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 7 of 16)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #188

Jun 082013

Accord 6-cyl

  • 200,000 miles


Automatic transmission disengages from drive line. ( it felt like the transmission had been placed in neutral). It doesn't do it when cold. If engine is turned off and started after 5 minutes car will move. Transmission specialist quoted $2000-$2500 to rebuild trans.he said the trans filter was not accessible from outside the transmission and the clutch pack disintegrates and clogs the filter rendering the transmission unreliable. Transmission fluid had been replaced as per Honda recommendation, now it smells burned and is brown instead of red. Honda quoted $500 trade in value towards another newer car. Honda wants $3000-$4000 to replace with rebuilt unit. Research indicates that this is a not uncommon for this model over many years. How many fatal crashes have occurred due to this problem but were attributed to other causes?

- Union, IL, USA

problem #187

Jun 082013


  • 115,000 miles
While driving at apx. 45mph car violently downshifted into a lower gear, and then went into neutral, I pulled over to the side of road and shut it off. A minute or two later I restarted and it went back into gear. This happened 4 or 5 times over the next 3 miles to get car home. Spoke with Honda service advisor same day (6/8/13) and she basically told me it is a common issue and I was looking replacing the transmission for apx.4 - 4.5K! over the phone and not having seen the car! called Honda customer service (6/10/13) and after 20 minutes on phone with rep he told me to have car towed to dealer, have them look at it and deal with them! fat chance I'll do that, having it towed to an independent transmission shop. We bought the car new from dealer in may, 2003, has apx. 115,000 miles and has been maintained. Very disappointed in Honda, more so after "googling" the above issue and seeing it is a very common problem with this model! never to be a Honda owner again!

- Roseville, CA, USA

problem #186

Jun 012013


  • 128,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. The contact stated that while driving 40 mph, the vehicle suddenly failed to shift gears. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic for diagnosis where it was stated that the transmission needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired and the manufacturer was notified. The VIN was not available. The approximate failure mileage was 128,000.

- Parker, CO, USA

problem #185

Jun 052009

Accord 6-cyl

  • 79,487 miles


I was driving on a local city street that has a 30mph speed limit. I stopped at a red light and all seemed totally fine with my car. When the light turned green my car did not move & the engine just revved up. I went no where. I was holding traffic up & was totally clueless that my transmission just went. I turned the car off & on a few times to see if the car would move but no luck until after some time the car moved after about 25 minutes. From that point the vehicle would not go past about 25 mph when it could drive. I had the vehicle towed to a shop & paid 2,150 to get the transmission fixed. In 2013 the same problem happened again when my car was around 119,000 miles. On the second time this happened I paid 3,500 to get the car fixed. I have receipts.

- Queens Village, NY, USA

problem #184

May 312013

Accord 6-cyl

  • 62,000 miles
This happened 3X today, the third time was terrifying & dangerous. I barely got on the shoulder off the highway in time. The tcs light came on & the car violently jerked from low to high gears while in drive, going about 25-30 mph. I shut off the car & restarted it, the tcs light shut off. The car jerked when I tried to get off the line and felt like it slipped into neutral. I parked in a parking lot and while pulling in, the car jerked violently again between accelerating & decelerating for no reason. The final time--I started to get on the highway and the car violently went out of control as it jerked wildly accelerating and decelerating while traffic was in all lanes of travel around me. I barely made it at about 20-25 mph (by the time the car decided to coast into a neutral feeling gear) to the shoulder on the side of the road where I waited for a tow to a Honda dealership for diagnosis.

- Washington, DC, USA

problem #183

May 012013


  • 110,000 miles
When speed gets over 35 mph, the car violently lunges forward. The car does not go in reverse as well. A safety hazard when traveling.

- Evergreen Park, IL, USA

problem #182

May 272013


  • 148,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. The contact stated that while driving approximately 25 mph, the transmission would not shift into third gear. The failure recurred numerous times. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer who recommended that the transmission be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the problem. The approximate failure mileage was 148,000.

- Vacaville, CA, USA

problem #181

May 292013

Accord 6-cyl

  • 160,000 miles
I just got on a highway and the car would not accelerate and change from 2nd to 3rd gear. It happened 3 more times before I got to a Honda service. Further, there are at least 30 more technical service bulletins on this transmission. Clearly Honda has had serious manufacturing issues with this transmission and that has caused major reliability and safety issues for Honda owners, like me.

