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 / 2
Injuries / Deaths:
9 / 0
Average Mileage:
84,447 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 transmission problems

transmission problem

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2003 Honda Accord Owner Comments (Page 10 of 29)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #396

Aug 242010

Accord 4-cyl

  • 101,131 miles


Car - 2003 Honda Accord ex 4 cylinder-driving from work August 24-2010, car just quit going forward, no power. No indication of a problem with car. Car has 101,131 miles. No warning lights. Nothing. Stopped car, put it in park, turned engine off, restarted car, put into drive, went forward less than 10 ft., car stopped going forward. Repeated sequence, car ran in 1st gear or 2nd gear. Drove very slowly to Honda dealer, Honda representative took it out and came back and told me the 3rd and 4th gear were gone, I asked if this was a common problem with the Honda, he replied any transmission can go at any time. Looked up Honda recalls and discovered there was a recall in 2004 on 2003 Honda Accord, I do not recall receiving this recall on my car, if I had received it, I would have acted on it and had the problem corrected then. I feel very fortunate I was not on the interstate or in heavy traffic when this occurred.

- Amarillo, TX, USA

problem #395

Aug 212010

Accord 6-cyl

  • 78,500 miles
2003 Honda Accord ex V6. Current mileage 78,500. Purchased new, single owner/driver. Recently I pulled out onto a roadway and began to accelerate, when the transmission failed to engage when shifting into 3rd gear, en route traffic caught up to me and my abrupt failure to accelerate in with traffic (on a 3 lane congested road with a lot of traffic), could have caused an accident with the cars approaching with my vehicle that was abruptly stranded and non-mobile in the middle of the road. I had several cars which almost rear ended as I was trying to get my car off the road and there was no warning that this failure is going to occur. I believe this to be a serious safety issue and am very concerned. I was able to get the car off the road and called a tow truck to take it to a Honda dealership. When we called around to other mechanics, we were told he was seeing "an epidemic" of transmission problems in this 2003 year / model of Honda. I had to have the entire transmission replaced, total cost around $3,900 to $4,200, of which I paid $1,900 and Honda shared the rest, even though I believe they should have borne the whole cost. I just went over my 7 year warranty by 2 months and only had 78,500 miles on my car.

- Charlotte, NC, USA

problem #394

Aug 102010


  • 70,895 miles
I bought this car less then a month ago. After driving it for only 7 days it started downshifting on the freeway at 75mph and bucking almost out of my control. I called the dealership I bought the vehicle from and the told me to call the people I purchased the warranty from. I called them they told me to take to a shp of my choice. I did and the said it was the solenoid a that needed to be replaced (a electronic part) which is not covered under my warranty and to top that of they can not guaranty me the transmission will not need to be replaced. Which after having it back for a week the car started bucking again on the freeway while I was doing 50mph.... the repair cost me $524. And now I have to come out of pocket again another $2500. This could be a very bad situation when the car starts downshifting on it's own on freeways. I see their are other complaints of the same nature. What are we waiting for to make this a recall for some to die.

- Sacramento, CA, USA

problem #393

Apr 222009


  • 64,492 miles


Driving home from work in rush hour traffic in a regularly serviced 2003 Honda Accord. I slowed down and then tried to speed up but transmission kept slipping back into 1 gear and wouldn't advance to the next gear. You couldn't go over 20 miles per hour without jerking and down shifting and it kept doing the same all the way to Honda auto repair parking lot. Was told the next day the transmission had to be replaced because of transmission failure. Couldn't afford a new one so was replaced by rebuilt transmission ($3747.51). To my knowledge the original transmission has never been worked on or have I been told that there was a recall on the transmission. I just found out about the recall myself when checking to see if my car was on the recall list for the wiper motor I heard on tv this week. With all the news about recalls I thought I would just check to see what recalls Honda Accord had. To my surprise and joy a transmission recall was issued several years earlier. I hope I can get a refund of my money and get a new transmission installed like I should of gotten in the first place if I was told about the recall. You would think the car dealership would have known about the recall and replaced it at no charge. I have all receipts if needed.

