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 1 of 16)

problem #308

Dec 062016


  • 133,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. The contact stated that while driving the vehicle at 70 mph and when attempting to pass another vehicle, the transmission seemed to lock, causing the vehicle to stop on the freeway. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic were it was diagnosed that the transmission needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 133,000.

- Sacramento, CA, USA

problem #307

Oct 012016


  • 97,746 miles
My 2003 Honda Accord LX crashed on 10/01/2016 about about 18 months after I had my airbag serviced at a local Honda dealer 4/7/2015. When I got my car back from the dealer, the driver door had no power and could not be opened remotely or with the power lock control on the driver door. More importantly, no safety signals came on when the car started. I called the dealer and they told me I had to pay $80 to have it checked; I then called american Honda customer service, who only documented the complaint and took no action to remedy mechanical mistake by Honda dealer. I was driving on a downhill curve on a wet road after a rain. When I saw a slower car ahead of me, I gently applied the brake to maintain a constant following distance. The car drifted to the left toward oncoming traffic. But when I tried steer to get back to the right lane and tried to press on the brake, it locked up, then the car went into neutral and I had no brake and steering resistance was completely lax. My car went off road and crashed into the woods. The airbag did not deploy. I was confined in bed with pain one whole day. My transmission had locked up, then went into neutral, twice before on 1/14/2015 in the middle of traffic, and on 9/15/2016 in my driveway. We never received a letter from Honda for the transmission recall; however, we did receive letters regarding the airbag recall, the ignition switch recall, and the wiper motor recall. A year ago, the recalls came up using my VIN#. the database now shows no recall for my vehicle at all. After my car crash, I had it towed to Honda dealership on 10/4/2016 for repair estimate. I left my car and title with dealership; less than 48 hours later I called to get car back for crash investigation and lawsuit, the car had been destroyed by Honda dealer closing all further inquiries. American Honda took no responsibility when I contacted them.

- Derwood, MD, USA

problem #306

Mar 052016


  • 125,000 miles
The 3rd gear in my automatic transmission had almost completely given out. The first incident of failure was when accelerating from a stop. When my vehicle tried to shift to 3rd gear the gear wouldn't catch and the engine revved freely without increasing the speed of the vehicle. I did research on this problem specifically associated with this make, model, and year and discovered the issue to be consistent with other reports.

- Salt Lake City, UT, USA

problem #305

Jun 202016


  • 167,000 miles


The torque converter isnt locking up anymore...the car can stop any time by itself. Check engine light code P0741

- Des Plaines, IL, USA

problem #304

Feb 152016


  • 140,000 miles
Randomly car will down shift and up shift. Sometime yes when I left off gas. Sometimes when it hits a certain RPM. The RPM will shoot really high and go back to normal. Only occurs while warm.

- Virginia Beach, VA, USA

problem #303

Apr 052016


  • 150,000 miles
Was driving on the highway at 70 miles an hour and the transmission violently stopped. I almost got in a car accident. These transmission are an issue and Honda refues to recall the cars. Someone is going to get killed.

- Oak Harbor, WA, USA

problem #302

Mar 262016


  • 111,000 miles


Transmission failed on my 2003 3.0 automatic Honda Accord.

- Sebastopol, CA, USA

problem #301

Mar 072016


  • 110,000 miles
Complete transmission failure requiring replacement or rebuilding of the automatic transmission. Note, this is a 2003 Honda Accord V6 automatic transmission. The failure occurred while driving on the highway under normal conditions.

- Coppell, TX, USA

problem #300

May 252015


  • 95,000 miles
Hi! as you can see, I am an owner of a Honda Accord 2003. I have recently taken it for a replacement of the passenger airbag. While I was doing some research, I found that this specific year and model, had some other issues or recalls too. For example, the transmission system. His caught my attention since I think I do have a problem probably related to it. I bought this car in may last year, from an acquaintance, and soon after, I noticed a shaking in the gas pedal, every time I was accelerating between 25 to 35 mph (city and highway). The shaking always go away when I stop speeding it for a second, and then continue to accelerate. It happens again and again. It first, and because the check engine turn on, I took it to the mechanic, and I was told that I needed to replace the catalytic. Well, I did it and...the problem persisted. Am I in danger here?. ok, I will wait for your response. In the meantime, as might understand, I will document this request, just in case something happens. Thank you for your time and attention!!!

