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:
15 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
9 / 0
Average Mileage:
77,270 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 4)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #42

Mar 072012

Accord 6-cyl

  • 87,561 miles


Transmission down shifts from 4th gear to 1st gear abruptly and will not re-engage 4th gear until I turn the car off and back on. This occurred today on my way home on the highway. After turning the car off and back on, it happen 2 more times before I got off the highway and went home on 1st gear locally. I came real close to being rear ended a truck due to the sudden downshift of the transmission.

- New York, NY, USA

problem #41

Mar 062012

Accord 6-cyl

  • 121,202 miles
While driving on I-4 cars begun to accelerate by itself and them decelerate, keep doing this for 30 second, I stopped on the side turn of the car. Again turn on keep going and it happened again., Honda Accord 3.0 V6 2003.

- Orlando, FL, USA

problem #40

Jan 192012

Accord 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 160,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. The contact stated that while reversing, the vehicle suddenly accelerated without warning. The contact shifted into park and the vehicle continued to accelerate. The vehicle came to a stop when it crashed into a bush area. The contact did not receive any injuries. The vehicle was towed to the dealer and the manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure and the current mileage was 160,000. Updated 03/06/12 updated 03/13/12

- Severna Park, MD, USA

problem #39

Oct 132011


  • 63,000 miles


Same problem as everyone else vibration at speeds above 50 miles an hour. Car roughly changes gears at weird times has almost caused a few accidents. I bought car this year from Honda dealer when we noticed it we took it back dealer couldn't feel anything. The longer I wait the worse it's getting I'm scared I'm gonna get hit.

- Dayton, NV, USA

problem #38

Nov 162011

Accord 6-cyl

  • 76,000 miles
My transmission failed while driving on my way to work the morning of Nov. 16th with no warning whatsoever. Luckily I was not in an accident due to the fact I was unable to control the car because the RPM's were all over the place and the vehicle would only rev but not go any further. Therefore I immediately had to pull over in fear of causing an accident. I have researched the past few days how many other 2003 Honda Accord owners have had the same problem with their transmissions and there should really be a recall done by Honda. The transmission should not be going out at 76,000 miles. My car is currently being repaired at an independent transmission shop with an estimated cost of around $3400. I hope to recover some of that cost from Honda but further action needs to happen to ensure more people with similar year vehicles do not have to experience this as well.

- San Marcos, CA, USA

problem #37

Oct 192011

Accord 6-cyl

  • 97,000 miles
I was having problems shifting gears and it seemed my car couldn't shift into 3rd gear. It's an automatic and when it would reach 3rd gear, the engine would just rev. It would drive fine at first but as soon as the car warmed up, it progressively got worse. I had to have my battery replaced prematurely (after 3 years) last week and I mentioned the gear shifting problem to the Honda dealership. The gear shifting problem happened right around the same time my battery died so I thought it may be related. They told me the gear shifting problem would be fixed when I replaced my battery. They paid for 60% of the cost of the battery. Over the next few days it progressively got worse to where I couldn't even drive and I had to coast into a parking lot because the engine would rev and the car would jerk. It seemed to be dangerous. I then shut off the car and tried to restart it. I wasn't even able to reverse at all - like it had no reverse, just rev. I had to call a tow truck and have it towed to the dealership. I have a 2003 Honda Accord ex V6 with less than 100K miles - right around 97K - and the dealership told me I needed a new transmission and motor mount. A rebuilt transmission is $4500 and a new transmission is $6400. I bought a Honda because it was suppose to be a reliable car that would last years without expensive maintenance repairs. And now it's less than 10 years old and 100K miles on it and I have a huge repair. It seems many others have had the same problems with the 2003 Honda Accord.

- Charlotte, NC, USA

problem #36

Oct 122011

Accord 6-cyl

  • 129,000 miles


While traveling on the freeway the transmission jumped down to first gear, resulting in my car suddenly decelerating to a speed of 20 mph. I was very fortunate to not be rear ended and have since had to replace the transmission. I know this is a known issue with this model and year Honda, however I did go through the original process of the manufacturer recall. I have done research on this model and it seems it is a prevalent problem. Honda will not acknowledge the issue.

- Sacramento, CA, USA

problem #35

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 #34

Sep 022011


  • 78,180 miles
Coming back from the airport, going home on belt parkway, the transmission stopped functioning properly out of a sudden, without giving any hints before, totally unexpected. It didn't go to the 2nd gear, stuck in 30mph. After anxiously drove back home trembling, found the reverse did not work either. The vehicle had to be turned off and restarted again to gain back the function of reverse. After research the on the web, and read through so many comments of Honda Accord 2003 owner, this seems very much related to the Honda Accord recall incident in 2004. It is believed Honda didn't fix the problem permanently back in 2004. It was a temporary fix trick, and right now many of the Honda Accord 2003 owners are suffering from Honda's failure to fix its defective product.

