If you find CarComplaints.com is helpful ... We rely completely on word of mouth. Talk about us on Facebook, Twitter, tell your mother-in-law. Help us help more people.

9.4

really awful
Typical Repair Cost:
$2,765.00
Average Mileage:
114,302 miles
Total Complaints:
36 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. Replace transmission (27 reports)
  2. not sure (5 reports)
  3. rebuilt transmission (4 reports)
2003 Toyota Corolla transmission problems

transmission problem

Find something helpful? Spread the word.
Get notified about new defects, investigations, recalls & lawsuits for the 2003 Toyota Corolla:

Unsubscribe any time. We don't sell/share your email.

2003 Toyota Corolla Owner Comments (Page 1 of 2)

problem #36

Apr 082014

Corolla Sport 1.4L

  • Manual transmission
  • 160,000 miles

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

Transmission locked up while driving down the freeway. Started making a grinding noise, then froze up and almost was hit by a big rig. This is a known issue and Toyota is doing nothing about it!

http://www.change.org/petitions/unbearable-transmission-bearing. Sign this petition and lets grab Toyota by the balls and make them fix this issue.

- , Eugene, OR, USA

problem #35

Feb 212014

Corolla CE

  • Manual transmission
  • 190,000 miles

Seriously Toyota? This is a manual transmission. How in the hell does it go before anything else? I have babied this car and taken care of it like no other. It is my commuting car so those miles are all highway miles. Out of the blue the transmission goes. Turns out, this is a known problem and they will do nothing to remedy the situation. Makes me never want to buy a Toyota EVER again!

- , Darciegampetro@gmail.Com, Wyoming, USA

problem #34

Dec 032013

Corolla Sport 4 cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 120,000 miles

The price to replace the transmission was $2760. Did not know manual transmissions had this problem.

It's good to know of others who've had similar problems.

- , Wood Village, OR, USA

problem #33

Nov 042013

Corolla CE 1.8L 4 cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 110,000 miles

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

click to see larger images

transmission failure

The transmission just went out on my Mum's '03 Corolla, after reading all the other responses I'm pretty ticked at Toyota. She bought this Corolla when she started her new job as a home-health nurse about a year ago; it had 80*** miles on it then and now has somewhere between 110-130K. It started making growling noises about three months ago and we were told by our reputable mechanic that it was a throwout bearing and that he'd change it when we got the money. She purchased this car because it was reliable (Toyota...) and cheap to run, my Mum is a very competent manual driver, and has never beat on her car. Luckily she is able to use my high-school sister's '98 Crown Victoria until she can repair or replace this Corolla, but it is costing her a fortune in gas to drive the Crown Vic; had she not had it available she could have lost her job as it requires having a car to drive to patients' homes. We are very displeased with Toyota and the apparent lack of effort to rectify this problem. Unless a solution arises, we will be getting a different car and staying away from Toyota in the future.

- , Poynette, Wisconsin, USA

problem #32

Apr 092012

Corolla CE 4 cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 106,876 miles

I drove standard transmission vehicule for more than 50 year.My last car was a Ford tempo diesel ,after 422,000 klm the clutch and transmission was still in good condition.but I needed a new car SO; Here is a new 2003 corolla .Now with only 172,000 klm the transmission fail, the main bearing that is submerge in oil worn out prematurely, What should impossible unless a factory defect in its fabrication re-improper hardening and It cause,a full rebuilt at a cost of $2200.00 can dollars I fell that Toyota should cover that defect and all the cost involved. I am extremely dissatisfied with Toyota and my past good experience with Ford will be a strong factor in choosing our next car..Dager2

- , Westmeath, Ontario, Canada

problem #31

Mar 052012

Corolla S 1.8L 1zzfe

  • Manual transmission
  • 105,633 miles

click to see larger images

transmission failure

Started hearing a noise from the transmission at around 50k miles. Could only hear it with the windows up and during acceleration. Sounded like someone turning an egg beater under the hood. Almost like a muffled helicopter sound. Drove the car for a week and the sound got progressively worse. Took it into to the dealer and they said the transmission was shot. Took it to a transmission shop and they did a bearing kit (replaced all bearings) and clutch to the tune of $2000. I still have the bearing that went bad. I think it was the input shaft bearing.

Car drove fine for another 5 years. At around 112k miles, same old sound. Got worse quickly. Once again took it to the transmission shop and did a bearing kit + clutch for another $2000. Same bearing, same failure.

There is definitely some sort of design flaw with the manual transmission in this car. Toyota doesn't care since it won't fail until the factory power-train warranty is expired.

