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 17 of 29)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #256

Jul 152009


  • 83,525 miles


I was driving on the 405 freeway with my wife and three young children at 65mph when my 2003 Honda Accord violently downshifted and reduced speed to 25mph and then to a dangerous 10mph which caused everyone driving around me to have to slam on their breaks. The car would not reaccelerate which caused me to have to veer into the left shoulder just seconds before we were rear-ended by a semi-truck. Once on the shoulder the car would not go in reverse or past first gear (20mph) causing chp to stop traffic so we could cross the freeway to the right shoulder and wait for a tow-truck.

- Aliso Viejo, CA, USA

problem #255

Jun 172009


  • 130,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. The transmission was stuck in neutral and would not shift into gear. A mechanic stated that the transmission failed. The dealer and manufacturer have not been notified to confirm if there was a warranty or a recall. The failure mileage was 130,000

- Wake Forest, NC, USA

problem #254

Aug 132009


  • 109,000 miles
2003 Accord V6 taken to century Honda (cincinnati, oh) many times but dealer unable to duplicate the problem. Aug. 13, 2009 traveling approx. 55 mph, within seconds car slammed down to 15 mph, due to quick thinking major accident avoided. Towed to dealer, service tech, stranded by car. Problem was duplicated. Quoted $3400 to replace transmission. It's now Sept. 16th, worked with Honda America on price, problem. Relunctantly, came down to $1700 plus tax but no acknowledging that transmission is big problem. Agreed upon solution, now Honda service says unable to get transmission. That's right, 1 month, big expense and still no car. Safety, security put at risk.

- Loveland, OH, USA

problem #253

Sep 112009


  • 133,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. The contact stated that while driving 35 mph the vehicle unexpectedly began to down-shifted and then resumed normal operation. Unintended vehicle deceleration increased the risk of a vehicle crash. The vehicle has not been inspected to determine the cause of the failure; therefore, no repairs have been made. The current and failure mileages were 133,000.

- Huntley, IL, USA

problem #252

Aug 072009


  • 100,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. While driving approximately 30 mph, she heard a loud noise and was unable to shift gears. There were no warning lights illuminated. The transmission was replaced on August 7, 2009 by an independent mechanic. She was responsible for paying $1,265 to replace the transmission. She spoke to a Honda representative regarding a goodwill repair listed on their website and was advised to fax her receipt and she would notify her about the reimbursement amount on September 8, 2009 since the warranty has expired. The representative gave her a case number and also stated that she needed to investigate her method of payment. The VIN was not available. The failure mileage was approximately 100,000.

- Bloomfield Hills , MI, USA

problem #251

Aug 192009


  • 115,000 miles
2003 Honda Accord with V-6 while traveling 215 miles to a friends funeral my transmission began to violently shift into 1st gear regardless of the speed traveling. This started after exiting the interstate and stopping to look at the map about 40 miles from my destination. I tried driving as gently as I could and the car would start shifting normally and at some point after shifting into a gear higher number gear than 1st it would downshift into 1st. None of the gears were slipping. After a number of starts it went into limp home mode staying in 1st gear and I finished my trip in 1st on country roads. I let the car sit all day while at the funeral and when I started it to put it on a trailer it was working fine. Therefore I left for home. Once the engine was up to temp it started doing it again. This time I quickly put the trans in neutral for 2-3 seconds then back into drive and all was well for a few miles, sometimes 20-30 and it did it again. If I weren't an experienced driver and able to maintain control while quickly putting the car into neutral it I have no doubt it would have caused a serious accident. When traveling at 65-70mph on the interstate downshifting to 1st is very dangerous. My car is at the dealer who just says the trans must be replaced for $,3610 and cannot explain why it shifts fine when cold but starts acting up when hot. We have about 112,000 miles on this car and haven't had any problems until this which was shortly after the dealer flushed and refilled the transmission. I've called Honda usa and am waiting to hear back from them. Many talk of their trans going out of gear and coasting with the RPM suddenly shooting up as if it were in neutral after which no gear will engage. Mine never slipped in any gear, just downshifts abruptly to 1st without warning. I've asked Honda why it works fine when cold and not when warmed up. They don't know and just repeat that the trans needs replacing. This is definately a safety hazard.

- Manassas, VA, USA

problem #250

Aug 262009


  • 107,000 miles


2003 Accord starting with transmission slipping around 2nd gear. On wed. Aug. 26 traveling South of winston salem nc on hwy 52 when car jerked to an almost complete stop. While trying to pull over to stop lane it jerked several more times. Started to drive on shoulder to next town when stopped by state trooper and explained situation. Told me to be safe and get it off main highway. The engine light, tcs and maintenance light all on plus green light at drive is flashing. Very lucky I did not get hit or hit someone due to lockup.

