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:
99,050 miles
Total Complaints:
36 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replaced transmission (17 reports)
  2. not sure (15 reports)
  3. drained and refilled transmission fluid (2 reports)
  4. master overhaul, torque converter (1 reports)
  5. repaired transmission (1 reports)
2003 Honda Accord transmission problems

transmission problem

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2003 Honda Accord Owner Comments (Page 1 of 2)

problem #36

Apr 122016

Accord ES 3.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 143,745 miles


I was driving down the highway in my Honda coupe going about 80miles an hour. All of a sudden, the car shifted into a lower gear almost causing me to lose control of the car. The car behind me quickly got into the left lane to avoid a collision. I was 50 miles away from where I was going. I actually hurt my shoulder the way the seatbelt grabbed me. I guess if it hadn't grabbed me I would've hit my head or something. A big rig could have been behind me and I probably could've gotten severely injured. Luckily I didn't have anyone in the car with me. I called the Honda dealer and told them what happened. Their exact words were " I never heard of that before!" Then I get on various websites and it all over the place. "How could they not have known!" Unfortunately I have to say goodbye to Honda. Even if the problem could be fixed, I wouldn't be able to trust the car again. Bye-bye Honda! You can KILL someone else!

- pdryer, Savannah, GA, US

problem #35

May 152011

Accord EX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 88,100 miles

Purchased the car used in August 2006 with around 60,000 miles. The tranny failed in May 2011 with approx. 88,000 miles. Read on the Internet that Honda would not warrant this defect so had my mechanic give me a good deal on a rebuild one. Cost $1,000 and around $350 to swap out. Now May, 2015 with 126,000 mile the tranny is toast again.

- mikepga, Avondale Estates, GA, US

problem #34

Nov 012013

Accord EX 3.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 132,983 miles

I bought this car for my daughter for traveling to school and driving while at school about 5 hours away because of Honda's reputation for reliability. She has put about 3000 miles on it in the last 2 years and then the shifting problems started.

She and a friend we're traveling at highway speed when the car decided to shift down into 1st gear throwing both of them violently forward and almost causing an accident, it repeated the same on a few other occasions and I had her take it to the Honda dealer. They could find no codes but recommended about $1300.00 of unrelated maintenance (that was not needed). Their best guess was the battery was bad so I instructed them to replace it and flush the transmission, the car hasn't downshift violently since then but refuses to up shift occasionally. When she came home for the holidays I took the car to the local Honda dealer and their diagnosis is transmission is bad and they will replace it with a rebuilt for something north of $5000.00.

I see from several online sites that this problem is far from an isolated incident and Honda is aware of it but refuses to do anything about it. I plan on bringing the car home and replacing it myself when I locate a transmission, I was considering trading in my 04 Infiniti G35 for a new Accord next spring but this incident has caused me to remove Honda from the list

- Pat O., Waverly, OH, US

problem #33

Apr 212014

Accord ES V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 132,587 miles


My 2003 Honda Accord had 132587 on it. Always knew something wrong with the transmission but nothing serious. Took it to a Honda dealer they said that it just need a oil change so I did it. One day my son and I was driving home from school and car would not go. I try to put it in Reverse but it acts like it is in Neutral. So I put it back in Drive and it still acts like it is in Neutral. What can I do? Please any help would be greatly appreciated.

- sharriette, Rialto, CA, US

problem #32

Apr 122014

Accord EX 3.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 85,500 miles

The same story as hundreds or thousands of other unhappy (although happy to be alive) drivers.

Driving at 65 mph, sudden downshift, revs go from 2500 to ^5000 instantly, causing speed to go from 65 to much much less. we did not get rear-ended thankfully. Drove to the nearest exit, and limped along for a few more miles. Not it will intermittently not shift in to Reverse and will not shift correctly.

Called the local dealership service mgr, who feigned surprise, got a call back from a cust service person, who also faked surprise, gave me the American Honda 1-800 number, I left message for them to call me b/c, you guessed it, they "are experiencing high call volume".

No kidding.

Waiting for that call back to see what they'll do for me, and to me as well I suspect....

- davethesuave, Baltimore, MD, US

problem #31

Feb 112013

Accord EX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles

Owner of a 2003 EX V6 Honda Accord 120k. The scariest part was that I had my two year old daughter in the backseat while it happened. I was trying to go up a hill and of course it chose the tippy top to downshift and wouldn’t go anywhere but backwards. Had to turn it off and then on again for it to go anywhere. Parked it on the curb and left it there until my husband could take it home. Called the shop I'm loyal to and they quoted a $2000 fix and added that Hondas have bad transmissions. Definitely not getting another Honda and definitely informing each and every one of my family members, coworkers, friends, acquaintances and strangers I meet at the coffee shop or anywhere that they should stray far far away from the Honda Dealership when purchasing a car.

