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really awful
Crashes / Fires:
21 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
17 / 0
Average Mileage:
54,476 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 Toyota Corolla engine problems

engine problem

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2003 Toyota Corolla Owner Comments (Page 2 of 4)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #43

Feb 242010


  • 110,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Corolla. While driving at speeds of 45 mph, the cruise control light illuminated. She was unable to deactivate the cruise control since the rpms began increasing excessively. The vehicle abnormally accelerated and would not stop despite her attempts to apply the brakes. The contact was able to shift into neutral gear and continue to apply the brakes. There was smoke present in the vehicle as it began to decrease in speed to 15 mph. Since the contact was unable to stop the vehicle, she then jumped from the drivers side as the vehicle proceeded and plowed into a snow bank before stopping. The vehicle sustained substantial body damage. The dealer stated that the transmission was destroyed due to her shifting into neutral gear from the park position. The transmission was replaced and a representative from Toyota was scheduled to further investigate the failure. The investigator could find no failures within the vehicle speed control. There were no repairs made to the body of the vehicle. The failure mileage was approximately 110,000 and the current mileage was approximately 118,000.

- Gansevoort , NY, USA

problem #42

Jan 142007


  • 78,000 miles
My 2003 Toyota Corolla le which was purchased in 2003 had a acceleration problem, I took it to the oakbrook Toyota while it was still under warranty and was told that it was all in my head and moreover the electronics for this function was factory installed and there was nothing the dealer could do with it. This was the last time I went to this dealer.the car would accelerate from 500 RPM to 2000 RPM in idle this would lurch the car forward and the only way I could drive this car was to change the ceramics brake pads every 10000 miles. In 2007 the car lurched forward at a traffic light and broke the rear bumper of a Hyundai santas fe and cracked my bumper too I tried to explain to the police officer that I was stopped and suddenly the car lurched forward, it did not help I was given a ticket and told to tell my story to the judge, luckily the lady I hit did not show up in court and I was discharged but that did not make my insurance company all state from raising my premium and I still have the car and still has the highest premium. The car is used for running errands locally.

- Oswego, IL, USA

problem #41

Sep 102009


  • miles
I was driving along the interstate at about 60-65 miles per hour when the engine suddenly turned off: All indicators in the dashboard turned off/went to zero and there was no way of accelerating. I had to somehow pull over to avoid an accident. When finally on the side lane the engine just turned back on. My husband would not believe this but we now found an article on that related to this. Hence my reporting it now.

- Chapel Hill, NC, USA

problem #40

May 112007


  • 30,000 miles


Our 2003 Toyota Corolla has twice mysteriously accelerated. First in '07 causing extensive damage to auto and property. Dealer didn't take seriously and claimed driver error that he had foot on accelerator instead of brake. Car was repaired and returned. On 1/11/10 it accelerated a second time while I was going downhill with foot on brake. Stopped car by throwing into neutral. Toyota was notified and given case number [xxx]. dealer checked car on 1/15/10 and could not duplicate problem. Have documentation but are unable to contact Toyota for follow-up. Information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Wheeling, WV, USA

problem #39

Apr 012007


  • 45,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Corolla. While slightly depressing the accelerator pedal at traffic light, there was a sudden increase in the engine rpms as the engine became louder than usual. The vehicle abnormally accelerated suddenly and crashed into a curb. The contact could not maintain control or stop the vehicle. The vehicle proceeded to accelerate up hill, crashing into a tree and immediately rolled over three times from the force of impact. The contact was injured. When the vehicle finally came to a stop, the engine was still exhibiting high rpms and the unusually loud noise. The vehicle was destroyed. The failure mileage was 45,000 and the current was 45,000.

- Delray Beach, FL, USA

problem #38

Nov 102009


  • 59,500 miles
I had unintended acceleration on Toyota Corolla 2003 le model. This problem happened to me two times during one year of 30,000 miles drive. I suspected the cruise control system was the cause of the problem.

