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 13 of 29)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #336

Apr 142010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 116,552 miles


I was driving in heavy traffic and the automatic transmission would not shift into 3rd gear, instead it revved up and finally snapped into 3rd gear. I have maintained this car per the owners manual, and have not had any issues until now. I started researching this on google and realize that this is a common issue with the 2003 Honda Accord. This happening has put me in a place that I don't feel safe driving this automobile due to the fact I drive in heavy traffic on a regular basis and if this happens I could be involved in an accident because of the shifting problems. I will be getting this vehicle fixed in the near future, but wanted to go on record that the 2003 Honda Accord ex with the 5 speed automatic transmission is not what this manufacturer is known for. It is not safe!

- Charlotte, NC, USA

problem #335

Apr 082010


  • 84,655 miles
While driving my 2003 Honda Accord V6 (with approximately 84K miles) at interstate speeds during rush hour traffic, the automatic transmission suddenly locked-up without warning. The vehicle suddenly lurched instantaneous from highway speed to a near complete stop. It was almost as if the transmission shift was moved from drive into park. Without any brake lights to warn the driver behind me, he had to defensively slam on his brakes and swerve to avoid rear-ending my vehicle. This vehicle's maintenance manual does not recommend replacement of the transmission fluid until 100,000 miles yet my mechanic commented that the fluid was completely burnt-up and that I need a new transmission. This 2003 V6 Accord had an inspection recall for this transmission particular problem, but no repair work was performed on my vehicle. Please require Honda address this problem before someone gets killed!! the day before this occurred my 16 year old daughter was driving this car!! how would she have responded?

- Richmond, VA, USA

problem #334

Apr 082003


  • 48,700 miles
Transmission failure creates safety hazard. Transmission shifts irregularly causing car to jerk violently and then drive to wheels fails leaving car stranded on busy motor way.

- Peckville, PA, USA

problem #333

Apr 072010

Accord 6-cyl

  • 100,177 miles


While driving at 40mph, my 2003 Honda Accord ex-V6 (automatic transmission) suddenly jolted as if the car was thrown into a lower gear. I placed the car in neutral, let the engine return to normal RPM rage, then replaced it in drive. About 2 minutes later, the event repeated. I drove the vehicle to the Honda dealer in my area who diagnosed a faulty internal torque converter and quote me a price of approx $4000 to repair. The car is not safe to drive and had this event occurred on a crowded road or under other circumstances a collision would have occurred and I am fortunate that my toddler was not in the car at the time. There is a known issue with 2003 Honda Accord automatic transmission failing. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

- New York, NY, USA

problem #332

Apr 022010


  • 68,000 miles
Transmission comes out of gear when shifting from second to third, leaving the car unable to accelerate. It happens every time the transmission attempts the shift.

- Palm Bay, FL, USA

problem #331

Mar 292010


  • 79,800 miles
I first noticed the car was shifting funny shortly after I purchased it with 67,000mi. This was my first automatic in over a decade, and my first Honda ever, so I left it unchecked for a couple thousand miles. With problem persisting, I took it into a Honda dealership for a diagnosis. They said the car was fine, and sent me on my way. Now at under 80,000mi the check engine light comes on. I'm now told that the transmission needs to be replaced. Honda is willing to cover a mere 10% of the repair cost bring the total down to $3300. After seeing all of the similar complaints on the same year/model this appears to be a blatant design flaw that Honda refuses to acknowledge. When I called Honda America I was told that this was an isolated incident. With thousands of online complaints, and likely many more that went unreported, I find their excuse hard to swallow. This was my first and last Honda.

- San Jose, CA, USA

problem #330

Apr 052010

Accord 6-cyl

  • 107,000 miles


My Accord started "bucking" violently as I was driving on the highway, I pulled off onto an exit, and parked in a parking lot. I put the car in reverse and the car didn't move. I got the car towed to a dealer, and was told the transmission failed. $4300 to fix. I am currently awaiting Honda Corp's decision on if they'll cover it or not.