- msvicky, McLean, VA, US

problem #30

Sep 222006

Accord EX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 54,972 miles


This was transmission problem #1. 40,000 miles later, the transmission is starting to slip again. Although I never had any trouble with my 1998 Jaguar XJ8, I decided to get a car that was known to be more reliable. I bought my Accord (AKA: worthless piece of crap) on Sept 19, 2006. Three days later, I was driving at highway speed when the car suddenly and violently downshifted. It has been one problem after another since then. I will never buy another Honda.

- laladynow, Mandeville, LA, US

problem #29

May 262013

Accord EX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 140,000 miles

Have had this Honda for the last 10 years. Done all maintenance work and have taken very good care of my car.

I decided to keep this car in the last 2 years when it started needing more expensive repairs ( replaced timing belt, master cylinder, front/rear breaks, etc) totaling more than $4500.

Last Sunday, while driving back from a short-distant trip, I was on the fast lane going 65-70mph in a 5-lane freeway when all of a sudden the car down-shifted. I initially thought my foot had slipped from the gas pedal, but it happened again moments later. I checked the indicators and there was nothing on. The car behind me were zooming above 65mph and it the most stressful situation moving the car from the fifth lane all the way to the right shoulder, dodging couple of near hits. My kidneys were throbbing from stress when I finally got the car safely on the shoulder.

I called AAA and had the car towed to a shop and had to wait until Tuesday (memorial day weekend) for them to check my car. The mechanic could not re-produce the problem so he took the car home at night to see if it happens when he drive long distance and he reported that on his way to work tghe next morning he had the same scary and dangerous situation. He said transmission needs to be replace and the cost is $2500. I called Honda USA and they said they can't offer any assistance. I understand that this car has given me 10 years and 140K and that is very good and I am willing to take the loss, but I have 2 issues here:

1.Why there was not any light indicators showing there was engine problems and thus putting my life and potentially other people's lives in serious danger?

2. If I had known these model/year cars had transmission issues, I would have traded it in 2 years ago and not spend more than $4500 in repairs thinking I would be able to keep this car for another 50k-70k? My dad's Nissan had 210K and was still going. My friend's Honda has 180K and still going.

- Mahtaj K., Alameda, CA, US

problem #28

May 212013

Accord EX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles

I have a 2003 Honda Accord EX-V6 that I purchased in 2006 with 13,000 miles. It now has ~70,000 miles. I have had all the Honda recommended maintenance performed. Today, while traveling about 50 mph, the transmission suddenly downshifted violently almost causing an accident. I pulled off the road and tried driving in D1, D2 and D3. The transmission seems to be stuck in first gear. I finished the drive home (about 1 mile) and found out there was no reverse gear. Found articles with exact problem and now do not feel good about the situation. Sounds like a recurring and dangerous problem with Honda.

May 21, 2013 at 9:01 pm ·

- Rick R., Madison, OH, US

problem #27

Nov 282011

Accord EX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 128,000 miles

While in 3rd gear, transmission would go from normal 40+ mph speeds to about 15-20mpg and wouldn't shift back to third gear.

- Candice C., Granada Hills, CA, US

problem #26

Dec 222011


  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles


I was doing about 60 mph in the center lane when all of a sudden I thought I was rear ended. I look up and there's no one around me. I go to hit the gas and nothing, my engine revved but the car did not move. I coasted off to the side of the road to gather myself (luckily unharmed) and shut the car off. I sat for about 10 mins and turned it back on and it accelerated, however the RPMs were at about 3500 at 30 mph - and it wouldn't shift into gear. I got home and it wouldn't go into reverse to get it into my driveway. I took it to the mechanic and over 2k later .. MERRY CHRISTMAS!

- Lauren S., Westbury, NY, US

problem #25

Dec 312011

Accord LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 106,200 miles

If my Lincoln can make 250,000 miles why cant my Honda?