- Mill Valley, CA, USA

problem #180

May 232013


  • 58,559 miles
I was fortunate but I am concerned we will read about a person and /or family that was killed by oncoming traffic because their car slowed in the fast lane or stopped without warning on a busy California freeway. I was changing lanes doing 65 mph when my car quickly decelerated-I could not get enough power to get into the next lane and cars were coming in all.lanes. Finally, I got into the lane-it happened 2 more times B4 I could get off the fwy a short distance away. At the traffic signal, it stopped completely. After 15 minutes, I was able to slowly creep into the gas station& call aaa for a tow.I have a long history with Honda &stayed with Honda because I felt safe. 1st Accord I had for 10 years; Prelude I had for 17 and gave to my nephew; so tho this Accord is 10 yrs old, I have it serviced regularly-last service was 4/11/13.I am waiting to hear if american Honda will accept that the trans is defective and pay the $4500 for the repairs. I rely on my car and must feel safe. I don't feel safe now and if Honda is irresponsible in fixing this defective trans, I will have also lost faith in the company. The mileage is way to low for the trans go out. If I drove it more then the trans would have gone out within the extended warranty (for which I paid $1600) time period. Extended warranty expired 8/2010 or 75000 miles- my mileage is at 58,559-quite a bit short of 75,000! please don't wait until someone is seriously injured or worse. Do you know what it feels like to have cars coming at you at 65+ mph and you can't get out of their way? you can only hope and pray they see that you are barely (if at all) moving and they change lanes. I was lucky. I have always trusted Honda (not all dealers but Sierra Honda in monrovia is great) and I am hoping this situation can be remedied. But, consumers have to be informed of the problems with the transmission in this model/year.

- Duarte, CA, USA

problem #179

May 192013

Accord 6-cyl

  • 88,000 miles
While highway driving (80mph), total, unexpected transmission failure. Speedometer dropped to zero, multiple indicator lights on dash including blinking indicator near the "D" gear indicator and engine light. I was nearly hit as the car decelerated and I quickly tried to merge to the right so I could exit the freeway. After pulling into gas station, I opened the hood which was now smoking with burning oil. The entire undercarriage was covered in oil and it was now leaking from an unknown source. This is the third transmission failure I have experienced in the same 2003 Honda Accord. I have nearly been hit twice due to transmission failures in this vehicle. Does someone have to be killed before this well known transmission failure is address" recalled? consumer refunded for repairs to a faulty vehicle"

- Chicago, IL, USA

problem #178

May 212013


  • 70,000 miles


I have a 2003 Honda Accord ex-V6 that I purchased in 2006 with 13,000 miles. It now has ~70,000 miles. I have had all the Honda recommended maintenance performed. Today, while traveling about 50 mph, the transmission suddenly downshifted violently almost causing an accident. I pulled off the road and tried driving in D1, D2 and D3. The transmission seems to be stuck in first gear. I finished the drive home (about 1 mile) and found out there was no reverse gear. This seems to be a recurring and potentially dangerous problem from Honda. I can not believe this problem has not been recalled.

- Madison, OH, USA

problem #177

May 112013

Accord 6-cyl

  • 105,000 miles
Was driving on the highway at approximately 60 mph when the car violently downshifted into 1st gear and slowed to 20 mph. Was able to pull off of the highway onto a city street. After this, the car would not accelerate, although the rpms would increase when the gas pedal was pressed. Shifted through several different gears and no change. Had to have the car towed to a shop where it was diagnosed with transmission failure. The repairs and labor cost $1975. There were absolutely no warning signs that there was a problem with the transmission until it failed on the highway. The car had been to the dealership a month prior and no problems were detected. While under my ownership, the car has been up to date on all regular maintenance and all previous recalls had been addressed. This was a very dangerous situation for me and I believe that Honda needs to address this known issue with this model to prevent injuries or fatalities.

- Carrollton, TX, USA

problem #176

Mar 272013

Accord 6-cyl

  • 127,000 miles
While driving on the freeway at average speed; (65mph), suddenly the car jerked and seemed like it shifted from high gear to way lower gear, I almost got rear ended... very scary situation... pulled over and drove on the street instead. I had this happened a few other times after within the following month... I've had the car checked at the Honda dealer and aamco but they can't replicate the issue, Honda said I need a new transmission because my car has too many miles!!!! 128,000"?" I've checked the service history and the car has been service periodically at Honda dealer with at least 4 times transmission oil flush services... I've read way too many complaints about this issue and I can't believe NHTSA is looking the other way when is very possible one of this days someone will get badly hurt or killed, then you will want to act.... I hope this really gets a real good look before a big law suit is imminent...

