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 18 of 29)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #236

Jun 202009


  • 47,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. The contact stated that she had to manipulate the gears in order for the vehicle to shift into reverse. While driving 55 mph, the rpms increased drastically and the vehicle began to jerk. The vehicle was taken to the dealer and they stated that the transmission and power steering failed. The vehicle was repaired at the cost of $950. The manufacturer stated that no compensation would be provided because the vehicle was not under warranty. The failure mileage was 47,000.

- Duarte, CA, USA

problem #235

Jun 232009


  • 100,000 miles
The car has only 100,000 miles. First the transmission was not engaging when shifting from 2nd to 3th gear, I had the transmission fluid changed to see if this would fix the problem. This did nothing until today 6/23/09 while I was driving on the highway the front wheel locked up as if I would've shifted down to 1st gear. I stopped the car and the check engine light came on the D on shifter started blinking and now all the car does is to go in parking or 2nd gear. It does not take reverse or any other gear therefore the car is uses.

- Providence , RI, USA

problem #234

Jun 122009


  • 102,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. While driving various speeds, the gear slips intermittently and causes spontaneous acceleration and downshifting. The failure could cause the transmission to lock up, which could result in a crash. The dealer stated that because his vehicle was previously repaired according to NHTSA campaign id number 04V176000 (power train:automatic transmission), they would not assume responsibility for any repairs. The vehicle has not been repaired. The failure and current mileages were 102,000.

- Long Beach, FL, USA

problem #233

Jun 052008


  • 94,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. The contact stated that the transmission in his vehicle was previously repaired according to a recall. While driving less than 55 mph, the transmission slipped. The vehicle would not shift gears or accelerate. The contact managed to pull the vehicle over to the side of the road. The dealer stated that the transmission needed to be replaced at the cost of $4,500. The manufacturer would not assume any liability and there were no recalls for the failure. The contact was concerned with his safety and having the vehicle shift into neutral at normal highway speeds. The failure and current mileages were less than 94,000.

- Decula, GA, USA

problem #232

Jun 122009


  • 125,000 miles
I have a 2003 Honda Accord and the transmission has started to go. I have an automatic but I know what it feels like when the car drops to neutral and the rpms start to rev. I know that is not a good thing to have. I took my car to the Honda dealer and they said it cost 4000 dollars to replace my transmission. They also stated that they are well aware of this problem and if you are one of the lucky ones then they might fix it for you. But if they have full knowledge of what is going on, what is it going to take to inform the drivers that they are in an unsafe car. I hope it doesn't take someone dying but I feel like it might.

- Yorba Linda, CA, USA

problem #231

Jun 122009


  • 129,000 miles
On June 12th 2009 I was driving my 2003 Honda Accord on interstate 44 at speeds of 65 to 70 mph when all of a sudden it felt as if I had slammed on my brakes. I was thrown against the steering wheel and my 2 daughters in the backseat felt the whiplash too- thank goodness they of course had their seatbelts on. About 2 mins later it did it again and again...forcing me to pull off the highway. The car was shifting from 4 to like 2nd gear. I pulled off the highway scared too death and thanking god that no one got hurt or that no one rear ended me. I turned on my hazards and started to drive down a side road -trying to make it home. It started to do it again so I pulled off the roam into a parking lot. After catching my breath and my heart slowing down- I thought I would try to at least make it home. When I put the car in reverse- the car would not reverse- the gear was in reverse but when I stepped on the gas - it went forward instead. After turning the car off an on again and putting in reverse several times it finally reversed. I tried to drive it home because me and my 2 daughters were stranded and did not have a way home. - it shifted from 3rd and 4th gear into 2nd gear several times - luckily I had made it to the Honda dealership- they diagnosed my car (for 90.00!) and told me I had to have my transmission replaced! I bought my car brand new in 03 and have kept it serviced and maintained with a very meticulous record. This should not happen on a car that is only 6yrs old. This was very dangerous and scared me and my daughters to the point they were crying. Honda really needs to have this checked out! it is very dangerous and scary for this to happen and we are so lucky it did not cause an accident!. I was surprised to find this many complaints on it. Please NHTSA and something about this.

- Oklahoma City, OK, USA

problem #230

May 092009


  • 118,000 miles


On May 9, 2009, while driving my 2003 Honda Accord, it began to lurch forward uncontrollably. When I attempted to stop, it continued to go forward. I had no control over the car. After I got it stopped it would not accelerate and would not shift from 2nd gear. Also, it would not go into reverse. I bought the car new and it has 118,000 miles. The dealership said the transmission needs to be replaced and it will cost $2,500.