- Doug B., Plano, TX, US

problem #24

Jun 242011

Accord LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 95,000 miles

WOW I cannot believe how many people I have found with the same exact thing that happened to me! Driving on a busy highway on the way to work, going about 65 miles per hour. My car all of a sudden shifts down to second gear and I can't get it out of it. All of a sudden it jerks violently forward and almost sends me through the windshield! I called my fiance to get me on the side of the road. He gets it to my mechanic, who is left scratching his head. It wouldn't even go into reverse! I then brought it to our longtime larger independent mechanic shop that basically says no codes are being read, no dashboard lights on, but they decide to change the transmission fluid, just in case. this works for about 7 days, until I'm on another highway..SAME THING HAPPENS! I put on my hazards, fear for my life, and drive it to the nearest Honda dealer. They were less than helpful. They basically told me reman transmission for $3789 plus tax, or we will get u on the phone with a salesperson to talk trade in! LIVID! I call Honda USA..put through the ringer with them. After about 3 weeks, case manager tells me that they cannot help me because #1-I had never built up a a rapport with this dealer, #2- I wasn't the original owner so its out of warranty and #3- that they would give me $750 towards a refurb tranny as long as i brought it to a certified Honda dealership for the work to be done!!!! I might as well take the "H" off the front of my car at this point because they are in complete denial about this problem. Forget it! * weeks has gone by, I am now bringing the car back to my original mechanic who is putting in a refurb for $2900. I am sick to my stomach! I have had Honda before...This isn't right, they don't die this early!!! I have spoken to the recall dept at Honda USA -1-800-999-1009 x 4. They have informed me that the BEST way we can get this to become a recall is to file your car and VIN through! I have done this YOU must do it to! PLEASE LETS ALL FIGHT HONDA ON THIS! THE MORE COMPLAINTS THE BETTER! THEY ARE LUCKY NOBODY HAS GOTTEN SERIOUSLY INJURED! MAYBE THAT'S WHAT THEY ARE WAITING FOR!

- Maria G., Liverpool, NY, US

problem #23

Nov 012011

Accord V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 150,000 miles

Car downshifted on its own on the freeway taking me from 65 MPH down to about 35 MPH in a matter of seconds. Had 4 kids in the car. Very scary for all. Car also won't easily shift itself into 2nd gear on some cold mornings. Need to let off gas and then re-step on gas pedal for car to go into gear.

- Dean F., Windsor, CA, US

problem #22

Jul 052011

Accord EX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 140,000 miles

07/05/11, car started to shift violently when going about 40 mph. After the 3rd instance, I drove it straight to the dealer, Mike Piazza Honda in Langhorne, PA. Dealer couldn't reproduce my experience, but recommended trans fluid be replaced as it was black. This didn't fix the problem, and had the same issues on the drive home. After researching the problem, found this is a common occurance with the 2003 V6 transmission. Really feel the dealer put me and my family in danger by not alerting me to this issue. Will call AHC and register complaint. This may put me off Hondas for life.

- Michael P., Warminster, PA, US

problem #21

Apr 292009

Accord EX 3.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 54,791 miles

brought the new in 2003 never thought that I would have to buy a transmission 6 years later.

- James W., Augusta, GA, US

problem #20

Jun 172011

Accord EX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 150,000 miles

My son was driving my wifes 2003 Accord on I-75 south in Georgia when the transmission violently downshifted and the engine revved in excess of 6000 rpm. He and his fiancee were thrown violently forward against their seat belts and could have been seriously injured by traffic that nearly rearended them before they got off the highway. I have owned four Accords and this will be my last Honda. Repairs are estimated at 3200.00 to 5600.00. Honda does not care. I am currently shopping for a new car and test drove a Honda last week. My mind is made up, no more Hondas. The car has high miles and a trans failure can occur but the violence of the failure is dangerous and someone will die before Honda responds. It could have been my son.

Don't buy a Honda!!!

- Bruce W., Cleveland, TN, US

problem #19

Feb 012011

Accord EXL V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles

While running smooth if you slowdown or start the car when stopped it stays in low gear and does not advance to higher gear. It is very scary to if this happens on highway. it just slows down all of sudden. This is crappy car had lots of issues with this 2003 honda accord. I would never buy Honda again. THIS STARTED HAPPENING AFTER DEALER PERFORMED THE 75000 MILE SERVICE. DEALERS ARE SCAM AS WELL.

- Brian P., Ocala, FL, US

problem #18

Apr 222011

Accord LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 95,712 miles

So I am having the same problem with my accords transmission with it downshifting at high speeds and the RPM going though the roof. I took it to Honda yesterday (5/4/11) and they did test and said nothing was wrong with my transmission just that it needs a trans flush. I am really upset with them after reading all this comments on this website. I am definitely going to get a second opinion on my car.

- Melissa D., St.Petersburg, FL, US

problem #17

Dec 072010

Accord Sedan 3.0

  • Automatic transmission
  • 81,000 miles

Driving on the freeway on 12/7/10, my 2003 V6 Accord experienced a jolt as if I was rear ended and shifted to a low gear. I got off the freeway and it continued to jolt while the car was moving 40 mph and have crazy reving on the engine (5k rpm) out of nowhere.

It decelerated at least 3 times when i was slowing down before a red light, the kind of decelerating that would cause the car to be rear ended because of a sudden decrease in speed.

I turned my hazard light on and packed it near a library to return some books.

Then i attempted to go to the nearest gas station to take a look at the car. After turning the ignition on again, the car will not go in reverse. I waited 5 minutes, and it finally engaged. When i approached Kragen, the fluid levels were fine, but two lights came on. The Traction control systems light (TCS!) and the emissions error light came on.

So i switched the TCS button off before starting driving home.

Right now it's in my garage.

- vinwong44, Dublin, CA, US

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