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
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
97,750 miles
Total Complaints:
501 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace/rebuild transmission (345 reports)
  2. not sure (72 reports)
  3. Honda to pay cost as this transmission was a previous recall (45 reports)
  4. Honda assisted with replacement cost (25 reports)
  5. class action lawsuit (5 reports)
  6. transmission exchange (4 reports)
2003 Honda Accord transmission problems

transmission problem

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2003 Honda Accord Owner Comments (Page 22 of 26)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #81

Jun 012008

Accord EX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 68,351 miles


I guess I'm just another one to add to the list... I too bought a Honda because of reliability and previous Honda's that ran great (previous owner of a 1988 civic and a 1990 accord).

Bought the car with 86k on it, noticed rough transmission in the first few months, brought it in before warranty ran out, they said it was fine, and then at 110k, right after the warranty ran out, transmission completely died.

I figured they would cover the cost of the replacement, as it is a known problem, and because I brought it in before the warranty was up. No such luck. The best we could get was Honda Canada to pay 1/3, the dealer 1/3 and us 1/3. Which worked out to just over a grand. Could have been worse I guess, I just think Honda should take some more responsibility when they are trying to market their cars on reliability. Talked to my neighbor after the fact who has a 2001 accord which is on its 3rd transmission. This scares me - I kinda feel like its not over!!

- leahjz, Calgary, AB, Canada

problem #80

Jun 022008

Accord LEV6 3.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 88,000 miles

Just bought a used 2003 Honda Accord for my son to drive to college from Hennessy Honda in Woodstock Georgia.. After 3 weeks the transmission went out and left him stranded.

He called the dealership they gave him the run around. I called and had them tow it to their shop. Do you think they stood behind the vehicle they sold me - HELL NO. They did give me a so called discount on the repair. It was about $2000 out of my hollow pocket

The same I could have gotten it fixed for in a independent garage. .No more Honda's for me and no more dealing with any Hennessy dealerships.

- Dennis H., Marietta, GA, US

problem #79

May 162008

Accord EX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 66,000 miles

Nearing retirement I thought I'd buy a car that would last and made a mistake. Well, Honda didn't meet that goal. I gave it to my daughter to use for college and the transmission failed. Honda claims they paid $1400 and I ONLY had to pay $2000 for an automatic transmission with only 66000 miles. There is no excuse for it failing so soon.

I am now back to Toyota (Camry) and I have confidence it will last a lot longer than any Honda.

- tubby, Midway, AR, US

problem #78

Jun 112008

Accord EX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 127,000 miles


Accord EX 3.0L V6 5 speed automatic transmission

127543 miles in excellent condition one owner

Sold by a Honda Dealer

Well, another tranny down for Honda. I have owned one other Honda with over 16oK miles and worked great. I just bought a 03 Accord on June 10 and two days after the transmission dies on me in the highways I was returning from Orlando . It does the same exact problem as everyone else here on AutoBeef. slips into lower gear, runs at 5K plus @ 45-50MPH. Fortunately I was able to get home. The strange thing is the light engine did not came on until the next day when I started it again.Now the car does not move forward or backwards. I have a basic code reader and it come up with Code 741 Torque converter stuck off.

Trusting Hondas reputation for quality cars and being sold at a Honda dealer, I purchase the car "As is" since the dealer refused to give me a thirty day warranty, now I know why... To be fair they offer an extended warranty for over $2400, Humm... Have to call dealer and perhaps Honda and see if they will cover some of it.

The way I look at this is that my money was perfect, and it had no defects, hence I should get a car that does not fails two days later, especially a HONDA!!!. The worst thing is I am very disappointed I always preached about HONDA reliability. After the problem appeared I read that Honda has lots of issues with transmissions since 1998 and the 2003-05 Accords, and to be honest I am extremely disappointed at myself since I always check on this things before I buy. Grrrrrr!!! I hope HONDA and or the dealer cooperates otherwise, what a disappointment.

- Andrrew V., Merritt Island, FL, US

problem #77

Jun 132008

Accord EX 3.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 68,484 miles

Well, another tranny down for Honda. I have owned alot of Honda's and still have my 99, never any problems. I bought a 03 Accord, made two payments and the transmission dies on me. It does the same exact problem as everyone else here on AutoBeef. slips into lower gear, runs at 5K plus @ 40MPH, reverse sometimes,etc. I bought a certified warranty but they will try to get out of it some way or another I am sure. Have to call dealer tomorrow. The worst thing of it all is I am disappointed. I have talked so many people into taking another look at Honda's (older die hard american owners) and ALWAYS preached about their incomparable reliability. And now this. It kinda makes me sick.