- , Hamilton, Ontario, canada

problem #30

Jul 142008

Corolla LE

  • Manual transmission
  • 75,587 miles

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

Here's my story:

I purchased my 03 Corolla LE manual transmission in the summer of 2007 directly from the prior owner. He had purchased the vehicle new and kept immaculate service records. I was ecstatic to find the manual transmission model available, as I was highly leaning towards replacing my Civic with another Civic mostly due to the availability of a manual transmission. So I purchase this vehicle with 67000 miles on it at a fair rate. I love it. Life is good.

This feeling of contentment was to be short lived, however. About 10 months and 8000 miles later, I was driving on the highway headed to finish my Organic Chem sequence in preparation to apply for medical school when an unexpected thing happen. First, a loud whirring noise appeared coming from my engine. Then there was a pop. Then my car did not move.

I had the car towed to a local shop that had many favorable reviews. There they informed me of the bad, and I mean horrible, news. My transmission was completely destroyed and along with the clutch needed to be replaced immediately. Well, as a college student working as much as possible to pay for my own education, the 3200 bill was astronomical. However, what could I do? I never expected my manual transmission to explode at just over 75,000 miles. Who would? My Honda Civic before I replaced it had 166,000 miles on it and ran like a champ, needing only minor fixes along the way. Here I am with a car that I hadn't had for a year, that is needing a fix that is about half the price of the car at the time of my purchase.

After doing a lot of digging, as us researchers are known to do, I found out I was not alone. Many owners of this same exact vehicle reported this problem, and all were outraged that this occurred. Further digging, resulted in my finding out that in this specific model vehicle the manual transmission was not a Toyota part, but was outsourced to Yamaha. Their particular part had a habit of failing just outside of 75,000 miles, and just outside of the standard warranty, conveniently.

Consider this post a heads up to anyone considering purchasing a manual 2003 Toyota Corolla. Do your homework. Have the vehicle thoroughly inspected. Look and see if the transmission is still stock, or if it has been replaced. This will save you a lot of grief and money.

On my end, after growing up a loyal Toyota enthusiast (my mother worked for their local office for 10 years) I believe that this event has severed any good will I may have had towards them. The way that this issue played out, and the information that I gathered about the transmission and its nasty habit of failing just outside of the standard warranty leads me to believe that this was a known issue. It is logical to assume that Toyota knew about this issue and simply decided not to remedy it for the minority of Corolla owners, like myself, that wanted a manual transmission.

Hope this helps a few people. Sincerely,

Ken R.

- , Cincinnati, OH, USA

problem #29

Oct 152010

Corolla CE 1.8L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 182,000 miles

In 2010 I needed newer car, called my bank, it was an emergency. When I found this 2003 Toyota corolla I was thrilled, so was my bank and said it was a good investment. In less than six months with all highway miles the transmission leaves me stranded 80 miles away from home. Had to stay almost 3 weeks where my car was and work until I could find a transmission to put in it. Great had it put in and two weeks later again it fails and again Im stranded at work and can't go home. Had it towed to nearest Toyota dealer, they were shocked. Not only was it very rare for the transmission to go out once in this automatic car but now twice. Good thing this one was still under warranty.

The second and last transmission found in a 200 mile radius because there are no good ones left. Now I'm back with the third one its now bad. My only option is to rebuild at the cost of over $1500. Totally not fair, plus I had to refinance the car to get the first one put in, so yes I still owe on it. Sounds like lemon law and yes you can on used cars from what I've read. TOYOTA make it right or close the doors!!

- , Lancaster, OH, USA

problem #28

Dec 132012

Corolla CE 1.8L

  • Manual transmission
  • 167,000 miles

The car started with a noise that was muffled and quiet, but noticeable. Within 2 DAYS while on the way to a mechanic the whole thing trashed while I was driving. Could barely get to where I was going! Total loss! So expensive because there are hardly any of these out there. I am very upset! Not getting a Toyota again.

- , Milwaukee, WI, USA

problem #27

Nov 192012

Corolla S 1.8L

  • Manual transmission
  • 105,000 miles

Total Transmission Failure on 5 speed manual. Car will not go into any gear. A used transmission for this car is about $1600.00, OUCH. Can't afford to fix. I have always had Toyotas since I started driving. My 1992 Corolla went forever. I bought this car thinking I would be good for a long time. 6 months ago I had the clutch replaced, then the trans axle broke, fixed that, now the transmission. I don't know if it is worth fixing. Can't afford another car. This really sucks.

- , Uniontown, PA, USA

problem #26

Oct 142011

Corolla S 1.8L

  • Manual transmission
  • 132,000 miles

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

Have replaced this manual transmission twice, both failed, 5 speed.

Finally replaced it with a Pontiac Vibe 6 speed, same transmission, just a 6 speed, everything fit.

- , Cleveland, TN, USA

problem #25

Oct 102012

Corolla CE 1.8L

  • Manual transmission
  • 88,000 miles

I too joined the club - transmission on my manual '03 Corolla went out. Always thought Toyota's were good reliable cars that would last 200-300 k miles. Very disappointed, and waiting for recall to be issued.