- Gary, IN, USA

problem #329

Apr 012010


  • 78,000 miles
On the highway at about fifty-five miles an hour the vehicle suddenly jolted, reducing speed rapidly. After pulling to the side of the road and inspecting the vehicle I returned to the highway and the vehicle operated normally for approximately 5 miles before it again jolted as it downshifted unexpectedly. I limped the vehicle home at very low speeds with it continuing to slip out of, and back into gear. I then had the vehicle towed to a nearby Honda dealership where it was determined the cause was automatic-transmission failure. The vehicle, a 2003 Honda Accord, has had a recall issued for a transmission defect in the past, however it appears the repairs that the transmission underwent did not fix the problem. This seems to be a widespread problem for the 2003 model Accord, particularly in vehicles with 60,000-90,000 miles. The dealership quoted an amount of $4041.68 for repairs. Honda America offered a 10% goodwill coverage on the repairs, however my research shows that they have offered widely varying amounts to other customers with this problem. Many other examples of this problem can be found at

- Rockvale, TN, USA

problem #328

Mar 142009


  • 79,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. While driving at approximately 60 mph, the transmission suddenly shifted into low gear and slowed down. The contact pulled over to the side of the road and was able to drive the vehicle to her home at approximately 20 mph. The vehicle was then taken to a local repair shop where the transmission was rebuilt. The contact called the dealership and was told that the dealer was unaware of any transmission problems with the vehicle. She had not called the manufacturer at the time of the complaint. The failure mileage was approximately 79,000.

- North Hills , CA, USA

problem #327

Mar 212010


  • 92,500 miles
Tranmission failure on highway - Honda Accord -2003

- Irving, TX, USA

problem #326

Mar 122010


  • 127,000 miles


Transmission failure, difficulty shifting into 3rd gear and higher. Gears do not engage, rpms increase, no acceleration.

- Detroit, MI, USA

problem #325

Mar 172010


  • 52,000 miles
I have a 2003 Honda Accord with low miles (50K) that has had no issues until this week when, while driving/accelerating down the highway at approx 50 mph, the transmission went completely out with no warning at all and almost caused an accident due to the coasting, drastic RPM increase and acceleration. I was able to immediately pull over and avoid an accident and have the car towed to the dealership repair shop. They informed me that it needed a new transmission, but through my own research have seen this has been a problem with several other owners of this model, however Honda has not issued a recall.

- Cary, NC, USA

problem #324

Mar 092010


  • 118,000 miles
We have a 2003 Honda Accord we were trying to accelerate out of a clover leaf with a semi truck trying to merge off of highway on to clover leaf when are Honda came out of gear.

- Still, MN, USA

problem #323

Nov 182009


  • 69,059 miles
Vehicle will not upshift after downshifting to passing gear. The results are sometimes slowing down below highway speeds (55-65 mph) to await transmission to shift up, impeding traffic. This is intermittent. After starting vehicle it may surge to 15 -25 mph when engaging transmission in drive. Also, at highway speeds 55-65 mph vehicle has a severe vibration in the front end. The transmission will sometimes downshift while driving under normal condition and immediately shift up again with slight jerking motion. These issues were previously diagnosed to be transmission problems (96,371 miles). At that time (08/03/2007) Honda replaced transmission at my cost. (actually my insurance extended warranty). This is happening again in same vehicle (165,430) and Honda declines (phoncon american Honda 03/16/2010)to say it is a transmission issue and refuses to make needed repairs. Dealership said to replace tires and do balance and alignment and it would resolve problem. The only thing it did was increase vibration and make my wallet $550 lighter. Research on the internet indicates transmission issues are a safety concern for several owners of 2003 Honda Accord. I found over 350 different transmission issues for 2003 Honda Accord alone. I highly recommend nhtsb look into this matter. The mileage I am reporting is miles on 2nd transmission.