- Salisbury, NC, USA

problem #249

Aug 132009

Accord 6-cyl

  • 107,000 miles
I have a 2003 Honda Accord ex V6 model with 107,000 miles. I am having apparent transmission problems as I was driving down the interstate at a normal speed when the transmission downshifts from 5th gear to the 1st gear, which feels like slamming on the breaks going 70mph. The vehicles directly behind me had to swerve into other occupied lanes in order to avoid a rear end collision. The instance was very scary and although there was no wreck or injuries, this could have resulted in a catastrophic wreck. From the research I have done, there is a manufacturers defect with transmissions in this particular model and that a recall on this defect has not been established because the defect is not a "safety hazard". I just wanted to relay my story of the defected transmission that nearly caused a major hazard.

- Charlotte, NC, USA

problem #248

May 012008


  • 123,700 miles
Automatic transmission failure on freeway led to disabled vehicle. Car previously inspected by dealer under transmission recall and deemed ok. Transmission rebuilt by third party for $2500 with lingering problems.

- Pasadena, CA, USA

problem #247

Jul 232009

Accord 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 59,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. While driving 65 mph, the vehicle suddenly shifted into second gear. Days prior to the failure, the vehicle would not shift into reverse. The vehicle was taken to the dealer and they stated that the transmission needed to be replaced. The current and failure mileages were 59,000. Updated 8/28/09 updated 09/04/09.

- Newbury Park, CA, USA

problem #246

Aug 042008


  • 88,000 miles


Yesterday, I had noticed a couple of rough shift changes earlier in the day. Later, that afternoon, the car did not want to shift from drive to reverse and back again, but finally it slipped into gear. I checked the transmission fluid, which was fine. That evening, I got back on the road and entered the freeway, but the car would not accelerate enough to merge with traffic. The rpms were high, but could not get much above 40mph while trying to accelerate to 65mph. Very dangerous, as freeway traffic was barreling down on me -- I used the hazard light to get to the first available exit. As the car slowed down further, it would not accelerate and eventually stopped moving altogether as I entered a parking lot next to the freeway. I was never able to get it back into gear at that point. I had the car towed to a mechanic, who said the transmission is shot and needs to be completely replaced. Received a quote of $3500 my regular dealership, which Honda requires for any possible consideration of liability, and will take 5 days. Opened case #N012009-08-0500964 with Honda of America. Waiting for a return call, which can take 2 days. On standby to see if a different dealer can offer a better price. My regular dealer is outside my tow mileage range, so trying to mitigate expenses.

- Rancho Santa Margarita, CA, USA

problem #245

Jul 022009

Accord 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 59,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. While driving 20 mph, the vehicle failed to shift from second into third gear. As a result, the RPM's increased and the vehicle failed. The contact was able to get the vehicle to shift into the correct gear after a couple of seconds. There were no warnings prior to the failure. The vehicle was taken to the dealer and they stated that the transmission was slipping between second and third gear, and also bangs when switching into reverse. The dealer spoke with the manufacturer and they offered the contact 50% off the total bill, which would amount to $1,508.73. The contact refused and no repairs have been made. The vehicle was repaired according to NHTSA campaign id number 04V176000 (power train:automatic transmission), but the failure has recurred. The contact is in the process of notifying the manufacturer. The failure mileage was 59,000 and current mileage was 59,500. Updated 08/19/09 also, the lights for the temperature, radio and defroster were out. Updated 08/20/09.

- Galloway, NJ, USA

problem #244

Jul 252009


  • 216,187 miles
2003 Honda Accord transmission slipping. When going up a bridge had to drop down to 20 mph to keep car going.

- Waycross, GA, USA

problem #243

Jul 282009


  • 108,430 miles
While driving the 2003 Honda Accord V-6 with 109,000 miles, the transmission started slipping out of gear; within 500 miles of the slip out of gear and whilst traveling at 65 miles per hour on interstate-5 in los angeles, the transmission completely failed; RPM shot up, and pushing gas pedal had no affect of speed or control. Car immediately slowed down in the fast lane and created a major freeway hazard; other drivers swerved to avoid me whilst I continued to slow and drift to right shoulder and off-ramp; upon shutting of car and waiting 20 minutes I was able to travel at a slow rate of speed to my house in first gear only and in no gear some of the time. In front of my house, transmission failed again. Afraid to drive car and the scar of nearly causing an accident, I had car towed on a tow truck to mechanic. Transmission mechanic diagnosed that transmission has "died" and needs to be completely rebuilt or replaced. Transmission mechanic with 30+ years of experience is correcting situation by rebuilding the transmission completely. This sudden failure almost caused a catastrophic accident that had to potential to involve me and other motorists. This is a major safety hazard and defect.

