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:
3 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
4 / 0
Average Mileage:
109,572 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 10 of 16)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #128

Aug 072012

Accord 6-cyl

  • 125,000 miles


Only 125K miles on the car. I noticed the transmission slipping when going into/out of second gear. I took it for a drive later to see if I could replicate the problem and could not. Two days later, while getting off of the interstate and turning onto the surface streets, the transmission suddenly start jolting and downshifting even though I was pressing on the gas. It continued to do so all the way to the dealer. I could not get it to go past second gear. Was told that I need a new transmission at a cost of $4,000. Have since seen that this make and model is having all kinds of problems. There are websites addressing the problems and apparently a facebook page. I also learned after the fact that there had been a recall in 2004 related to the second gear but they patched it with some cheesy kit and apparently prayed that the S -T would hit the fan after everyone's warranty expired -- which it has. The NHTSA needs to recall these vehicles and require Honda to make good on them.

- La Vista, NE, USA

problem #127

Aug 132012

Accord 6-cyl

  • 144,202 miles
I was traveling at 60 mph on us 30 when my Honda Accord suddenly jerked and slipped into low gear. I was nearly rearended and was definitely in shock. I continued homeward and it did the same thing 3 more times. I had slowed my speed to 40 mph but the engine sounded like I was going too fast for the gear I was in so slowed down even more....put my flashers on and crept home. Since it is after hours I must wait until tomorrow to contact the dealership. However I have found that many people have had the same problem with Honda Accord.

- Bourbon, IN, USA

problem #126

May 182005

Accord 6-cyl

  • 71,500 miles
The transmission down shifted to first gear. The tires screeched and the transmission grinned to a hault. We had the transmission rebuilt, $2800.

- Sherman Oaks, CA, USA

problem #125

May 022012

Accord 6-cyl

  • 98,000 miles


While merging onto I75 off of square lake rd North of detroit, transmission momentarily failed then engaged with a jolt in a low gear making this normally routine maneuver quite treacherous. Luckily there was no accident or injury. Shortly thereafter transmission underwent complete rebuild at my cost. I have since discovered that this malady is quite common with this model and year at approximately this mileage.

- Lapeer, MI, USA

problem #124

Jul 062012

Accord 6-cyl

  • 154,000 miles
The transmission had a major transmission failure of some kind as the car was just driving along the highway. It was as if someone had hit the brakes hard. The car went from 60 to 40 in just a second or two it seemed like... a violent slowdown. Now the transmission has no reverse, and forward driving is clunky, hard shifts and unpredictable.

- Mercer Island, WA, USA

problem #123

Jul 032012

Accord 6-cyl

  • 105,000 miles
No issues prior to the drive into work 7/3/12, where I experienced extreme downshifting. On the way home, driving 35 to 40 mph, the car slipped out of gear and the engine's rpms skyrocketed. While maneuvering to the right to get out of traffic, transmission re-engaged and downshifted violently. From a stopped position it would move forward briefly, then slip out of gear. Finally, it wouldn't engage in any position (reverse, drive, 1st, 2nd, etc). The only way to get moving was to turn it off and restart. I got it to the dealer by restarting 3 or 4 times. Extremely dangerous in rush hour to lose all power, especially at intersections.

- Columbia, MO, USA

problem #122

Jul 032012

Accord 6-cyl

  • 107,159 miles


Going to work yesterday car suddenly jerks as if down shifting or something, rpms go crazy as if I have my foot on gas while in neutral, jerks along until nothing happens no gears at all. Pull over kill it then wait restart and get another half mile along and have to keep doing it all over again all the way to work. Husband gets it home the same way. Dealer closed today(4th of July) or at least I got no answer when calling. Started surfing the web with this issue and have been horrified with all I have read about my car. Someone needs to do something, still owe a yr on it, cant afford to fix it...hoping the dealer will do something when we go see them tomorrow. Thought I had the best car ever when I got it in 08, have had no other problems, and was told by Honda when I got it what a good deal I was getting because the previous owner had just traded it back and they had all service history with them etc... yet no mention about any of this, and they had to have known by then that this model was having issues with transmission failure.

- Diboll, TX, USA

problem #121

Jun 012012

Accord 6-cyl

  • 113,000 miles
Transmission failed on Accord 2003 V6, violent shifts, slippage from 2nd to 3rd. I have not reached complete failure but stopped driving car after reading that failure can lead to sudden deceleration and possible accidents.

- Louisville, KY, USA

problem #120

Jun 202012

Accord 6-cyl

  • 98,076 miles
The car after being driven to work by my wife would hesitate going into gear. After speaking to the Honda dealership, and Honda America we were told it to far out of warranty to be covered. We have owned several Honda cars and now we are told they will not cover any of the costs involved. I thought Honda was better than this.

- Anaheim, CA, USA

problem #119

May 012012

Accord 4-cyl

  • 82,000 miles
Subsequent to getting a rebuilt transmission on June 6, 2012, with 82,905 miles on the car, I found out that transmission problems are extremely prevalent in 2003 Honda Accord. In fact, there was a recall in 2004. I bought the car 1/30/2006 from thousand oaks (ca) Honda. I talked to Honda customer service (800-999-1009) today and my case is being referred to a case manager. We will see what happens...