- Walhalla, SC, USA

problem #322

Mar 082010


  • 135,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord LX. While driving at speeds of 35 mph the vehicle suddenly increased in engine rpms while in drive gear. He then attempted to utilize a different gear, however the vehicle would not pick up any power and would not accelerate. The vehicle engine continued to idle, however the vehicle would not read any gears. The manufacturer was contacted and advised that there were no recalls and would take no liability for the failure. The vehicle was taken to his independent mechanic who stated that the automatic transmission had failed and would need to be replaced, at the owner's expense. The contact was awaiting repairs at the time of the complaint. The failure and current mileages were approximately 135,000. The VIN was not available.

- Delpona, FL, USA

problem #321

Mar 012010


  • 140,000 miles
My wife was driving her 2003 Honda Accord at highway speeds when suddenly the transmission shifted into a lower gear violently pitching the car forward. This sudden event nearly caused her to lose control. There was no warning to this event. I have found after research that this is a significant problem in epidemic levels for this vehicle. The sudden failure of this transmission is a severe safety issue as a crash was narrowly avoided in our case. I read many complaints on your website regarding this exact issue, many involving near misses such as ours. There was a recall in 2004 for the transmission problem on this 2003 Accord, and the service, according to the dealership was completed. We still experienced this hazardous event. I am trying to understand why there has not been a safety recall by the NHTSA requiring Honda to do the right thing and correct this safety problem before serious injury or death occurs. Please advise.

- Westerville, OH, USA

problem #320

Mar 022010

Accord 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 127,800 miles
While driving at a speed of 60-65 mph, the transmission on my automatic 2003 V-6 Honda Accord ex decided to violently shift down to first gear. The car almost came to a complete stop and I was inches away from getting plowed by a tractor trailer going 60 mph. Currently the car won't shift into second gear. This came on without warning and had the potential to seriously injured not only me but also those traveling around me. I feared for my life. After doing an internet search I found that this exact situation is a well documented problem with the 2003 V-6 Honda Accord. I believe there should be a recall for this transmission malfunction. After speaking with Honda of America, I was told that I needed to have the transmission inspected. I have an appointment this afternoon.

- Raleigh, NC, USA

problem #319

Mar 012010


  • 77,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. The driver stated that he was driving 40 mph when the vehicle lunged forward. The driver stated the vehicle was lunging forward and switching gears. The driver states the vehicle then just got stuck in first gear. The driver stated that he did contact the dealer. The current and failure mileages were 77,000.

- Gainesville, FL, USA

problem #318

Feb 272010


  • 159,000 miles
Transmission failure - gears would not engage in a 2003 Honda Accord. Gears shifted and revved back up then shot back down. Almost got killed by tractor trailer that was behind me. I was on thornton rd. Which is a two lane major roadway, which is heavily traveled by large trucks for industrial purposes. The area of roadway is very dark. I am a police officer and what I just experienced in my 2003 Honda Accord scared me half to death. I can't even imagine what may have happened to me if I didn't think quickly. Thank god my children were not in the car with me at the time of the incident. Honda needs to seriously address this problem immediately before someone gets killed or badly injured. A teenager with minimal driving skills would have panicked and may not have known what to do. This is very serious situation and someone needs to be held accountable. Honda now has a reputation for their vehicles having severed transmission problems. They continue to overlook the problem as if it is not there. What will it take for them to address this issue now? Toyota should be the example! also, there was no warning to this! no orange or red indicator light that something was in need of being looked at. Something is very wrong here!

- Atlanta, GA, USA

problem #317

Oct 122009


  • Automatic transmission
  • 152,000 miles
Automatic transmission failure 2nd and 3rd gear clutch packs were totally shot, causing the car to down-shift from 5th gear all the way down to 2nd gear at 55 miles an hour out of nowhere on a snowy slippery road causing the car to spin out going into the ditch hitting a road reflector. After a $3000 dollar transmission rebuild that Honda said is not under warranty and is fixed for now. Just recently the car is starting to show more problems of shifting erratically once in a while, a mechanic told me that the problem is probably coming back again.

- Siren, WI, USA

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