- Derwood, MD, USA

problem #37

Mar 052007


  • 80,000 miles


Information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6) purchased 2003, Toyota, Corolla, VIN: [xxx] with daughter. Veh was purchased from Toyota of orange in ca. Two days later a hit and run driver forced veh to skid across five lanes on interstate 10 in Ontario, ca, and landed atop center divider. The vehicle was sent to repair shop and "repaired" after approximately 5-8 months. However, the car was never properly repaired, and I complained to both Toyota, and to the insurance company, allstate, but Toyota adamantly stated the veh was without problems. The car was continually in the shop for the brakes. Eventually the carpet caused the accelerator to become stuck and the car went out of control. I was forced to reach down while the car moving and pull the carpet with both hands to release the accelerator. Stepping on the brakes did not help. Neither Toyota repair nor allstate would help resolve our complaints since 2003, we were simply told that the veh was fine. Additionally I believe the frame is bent, lack of interlocking brakes causing skids, brakes are soft and drop to floor, and poor steering column. This car is dangerous and is impossible to drive without involving near miss accident episodes. The car skids if going as little as 5-10 miles per hour. I offered to give the car away to anyone who was willing to investigate my complaints, all to no avail. I just recently learned that one of the problems I heard in the brand new car was a hole in the exhaust system. Toyota continually denied this for 5-6 years, then by accident a very young newly employed staff at Toyota of orange, informed us that our complaint about loud air sounding noise was a hole in the exhaust, which had been continually making the noise, and burning of eyes (migraines). The brakes were repaired every 2-4 months or less until I just reported less frequently. The car is now no longer under warranty. Currently it needs some brakes, rotors, drums, calipers, and shocks as always.

- Aliso Viejo, CA, USA

problem #36

Apr 012003


  • 7,000 miles
I had a 2003 Corolla that I purchased in 2002, one of the first delivered to a worcester MA dealership. In 2003 when I was driving on a highway going up a hill the car started to accelerate. First I thought maybe I had hit the cruise control button but I hadn't. I was probably going at least 65mph when it started to accelerate, I had to keep hitting the brakes to make it stop accelerating.

- Worcester, MA, USA

problem #35

Sep 252009


  • 85,000 miles
When driving on the highway, car started speeding up. Despite pushing the brake, the car would not slow down. Driver lost control due to speed and went off the road rolling the car several times.

- Denver, CO, USA

problem #34

Nov 202009


  • 30,000 miles
In November of 2009 I was driving South on interstate 93 from andover in bumper-to-bumper traffic when I suddenly found that my car, a 2003 Toyota Corolla, was accelerating despite my using all my energy on the brake pedal. For some scary moments I was certain that I was going to collide with the car in front of me. Just as suddenly my car started to brake. However, there had been the possibility of a serious accident and dire consequences for all involved. I had not had such an experience with the car before and have not had one since.

- Provincetown, MA, USA

problem #33

Feb 042010


  • 180,000 miles


My car accelerated by itself while I was driving in a rotary and resulted in a head on collision with a guard rail. It continued to accelerate even after it hit the first guard rail and caused me to hit a second guard rail. This crash resulted in injuries and completely totaled my 2005 Toyota Corolla. I filed a complaint with Toyota as well as an accident report with the police department and the Massachusetts rmv and insurance company.

- Malden, MA, USA

problem #32

Feb 182010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 299,999 miles
2003 Toyota Corolla le automatic transmission 4 door. First time incident. Westbound highway 401 near woodstock Ontario with cruise control @ 100 kmh in right lane and slightly accelerated to middle lane to avoid merging incoming traffic from roadside gas station. Accelerator pedal went to floor without driver assistance. Strong braking did not stop car. Stomping on accelerator did not stop car. Turning off cruise control did not stop car. Fastest speed was 150kmh @ 7500 RPM. Shifted into neutral and when speed at 120kmh @ 4000 RPM, the brakes started working. Slowed and pulled off onto shoulder and parked the car. Two minutes later, still in park, idled at 1900 RPM. Able to drive to work. Over the phone, dan from competition Toyota told me that probably the throttle box or throttle cable had become gummed up and should have been cleaned as part of the Toyota 60,000km maintenance. I have not used Toyota dealer to service the car due to affordability. I do have a regular mechanic who services the vehicle. Took it into competition Toyota and problem was a dirty throttle plate which was cleaned at a cost of $70. Dealer also did a recall repair on a window and said there were too many mats on the drivers side which should be removed. I told dan that driver mats were not the cause and in the presence of two Toyota employees, I showed him photos that I took of the dashboard just after I pulled off the highway. I asked if the car was safe to drive, he said yes, and I have been driving the car since. Reported this incident to Transport Canada.

- London, 00, USA

problem #31

Jan 012003


  • 5,000 miles
Accelerator pedal problem on Toyota Corolla 2003. The floors mats used to come on top of the accelerator and make driving unsafe. I changed them to buy different brands of floor mats and finally I stopped using the floor mats several years ago. I see no mention of the 2003 Corolla in the recalls and surprised by it.