- San Jose , CA, USA

problem #175

Apr 282013


  • 150,000 miles
On 4/28/13 I was driving on the highway when my vehicle began to violently jerk and almost caused me to crash into a car in front of me. This has happened to me a few months back and Honda checked and replaced the auto trans recall. Now today Honda tells me the transmission is gone and I will need to replace it at $4,000. I just got this car only 11 months ago and not even put 40,000 miles on it now I need a new transmission" this is outrageous and unacceptable to me. I purchased the car with 115,000 miles on it, now its at 150,000 and I need a new trans"

- Lilburn, GA, USA

problem #174

Apr 292013

Accord 6-cyl

  • 57,100 miles
I had just backed out of my driveway and onto the street, put the car in drive (automatic), drove 10 mph down the street. Approximately 4 houses away from mine, the car made a horrible noise. I immediately pulled over, put it in park, and shut it off. I had it towed back to my driveway. A mechanic looked at it, listened to it, and turned the front driver's side wheel. The cv shaft was snapped in two. Not the joint, the forged steel shaft. I have 57,000 original miles on this car. If this happened on the highway, I would have been in an accident. Honda said it is my responsibility to get it fixed. Updated 05/15/13 updated 05/28/2013

- Easthampton, MA, USA

problem #173

Apr 282013


  • 98,500 miles
Brought 2003 Accord in Oct 2010 with approximately 66K miles on it. In December 2010, I had to return it to the dealer because it was shifting very rough, and I would hear a grinding sound while driving to work(approx. 16 miles, round trip). There was a recall on the issue, however, the dealership manager tried to have me pay $285 for shipping costs of the parts. After some haggling for 2 days, he called me back & said they'd pay for it since it was around the holidays (lucky me!). today, the transmission felt as if it literally fell out the car! while pulling out of my parking spot, it felt as if I ran over something huge! I put the car in reverse & it wouldn't move. I put in gear(automatic) and it made a loud whirring sound, then a grinding sound. I immediately put in park & the noise got louder. I turned the car off & it stopped, looked under the car, nothing. I started car again, put in gear, no movement & loud noise started again. I turned car off & had to get family members to assist in pushing it to a parking spot. Searched for & found dealer invoice from 2010 repair, and it states "warr. Exp. 11sept2013"......halleluah! I'm calling the dealer 7am on Monday, letting them know I'm bringing it in, and I'm not paying a dime!

- Perth Amboy, NJ, USA

problem #172

Apr 132013

Accord 6-cyl

  • 130,800 miles
The car suddenly would not accelerate and change into the 3rd gear while driving on a busy road. Had the car towed to an authorized mechanic who diagnosed the issue as transmission failure with the 3rd gear. This is the same issue that caused Honda to issue a recall for their 2003 V6 Accord in 2004. A month prior, on two separate occasions, I was driving between 40mph-45mph when all of a sudden the car would not accelerate and slowed down, while I simultaneously engaged the accelerator. During both incidences the tcs and check engine lights immediately came on. After pulling over and turning the car off and on, the lights did not remain on. This is a very dangerous car with thousands of complaints already noted for the same issue. Honda needs to recall this dangerous car.

- Austin, TX, USA

problem #171

Mar 152013

Accord 6-cyl

  • 130,350 miles
While traveling on a 4 lane highway, car was acting like a bucking Bronco. My wife pulled into the right lane and slowed down the car to baout 35 miles per hour. When she got home, I test drove the car around the block and flet the same problem. I contacted holler Honda in winter park, fl to schedule an appointmnet for Saturday. I insisted about the service call and asked if I should drive the car or have it towed. They indicated that it should be safe to drive to their shop. I had the same issues on Saturday driving the car to holler Honda. I received a call about two hours later, informing me that the transmission needed to be replaced. I purchased the Honda Accord in November 2003 and received a recall for fixing the transmission in 2004. Honda was aware of the problem with a faulty transmission but only made a temporary fix. By only performing a temporary fix, this car was a safety hazzard. The transmiision for the Honda Accord 2003 would go before any transmission should have gone. I am fortunate that mw wife was not on a major highway traveling at 65-70 miles per hour and have the transmission fail causing a major crash.

- Oviedo, FL, USA

problem #170

Feb 162012


  • 111,935 miles
Operating the vehicle on a local roadway, the transmission failed causing the vehicle to slow down from 40 to 10 mph immediately - could not engage third gear or higher and reverse.

- Campbell Hall, NY, USA

problem #169

Jan 032013

Accord 6-cyl

  • 131,000 miles
The transmission pressure switch sensor failed and the drive indicator started flashing.this caused unexpected acceleration/deceleration to my vehicle while driving.apparently there are so many complaints on the internet about regular failures of the transmission pressure switch for the 2003 Honda Accord.this should have been a recall by Honda.

- San Diego, CA, USA

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