- , Cleveland, OH, USA

problem #24

May 302012

Corolla S 1.8L

  • Manual transmission
  • 92,000 miles

I guess I have joined the club. My 2003 Toyota Corolla 5 speed manual transmission is failing. I only have 92,000 miles on my car. I have owned many cars over the year - all of them manual transmission and have never had to replace one before now. I have also owned many Toyotas and I'm afraid this one will be the last. How disappointing. I asked my mechanic what I should buy next and he told me buy what you like. Just don't buy an Audi or a VW.

- , San Francisco, CA, USA

problem #23

Mar 122012

Corolla LE 1.8L

  • Manual transmission
  • 191,000 miles

This is my first toyota. I bought it because I because I believed the hype that Toyotas last a long time. I was expecting to get 300k out of this car. I just had the clutch replaced two months ago. When the clutch was replaced it was making this new noise I never heard before fast forward to just 6 weeks later the noise got so bad I had to bring the car back in. They now tell me I need a new transmission. I did some research and found a mountain of complaints from other Toyota owners with the same issue. I always praised Toyotas but as of today if this might change depending on how this situation is handled. I am extremely disappointed and if I have to purchase a new car I guarantee it won’t be a Toyota. Toyota I hope your listening. I would like to hold onto some faith that Toyota will stand by their product. Lets see.

- , Woodland Park, NJ, USA

problem #22

Feb 062012

Corolla LX 1.8L

  • Manual transmission
  • 125,000 miles

First off, if you have this problem report it to Toyota and post on AutoBeef, their are so many complaints they could issue a recall. So, my 2003 Toyota Corolla was very reliable up until last week. I was driving my commute and noticed a deep womp womp womp type sound, but originally I thought it was my brakes wearing out, and maybe a warped rotor giving the intermediate noise. It did this for about four or five days, then noise became louder and more noticeable, so I took it in and got my mechanic to check it out, thinking it was just brakes. He called me the next morning and said it was my my transmission and would need a new one! I was in disbelief thinking how does a manual transmission go out on a Corolla with 125k miles. I then called another shop that specializes in transmission repair, they said bring it by and I check it out. Cheap me, drove the car their as it seemed not that bad when I first brought it in to first shop. I noticed it had gone down hill really bad, and was making all kinds of bad noises. Luckily the other the shop was only couple miles down road, but by the time I got their sounded like I had rocks in my transmission, and would want to pop out of gear. So the other shop checked it out and said same thing, but gave me a couple options, either buy used or re-built. I went back a forth with shops to negotiate best deal, got the transmission specialty shop to put in re-built with 18k, 18 month warranty for about $2300. Got car back, had some faint funny sounds, but nothing too pronounced. Drove it about 20-30 miles and boom, broke again. Got car towed back to shop and now waiting on a new re-built transmission to be installed, under warranty of course. I then searched on internet and found the manual transmission in the 03 corolla is just junk, something to do with bad design with bearing and I was very lucky to get 125k. I always swore up and down about toyota, now I certainly thick differently, but I guess anyone can mess up from time to time. I called Toyota to file complaint, they couldn't do anything for me but I tried and have case number on record. At least they could do is admit they made a design mistake and offer to fix it or pay for parts to fix it correctly, as they are just losing customers as a result. It appears after the 03 models they fixed the issue, knowing what they did wrong in design or manufacturing. If you get this fixed I would recommend trying to get a rebuilt one with the beefer bearing, that they used in 04 & up models or if you get used see if you can get 04 & up if compatible. If you have a 03 manual corrolla, and this has not happened to you, I would really consider selling your car before it does, as the fix is expensive and still left wondering if it will just do it again. In my opinion, one thing any car manufacturer should get right is a manual transmission. Toyota certainly messed up in this design and just lost a customer for life, unless they decide to issue a recall and admit to the mistake, but I doubt they will.

Update from Feb 24, 2012: Got new transmission fixed right now, it seems to work pretty good now. I got rebuilt one, so hopefully they fixed whatever does not last (bearings I think). This car is still cheap miles, so I will run it for few more years and have 18 month warranty on new trans now. Just be aware of this issue on 2003's, and buy accordingly.

- , Midlothian, VA, USA

problem #21

Jul 252008

Corolla CE 1.8L

  • Manual transmission
  • 80,110 miles

I have always enjoyed driving a manual transmission. So when I bought this car I thought that it would last me, But to my surprise the thing took a big DUMP with a loud gear-crunching flurry. I thought the thing blew up, it was so loud. Thankfully I got to the shoulder of a commuter crowded highway and then waited and hour for a tow to a Mechanic Shop. $2,545.28 later, rebuilt transmission, and new clutch (had to be done at the same time according to the shop) I was back on the road again....