- Justin R., Savannah, NY, US

problem #76

Jun 122008

Accord EX 3.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 94,448 miles

Same situation as many read here- driving along and the car seems to slip into neutral as I was merging onto the freeway. RPM's were well into the 6000. I avoided having anyone drive into the back of me by pulling over. I checked under the hood in hopes there was ...???? I mean really what am I going to find wrong? the fluids were not an issue and appeared clean. I limped it along- stuttered a lot up hills, slowing down, etc. I made an appt at Honda (Friday the 13th of course!)- and they charged me $50 to check the code and 'diagnosis' the problem. Code 741 Torque converter stuck. Solution was to replace the transmission and do a 'software' update= $3756 + tax (~4200$). I questioned if this was common and the service rep informed me it doesn't happen often. I priced out a transmission at a transmission shop for $2400 and they happen to supply the dealership with transmissions. He then informed me Honda has been having a lot of issues with transmissions since 1998 and the 2003-05 Accords were quite common. I'm extremely disappointed- probably in myself mostly as I didn't sell this piece of crap when the warranty was out (I've had many many trips to the dealer). So- once its fixed- I'm certain I won't be buying another Honda or recommending them. I'm thinking of putting signage on the car to advertise the real cost of owning a Honda. Oh... and the recall in 2004 was supposedly done... some issue with shifting from 2nd gear the service person told me. The tranny was replaced at 60000km due to increasing noise from day one with 11km- no one would believe me at Honda until it got really bad. I guess this car answers the adage "if looks could kill"... as the car looks great and its pretty well killing me to look at it.

- Andrew B., Abbotsford, BC, Canada

problem #75

May 172008

Accord EX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 51,000 miles


Transmission inappropriately shifts down to a much lower gear while accelerating. This frequently happens while driving around 30-40 mph, often while going uphill. The car will down shift to FIRST gear. This results in over 5k rpm. The car will not shift up, even if I left off the gas completely. The only way I can get out of it is to shift to neutral, wait a few seconds, then back to drive and try again. Trouble is, if I'm still going up the hill, it will sometimes try to down shift again to accelerate.

I've called Honda's corporate center, they set up a case number for me and forwarded my info to the regional Honda rep, but said they can't tell me if they'll help pay or not until I get it diagnosed at a Honda dealership. I'm doing that on Monday. Honda rep sounded optimistic about them helping to pay for it. I'm hoping they pay all (assuming the transmission needs replaced like everyone else). Car only has 52k miles, it had the recall service done around 20k and I've taken it to Honda for 30k and 45k services.

Based on the complaints here, I'm likely selling this car once it's fixed and getting something else. I don't have faith in a new transmission.

Update from Jun 6, 2009: This is an update to my previous complaint. I had the car checked at Honda today and just heard back from them. They said the transmission fluid was very dirty considering it was just flushed 10k miles ago. They said instead of wasting time and money on attempting fixes, they'd just replace the entire transmission and Honda is paying for 100% of it. They're also giving me a rental car free of charge while my car is being repaired. They also waived the $102 inspection fee they were originally going to charge me this morning. I'm pretty impressed with their service, given that the car is not under warranty. I'm still not sure if I want to keep the car for very long. I'm afraid the new transmission won't last long either.

- Tom W., Edmonds, WA, US

problem #74

May 262008

Accord LX 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 148,000 miles

Okay, well, I'm joining the fray. I've had my Honda from Brand New. I had a Honda Previous to this, and kept it far past what most people do, as I LOVE Honda's. This past weekend, it started not shifting into 3rd gear, until it got past 30 MPH and then it went into gear. Yesterday, memorial day, we were driving home from the mountains at 75 MPH and all of a sudden, the car jerked as if someone slammed on the brakes, the tires squealed, and we were slammed against our seat belts. I slowed down, and it happened again. Then it happened again. I pulled over, shut off the car and checked all of the fluids thinking maybe I was low in Transmission fluid. Nope, no problems there. I then restarted the care and drove 180 miles at 60 MPH. It didn't happen again. How am I supposed to let my daughter drive this car again? Honda recalled this in 2004, and I had it serviced saying that what was wrong was fixed. Now, I'm having the same problem they said they fixed. What do I do now? My friend is the Manager of the Honda Dealership where I got the car. Can he help? I've called and left a message with him.

