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:
0 / 2
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
69,644 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 engine problems

engine problem

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2003 Honda Accord Owner Comments (Page 2 of 3)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #21

Sep 232011

Accord 6-cyl

  • miles


2003 Honda Accord V6 transmission failure in the middle of traffic, almost caused an accident but fortunately this was on a road with a slower speed limit. 3 out of 4 engine mounts are broken. I have owned this car 8 months and the estimated repair is $6000. I have found several websites and forums where this appears to be a problem for 2003 and 2004 transmissions on the Accord. Most drivers just stalled on the highway/road they were traveling on and this is a serious safety concern. How can these cars continue to be sold where this is a common problem.

- Jacksonville, FL, USA

problem #20

Sep 192011

Accord 6-cyl

  • 95,211 miles
Honda service manager said he was "almost killed on the highway" driving my car: First incident: 9/19/2011 (mon evening) car lurching irregularly at highway and town speeds; difficulty getting into gear and trouble reversing. Took it to dealer that night. 9/20/2011 (tues): Dealer reported not being able to detect a problem. Nothing came up on diagnostics. No service light was on. Dealer asked to keep it one more day. 9/21/2011 (wed): Dealer still unable to detect a problem, they drove it around but claimed nothing unusual. Service manager asked if he could drive it home. I ok'd. employer annoyed. Second incident: That night the service manager, drove it home, because it wasn't acting up at the garage, and diagnostics showed nothing. There were no warning lights. He, [xxx], said he "almost went through the windshield on the highway" on his way home. He said repeatedly that he was almost killed. That's right the Honda service manager said he almost was killed!!! which is what could have happened to me or any other Honda Accord owner. If this happened in inclement weather, I'd be dead in a ditch (it's new england so those days are coming). The car lurched at highway speeds and at low speeds. It lurched speeding up and slowing down. If I put the car in neutral, and just applied some gas to the pedal, the tachometer (RPM) needle jumped around all over the place. Only until the service manager got it back to the service garage (9/22) did any service lights come on. How convenient. Their proposed solution: Step one: Replace transmission fluid (material, parts, labor) = $120 step two: Replace transmission solenoid (parts labor, etc) = $500 failing that: Step three: Replace entire transmission. Est. Cost: $4300 total potential cost: Approx $50.... or my life. This is a significant safety issue and a recall is in order and asap. Information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Watertown, MA, USA

problem #19

Aug 102011


  • 168,000 miles
While traveling at speeds approximately 45-55 mph, the engine initially would rev up and after gas pedal released, would return to normal within seconds. This happened approximately three times on separate days over a 3-4 week period. Yesterday, the transmission revved once as described previously. Within a few minutes of that episode, it then started to suddenly downshift from overdrive or drive into 2nd causing the car to suddenly lurch forward, rapidly decelerate and the tires to squeal. This happened several times and occurred regardless of whether we were going up or down a hill and at various speeds. We narrowly avoided an accident with a tractor trailer before we had the car towed.

- Harrisburg, PA, USA

problem #18

Jun 042011


  • 78,000 miles


At approximately 56,000 miles, we had to replace the rear main oil seal. At 68,000 miles, we had to replace the fuel pump and as of June 4th, 2011, we were informed that we need to replace the transmission at 78,000 miles. The transmission failed going approximately 70 mph and proceeded into "limp mode" to 30 mph. It proceeded to then return instantly to 70 mph and within 30 seconds repeated the same and as we were trying not to fly off the highway it again repeated this same behavior at which point we pulled off to the side of the highway, which was approximately 2 feet wide, and as traffic, which was thankfully not right on our tail, flew by we were able to drive on the side of the highway for the next 20 miles at approximately 30 miles per hour into the next town. At this point, there wasn't anyone available to look at the vehicle so we left it and rented a vehicle. Our Honda would not even go into reverse at this point. We then towed the Honda back to our home town and dropped it straight to Honda of tri-cities. There they diagnosed that their was a transmission failure and it had to be replaced. They offered to pay half of the cost ($2000) but we feel there is a life threatening problem with that transmission and after seeing all of the additional customers of Honda's, the years between 1999 and 2003, that have had the same life threatening experiences, we are appalled that the public has not been notified of this. Not just by a check on your transmission but a complete recall. I am very surprised that we were not fatally injured.