- New Albany, IN, USA

problem #229

Jun 012009


  • 69,000 miles
After vehicle's transmission warms up to normal operating temperature, vehicle's transmission loses gears 3, 4, 5, and reverse suddenly without warning, forcing the transmission to violently shift into what appears to be 1st and 2nd gears or neutral. Vehicle often then decelerates violently at freeway speeds to approximately 50 miles per hour. Vehicle operator (myself) and occupants then report a strong odor thought to be burning transmission fluid. In past 6 months, I have brought my car in for service to 3 different shops including a Honda dealership and all had reported no problems and not being able to fix unless there was a trouble reading on the computer. Problem began happening only once a month but since initial appearance has now been a daily occurrence on both freeways and neighborhood streets. Recently vehicle was brought back to a Honda dealership for a free inspection and stated the transmission needs replacing with only 73,000 miles driven.

- Seattle, WA, USA

problem #228

Feb 282009


  • 108,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. The contact stated that the vehicle was experiencing transmission failure. The gears would slip between second and third gear at various speeds. When the gears would disengage, the contact was forced to pull the vehicle over to the side of the road. The failure occurred nearly every time the vehicle was driven. She took the vehicle to a repair shop and the mechanic stated that the transmission needed to be replaced. The contact scheduled an appointment with the dealer. The manufacturer was not notified. The current mileage was 110,077 and failure mileage was approximately 108,000.

- Camino, CA, USA

problem #227

Jun 012009


  • 131,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. While driving 60 mph or higher, the vehicle suddenly downshifts to a lower gear. When the failure occurs, the contact is thrown against the steering wheel. The failure could also cause a rear-end crash. The vehicle was taken to the dealer, but they could not duplicate the failure or determine the cause. The manufacturer would not assist. The failure mileage was 131,000.

- Omaha, NE, USA

problem #226

Jun 052009


  • 131,278 miles


I bought a 2003 Accord 4dr ex, well ill be driving for about 15 miles and all of sudden at 65 mph it down shifts to low throwing me into the steering wheel. And it seems the dealers know nothing. I have replaced some sensor but its getting expensive.does anyone at Honda give help for this safety problem.

- Omaha, NE, USA

problem #225

Jun 042009


  • 67,000 miles
I have an '03 Honda Accord ex with transmission slippage.while driving on the expressway, (40-50 mph) my car would slow down to about 20-30mph!, causing traffic behind me to almost rear end my veh. I would attempt to speed up, but the engine would just rev up with no increase in speed. After maintaining 20-30mph for a few seconds the veh. Would suddenly jerk forward and the slow down again.I took the veh. To sloan Honda (phila.) and they told me that I needed to replace the transmission, and it would cost me $3,500. A service rep. Called back again and stated that Honda agreed to lower my payment to $2,100. I'm a law enforcement officer for this city and I need a veh. The dealership nor Honda would give a courtesy rental ! there is an obvious safety issue with the '03 Honda transmission and I hope that this will be addressed.

- Philadelphia, PA, USA

problem #224

May 282009


  • 133,000 miles
2003 Honda Accord driving on freeway, slowed for traffic, then car would not accelerate over 25 miles an hour. Drove to dealer transmission failure. All required service had been performed as recommended, as well as a recall service in 2004. Transmission had to be replaced. Had a 100,000 mile powertrain warranty, failure at 130,000 miles. Honda seems to know of defect offered to pay 25% "standard discount" for this problem.

- Huntington Beach, CA, USA

problem #223

May 292009

Accord 6-cyl

  • 120,000 miles
2003 Honda Accord V6 transmission slips out of gear, and it will not go in reverse or shift beyond second gear once this starts happening. Events leading to the failure were normal wear and tear. This vehicle has 120,000 miles and has been taken to the dealer for regular maintenance. It also had the transmission recall work from 2004 performed shortly after it was announced. It occurs shortly after starting to drive as soon as the transmission is warm. It causes extreme jerks due to the sudden deceleration which could result in an accident in traffic. It causes problems then accelerating and the car is unable to be driven past 30-35 mph. The correction is to replace the transmission. The dealership is looking into this for me now and may have old parts available.

