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 15 of 16)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #28

Jun 012011

Accord 6-cyl

  • 132,000 miles


I was driving on Maryland route 270 at 60mph when the car violently jolted and wheels locked for a second putting me into a split second skid. Almost had a devastating crash with my family in the car. Apparently the transmission went from 5th gear to 1st gear on its own. Thankfully I made it back home driving about 10mph with the car still jolting back and forth. As I was backing the car into a parking spot the vehicle went in reverse just fine but after pulling forward and attempting to reverse again the car did not back up. When I turned the car off and back on again I was able to move in reverse.

- Germantown, MD, USA

problem #27

May 032011


  • 89,000 miles
May 3rd, I was driving approx 70 mph when all of a sudden, my car felt like someone slammed on the brakes and I went flying forward. It happened 2 more times, then later, I couldn't go in reverse. I researched it and was shocked to find out this is an ongoing issue with the 2003 Honda Accord ex V6 model. Honda isn't calling it a recall because no one has been hurt yet. The next day I was in bad pain due to the jolts and seat belt marks from them restraining me. I called american Honda and started a claim. I asked what if I need a new transmission. He said 'no problem, you're now with american Honda.' I took it in and my transmission failed on the way there too. While waiting the vip director came up to me telling me I'm a vip customer having bought Honda for 22 years. Shortly thereafter the svc manager came and told me yes, the transmission was gone and american Honda agreed to pay $900 out of the $4300 bill. I asked what about the known issues Honda has with this year and model" he said all they offered was $900. The vip manager told me he would never put $3400 in a sinking ship. I said 'sinking ship?' he said 'well it does have 89K miles on it.' I said 'it's a Honda...that's why I paid big bucks for a Honda because they are supposed to go for a long time.' When I called Honda America, they said I wasn't the owner. I said I am. I bought it 4 years and bring it brandon Honda for all my work. They still had the previous owner listed...after 4 years! I never received recalls because it went to the previous owner. The svc manager himself changed it that day to show me as the owner. All the times I'd gone to brandon Honda and bought it at crown Honda and they never put me as the owner, 4 years ago" incompetence. Like Toyota knew they had a brake problem but did nothing about it until someone died.

- Riverview, FL, USA

problem #26

Mar 262011


  • 132,486 miles
When taking off from a complete stop, my daughter's 03 Honda Accord V6 shifted poorly between the 2nd and 3rd gear. The mileages for the car were less than 132,500 at the time. Honda website listed several recalls for this model, in which the problem stated was one of then. If this problem was corrected under the recall, why was I out of pocket for work never done? my daughter is the second owner of the vehicle.

- Shreveport, LA, USA

problem #25

May 292011

Accord 6-cyl

  • 94,000 miles


2003 Honda Accord, V6. Transmission failed with no warning, while turning left. This could have easily led to a serious accident. After inspection mechanic states that the failure has all of the typical characteristics of the failure of the 2003 Accord transmission. It will cost me 3,800 to repair (with only 94,000 miles on the car and a perfect maintenance record at a Honda dealership). But I just feel lucky that we survived. This is a very dangerous failure. There was zero warning of a problem until I was left with the transmission neutral with cars headed at us going 60+ mph. Thank god the other drivers were paying attention and slammed on the brakes. One oncoming driver went into the ditch.

- Tallahassee, FL, USA

problem #24

Apr 162011


  • 128,500 miles
Transmission failure. 2003 Accord exl 6 cylinder. While driving approximately 35-40 mph the vehicle suddenly felt as if the brakes were applied. The vehicle began to slow rapidly as if someone slammed on the brakes. The car was slowly driven to a parking lot and were it was towed to a Honda service facility. Facility indicated that the transmission would have to be replaced. It should be noted the car was just minutes earlier was being driven at 75 mph and if the failure had occurred at this speed the results could have led to a catastrophic accident involving my wife, my pregnant daughter and a family friend. I had been reading about these transmissions failures for over a year and as soon as my wife describe what happened I knew immediately the transmission had failed. It should be pointed out that the car was serviced during the early transmission cooler recall but did not prevent the transmission from failing. Its just a matter of time before one of these vehicles transmissions lock up at a high rate of speed leading to a rapid deceleration and being hit from behind leading to a serious accident involving serious injuries or death. Honda motor Corp has ignored the transmission failures in the 03 Accord and I will never purchase or recommend the purchase of another Honda vehicle. I am extremely upset at the cost to repair the car. I do feel Honda should subsidized a portion of the cost. I do not see this type of failure with other Honda years or models.

- Washington, DC, USA

problem #23

Apr 082011


  • 120,000 miles
Impeccably well maintained Honda 2003. All of a sudden third gear is gone. Mechanic says rebuilt transmission $3800. Are you kidding me! we also own a 2003 Honda Pilot, this past year cost $2000 to replace the torque converter. Another Honda transmission problem that is all over the internet. Unless Honda does something for us on this problem these will be the last Honda's this family buys!!