- Chicago, IL, USA

problem #299

Nov 302015


  • 87,000 miles
November 30, 2016 the transmission started jerking and slipping. On December 1, I had the car towed to a repair facility and a repair was done. The next day. December 2 the problem recurred and the diagnosis was the transmission failed. The failure of this class of transmissions is documented through recalls. My transmission at the time of recall had new cooling lines and kits installed. No inspection was done by camera.

- Costa Mesa, CA, USA

problem #298

Dec 282015

Accord 6-cyl

  • 63,000 miles


After being service at the dealership for replacement of timing belt and drive belt, the car would not move into drive or reverse. When I press on gas pedal the car would not move into gear when driving at city speed or highway merging. The mechanic said the transimission is bad. The car has only 63K miles. After research on internet, I found that the 2003 Honda Accord V6 has this problem but has not recall since it is not a safety issues. Well, driving at 70 and merging into traffic and the car would go can cause an accident.

- Winter Haven, FL, USA

problem #297

Dec 132015

Accord 6-cyl

  • 113,000 miles
Driving on highway. Sudden deceleration caused by transmission. Very lucky not to be rear ended.

- Marina Del Rey, CA, USA

problem #296

Dec 212015


  • 100,000 miles
Verbatim the same transmission problems as everyone else. Honda was unwilling to compromise on this faulty part that's well documented, hence the involuntary recall by the NHTSA. We offered to work with them by trading this model in for a newer one, talk about us willing to forget and forgive for brand loyalty. Apparently Honda doesn't care not willing to do even this. This is my fourth Honda and will be my last. Average cost of ownership has been 1000/month, at this point I could have gotten the Tesla I really wanted.

- Medical Lake, WA, USA

problem #295

Nov 282014


  • 218,000 miles
My 2003 Honda Accord ex V-6 has 229000 miles and is need of its fourth set of engine/motor mounts. I have owned several Accord and have never had this problem. The car jerks upon take off and makes grinding sounds when decelerating. Also, the car squeaks, moans, and groans when slowing down to make left and right turns. My mechanic told me it is rare for a car to need motor mounts so often for a vehicle. Due to the broken motor mounts, the car's oil pan has begun to leak due to movement of the engine and transmission and power steering fluids are leaking due to the movement. Also, my airbag warning light turns on intermittently. I have checked several times and my car is not included in the takata airbag recall, but it does concern me. I don't know if there is a problem or if it is an electrical problem.

- Cornelia, GA, USA

problem #294

Nov 092015


  • 154,000 miles
While driving on the 210 freeway transmission downshifted suddenly without a warning and RPM shot up to 6,000 revs bringing the car to almost a standstill with cars behind me going at 70 mph almost rearending my car.

- Glendale, CA, USA

problem #293

Jun 192015


  • miles
The car is shifting while in motion. Transmission jumps when shifting into gear. Car is dangerous to drive. Certified techician advised us not to drive the car.

- Silver Spring, MD, USA

problem #292

Sep 122015


  • miles
Driver's side axle shaft assembly snapped. There was no accident. This occurred when I was taking a slow left turn.

- Westerly, RI, USA

problem #291

Oct 082015


  • 89,000 miles
June 2015: Torque converter: Car when accelerating slammed out of gear and felt like we had been rear-ended. Car wouldn't shift from 2nd to 3rd gear. Radio: Radio system back light broke at 60,000 miles current issue: Gear shift knob fell off while driving. Daughter was driving car and bumped gear shift and was able to shifted from drive to neutral while the car was moving. Called Honda complaint line to complain and there was no action or concern regarding the current issue of the gear shift knob.

- Yorktown, VA, USA

problem #290

Jun 182015


  • 107,000 miles
I was driving on the main road and I heard a noise, my vehicle suddenly stopped, I tried to apply brakes, but the brakes did not work, the hand brakes did not work either, was very scary. The vehicle was in motion when it suddenly stopped on me. This vehicle has always been serviced at Honda dealership and I have taken very good care of this vehicle. I am scared for my safety driving this vehicle because I could have ended up in a big accident like the one that recently happened in seattle to the "duck tourist bus" because of a broken axle. I contacted Honda about this issue, mentioned about my concerns regarding the safety of this vehicle, but they did not care.

- Overland Park, KS, USA

problem #289

Mar 102015


  • 180,967 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. The contact stated that while driving at 50 mph, the vehicle started shaking and jerking before moving forward and the tsc warning light illuminated. The failure recurred several times. The vehicle was taken to a dealer where it was diagnosed that the transmission needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The failure mileage was 180,967.

- Dublin , GA, USA

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