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 3 of 16)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #268

Nov 192014

Accord 6-cyl

  • 208,500 miles


As driving along normally, the car started to downshift and rev up very high, sudden drop of speed came and the car behind me almost rear ended me. When checked online, it was the transmission that has failed and it has happened to everyone who owned this year model.

- Austin, TX, USA

problem #267

Nov 172014


  • 87,000 miles
I purchased my 2003 Accord brand new from a Honda dealership. In 2004 there was a recall to fix a defect with second gear in the transmission. My car was fixed under the recall (or so I thought). I have been having continuous problems with second gear slipping. In other words when the car is in second gear it feels like its in neutral because you step on the gas and the car does not move. You have to wait for the car to shift again. You never know when or where it will happen. On 11/17/14 I was trying to get on the highway. I made a left turn to enter the highway when the second gear slipped. My car was stuck under a traffic light when the traffic light changed from green to red. Oncoming traffic was approaching my vehicle at 65-70mph. I was almost broad sided. Honda knows about this defect and will not replace the transmission in my car. There have been several class action lawsuits against Honda for this problem. I believe this is a serious safety issue not just for me because I own the car, but for anyone who is operating a vehicle on the roadways. Honda should be held accountable for this defect. I also have a takata airbag which is not subject to the recall. So I have 2 problems, the defect with the transmission puts me at a higher risk for getting into and accident. If I am in an accident and the airbag goes off, I could be injured and/or killed by the airbag. How can Honda get away with this?

- Marlborough, CT, USA

problem #266

Oct 012013


  • 85,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. The contact stated that while driving at low speeds, the vehicle hesitated and jerked without warning. The failure recurred on numerous occasions. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 85,000. The VIN was not available.

- Marlborough, CT, USA

problem #265

Nov 142014


  • 78,670 miles


Transmission failure...suddenly disengaged! luckily I was not on the freeway (I-80); only driving 35 miles per hour three block from home.

- Vacaville, CA, USA

problem #264

Nov 042014

Accord 6-cyl

  • 103,400 miles
When I drive on the road at around 45mph, I experienced a sudden shift to low gear and then the gear is neutralized. I pressed the pedal, but no speed increased while the RPM got very high. I must have pulled over and restarted the car. I have struggled much to get home dangerously. I brought the car the Honda dealer. They offered to replace the transmission at the price $4300. This is ridiculous! I bought the car last year for $8500. I have replaced many parts including the timing belt. It cost me more than $3000 already. I could have bought a new car with all the money I already spent and will spend on it. I have called Honda America and also asked the dealer to call them for a good will repair. No good will is got. Honda do not respect their customers' life. They suck my money and leave me stranded. I have checked on line and found this is a wide-spread and well-known transmission problem of Honda Accord 2003. Honda become murderers because they leave these cars with defective transmission run on the road. A recall definitely is in need to prevent fatal accidents.

- College Station, TX, USA

problem #263

Nov 022014


  • 135,000 miles
Transmission locks in second gear when driving violently downshifts to second gear and over revs and no reverse after it cools same result seems to be overheating and starving for fluid.

- Kansas City , MO, USA

problem #262

May 232014

Accord 6-cyl

  • 146,000 miles


The total transmission had to be replaced in my Accord due to it not shifting into gear properly. I've owned multiple Honda's over the years, so I am greatly disappointed in the quality I've grown to expect from Honda. Needless to say, this was dangerous as well as a costly repair. Honda was obviously aware of the problem just due to the number of complaints, yet did nothing for their buyers/car owners.

- Birmingham, AL, USA

problem #261

Oct 302014

Accord 6-cyl

  • 150,000 miles
I have experienced the same problems that over 800 people on this site alone have had with the 2003 Honda Accord transmission. I am the original owner of this Honda, when purchased had 30 miles on it. Received the recall notice and immediately took the car to the closet dealership for repair. Was told by the service guy that they only inspected my car but did not do anything to it.they did not feel it was necessary. I felt this was odd because Honda knew there was a problem. On October 30th, 2014, now at approximately 150,000 miles I was on my lunch hour, when suddenly my vehicle downshifted and began losing all power on a very busy 4 lane highway.before coming to a complete stop, I managed to slowly get off to the side of the road before causing any kind of major accident.had my local trusted mechanic take a look at it and he called me back today to let me know that I needed a new transmission.he contacted several "transmission specialist" and they have refused to even try to fix my vehicle because they are fully aware of the transmission problems with the 2003 Honda Accord.I have contacted Honda's customer service department as well as the Honda product concern department and was told the only thing that I can do now is to have a new transmission put into my car, at my cost.I am not asking for a handout, but Honda has known for a long time that the 2003 Honda Accord had major transmission problems and they refuse to accept any kind of responsibility.fortunately, no one was injured when my defective transmission decided to blow but what if that had not been the case"does it actually take someone being seriously injured or losing their life for Honda to step up to the plate and seriously take responsibility for their mistake"have always been a loyal Honda owner up until now always trusted that they would stand by their product. Boy was I wrong!!!!!!!!!