- Pasco, WA, USA

problem #17

Apr 162011


  • 83,551 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. The contact stated the check engine light came on and the timing belt was stretching. The contact was first told that the tension sensor failed and it was replaced. The check engine light illuminated again and when the vehicle was taken to the dealer, the contact was told that the engine needed to be replaced because the tensioner guide for the timing belt failed. The failure and current mileages were 83,551.

- Rahway, NY, USA

problem #16

Sep 012010


  • 98,550 miles
My transmission is shifting hard on my 2003 Honda Accord and I was told that I had to have the entire transmissin replaced. Transmission failure with the Honda Accord and civic is a widespread problem in models made from the early 2000S. The 2003 Honda Accord and 2001 Honda civic appear to be the worst years for transmission failure. Currently there is no recall for the transmission defect, because it is not a safety issue (according to the NHTSA). The cost to replace a transmission is incredible and I think that Honda should take care of this repair when they know it's a problem with their product. It may not be listed as a safety issue according to NHTSA but the transmission can go out at any time (while driving on a highway at a high rate of speed) and cause danger to all those involved, not to mention the inconvenience of being stranded!

- Mission, KS, USA

problem #15

Oct 252010


  • 100,000 miles


Noticed major oil consumption on more than one occasion. Called Honda tech and they told me to basically get rid of the car. When low on oil alot it controls the tensioner for the timing chain. Well now our 2003 Honda Accord LX 2.4 is pretty much blown and wont stay running. We checked online and there are tons of complaints regarding this issue that should not be happening. It is a safety issue because if the car stalls and on highway or turning into traffic we could get hit. All people have stated Honda will not do anything about it. Something is up if tons of people are having the same problem. We want Honda to do something about this issue and compensate us something. This is ridiculous. For other people who notice oil consumption look for it to start tripping sensors due to timing issues it causes to go wrong. I drove to North Carolina last year and the oil light came on and when checked it the oil was almost bone dry. Now come on. There are no leaks or anything so it is a defect change over year for Honda and they need to honor their product! just because there were no fire or damages or personal injury does not mean there will not be if people drive and don't know what's going on.

- Dayton, OH, USA

problem #14

Apr 152009


  • 53,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. While driving approximately 5 mph, the vehicle suddenly stopped. The contact waited a few seconds and restarted; the vehicle performed normally after the restart. The failure occurred five times. The vehicle was taken to a local repair shop where the timing chain and valve cover were replaced; however the ABS light was illuminated. The vehicle had not been repaired. The failure mileage was approximately 53,000 and the current mileage was approximately 62,000.

- Ogdensberg, NY, USA

problem #13

Apr 202010


  • 108,000 miles
Control panel display (audio-HVAC display) failure. I have a 2003 Honda 4 door (w/O navigation)Accord ex. About 2-3 months ago while driving the display panel for the vehicle operating systems-radio, heat/ac, time blacked out. At-near the time of this occurrence I was on the New York state thruway. A flashing (emergency) sign -flashing 'emergency' 'check radio channel 530 or 1610 for details'- notifying an emergency. As I was driving and could not see the radio display. It was dark. I was unable to access the emergency notice. My vehicle was taken to Honda and was told this repair was a defect. This repair was part of a campaign to fix this display, per Honda service bulletin 04-027 but the program for my vehicle had expired. They mentioned the campaign was part of a campaign not a recall, even though they acknowledge safety was one of the issues in the program. I live in an area where the roads are equipped with emergency message signage' are frequent and commonplace. Not having the ability to access these messages due to a campaign program where no notice was received by me (I am the original owner of the vehicle). This problem, with potential safety implications seems to rise to the level of a defect. As I write, the display is dark and has not even flickered since the initial occurrence.