- Grand Prairie, TX, USA

problem #392

Jun 152010


  • 69,200 miles
The first time I discovered there was a problem with my car was when I was going about 45 on a parkway and the car bucked. I wasn't sure what happened and there for everytime I slowed the car down, slipped when I would pull off. It even had an issue when I tried to put it in reverse. I then turned the car off and started it again and drove it around and it was fine. A couple weeks later the car did the same exact thing, it would rev up and the car wasn't moving. It then would buck and would cause my head to lash. The car is dangerous to drive and I don't feel safe going any where with it.

- Brooklyn, NY, USA

problem #391

Aug 172010

Accord 6-cyl

  • 130,000 miles
2003 Honda Accord V6 ex with 130,000 miles on it. Transmission shifted into 3rd gear to pass another car and never engaged. 30 minutes later, driving at 45 mph, while coasting towards a stop-light the transmission suddenly shifted into 1st gear and I almost hit the steering wheel. Drove 5 more miles and at various speeds the transmission dropped from 3rd or 4th gear into 1st gear 5 more times. Had car towed to dealer who was able to reproduce the problem after testing for 2 days. Told me that I shouldn't drive it, it's very dangerous. It could be deadly if running at high speed. Scared the technician driving. I was quoted a repair price of $4100. I'm still contemplating action.

- Frederick, CO, USA

problem #390

Aug 192010

Accord 6-cyl

  • miles


My 2003 Honda Accord routinely revs up without getting into gear. This often happens while I'm in traffic. It hasn't caused an accident yet but it is only a matter of time. I've tried having it serviced multiple times and am told that it cannot be duplicated in the shop. I've even gotten Honda's 500$ transmission service...I still have the problem.

- Arlington, VA, USA

problem #389

Aug 012008


  • 50,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. The contact stated that the transmission failed and was replaced by the dealer. The contact noticed that after repairs that when shifting from park to reverse, there was a fifteen second delay before the vehicle would respond. The contact believed the transmission was replaced with an older transmission. Neither the dealer nor manufacturer was contacted in regards to the most recent failure. The VIN was not available. The failure mileage was 50,000 and the current mileage was 60,000.

- Rumford , RI, USA

problem #388

Aug 092010


  • 97,000 miles
Transmission failure while driving on highway.

- Phila, PA, USA

problem #387

Aug 112010

Accord 6-cyl

  • 102,985 miles
On the way home from work my 2003 Honda Accord 3.0 L V6 did an unexpected rapid deceleration from 50 mph to 25 mph in a split second. It happened so fast that it rammed me into the seat belt causing me to almost chock from the sudden impact with the seat belt restraint. I am very lucky that no one was behind me. I was pretty concerned about what else it would do so I gingerly pressed on the accelerator. The engine roared but I was only going 27 mph and the RPM's went up to 3500. It was loud. I drove 3 more miles to get home. I drove with my flashers on since I couldn't get above 30 mph. The engine roared and shifted roughly the entire time. I took the car to the Honda dealer and he said they couldn't get it to repeat the incident and the transmission checked out fine. However, he said that the transmission fluid does have a burnt smell. He recommended a transmission flush. They found metal shavings in the fluid. But, he told me the transmission was okay. I picked my car up today. I now own a car that has a transmission problem that I don't have any confidence in and I am afraid to drive.

- Waddy, KY, USA

problem #386

Aug 012010


  • 158,000 miles


Transmission originally slipped going uphill at 30mph, but did not have engine light come on. Transmission fluid changed again and car was good for another 300miles. Traveling at 70mph uphill on freeway, car jerks into lower gear and immediately jumps back into high gear and happens continuously. Within a few miles, car stays under 40mph at 4,500rpm and continues to slip. Had vehicle towed to Honda dealership and an eventual $3,900 charge to replace transmission.

- Bremerton, WA, USA

problem #385

Aug 022010


  • 90,000 miles
Automatic transmission began slipping around 90K miles (2 weeks ago). Has gotten progressively worse with violent jerking between shifts and unexpected downshifts which equate to suddenly flooring the brakes. Have had incidents on highway when in overdrive and slowing, transmission searches, or does not go back into gear leaving engine disconnected from drivetrain. Almost rearended on 3 occasions thus far as car suddenly downshifts around 40 mph in town. Problem continues to worsen and now do not have reverse gear on occasion. Should not drive car but have no alternative. Will attempt repair myself if Honda will not cover cost. Extended warranty expired 3 months prior.

