

A D V E R T I S E M E N T S

I bought this used and have always thought it shifted weird but it's my first Honda and just thought it was the difference in the make. A few months ago it started not wanting to shift into 2nd when it was cold out and I would have to go into N then back to D for it to engage. Now last night it was already warmed up and not shifting into 3rd and could hear some grinding. Really pissed I have no savings for repairs seeing all of it went to the new furance I had to purchase 2 months ago!!

- , Hart, MI, USA

problem #30

Jan 282011

Accord ES 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 62,200 miles

I had just bought this car used, car was in great shape seem to run flawless. It had 62,200 miles on it. I had read about the problems with the transmission, but thought this would not happen to me. I was able to drive the car a couple of days before I made my mind up on buying it. The car had had all it,s servicing done at a Honda Dealer buy the previous owner. Then when I was on my way to the DOT to transfer title and it happened, the transmission would not shift to 3rd gear. I had to shift down to 2nd and drive 25 - 30 mph with flashers on. Lucky enough I was able to drive to a local mechanic and have them look at it. At this moment I wait to here the bad news.

- , Sugar Land, Texas, USA

problem #29

Nov 152010

Accord V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 112,000 miles

On November 16, I was driving on the interstate with my wife at approximately 70 MPH. With no warning, the car rapidly decelerated. The tires squealed and I could smell the rubber. Both my wife and I had our seatbelts lock out. After the momentary deceleration (about 1/2 a second), we slowed to approximately 55 MPH and proceeded to the nearest exit. Before we could exit, another rapid deceleration happened that was less severe than the first one. Once we got off the interstate we pulled into a hotel parking lot and I checked the brakes to see if they had seized. All the pads appeared normal. When I got back into the car and shifted into drive from park, the entire car had a pronounced "clunk." I tried shifting from D to P and back to D and there was another clunk. We decided to try to drive to the dealership since the car appeared to drive normally in the parking lot. On the road, the transmission would not shift above second gear. We pulled over into another parking lot and had the car towed to the dealership. That night, I researched other 2003 accord transmission issues and found 447 complaints on the NHTSA website from people who had similar experiences. The next morning, the dealership called me to let me know I needed a new transmission that would cost over $4400. I asked about some sort of goodwill financial help since the car is outside of its warranty, but has been maintained according to the owner's manual service schedule. The dealership would have to request the assistance through corporate. Based on my research, other honda owners received goodwill assistance by calling corporate directly. I called American honda and recalled my experience. The representative said they had never heard of something like this happening before and because my car is beyond its warranty, honda would not offer assistance.

I believe this is a safety issue that honda does not want to recognize. I am suspicious that honda has not heard of other people having this issue when I find 100s of similar reports on many websites!

- , Clarksville, TN, USA

problem #28

Oct 182010

Accord V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles

2003 Honda Accord V6. 120,000 miles, and runs like a gem...that was until the transmission failed on me. Same complaint as others.. won't shift into 3rd.. just revs and leaves you stuck going 20mph on freeway. My regular mechanics checked it out with the look of doom on their faces--they knew what was coming. Then they call back and say, "We knew this tranny might have issues down the road when we've seen you in the past; it's notoriously bad but we didn't want to worry you..but uh now you need a new transmission". Then I get online and find all of these complaints and more. Call American Honda.. got a glimmer of hope that the 2004 recall if connected to this failure MIGHT give me a full refund for new transmission but have to take to dealership to evaluate. It's there and called Honda HQ again for case number and another dude tells me: "They don't need one cuz if it's recall related, they'll just do the work and based on your mileage, we won't help if it's not". I asked the Dealership guy how often he's getting these tranny failures in 2003 Accords.. he says "once a month maybe"..(Now add that up!) I ask how often he's seeing Honda give any assistance since it's clearly a failure.. He says "Not at all anymore, since the economy sank". He says for them to replace will be $4800.. I choked on the phone--cuz who can afford that? I won't be paying that, however... I'll figure something else out, but in the meantime we all are being screwed. This car has value left and should have many, many more miles left on it. Yet the tranny is a piece of junk that Honda not only knew about from the get-go, but that we've been left stranded to deal with and pay for. I think those that mention a class action suit are on the right road. This is a clear failure on the part of Honda and it is beyond unjust.

- , Baltimore, MD, USA

problem #27

Nov 042009

Accord EX 3.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 91,000 miles

A D V E R T I S E M E N T S

So clearly it was known in 2004 that the 2003 Accord transmissions had a thermal problem due to faulty design. The transmissions were overheating and there was concern about failure.