- Sloatsburg, NY, USA

problem #12

Jun 152010


  • 143,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord LX coupe. While driving at 65 mph, there was an unusual increase of engine rpms up to 6,000. The vehicle then stalled and came to an abrupt stop. The vehicle was towed to the dealer who advised there was an internal failure but did not advise the contact of the repairs needed to remedy the failure. The contact was advised that the vehicle had an oil jet kit installed on the engine and believed the vehicle received previous repairs under an unknown recall. The contact stated there was no record of the repair being performed on the vehicle. The dealer refused to repair the vehicle. The manufacturer stated the recall had already been performed on the vehicle according to the dealer's records and would not provide any assistance. The failure and current mileages were 143,000.

- Palmdale, CA, USA

problem #11

May 012009


  • 37,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. The contact stated that the gas air flow to the engine disrupts the engine and causes the vehicle to drive slowly and sluggish. The dealer stated that the throttle body control was causing the lack of air and gas flow to the engine. The manufacturer acknowledges the failure, but will not address the issue. The contact feels that the vehicle will stop running if the issue is not resolved with the manufacturer. The current mileage was 38,000 and failure mileage was 37,000.

- Lions , IL, USA

problem #10

Apr 162008

Accord 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. The contact took the vehicle to the dealer for its 70,000 mile service. When she left the dealer, the entire transmission failed. The vehicle was towed to the same dealer and they replaced the transmission. While parked, the entire vehicle caught fire and spread to some tree shrubs. The police and fire departments arrived on the scene and filed a report. The insurance company stated that the vehicle was destroyed. The failure mileage was 70,000. Updated 05/13/08. Updated 05/13/08

- Landolakes, FL, USA

problem #9

Apr 162008

Accord 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
On April 3, 2008 I took my car to kuhn Honda at 3900 West kennedy blvd, tampa, Florida 33609. They did a routine oil change, tire rotation, regular maintenance service. Four days later my transmission fell out of the car on the highway and I had to have the car towed to the dealer. I had the 105,000 mile warranty and they replaced the transmission. As driving off the lot I notice the transmission would not shift from second gear. Next day I took it back to the dealership, they ordered another transmission and put the new one in. That was Wednesday April 16th, 2008. I left the dealership around 3:00pm and the traffic was horrible so I drove less than 3 miles to the mall to shop. Parked the car at the mall, when inside and was there less than 10 minutes when I was called by the tampa police department telling me my car was on fire in the parking lot and burnt the entire engine to a crisp. The car was melted like a piece of plastic nothing up to the windshield. The dealership claims no responsibility. They have no idea what happened or why! they claim these things happen and they do not know how it could have happened. They did not even apologize!

- Land O Lakes, FL, USA

problem #8

Oct 152006

Accord 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,000 miles
Honda Accord ex-V6, 2003, purchased new. Developed engine noise at just over 60,000 kilometers that has increased in volume over the winter. Honda dealer has diagnosed piston slap. Honda Canada states that piston slap is acceptable in a cold Honda engine for up to 5 minutes and "...that although piston slap is present, there are no operational issues with your vehicle....". the desk man at the Honda dealer states that his Honda also has piston slap.

- Rr2 Carleton Place, 00, USA

problem #7

Oct 152003


  • Automatic transmission
  • 3,400 miles
Honda 2003 Accord is equipped with a "design defect" of costly and potentially harmful, from a safety standpoint, defect. The lower "grill" on the front bumper is designed in such a way that any road debris smaller than a 16" X 8" concrete block can enter and damage a fully-exposed and unprotected ac condenser. It is clearly unprotected from the harsh outside elements. The ac is an integral part of the safety of this automobile in that to clear the windshield from any moisture on the inner surface, the ac must be acting in proper fashion. If a car's inside glasses "fog-up" with moisture, the only solution is to turn on the moisture wringing ac unit, regardless of the temp of the air, the dehumidifier effect of the ac conditioned air is an absolute necessity. The current design of the grill/condenser leaves it vulnerable to be easily damaged by a bit of gravel as small as a bb pellet. There is not any screen or deflector in place forward of the condenser to prohibit any errant road missiles from damaging the condenser thereby creating the safety hazard of a fogged windshield and more, a simple screen or deflector could and should be installed to protect the safety feature of this car.