- Washington, DC, USA

problem #22

Feb 222011


  • 107 miles


The night of February 22 while my family and I were driving down the highway our Honda Accord 2003 transmission downshifted very violently almost causing us to have an accident. We all yelled and had to stop the car on the side of the road for a while. It was very scary! it was like the car was unmanageable at that moment. Somehow my husband managed to drive the car home very slowly because we were close. The next day he took the car to the Honda dealer. They told us that the transmission looked really bad and need it to be changed, of course after we pay them $4,080.12!!! we have take good care of our car and this is terrible! now the car is inside our garage and we still have to pay for it. To our surprise, after google Accord's transmissions on the internet, we found many complaints from other Honda owners that experienced the same problem. We are shocked by Honda's lack of responsibility and support!! this is a safety issue and we believe they should consider people complaints and recall the cars. It will be very sad if someone have an accident and die on the road because of the Honda transmission failure. We hope that this will be investigated and fixed by Honda. Thank you

- Sugar Hill, GA, USA

problem #21

Feb 122011


  • 97,000 miles
Was driving 55-60 mph on a Chicago expressway when the transmission started slipping and caused sudden deceleration. I was extremely frightened as the car started lurching, so I weathered it until I could get to a ramp. As it was a Saturday night, no dealers or shops were open, so I survived the lurching all the way home and had my husband refill the transmission fluid. We then got it into a shop Monday asap and got the news...bad solenoid and the transmission was blown. Total cost to replace transmission = $3,232 at 97,000 miles. Fyi: Previous checkup one month prior revealed no trans problems, except for battery replacement.

- Bloomingdale, IL, USA

problem #20

Feb 012011


  • 77,000 miles
Premature transmission failure. Transmission began not going into gear cold but after warming up shifted normally. 2 days later it started slipping so bad it barely made it to the dealer. The normal service interval for this transmission is 100,000 miles so I don't think it should fail prior to reaching this point. There was at one point a transmission recall for this vehicle however Honda's position is that this has nothing to do with the failure. After doing some research I find many Honda owners with the same complaint. When speaking with the dealer they indicated they would contact Honda and ask for assistance on my per the dealer after speaking with Honda they (Honda) would pick up 50% of the repair which was acceptable to me but what happens now is the dealer ups the price of the repair to $5000 and I get to pay $2500 which is what the normal cost should be. I retired from this business 2 years ago so I am pretty savy when it comes to prices. Seeing as there are so many with the same problem Honda should be doing all these repairs free.

- Washington, DC, USA

problem #19

May 012003


  • 122,000 miles
With approx 122,000 miles my 2003 Honda Accord ex V6 is at the local pasadena Honda dealer who working with Honda Motors states that the transmission needs to be replaced, due to transmission failure, at a cost of over $4000. There is now a backlog for at least a month on the part. For many years actually within the first year of purchase the transmission has hesitated and not shifted properly I took the car to the dealer for the 2004 recall which made little to no difference in the hesitation/shifting problem. Recently after taking the car in to the dealer for the ignition interlock recall, the car began to show very noticeable signs of some sort of major problem while accelerating the car would not accelerate and I would hear a spinning. While driving on the highway the car would have difficulty sifting from 1-3 gear and would not accelerate, this is a critical speed that the car must perform at otherwise it is not fit to be driven anywhere. This car is dangerous to drive in this condition. There are hundreds if not thousands of complaints on this model car, I formally request the NHTSA to asses this situation before there are further injuries or deaths as a result. Honda is clearly aware of this problem. To be clear this problem is with the transmission and related components, I.e. some reports are that it is the torque converted. My dealer states that it is one of the bearings. Regardless the dealer service dept states that the transmission has to be replaced.

- Pasadena, CA, USA

problem #18

Jul 012010


  • 165,000 miles


I own a 2003 Honda Accord that is having constant problems shifting from 2nd to 3rd gear (automatic transmission). This has caused me numerous issues merging onto the highway because the vehicle fails to accelerate. I have nearly caused accidents and have had to make emergency stops on the side to try to work through this issue and get the vehicle to shift and accelerate. The shift from 2nd to 3rd fails almost every time.

- New Castle, IN, USA

problem #17

Oct 302010

Accord 6-cyl

  • 125,000 miles
Transmission went out on Honda Accord 2003, which had recall on it. Honda claimed to have fixed it. This concerns me because of their definition of fixing the problem. This could have been a hazard and could have cause a wreck - when your car suddenly won't go, and you are in rush hour traffic on a major interstate.