- Memphis, TN, USA

problem #384

Jul 292010


  • 201,000 miles
2003 Honda Accord 3.0 4dr automatic - transmission failure occurred while driving in rush hour traffic at 30 miles an hour. The vehicle suddenly slipped out of gear and rapidly decelerated nearly causing an accident. The vehicle would not stay in gear and when the transmission did engage it would only go into 2nd/3rd gear. The failure occurred again while attempting to get the vehicle to the dealership resulting in a loss of vehicle control. The dealership now has the vehicle and has stated that the vehicle requires a new transmission. Due to the age of the vehicle the part will cost more than the vehicle is valued.

- Forsyth, GA, USA

problem #383

Aug 052010


  • 107,000 miles
Car began revving up to 2500 RPM's at 25-30 mph, then up to 6500 RPM's at 50 mph, and never shifting back down. Was told by the dealer that the entire transmission would have to be replaced.

- Deansboro, NY, USA

problem #382

Jul 272010

Accord 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 62,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. While driving at approximately 30 mph, the vehicle began to jerk violently while switching gears. The vehicle then independently surged forward. The contact stated the failure would occur whenever switching gears. The dealer advised that the transmission would need to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure and current mileages were 62,000. Updated 10/25/10 the consumer stated the vehicle has a violent/harsh between 1 and 2 gear. Updated 10/27/10

- Toledo, OH, USA

problem #381

Aug 032010

Accord 6-cyl

  • 145,000 miles
Noticed the transmission had been slipping for a couple of days. I made an appointment to take my car into the dealer on 8/3/2010. I had my 3 year old and 5 month old infant in car with me while driving to the dealership to drop off my car. Was on a short strip of the freeway going about 40 mph when all of a sudden the car began to sound as if it was struggling to shift into another gear. It abruptly stopped then thrust the car forward immediately. My car crashed into the side of the street leaving a scrape on the left bumper. When I arrived at the dealer, the service person told my husband that they would not touch my car since it was 145K miles and was well out of the warranty. They are charging us a $100 diagnosis fee only to figure out what is wrong with it. I called american Honda to file a complaint only to get the same "at the mileage that you are at we are unable to cover any cost to repair the vehicle" husband just got a call from dealership stating there are two problems with the car one is with the part that communicates with the car to shift to a correct gear and the other is a problem with the internal transmission. The solution is to replace the transmission. Honda and the Honda rep again stand by their admission that they are not responsible for the replacement cost since the car is out of warranty. I can understand if I do excessive damage to my car, but I drive less than 25K a year and only drive locally transporting my family. This is disconcerting and I am very upset that Honda refuses to stand by their product! please investigate as my "crash" could have been more serious and could potentially harm the safety and lives of both my passengers and others on the road. Thank you for your consideration.

- San Diego, CA, USA

problem #380

Jul 282010


  • 146,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. While traveling at 40 mph, the automatic transmission would not shift into fourth gear and the contact was unable to travel over 40 mph. The vehicle was neither diagnosed nor repaired for the failure. There were no prior warnings. The current and failure mileages were 146,000.

- San Diego, CA, USA

problem #379

Jun 152010


  • 121,000 miles
No known events leading up to the failure. My Accord will rev up and wont shift- the car seems as though it is stuck. When driving around a lot of other cars it is very frightening. The failure is that the torque converter failed. I have not had it replaced yet due to costs.

- Buckeye, AZ, USA

problem #378

Aug 022010


  • miles
Driving on the highway and the car would not shift up to a higher gear and motor kept revving. Engine light came on. Will take it to mechanic to see what is wrong.

- Bel Air, MD, USA

problem #377

Jul 242010

Accord 6-cyl

  • 116,000 miles
My 2003 Accord ex V6 started experiencing unintended downshift on the 24th of July, after years of great care that follows or beats the recommended schedules. When it happened, the car jerked violently. Lucky I was only hearing horning behind me on a 50km/hr road instead of a crash on a 100km/hr highway. For safety issue I have not driven this car locally or on highway since the problem, except to the Honda dealership (experienced the same jerk at low speed about 2 times on average for a 2km trip), who says the entire transmission needs to be replaced. Although online forum is not a completely credible source for information, from what I'm seeing so far a recall on the transmission is warranted. Please consider this a significant safety concern, which I believe is becoming a widespread problem, and I hope you could confirm and agree. Sincerely, 2003 Honda Accord ex V6 customer.

- Toronto, 00, USA

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