- Alabaster, AL, USA

problem #6

Dec 152002


  • Automatic transmission
  • 1 miles
They are selling me a lemon and fool me around with excuse. The engine light have been on six time during this two year. The first three time the engine light on, I did not have duplicatin code. Sum up the six time report, I have two times code 0700 and two times code 1705. I called Honda because they authorized this dealer to sell thie car, however, they told me since the dealer do the modification on the car (add the auto starter in the car), they don't responsible on any problem that related to autostarter, even they authorized tham to sell their car. Then I talk to the assistant manager, he is very sacratic, he ask me the detail how I use the autostarter, my answer was perfect, seem to be nothing wrong. As well as he told me the last engine light on was a year ago, I told me I have not use the autostarter for a year, because I decided to leave my baby with my mother-in-law, but I use the autostarter recently. Then he blame me, perhap it could be as simple as losing the gas cap, or you use pc or cellphone in the car trigger the engine light. Then I ask him what is the list of action I cannot do in the car, he told me he has the list, but he cannot find it. I ask the service rep can I have the summary to what you did for the past six time fixing, service rep told me that summary will not reflect the detail of what happen, only the date and your name. Here is the list of problems my car has: Check engine light on 6th time, Dec 2002, code 700 customer statres cd changer is inop, April 2002 balancing 2 tires on Dec 2001, miscommuncate check engine light on 5th time, Nov 2001, malfunction A/T sensor check engine light on 4th time, Sept 2001, code 1705 repaired rear bumper assembly, Nov 2001 check engine light on 3rd time, June 2001, code 0700, 1705 auto start doesn't work check engine light on 2nd time, March 2001, code 900 check engine light on 1st time, Jan 2001, code 1456

- Staten Island, NY, USA

problem #5

Oct 152002

Accord 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
I purchased a 2003 Honda Accord in October 2002 - I have had the brakes/rotors replaced twice. I'm concerned over safety. What recourse is available once the car is no longer under warranty and I am going through brakes and rotors approximately every 8000 miles? in addition, I noticed very soon after purchase that at initial start up, and until car had been driven for awhile there is a "chatter" noise. I thought at first it was my imagination, as this was something had heard in older cars - such as a lifter chatter. It has become increasingly noticeable and at some start up times sounds like a diesel. At apprx 23,000 I requested the dealer to check for the noise, but by the time the car gets to the dealer there is no longer the cold start, and it no longer makes the noise.

- Rogers, AR, USA

problem #4

Apr 242003

Accord 4WD 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 20 miles
I purchased this Honda Accord 2003 in April 2003. From the very beginning I noticed a rambling noise on the engine, foul smell, vibration on the steering wheel and squeaking brakes. Also when I brake the car seems to accelerate like the idle is too fast. I reported it immediately to my Honda dealer and they told me to take it to any Honda dealer. I took it to Honda in gleandale and after inspecting it they told me there was nothing wrong with the car. However the problems continued to I kept taking the car to different Honda dealers but none could come up with a solution. When I asked them to replace the vehicle they told me that they all had the same problems and that I had to learn to live with it.! I feel totally frustrated by this situation and very unsafe driving this piece of crap.

- Glendale, CA, USA

problem #3

Nov 102003

Accord 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Rotten eggs smell in garage when car is first put in.

- Conway, SC, USA

problem #2

Apr 122003


  • miles
While driving at any speed and without any prior warning vehicle will stall.

- Union, NJ, USA

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