- Pflugerville, TX, USA

problem #16

Oct 012010


  • 88,000 miles
In larger city after many red lights, the warm transmission began slipping when the light turned green. This has continued to happen. The problem now is intermittent but I think can become quite serious. I received no sympathy from the dealer. From the internet I see many similar complaints and all have no resolution from Honda.

- Hamilton, AL, USA

problem #15

Oct 292010


  • 97,000 miles
On October 20, 2010 I took my car to the Honda dealer to change my transmission fluid as regular maintenance job on my 2003 Honda Accord ex-V6. They told me that they found that I needed to replace the rear main seal on my transmission due to regular wear and tear. However, I didn't do so at the time since it was going to cost $900 to do so. On October 29, 2010 my transmission started jerking my car as it was slipping while I was driving on the highway at 70 mph. I towed my car to a reputable transmission shop and the cost to replace the parts was $2,956. I found many forums with hundreds of people with the same problem on the year and model. This is a lemon car that Honda made and they need to man up, pay up, and recall these vehicles!

- San Antonio, TX, USA

problem #14

Oct 072010


  • 79,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. While the contact attempted to park the vehicle she wasn't able to shift into the park position. The vehicle was taken to a transmission center where the gear shift was replaced. He manufacturer will be contacted. The failure mileage was 79,000 and the current mileage was 83,000.

- Kihei, HI, USA

problem #13

Sep 262010


  • 115,708 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. The contact was driving approximately 45 mph and attempting to accelerate but the vehicle would not respond. The engine exhibited an increase in rpms yet the vehicle independently began to decelerate. The vehicle responded within several minutes after the accelerator pedal was depressed and accelerated up to 45 mph before the failure recurred in a cycle. The vehicle was parked and was not repaired or diagnosed for the failure. The failure and current mileage was 115,708.

- South Windsor, CT, USA

problem #12

Aug 012003


  • 95,500 miles
On July 31, 2010, I was driving about 45-50 mph on a highway. Twice when I lightly accelerated, the car jerked forward as if I had hit the accelerator very hard rather than very lightly. This happened twice that day; nothing like this had ever happened before. My transmission failed the next day on August 1, 2010 while I was on the interstate. It failed very spectacularly. I was driving 70ish mph (that is the speed limit). I slowed when I approached a car in front of me. When it pulled over so I could pass, I lightly touched the accelerator and the car jerked as if I had hit the brake very hard. I was shocked and scared; I quickly took my foot off the accelerator and let the car slow. I removed my sandal to be sure my foot was only touching the correct pedal and I could feel exactly the pressure I was putting on it; I put my sandal in the seat beside me. I lightly stepped on the accelerator again with my bare foot, and again the car jerked as if I had hit the brake hard. I braked gently and pulled over to the shoulder, stopped and put the car in park. After I calmed from the fear, I shifted into D3 to try another gear (rather than D). I slowly accelerated and in a few seconds the car started jerking as if I hit the accelerator hard, then the engine revved with no engagement of transmission, then it jerked as if I braked hard; all this in a matter of seconds at a slow speed on the shoulder. Again I braked gently, stopped and put the car in park. Last night, Aug 1, I had it towed to the dealer where the technician test drove it this morning, Aug 2. he told my service advisor the car was frightening to drive; he told my service advisor that the transmission was very bad, that he felt as if he might get whiplash. They gave me an estimate to replace the transmission at $4500.

- Decatur, GA, USA

problem #11

Feb 192010

Accord 6-cyl

  • 75,000 miles
I was driving my 2003 Honda Accord V6 and it spontaneously downshifted to first gear. My car slowed abruptly and caused my passenger and me to physically "jerk" in the car. I shut off the engine and re-started, and the same thing happened again. Fortunately, there was little traffic and no collision, but it could have been fatal. In reviewing a number of websites, I see this transmission problem is not unique. I will now contact Honda for repair.

- Chicago, IL, USA

problem #10

Nov 252009


  • 91,000 miles
Transmission failure on a Honda Accord @ 91K miles.

- Danville, CA, USA

problem #9

Dec 052007


  • 184,000 miles
December 5th, 2007 I drove my 2003 Honda Accord onto our driveway pad, just like any other night. I turned off the car, took the key out and got out of the car. As I was getting ready to close the door, I realized the car was rolling backwards. I started back towards the car when the door was knocking me down. When I fell, I tried to get up immediately. I must have had my right leg bent, because the car ran over my left leg at the calf area. I sustained a crush injury to the leg. The squad was called. I was taken to unc memorial chapel hill ed, where I was treated for a crushed leg injury and sent home to observe for increasing compartment syndrome symptoms. I ended up with two large blisters/wounds to my left leg. One healed the other required skin graphs/donor site left thigh. Hospitalized one week on bed rest for the grafts to take. Have suffered permanent damage and chronic pain to the left leg.

- Siler City, NC, USA

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