See my new complaint in another post (what happened at 130,000 miles BOOOOO!!!! on Toyota.) I never thought I would say this, but I am seriously considering never buying another Toyota and instead I am considering FORD...... Woooooo..... that is saying something. ISN'T IT!!!

- , Simi Valley, CA, USA

problem #20

Mar 152010

Corolla LE 1.8L

  • Manual transmission
  • 132,000 miles

My 2003 Toyota Corolla LE started making a clanking noise that sounded like a rattling chain about two months before my 5-speed manual transmission failed. The day it failed I was on the interstate about 300 miles away from home. First it made a terrible grinding sound that lasted about five seconds then something broke completely loose and the car jolted with a large "thud" that caused the drive train to bang and jolt the car constantly until I pulled over to the side of the road. I had to have the car towed about 15 miles to the nearest town. The dealership told me that several of the bearings had been thrown out and that they probably banged around the transmission and damaged several parts. I had to have the entire transmission replaced at a cost of around $3400.

I purchased my Corolla because of its reputation for reliability and never expected to have such a major repair at 130,000 miles. My car was babied from the day I bought it brand new in April 2002. It was never once abused. I am really disappointed in Toyota and will probably never buy another one.

- , Bloomington, IN, USA

problem #19

Oct 052010

Corolla S 1.8L

  • Manual transmission
  • 152,000 miles

5 spd manual tranny finally gave up the ghost. Was grinding for over 1 year getting progressively worse. Didn't matter, the diagnosis was the same early as later, replace it. I opted for used (I gambled and lost) since a new one was double the cost $4k vs $2k. The problem was a very limited warranty on the used one. I noticed the same noise starting about 2 months ago. New solution = trade it before it gets worse. TOYOTA....your rep is in the toilet. Probably go with different manufacturer. I can't believe Toyota is not offering help or at least a fix.

- , Syracuse, NY, USA

problem #18

Oct 092011

Corolla S

  • Manual transmission
  • 125,600 miles

I bought this car because of reputation. This car had been reliable up until now. We've always been careful to follow the maintenance schedule and have not abused the vehicle at all. But 6 months after purchasing this used Toyota Corolla S, the transmission started to make growling noises. We were advised to try some treatment in the Transmission fluid. The noises seemed to get a little better. My auto repair technician informed me that I would eventually need to replace the transmission.

4 months later, my car made an awful noise driving down the freeway. When I pulled over, the car was difficult to get into a lower gear. I had it towed 60 miles to my repair shop and they stated that the transmission failed and that is why the vehicle locked into gear.

Now I need to have the transmission replaced, but my mechanic is having difficulty locating an affordable used transmission because it seems that this is a very common problem for Toyota. He found us a rebuilt transmission, but when we asked about the likely hood of a repeat issue, he said it too might eventually have the same problem, just like a used one would. We wanted to know because others have reported that the transmissions have a design issue with the transmission. Many reported that the bearings fail internally causing catastrophic internal damage.

We have to decide whether to get it repaired and whether we should replace it with a rebuilt one with a warranty, then whether we should get rid of it, sell it or trade it…

Looks like the Corolla manual transmissions are bad news…

- , West Bend, WI, USA

problem #17

Oct 032011

Corolla CE/LE/S

  • Automatic transmission
  • 96,000 miles

Our daughter is a college student who lives approximately 240 miles away from us. In addition to school, she works 2 jobs. She counts on her car to meet her responsibilities. We THOUGHT what we had selected was a reliable car for her. She was terrified when her car started rattling when she was driving on the Interstate with her 8 year old charge in her car seat (she works as a nanny for one of her jobs). The engine light light came on and this 21 year old realized some thing was dreadfully wrong with her car. As we have been (but now are rethinking our position) loyal Toyota customers for many decades now, we have had dealership care for this car all along. During the April service there was no problem with the transmission. Now we are told that the transmission is"flaking" metal inside the transmission. How does THIS happen? Then the highway robbery starts. We are miles away and cannot assist our daughter. We must count on the kindness of strangers to assist. Even though WE have been loyal to Toyota they use this vulnerability of our being so far away to their economic advantage and tell us that we must pay more than $4,000 for the car to be repaired. On top of that our daughter must pay $20 day, plus gas, to rent one of their cars. What else can she do? She's stuck and we are too far away to help. We learned that Honda has 100,000 mile warranty on their transmissions. Guess where we are shopping next time we need a new car, unless Toyota does the right thing for us and our daughter. BTW, we have a 27 year old Toyota driving son. That means they are losing 4 loyal Toyota customers in one fell swoop!

- , Fort Myers, FL, USA

Read the next 16 complaints »

Not what you are looking for?