- Agoura Hills, CA, USA

problem #242

Jul 212009


  • 106,000 miles
While trying to switch lanes on the highway my transmission locked up and lost power while pushing the gas. I took my car to the dealership and had to have a whole new transmission put into my car.

- Rochester, NH, USA

problem #241

Jul 112009


  • 97,244 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. While driving approximately 35 mph, the contact noticed that the transmission was slipping. He was unable to change gears and the vehicle would not accelerate over 35 mph. The vehicle was towed to the dealer and they stated that the transmission failed. The cost for a new transmission was estimated at $4,000. The manufacturer filed case number N012009-071300056 regarding the failure and stated that there were no recalls. The manufacturer offered to pay $1,500 towards a new transmission. The contact believes that Honda should pay for the entire repair. The vehicle has not been repaired. The current and failure mileages were 97,244.

- Hugo , MN, USA

problem #240

Jul 022009

Accord 6-cyl

  • 87,000 miles
While driving down the street the transmission on my Honda Accord ex 3.2L V6 locked and car screeched to a halt. Car was drivable but, shifting is now hit miss, sometimes engine revs to high RPM and will not shift gears. Took car to Honda dealer and they suggest transmission replacement for $5,000. Car has 87,000 miles and transmission has already been serviced once under factory recall.

- Charlottesville, VA, USA

problem #239

Jul 012009

Accord 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,600 miles
I own a 2003 Honda Accord. The other night I was driving home and my transmission started to go crazy. I was scared for my life. The car started slipping gears and the engines RPM went to over 7000. I had my car towed to a local Honda dealership and they said they had inspected it and nothing was wrong. That same night while driving home it happened again!!!! I have not driven the car since fearful for my safety and others. Why wont Honda recall these transmissions and give what people paid for. A good reliable car. My car is a 2003 4 door Accord with 40,600 miles!!!!!!!!! please help me and the million others that are effected by this. Honda is turning their nose and they need to be help responsible!!!!! updated 09/02/09.

- Chamblee, GA, USA

problem #238

Jun 152009


  • 85,000 miles
I have the same safety issue as hundreds (thousands?) of other consumers about the 2003 Honda Accord transmission. It is failing between 2nd and 3rd gear, onstensively because of the 2004 recall. The recall repair was done at 18,000 miles in 2004. In 2009 at 85,000 miles, Honda says the transmission needs to be replaced to the tune of $3,700. However, the dealership refuses to open the transmission to see if the gear is heat damaged! according to the recall repair procedure, this would show if the damage relates to the 2004 recall, recall repair done or not. I spoke to american Honda who offered a $1,300 contribution toward the repair, but only at a Honda dealership. The "customer service" rep said she really didn't have any incentive to offer a "goodwill repair" at all as I'd informed her I was looking to sell the car and now could not as the transmission was shot. End result: I'm picking up the car from the dealership tomorrow. They are more than willing to let me drive it away (after paying them the $100 for a truly unnecessary diagnostic given the 2004 Honda Accord's transmission history), even though they state the transmission could lock up at any given time. Safe" concern for the customer? concern for the community" I think not. This is my 23-year old daughter's first auto purchase. What a let down.

- N. Las Vegas, NV, USA

problem #237

Oct 012008


  • 80,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. While traveling between 35-40 mph, the contact heard a loud banging noise and felt as if he would lose control of the vehicle. The failure recurred a few times at the same speeds. The vehicle was taken to the dealer numerous times, but they were unable to duplicate the failure. The tcs light illuminated on the instrument panel and the dealer recommended that the wheels be changed. The contact replaced the wheels with manufacturer wheels, but the failure still continued. He took the vehicle back to the dealer, but they could not diagnose the cause of the failure. They speculated that the welding in the clutch drum was faulty and caused the transmission to lock in third gear. The dealer replaced the transmission. The contact believes that the manufacturer should have repaired the vehicle for free since it appears to be a manufacturer defect. The failure mileage was 80,000 and current mileage was 85,000.

- Bloomfield, NJ, USA

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