- Afton, TN, USA

problem #260

Sep 202012

Accord 4-cyl

  • miles
Key fell apart in hand when placed into ignition and made vehicle unable to start engine. Gear shift button which needed to be depressed to shift fell out and made vehicle unable to be shifted into gear.

- Stuart, FL, USA

problem #259

Aug 202014

Accord 6-cyl

  • 120,000 miles
2004 safety recall for defective transmissions. Vehicle was with dealer for one hour and returned to me with statement that transmission was fine. I asked about paperwork and the answer was "none needed. It's fine." Transmission gears recently locked up, almost causing rear-end collision.

- Mathias, WV, USA

problem #258

Aug 172014

Accord 6-cyl

  • 209,500 miles


Driving family of 4 home from church, stopped at an intersection stop sign. Came off brake and onto accelerator to cross the intersection and transmission immediately and unexpectedly broke apart, leaving our car stuck in the intersection. Extremely dangerous as traffic was continuous where we were crossing. More importantly, the transmission failure was without symptoms, with maintenance kept.... the transmission was a 4 year old Honda dealership replacement for another transmission which failed in May 2010. Total mileage on replacement transmission = 86K miles, with transmission fluid replaced 2 years ago by Honda. In May 2010, I was driving the same 2003 Honda V6 Accord vehicle on the highway at night, when the transmission (@ 122K miles) slammed down from 4th gear to 1st gear slamming me forward (thankful I wear a seatbelt)....extremely dangerous situation, near miss incident. Honda had a recall on the original 2003 Accord V6 transmission, which they "fixed" with an add on kit in 2004, not a replacement of the transmission. Honda refused to pay for or contribute towards the replacement transmission in 2004 or in 2010! Honda never reported back to me what was the cause of failure to the original transmission which they took upon installation of replacement in 2010. I also owned a 2003 Honda Odyssey which Honda recalled though that transmission and replaced by Honda versus the "kit". I believe that near miss incidents are as actionable as fatalities, fires and physical injuries. I feel fortunate that my family was spared injury or death yesterday, however I am deeply concerned that these Honda transmissions are time bombs and lives are constantly at risk wherever these cars and minivans are on the road. Please encourage Honda Motors to take 100% remedial action to protect the public from these poorly engineered and manufactured transmissions.

- Woodstock, CT, USA

problem #257

Aug 062009


  • 77,000 miles
1st incident was transmission failure was in August of 2009 when car had 77,000 miles on it. Was trying to turn right and after starting the turn lost all power to the power train. Couldn't make a turn was able to make it off to the side of the road. Cost of 1st transmission replacement $2500 (Honda actually paid half (how gracious, when they knew that they have a flaw should have been 100%. (replaced with factory Honda transmission) 3 year, 360000 warranty 2nd incident 8/1012014 was driving on freeway at 65 mph and car slammed into 1st gear (and reduced speed by at least 15 --20 mph. Luckily I wasn't rear-ended as it jerked the whole car and reduced the speed in seconds. Issue transmission failure. Cost to replace $4500.

- Chandler , AZ, USA

problem #256

Aug 052014

Accord 6-cyl

  • 137,775 miles
As I was driving to work the car started slipping, then as I arrived to my destination the car wouldn't go into gear at all. The car was overheating, as I called for service after work I tried starting the car again and it did go into gear. I drove it to the place for service but having to stop and let car cool down a couple times on the way there. They told me it's the transmission and will need a new one, or have it repaired. Now I'm aware of many 2003 Accord with the same problem, there should be a recall on this! I've owned 4 Honda cars and all from brand new vehicles and never a problem like this before. I have had this problem one other time of not going into gear, but it came out of it after it was cooled and sitting for a few hours, so never had that problem again until now. We don't drive this car very much as I work from my home, so it didn't go out until now. I'm told we must drive it little, which is true, and not hard on our vehicles at all, because this would have happened much earlier if we had. Also the air bag lights come on randomly with no reason, we had it tested and they said it was fine, humidity? that's another one to be recalled! Honda, you need to help us and recall the faults that you know are an issue if you want us to continue buying your vehicles! a used to be loyal Honda owner for all my life.