- Delta, OH, USA

problem #222

May 302009

Accord 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 92,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Honda Accord. While driving 75 mph, the transmission suddenly downshifted and locked at 75 mph. The wheels squealed loudly. The contact managed to regain control of the vehicle and avoid a crash. Through online research, she found numerous complaints for this failure, including NHTSA campaign id number 04V176000 (power train:automatic transmission). She called the manufacturer and they stated that they would call her back and let her know if her VIN was included in the recall. The contact stated that her vehicle should be included if the failures are identical. The current and failure mileages were 92,000. Updated 2/17/10 updated 02/22/10.

- Marietta, GA, USA

problem #221

May 282009


  • 100,937 miles
My 2003 Honda Accord 3.0 V6 transmission stalled out at a red light with no prior warning of failure. Luckily I was only a mile from my daughters home but, this could have resulted in a serious car accident resulting in harming myself, my grandson and any others that may have rear ended me. This is the second transmission that has been in this vehicle, a year and a half ago the same thing happened to the 1st one but the car at that time was still under warranty and it was replaced. My concern is both these incidents happened with no prior warning of failure, no warning lights until the action happened in an instant, you are driving normally and next second the car stalls, still running wont move or moves slowly with much shifting of gears.

- Griffin, GA, USA

problem #220

May 272009

Accord 6-cyl

  • 69,200 miles
While driving on highways our 2003 Honda Accord V6 automatic at 60 mph, there was sudden downshift causing severe engine braking, front wheels locked and I nearly had a severe accident that would have resulted in fatality or serious injury. Apparently, I am discovering that this a very prevalent problem on 2003 Accord V6 auto transmission. It happened to our auto technician who tried to replicate it. Honda seems very indifferent about this problem and I hope and pray NHTSA will fully investigate this problem before someone dies. This is serious safety issue not a car performance issue!

- Plano, TX, USA

problem #219

May 262009


  • 109,000 miles
My husband was driving up I-85 and our Accord just stopped accelerating and the transmission went to 6000 RPM+ but the car would not go any where, traffic was speeding up behind him and he could have been killed.  he got the car to the side of the road and sat there for it to cool down some.  no lights were on stating that there was any problems with the car.  he waited awhile and started the car back up and it only made it for about 15 more miles before the transmission started not working again.  this time the check engine light came on.  there was no other warning or no problems before this to any indication that something was going wrong with the transmission.  I purchased the Honda new in 2004, thinking that Honda was a great car (since my dad is an independent mechanic and told me that I could not go wrong with a Honda), not knowing that only after 4 1/2 years later I would be faced with a bad transmission and my husband almost being run down on the interstate because the car would just stop working!  I am waiting for Honda to contact me back about the repairs, but have been told that they will probably not help with any costs or recognizing that there is a problem with the 2003 transmissions in their vehicles.  I have read numerous complaints about the makers early 2000 transmissions and the same problem is reported over and over again. I have never received anything from Honda stating that there was a problem with the transmissions. My husband and I Transport our 2 small children in this vehicle as well, and we thought that we were in a very safe vehicle, until this incident today. Please do not let someone be killed before anything is done about this problem. Thank you!

- Clemmons, NC, USA

problem #218

May 262009

Accord 6-cyl

  • 87,000 miles
Luckily no accident but by the grace of god. Transmission on 2003 V6 Honda Accord began slipping and put me in a very dangerous situation 5 times in my attempt to get home. Car's transmission locks up, engines rev and no power to move. Have been told by Honda dealership that it will cost 4000 dollars to replace. Went online and have found ridiculous amount of complaints of same issue. This is a very dangerous situation. Honda has been lucky to not get sued due to a death because of this obvious flaw.

- Davidson, NC, USA

problem #217

Apr 082009


  • 92,000 miles
I was aware that 03 Honda Accord have had transmission problems, so when my check engine light came on I immediately went to the dealer and asked them to look at it. They told me it was fine, my gas cap wasn't screwed on tight, but did a full check and sold me some battery stuff. Now, just a month later, the transmission failed at about 50 mph and nearly jerked me into another car. I was on the way to pick up my kids from school! I shudder to think what could have happened. I limped into the dealer with the dashboard lit up, drive indicator light blinking, and the gears slipping & downshifting hard. This time, they say the transmission fluid "smells bad" and I need it replaced. Why couldn't Honda, who knows all about this famously bad model year's transmission, make sure the problem was fixed when I, a very conscientious owner, brought it in last month" before a catastrophic failure that could have killed people" sorry about the caps, I'm just very, very frustrated at this irresponsibility. It is a clear safety issue.

- Round Rock, TX, USA

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