- Gerald B., West Deptford, NJ, US

problem #73

May 112008

Accord EX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 94,860 miles

I had complained about the transmission for over 2 years; however, the service technicians could never find anything wrong. I had the transmission serviced 2 weeks before it completely failed, but I was told no codes came up on the transmission. Well, I was 70 miles away from home and the car just stopped changing gears. I called roadside assistance to tow my car to the place that gave me that flawed diagnosis. When they checked it this time, I was told I needed a transmission. I asked what happen 2 weeks ago when I brought the car in for service. I was told they don't know. Well, I called Honda and requested the "goodwill help" and they paid 75 percent and I paid 25 percent. I told them that was good but I had complained about the transmission for years and was told everything was fine. The Honda agent told me they only go by what the codes show and 75 percent was the best they could do. This is for a loyal customer of 15 years. I am considering selling the car and I know I will not buy another Honda after buying on Hondas since 1993.

- normamississippi, Jackson, MS, US

problem #72

May 182008

Accord EX Coupe 3.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 88,000 miles

Well I had just got my transmission flushed a week ago thinking everything was fine. Tonight I was on the way to see my girlfriend and I was going down the highway doing about 60mph and all of a sudden the car started jumping and pushing and the tac was going up to 7 which was telling me it was the transmission. It felt like car was slipping into neutral while in gear. So i pulled over to the side of the road none of the gears worked except for reverse. So i cut the car off for a couple minutes cut it back on put it in gear and pulled off, as i was turning around to try and limp back to the house i got stuck in the middle of an intersection because it did it again. Needless to say its been a pain in the rear and was not expecting this since the transmission was just serviced. But it wouldn't be the fluid it would have to be some kind of relay or sensor going out in it IMO. Anyways Ive always heard hondas will last you a lifetime but i've had several problems with this car when i bought it used a year ago. Passenger side window wouldn't work, and my 6disc cd changer was messing up too. Had to install an after market cd player in the car.

- Allen F., Akinson, NC, US

problem #71

Apr 012008

Accord V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 50,000 miles


When I was ready to purchase a new car, no one could have talked me into getting anything else. I had a 92 Honda Accord which was the best car in the world. I finally traded it in after 14 years and over 200,000 miles for a 03 Honda Accord. Now, one of my biggest regrets, I feel that I have purchased a true lemon. As soon as I drove off the lot, I began having minor problems. The horn only works sometimes, and there is something wrong with the motor in my driver's side window. The check engine light just came on, but I haven't brought it to a mechanic yet to find out what that is all about. Worst of all, at only 51,000 miles (conveniently right after my warranty expired) I needed a complete overhaul done on the Transmission. Needless to say, when I am ready to purchase my next car, it will not be a Honda Accord.

- Nicole L., Kenner, LA, US

problem #70

May 132008

Accord EX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 68,500 miles

I only bought this car b/c everyone said "a Honda will last you forever." Then the transmission began to slip at 60,000 miles and this week at 68k I was merging onto the highway and the car wouldn't go above 35 mph. It just kept revving up past 7 when I hit the cars were flying up behind's not only a big inconvenience - it's also dangerous. Honda is trying to fix this now by replacing the tranny, since I bought it from them used with the 7yr/100k drive train warranty...we'll see

- bigkim11, Bronx, NY, US

problem #69

May 112008

Accord EX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 71,200 miles

Pile on another Accord transmission failure. Bought EX V6-MT less than a year ago as a lease-return, so it had a full maintenance history for it. No problems at all; even had the 2005 2nd gear transmission recall check done. After normal highway driving, transmission slipped out of gear and would had very high RPMs. Diagnosis is a full replacement of the transmission.

- weezyalph, Beltsville, MD, US

problem #68

Apr 012008

Accord EX 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,675 miles

I was just driving down the road and while the car was shifting into 3rd gear, with no warning, it just went into neutral. I coasted to the side of the road, shifted into park, then tried to put the car into gear again. It took a few tries before it started shifting again. It happened four or five time while trying to make it back home. Everytime it happened, it was when the car was shifting in and out of third gear. I was worried it would happen again and not run anymore so I parked about a mile from home and called a tow truck to have it taken to a transmission shop. I only had 60675 miles on it. Honda was no help at all with the problem and wanted approximately $5000 to replace the transmission.The transmission shop was a independent shop, replaced the transmission which was ordered from the Honda factory, and was about a thousand dollars cheaper than the Honda Dealer. The transmission shop charged $3991.00 for the replacement including labor and tax. I doubt very much I will ever buy another Honda. I have had other problems with it also. We called the Honda Good Faith Line. They acted like they have never heard about the problem ever existing and showed no interest.