- Sauk Rapids, MN, USA

problem #255

Jul 012014

Accord 6-cyl

  • 129,000 miles
Transmission slipped then violently down shifted into 1st gear. Could not shift out of first gear until getting into neutral. I was almost rear-ended going 45 mph because of this!

- Bakersfield, CA, USA

problem #254

Jul 072014


  • 90,000 miles
Traveling North on I-83 from baltimore to Pennsylvania, the car started jerking violently, and came to a complete stop, front wheels quit rotating (locked?). we were thrown forward against our seatbelts, the rear of the car jumping slightly to the right. Gratefully, traffic was light. We shifted gears on the console back and forth and got the car moving again, taking the middletown rd. Exit, pulled off the road, checked transmission fluid, read the car manual. Half-hour later, we continued slowly, but after a few miles, the car began jerking again, slowing, sometimes stopping. We were able to get home with hazard lights flashing, letting cars pass by pulling to the side. This was early afternoon, very little traffic, and we were not far from home. Had car towed to dealer who said transmission failure, needed to be replaced. We bought this car new in 2003, maintained it per manufacture suggestions, and had no prior problems or indication the transmission was failing as the car was running as smoothly as it has since it was new.

- Spring Grove, PA, USA

problem #253

Jul 132014

Accord 6-cyl

  • 119,600 miles
Transmission failure causing rapid deceleration in the middle lanes of an interstate highway, I-95.

- Potomac, MD, USA

problem #252

Jun 202014

Accord 6-cyl

  • 130,000 miles
This has happened 3 times in just a couple of weeks and probably would have occurred more but I'm scared to drive it and only do so when necessary now. I live off a one lane highway on the mountains and should this happen with someone right behind me, I fear my life being in jeopardy.

- Whitefish, MT, USA

problem #251

Oct 222007


  • miles
I am the only and original owner of my 2003 Honda Accord ex V6. While it was still under warranty I started having problems with the transmission. I would be driving picking up speed to merge with highway traffic or street traffic and the transmission will get stuck not allowing me to go more than 20mph or 25 mph I then have to pull over and put the car in park wait a few minutes and pray that I can get to my destination without further incidence. However, everytime I took it the Honda dealer they said there was nothing wrong and they couldn't duplicate the problem. I was told transmission problems are not covered with my warranty and I would have to pay out of pocket. Thankfully I have not gotten into an accident since this problem is still on going with my car. I am upset and disturbed to see that there are so many complaints with the same issue and Honda being aware of these complaints has not been held accountable.

- Hollywood, FL, USA

problem #250

May 282014


  • 96,928 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. The contact stated that the gear shifter separated from the handle while attempting to change gears. The contact placed her finger into the left side of the gear shifter in order to shift the gear handle. The vehicle was taken to a dealer where it was diagnosed that the gear shifter plastic holder had melted in the gear shaft. As a result, the gear shifter knob and cover needed to be replaced. The vehicle was repaired. The manufacture was not made aware of the failure. The failure and current mileage was 96,928. Updated 08/21/14 updated 09/5/2014

- Clearwater, FL, USA

problem #249

May 192014

Accord 6-cyl

  • 170,000 miles
This is the second occurrence of the transmission failing in this car. Originally Honda recalled the vehicle for a gear failure issue. In Oct. 2004 I took the vehicle to a dealership where I lived at the time and they replaced a cooling line that supposedly would resolve the issue. Five years later the transmission failed and would not shift out of 2nd gear and I do not drive many miles per year. I took the car to aamco because Honda was talking about charging me over $3000 for the repair but at no time did the representative at Honda state that this could be due to the recall and that Honda may in fact replace the transmission at no cost to me if it was determined that the failure was due to the previous recall. So I negotiated with them (Honda) and they refunded me approximately 40% of the $2150 I paid to aamco in lawrenceville ga. Here I am 4 years later and the same issue has resurfaced. The transmission has locked up again and luckily I was not traveling at any significant speed. Thecar now sits in my garage with everything on it working except the transmission, same scenario as in 2010. I have received three or four recall notices on this vehicle and have complied with Honda to take the vehicle to the dealership to resolve any issues. I am the original owner and would have expected much more reliability and dependability from this vehicle that after financing with Honda motor Corp I paid in excess of $30,000 in 2002. There seems tobe a pattern that after about 80,000 miles the transmissions in these vehicles are subject to fail when all warranty coverage has passed and leaving the consumer with little or no recourse. If I am correct this should surely fall under lemon law provisioning.

- Grayson, GA, USA

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