- Redmond, WA, USA

problem #30

Jul 012008


  • 60,000 miles
2003 Toyota Corolla had a sudden acceleration while using cruise on highway.

- Tifton, GA, USA

problem #29

Jun 302003


  • miles
Unintended acceleration of 2003 Toyota Corolla. Occurred only once.

- El Monte, CA, USA

problem #28

Feb 162010


  • miles
The cruise control on my wife's 2003 Toyota Corolla has acted up on occasion while driving on interstate highways. When using "resume" the car would accelerate well past the previous set point. Mostly this was a minor annoyance as the car doesn't have a big enough engine to take off like a rocket, and switching off the cruise control and restarting it seems to cure the problem. I never was able to figure out the sequence that would reliably repeat the problem and pretty much figured weżD live with it. (she doesn't use cruise control and I use it when we are taking trips.) with the recently identified cruise control problems on the newer Corollas, IżM suspicious that the problem may go back further than reported. This problem has occurred at various times over the past three or four years(while we have owned the car), so the date indicated below is a dummy date to get tot the next screen.

- Hummelstown, PA, USA

problem #27

Feb 162007


  • 58,479 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Corolla. The contact stated his vehicle was parked and as he turned the ignition on with his foot on the brake the vehicle accelerated into a cement wall. The vehicle's front fenderwas badly damaged.the contact stated he was injured but did not go to the hospital.the police was not called before towing the vehicle from the scene to a body repair center. At that time of the complaint the vehicle had not taken to the dealer.the Toyota manufacturer had not been called. There was only normal maintenance performed on the vehicle. The failure mileage was 58,479 and the current mileage is 116,000.

- Cumberland, VA, USA

problem #26

Apr 262006


  • 2,600 miles
On 4/26/2006 my wife was driving our 2003 Toyota Corolla into a parking spot at her employment. The car did not stop when brakes were applied. She pressed the brakes hard enough to leave tire tracks on the concrete and dug through ground after jumping the curb. The car did finally stop after hitting a small tree and barely missing a light pole. At the time we believed that the floor mats\had got tangled up and the harder she pressed on the brakes the car went faster. With all the media coverage about problems with stuck gas pedals and floor mats. We are not sure that it was not a problem with the car.

- Jacksonville, FL, USA

problem #25

Sep 152002


  • 2,000 miles
Check cruise control wiring/electronics Toyota!! I had failed cruise control causing RPM 7,000-8,000; could not shut off; stomped on brakes to shut cruise off. Pulled parking brake; downshifted to neutral; turned car off. Turned it back on when recovered from hysteria and cruise had rotations going into red zone, though the accelerator pedal was pulled up and car wasn't going forward - it was gunning engine. Turned cruise off. Turned car off/on/off/on. Finally stopped. Took back to dealer. They had added Toyota cruise to 2003 new model Corolla, 5 speed manual after factory. Dealers weren't authorized to do it - Toyota wanted cruise control only added at factory. But dealer got ahold of one - they probably weren't sure how to wire and connect it in. Took it back. Demanded new one be installed. Has been okay. Still driving 2003, 5 speed manual transmission. But it was frightening to have cruise stuck on wide open like gas pedal was down stock. It wouldn't stop hitting brakes or anything. Check the cruise control wiring and electronics on these recall Toyota!!!!!!!

- Flower Mound, TX, USA

problem #24

Feb 032010


  • 15,000 miles
Purchased new 2003 Toyota Corolla le in 2003 and new 2006 Toyota Corolla le in 2006. From 2003 thru 2006 six incidents occurred with vehicle stopped and my foot on the brake pedal not on accelerator pedal where engine raced as if cruise control kicked into "resume" and vehicle began to accelerate. By reflex, I shifted into park or shut turned off the ignition key to control the vehicle. I reported the incidents to lassen Toyota, albany Oregon no response from them. The 2006 Toyota had the same incident occur once in the last four years. It has the same engine and equipment as the 2003 model I owned and I reported the incident again to lassen Toyota with no response. I am on my guard now that I know this occurs and I don't panic and know how to deal with it, but anyone who doesn't keep a clear head and know what to do instinctively could be in trouble. I am sure this is a computer problem that has some link to the acceleration program in the cruise control area even with the cruise control off and the car in drive with the foot on the brake pedal and the foot no where near the accelerator pedal. This problem existed in two different years of the same model Toyota. Just thought you should be aware that this does occur randomly in these cars and that complaints are ignored.

- Alsea, OR, USA

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