- George D., Sparks, NV, US

problem #67

Apr 042008

Accord EX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 61,000 miles

In February 2008, my radio/clock/HVAC display failed and went completely dark. American Honda did not recall this part because it's not a "safety issue," but recognized the problem by issuing an extended warranty on the part to 7 yrs/100,000 miles. Two weeks after I picked the car up, the 6 CD changer/player failed. Other than showing 5 CDs were in the machine, you'd never be able to tell that I had a CD player. It wouldn't switch to "CD mode" or load/eject CDs. American Honda agreed to fix the CD player under a "one time goodwill warranty" for customer loyalty. I'm still waiting to receive a shipment of the 5 CDs that were stuck in the player. One week later, the transmission failed without warning due to an "internal error." This IS a safety issue as the car cut out in traffic. It slipped at 75th Street and was toast by 80th Street. Despite an obvious problem with the transmission in this make/model (see the off-the-chart complaints listed on this site), Honda has not issued a recall. It did, however, stand behind the car by agreeing to cover most of the cost of the transmission out-of-warranty.

Honda has taken very good care of me on all of these issues so far. With that said, these kinds of problems should not be happening on any Honda with only 60,000 miles. I've driven Hondas for over 20 years and never had any problems come close to the ones I've had with this car (starting with replacement of an O2 sensor in '05). I'd steer clear of the '03 Accord and try an '05 Accord instead. Or a Camry.

- Rachel H., Kansas City, MO, US

problem #66

Apr 182008

Accord EX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 104,435 miles

I don't know about everyone else, but I had heard about Honda's problems with their transmissions in the model years prior to 2001. They were supposedly worked out for all the models starting in 2002, which is why there was no extension of the warranty by Honda.

99% of all of my miles driven were on the highway as I commute to work and school. I have always been meticulous in keeping up with all the required maintenance and rotation of tires, etc. I had Honda's 90K mile service performed at 88K, were they changed the transmission fluid and gave the car a thorough inspection, and I was going to do the 105K tune-up service this month.

I had two days warning that my transmission was in trouble: the night before when I was driving home and my engine raced up to 6k rpm's twice on the way home; and the next day on the way back from a conference at UCLA when the transmission repeatedly slipped out of drive and I had to ride in the right lane with my flashers on for the last 5 miles as I limped into the dealership.

This experience has left a very bad taste in my mouth concerning Honda and their automatics because a good automatic should go at least 200k or more (provided you keep up the maintenance) before you should have anything approaching a catastrophic failure. The fact that Honda knows that they have a problem with their transmissions and are still making their customers pick up the tab makes me wonder if they give a damn about customer loyalty or are we so stupid that we will continue to buy their cars anyway.

If anybody is creating a class action lawsuit or would like to -- please let me know!

- Jeff R., Costa Mesa, CA, US

problem #65

Apr 012008

Accord LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 104,000 miles

Like most people here transmission slipped on one day. Dealer tried to fix computer software update. But problem returned with more severity. By the time I got to the dealer it was not even shifting. Service rep at dealership is doing his best to get assistance. I called Honda and got a case number. I did perform the recall in '04. All maintenance was at dealership. So hoping for a favorable response from Honda. I cannot believe Honda put such junk in their cars. Will keep this updated.

- Kevin N., Cumming, GA, US

problem #64

Oct 182006

Accord LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles

I had the same problem as most people here back in 2006. I was driving on the interstate at 65mph and the car shifted into 3rd gear all of a sudden. The RPM shot way up, and I slowed down to the 30's or 40's pretty quickly. Restarting the engine would fix the issue for a few minutes, but eventually I got it to the dealer and got a rental.

I had the extended warranty and the dealer replaced the transmission within a week. So it only cost me $100 total.

A year and a half and 25k miles later, my drive indicator light is flashing. I've also seen the TSA light come on randomly as well. Apparently the transmission replacement had a 3 year 36k mile warranty from Honda, so I'm covered if the transmission needs replacing again. No out of pocket cost again, but I'm not sure what I'm going to do after this warranty expires. I really don't want to have to pay for another transmission.

- thraawn, Ballwin, MO, US

problem #63

Mar 282008

Accord LX V4

  • CVT transmission
  • 81,638 miles

No gripe here - When this first happened I read everyone's nightmare. So, I prepared all of my paperwork and called Sloan Honda in Philadelphia, where I purchased the car. My car was 3,000 miles outside of the extended warranty. When the Service Manager called back he never hesitated. He told me he would cover 90% of the cost to install a new transmission. Out of pocket costs to me were $252.00. That included a 3 year / 36,000 mile warranty on the transmission. The key, they said, was that I had never missed an interval service in the 5 years that I have had my car. Not a bad deal and all I had to do is make 1 call to set up service. I'll buy all my cars from Sloan from now on.

- Mark M., Philadelphia, PA, US

problem #62

Mar 212008

Accord LX

  • Automatic transmission
  • 61,789 miles

I buy honda because of reliability. Now I second guess honda!

- Revere W., Loveland, OH, US

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