- Brooklyn, NY, USA

problem #33

Sep 082011

Accord 6-cyl

  • 94,326 miles
While driving my 2003 V6 Honda Accord coupe (automatic) the transmission violently jerked the entire vehicle forward and downshifted to a lower gear. This occurred during rush hour and almost caused the vehicle behind me to rear-end my vehicle. I immediately turned on my flashers and made my way to a parking lot. I left the vehicle there overnight and had it towed to a Honda dealership for inspection. They advised me that they could not identify anything wrong with my transmission and everything was working properly during their tests and could not duplicate the problem.

- Virginia Beach, VA, USA

problem #32

Jul 242011


  • 78,000 miles


The transmission was slipping, and did not allow me to accelerate in an intersection. Near collision by 2 cars caused an incredibly unsafe and hazardous situation.

- Encino, CA, USA

problem #31

Jun 082008


  • 114,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. The contact started the ignition and when shifting into drive, the vehicle suddenly lunged forward. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic and they were unable to duplicate the problem. The technician recommended the vehicle be diagnosed by an authorized dealer. On a separate occasion, the vehicle unexpectedly accelerated and failed to slow down. The vehicle traveled onto the sidewalk and crashed into three nearby poles. There was no personal injury. A police report was not filed for the crash. The vehicle was towed to a collision center and the cause on failure had not yet been determined. The manufacturer was made aware of the defect. The failure mileage was 114,000.

- West Boyston , MA, USA

problem #30

Jan 052011


  • 102,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. The contact stated that while driving 30 mph and applying the brakes, the vehicle suddenly accelerated. The contact engaged the emergency brake and shifted into park to stop the unintended acceleration. The vehicle was later taken to the dealer. The dealer was unable to duplicate or locate a failure within the vehicle. The vehicle was not repaired. The contact stated that the failure recurred three times after being inspected by the dealer. The contact called the manufacturer and they advised that they would escalate the issue for further investigation. The contact did not feel safe driving the vehicle. The failure mileage was 102,000.

- Highland , UT, USA

problem #29

Jan 042011


  • 90,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. While driving 55 mph and entering the off ramp the vehicle suddenly accelerated. After checking the floor mats and the accelerator pedal there was nothing obstructing the area; however, the vehicle continued to accelerate and the rpms continued to increase excessively. Whenever the brakes were being depressed the vehicle would not slow down until she drove into a service station. The vehicle was taken to the dealer who performed a diagnostic test and found carbon particles around the throttle. They informed him that they could not duplicate the failure or find any problems with the vehicle. The manufacturer was not contacted. The failure mileage was 90,000.

- Johnston, IA, USA

problem #28

Dec 072010


  • 81,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. The contact was driving approximately 65 mph when the vehicle experienced a sudden decrease in speed. Also, the vehicle would independently accelerate a short distance. The vehicle was not taken to the dealer for diagnosis or repairs. The VIN was unavailable. The approximate failure mileage was 81,000.

- Dublin, CA, USA

problem #27

Nov 082008

Accord 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 46,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. Occasionally, the rpms increased excessively. The contact applied pressure to the brake pedal in order to stop it from accelerating. The vehicle was taken to the dealer several times but they could not duplicate the failure. The manufacturer was not notified. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure mileage was 46,000. Updated 2/17/11 the consumer stated the rpms increased excessively while braking. Updated 03/02/11

- East Orange, NJ, USA

problem #26

Oct 182010


  • 88,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. While driving approximately 5 mph with his food on the brake pedal, the contact stated that the vehicle suddenly surged forward. The contact applied heavy pressure to the brake pedal but the engine continued to increase in rpms. The contact shifted into neutral and shut the vehicle off. The problem occurred intermittently. The vehicle had not been inspected or repaired. The current and failure mileages were approximately 88,000. The VIN was unavailable.

- Louisville, KY, USA

problem #25

May 182010


  • 141,269 miles
Unintended acceleration while making a right hand turn on a mountain road switch back. Car accelerated, paused and accelerated again. I had to apply extreme pressure with both feet to the brakes and put the car in neutral to get it to stop.

- Chico, CA, USA

problem #24

Apr 182010

Accord 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 116,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. The contact stated that while driving approximately 65 mph the vehicle seemed to accelerate when she attempted to pass another vehicle. When the brakes were applied, they failed to stop or slow the vehicle down. She was able to maneuver into the right lane and engage the parking brake. She was able to drive slow enough to turn the engine off and park the vehicle. She towed the vehicle to the dealer where she was informed that valves in the throttle body were stuck which caused the failure. The vehicle was being repaired when complaint was filed. She called the manufacturer but they offered no assistance. The current and failure mileages were approximately 116,000. Updated 12/02/10 the dealer determined the vehicle had a defective throttle body which was replaced. Updated 12/08/10

- San Francisco, CA, USA

problem #23

Apr 102010


  • 129,000 miles
Purchased a 2003 Honda Accord in June 09. Just 10 months later driving 60 -70 on interstate 95 in richmond, the car instantly loss acceleration and the RPM was racing. I had my child in the car and we were just seconds from being rear ended by a fast moving car behind us. Luckily he saw that I was losing acceleration and swerved over in time. There is something wrong with these Honda's and something needs to be done before a person actually has to die!!

- Richmond, VA, USA

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