- Woodland Hills, CA, USA

problem #118

Jun 122012

Accord 6-cyl

  • 117,670 miles


Noticed when accelerating gently, car more quickly accelerated than usual to the next gear. Then the rpms shot up very high and very slowly and dropped suddenly when car achieved 35 mph, causing car and me to lurch and sling me backward into the seat. The next day, at 117,699 miles, I drove vehicle to my dealership, economy Honda on chapman rd, in chattanooga tn. They drove it, and agreed it was the transmission. They had replaced my first transmission in September 2008 under extended warranty at 67,618 miles because it did the same thing. Later I found out the first one was recalled anyway in 2004. American Honda communicated with economy Honda for a deal: Me to pay $2650.08 instead of $3886.50 to replace this current transmission, which has not even made it to its first fluid change (not until about 17,000 more miles). This is a two-fold issue. The first being that this can quickly and unexpectedly turn into a deadly issue, and the second being that a large corporation is being abusive to its consumers. Many people do not have the option of repairing, trading in, or leasing a new vehicle. How many people are locked in with Honda, and have pushed their vehicles to the limit even though this transmission issue is going on because they can not afford to make their vehicle safe" if I drive my Honda, is someone going to rear-end me on the highway and kill me and my children because my transmission is failing and my car won't maintain proper speed because of a faulty job that Honda did on my second transmission" Honda told me it was safe enough to drive home until they figured out how much to charge me, so it will be just fine, I'm sure.

- Rossville, GA, USA

problem #117

May 252012


  • 130,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. The contact stated that while driving 70 mph, the transmission failed. The contact stated that the vehicle's speed dropped from 70 mph to 25 mph very quickly on its own. The contact shifted the vehicle into neutral and coasted to the side of the road. The vehicle was then towed to an auto repair center. The repair center stated that there were metal shreds everywhere around the transmission and the transmission needed to be replaced. The vehicle was repaired. The manufacturer was notified and informed the contact that she should notify NHTSA and file a complaint. The failure mileage was 130,000. The VIN was unavailable.

- Hazlet, NJ, USA

problem #116

May 022012


  • 123,000 miles
It will not shift into second gear, and now it is not wanting to shift in to third, when the car is cold, it seems to have a vacuum leak.

- Jamestown, NC, USA

problem #115

May 282012

Accord 6-cyl

  • 82,000 miles
Driving up a slight hill. Car started jerking and revving up. Car would not move. Had to coast to side of road and pull off. Problem was a complete transmission failure. Very low mileage and trans mission had all scheduled maintenance. Could of been major safety issue since traffic was heavy and car all of a sudden slowed down and caused a stopping of traffic.

- Louisville, KY, USA

problem #114

Nov 012011

Accord 6-cyl

  • 117,000 miles
Transmission does not shift correctly, feels like it is slipping in gears higher than 2, need to let off the accelerator to assist car in shifting.

- Selkirk, NY, USA

problem #113

May 012012


  • 90,000 miles
Driving 65mph on a highway then the car suddenly downshifted and came down to 40mph.

- Jersey City , NJ, USA

problem #112

Apr 082012

Accord 6-cyl

  • 60 miles
Starting the car from a stopping point and slowly increasing the speed to 40 will result in slight jerks in the car. As the speed increase beyond 45 into the 60 the car will jerk repeatedly and try to shift down. RPM revs into the 5 or 6 zone, near redlining while only going 40 mph. Sometimes the car will shift down while on the highway causing car to jerk driver forward. Could lead to major car wreck. This car model already had a defective transmission, which was fixed by Honda, yet it seems to have another transmission issue now.

- Mansfield, TX, USA

problem #111

Apr 272012

Accord 6-cyl

  • 168,000 miles
Seven days ago, the car suddenly began shifting very hard at mid-levels speeds (between 30 and 50 mph). After four incidents in two days, I took to the dealership, but they were unable to recreate the problem. Over the next several days, the problem continued intermittently, shaking violently, but now also at very low speeds. Today, the rpms randomly spiked while driving, then violent shook at a modest (40 mph) and constant speed, then the car would not shift properly (e.g., at 40 mph, the rpms were about 4100; pushing to 50 mph only raised the rpms to 5000). I stopped for gas on my way to the dealership, and upon re-starting the car, the "check engine" light, the tcs (traction control system) and the green light next to "D" were all lit up. I made it to the dealership, where they diagnosed the problem as a bad transmission that needed to be replaced (cost quoted was $4281 plus tax).

- Fairfield, OH, USA

problem #110

Apr 202012

Accord 6-cyl

  • 168,586 miles
While driving approx. 40mph the transmission suddenly acted as if it was in neutral. There was no warning light or anything that showed a failure of any kind. I slowly nursed it to my Honda dealer who checked it out (charged $108 just to tell me I needed a new transmission which would cost $4400.) I took it to aamco who said basically the same thing but charged only $2900. This seems to be a serious problem with the 2003 Accord V6 5sp transmission. Honda seems to deny there is a problem...hundreds of complaints say otherwise.

- Prairieville, LA, USA

problem #109

Apr 172012

Accord 6-cyl

  • 92,000 miles
Terrible and dangerous transmission failure. I have taken my car to every regularly scheduled maintenance visit at the Honda dealership, including a visit one month ago. The transmission abruptly failed while driving on a freeway. I almost caused a car crash involving multiple cars due to the abrupt failure of the transmission.

- New York, NY, USA

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