- , Brooklyn, NY, USA

problem #26

Jul 302010

Accord EX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 140,000 miles

We were driving the car this weekend when the car wouldn't shift into 3rd gear. Very dangerous when you are driving on the freeway and unable to go above 50 mph!

I heard Honda Accords are notorious for transmission problems. I did my research and found that 2001-2002 Accords were recently recalled. I filed a complaint with the NHTSA Office of Defects Investigation. I also called Honda and they told me there was nothing they could do. 2003 Accords had transmission recall that was supposed to fix the problem specifically that the "transmission was not properly shifting into 3rd gear". This is a serious issue and could affect the safety of many families that rely on their cars to transport their children!

If they knew there was a problem with the transmission back in 2004 then they should help people who are having the problem now!!!

- , San Diego, CA, USA

problem #25

Jul 112010

Accord V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 134,000 miles

On saturday July 10th my car was FINE. On sunday it would not shift into 3rd gear and when it tried 3rd was not there... took it to the dealership said it was just my battery changed that NOPE not it. They transfered it to another dealership, they pulled codes and said so many codes popped up on the transmission that I needed a new one and that its going to cost about $4500. I dont have that kind of money and am not sure what I am going to do now. oh in my research I found out that the torque converter may be the problem, and that there has been almost 500 people complaining of the same thing...

- , Kalama, WA, USA

problem #24

Jun 282010

Accord EXL V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 78,000 miles

I purchased this car from the little old lady... Had 30K on it when purchased. It had 78K on it when the Transmission failed my wife on her way to work. While in D, the car would act like it was in Neutral. I could put the car in D3 and it would go but that soon didn't work either. I hauled the car 2 hours away to my closet Honda dealer and they found that the Transmission needed to be replaced. I called Honda America in hope of receiving some financial assistance with paying for the $3800 replacement cost of the Transmission. After dickering with them, they offered to pay $1500 of the cost. I was not happy with the outcome due to the fact that a car with this mileage shouldn't be having Transmission issues. I have owned (3) Camrys and have put as much as 300K mile on one of them without having ANY engine or transmission issues. The Honda America Rep stated that they figured that the Accord has a life of 120K miles and that I had driven the car approximately 2/3 of the life of the car. This is why they did what they did. The Rep had a "Take it or Leave it" attitude. I will not own another Honda.

- , Salem, MO, USA

problem #23

Apr 022010

Accord EX 3.0L Vtec

  • Automatic transmission
  • 68,000 miles

This is the first Honda we have owned, having purchased it used with 30k miles on it. It now has 68k. The transmission first started doing a little shift flare between the 1 - 2 shift about a month ago. I installed an external filter and cooler, as well as replaced the stock Honda filter on the top of the tranny and flushed the fluid (18 quarts it took to get it clean). The fluid in the transmission was burnt and black, and the stock filter was completely clogged. The unit worked fine for about 3 weeks, then started to come out of gear (for lack of a better term) when shifting from 2 - 3. If you baby the throttle and do not rev the engine, it will eventually catch third gear, and then shift into OD just fine. It also slips when downshifting from 4 - 3.

The owners manual says to replace the fluid at 120k or 6 years...I realize I have exceeded the 6 year mark, but with roughly half the recommended mileage, I wouldn't expect to have to flush 18 quarts...after all, transmission fluid doesn't spoil. I also wouldn't expect a car company with such a reputation for quality (a BIG reason we bought a Honda) to build such junk and then not stand behind their product.

This transmission is JUNK. 68k is all I get, then I have to fork over $3,000 for a new one? Really? The transmission in my company vehicle (1998 Ford F-150) has 170k miles on it, has only been serviced twice, and exhibits no shifting anomalies whatsoever. Why can't a company like Honda figure out how to build transmissions like that?

My next step is to call Honda America Customer Service at 1-800-999-1009 and ask for a 'goodwill repair' I'm not expecting much more than a kick in the nuts.

- , Palm Bay, FL, USA

problem #22

Mar 302010

Accord EX 3.0L Vtec V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 73,000 miles

I'm am the 3rd owner of this car Bought it a year a go. First owner bought it new drove till 38k 2nd drove it to 53k when I bought it and took it to 73k. So it begins!!!!!!!!Was 30 miles from Getting on the freeway and as soon as a I hit 2nd gear around 3500 RPM Car just revs so I take it to redline and bypasses 3rd and it shifts in to 4th. So I stay on the freeway and make it home. Called Honda America and they said that i would needed to go to Local Dealer they also informed me that I had outstanding Recalls for the Transmission and Wiper motor. Had them fixed! When the car came out of the dealer felt better but same issue so I took it to Leons Transmission to have a free inspection done. I get a call back a day later saying that I need a who new transmission. Crankshaft, Solenoids covered with debrie ( Soft and hard transmission parts) FUBAR'd!!!! After getting the estimate $3,100 to have my tranny overhauled. I was pissed so I called the local dealer who now is familiar with me since my recall. I tell them I now need a new transmission so the rep says to come in and bring all my maintenance records for the car. Its Saturday so he says first thing Monday morning he will talk to his boss and Honda America and Push for a new transmission. When I asked the dealer if this should happen at 73k he said no way and with my service records that I should have a smoking gun!!!!!! I then asked if he wanted a list of what's wrong with the trans he said "NO we saw all the debris in there when they were doing the 2nd gear recall and they will call Leons if they have any questions. SO gonna call the dealer tomorrow around 2pm and see what the good word is. I will Post my result.

- , Northridge, CA, USA

problem #21

Jan 052010

Accord EX V6

  • Manual transmission
  • 172,000 miles

This car has been working great until now. When I shift into 3rd gear I get a grinding noise and took this to AAMCO and they told me it was due to worn gears. They did inform me to go to STOPREPAIRBILLS. and get an extended warranty but dont sign up to it until I take him the contract and he will tell me if this repair is covered. The cost of stop repair bills is $170.00 down and 14 payments of 56.00 per month.

- , Ontario, CA, USA

problem #20

Sep 012009

Accord V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 118,000 miles

Hey do we know if anyone has filed a class action? I am very upset with the fact that my 2003 Honda (which are suppose to be great cars) is having an issue with the transmission already. No one at Honda Problems (800) 999 1009 wants to help! Go figure! Apparently this is an issue and I think all of us Honda owners who had faith in this car should move fwd and file a complaint.

- , Oroville, CA, USA

problem #19

May 012008

Accord EX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 85,000 miles

Bought 03 Accord EX V6 in 2004 as certified pre-preowned at 44K. Noticed the recall on the automatic transmission with service consisting of oil injector kit recall. Had the recall performed. About 85K miles noticed slight 2nd to 3rd gear hiccup. Went in for AT fluid change. No difference. Problem progressively worsened till about 110K miles. Made due by letting off gas between 2nd to 3rd gear so shifting can happen. When 2nd to 3rd gear fails to catch, car feels stuck in Neutral. Adding gas only revs the engine more. Have to bring car to stop and then re-accelerate. Called Honda customer service. They sent me to a Honda dealer to pay them for inspection to tell me that transmission is bad and that it is out of warranty. Then that Honda will not cover any of the cost. I have filed complaint with NTHSB

- , Roseville, MN, USA

problem #18

Jun 152009

Accord LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 85,000 miles

I have the same safety issue as hundreds (thousands?) of other consumers about the 2003 Honda Accord transmission. It's failing between 2nd and 3rd gear. I believe it's a safe assumption this failure is due to the ineffectual "repair" done due to the 2004 recall. The recall repair was done at 18,000 miles in 2004. In 2009 at 85,000 miles, Honda says the transmission needs to be replaced to the tune of $3,700. However, the dealership refuses to open the transmission to see if the gear is heat damaged! According to the recall repair procedure, this would show if the damage relates to the 2004 recall, recall repair done or not. At the suggestion of my service adviser (I use the term loosely), I spoke to American Honda. The "customer service" (I use the term VERY loosely) rep, Lauren, asked what I was looking for in the way of assistance. I said a transmission replacement and she immediately informed me, before I even explained the problem, that was not going happen. After I gave her a detailed explanation (not at her promptin, believe me), Lauren again asked what I was looking for. I said I had seen many 80% contributions toward this very repair and I'd be willing to settle for that. She again told me that was not going to happen. She said she truly didn't have any incentive to offer a "goodwill repair" at all as I'd informed her I was trying to sell the car. So, I asked, if I keep the car, you'd be willing to provide me more help? She said yes, as it was her job to keep Honda customers, not help them get rid of their Hondas. ???!!! I advised her that I felt that was akin to blackmail/extortion. She didn't disagree. A couple of days later, Lauren called me back and informed me that American Honda was offering me a whopping $1,300 contribution toward the repair, but only if completed at a Honda dealership (naturally). This means a $2,400 contribution on the part of my daughter, who earns $12/hr. End result: I'm picking up the car from the dealership tomorrow. They are more than willing to let me drive it away (after paying them the $100 for a truly unnecessary diagnostic given the 2004 Accord's transmission history), even though they state the transmission could lock up at any given time. Safe? Concern for the customer? Concern for the community? I think not. This is my 23-year old daughter's first auto purchase. What a let down. I've lodged a complaint with NHTSA and am calling Stamell & Schager. I urge others to do the same.

- , N. Las Vegas, NV, USA

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