really awful
Crashes / Fires:
5 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
3 / 0
Average Mileage:
63,235 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 Civic transmission problems

transmission problem

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2003 Honda Civic Owner Comments (Page 1 of 4)

problem #72

May 032011


  • 85,800 miles


Honda Civic hybrid 2003 with cvt transmission, it shudders and vibrates entire car when accelerating slowly. Also in neutral it hesitates going in reverse. I am requesting a recall as I see many having this problem on the web. Honda claims the car has no problems and that is the engine lurking forward.

- Browns Mills, NJ, USA

problem #71

May 102011

Civic 4-cyl

  • 119,000 miles
Have an 03 Civic hybrid with cvt transmission. I got it certified used at about 36,000 miles and it was supposed to have fresh trans fluid and I believe it did. The powertrain is warranted to 100,000 miles since it was certified used. I am at 74,000 now. At about 66,000, when it should have been due for it's transmission fluid change, it was making a slipping/grinding sound when starting off, especially on a hill. It had previously been very smooth and quiet. It gradually became a problem. It was not all of a sudden. It was hard to know for sure that it was not my imagination, except for it being real obvious on an incline and it was getting worse. The dealer's mechanic heard the sound, too, and said let's start with the fluid change it was due for. The change made it great again, but only for a few thousand miles. When I went back they said they had learned about a process called burnishing the transmission band. I believe they put their foot on the brake while putting on the gas, almost to the point of stalling (I think) to clean up the band. Mine would be the 2nd car they would do it on. It also requires a change of fluid after because it is supposed to take the crud from the parts and put it into the fluid. They did it for free since I had already asked them to work on this problem, and I had paid for the fluid change to fix the same problem. Again, after their work it was nice and quiet and smooth, but about 3,000 miles later it is coming back again. I don¿T know if their process did anything, or if it was just the fresh fluid that helped like it did the first time. I am concerned repetitions of the process might decrease the life of the transmission. The best outcome for me would probably be a complete transmission failure at 99,000 miles because then I can get a new one. Anybody having similar problems?

- Rhode Island, RI, USA

problem #70

Jan 192010

Civic 4-cyl

  • 72,000 miles
Vehicle is losing power on acceleration at random moments.

- Los Angeles, CA, USA

problem #69

Aug 012010

Civic 4-cyl

  • 84,000 miles


1. )I bought my used 2003 Honda Civic LX almost a year ago and about 3 months later, the transmission started to have issues. I hear it is a very common problem with this model for the torque converter to fail. Every time my car is about to shift, the rpms jump very high, and then pulls back hard when the transmission shifts. This occurs every single time a drive and has gotten worse over time. I travel 2 hours every week to visit my girlfriend and I am afraid the transmission will fail while I am driving 70mph leaving me in the dust...or worse. Honda has recalled vehicles with similar problems at or around the year of my vehicle, but for whatever reason (money) they did not recall mine. The failure has yet to be fixed as I can't afford to fix the issue.

- Columbus, OH, USA

problem #68

Mar 052011

Civic 4-cyl

  • 42,000 miles
My 2003 Honda Civic hybrid with cvt transmission suddenly lost all the power while I was driving and the car behind me almost crashed into my car. Soon I found out it's a common problem with the transmission slippage problem with the cvt transmission. I called two dealerships but they said since it's a 8 year old car the extended warranty has expired and they will not fix it for free. I believe it is a driving hazard as an accident almost happened to me, and Honda is liable to recall theiir cvt transmission on Honda Civic hybrid.

- Milpitas, CA, USA

problem #67

Apr 012008


  • miles
Every time I accelerate from a complete stop, my vehicle makes a juddering/vibrating noise. A service bulletin was issued by Honda in 2008 for this very concern, which turned out to be the start clutch. Honda burnished my clutch twice and the problem was resolved, until the same problem came up about 15,000 miles later. I am no longer under warranty for it. I had my clutch burnished again today (cost me $150), but that did not resolve the issue. I was told that I will need to replace the start clutch, which will cost about $1500 with labor. If this does not get repaired, my transmission could fail completely, and at any time. Long story short, it is quite obvious that the start clutches in 2003 Honda Civic hybrids are defective.

- Saint Paul, MN, USA

problem #66

Jan 142011

Civic 4-cyl

  • 130,000 miles


Drive belt in my 2003 Honda Civic hybrid broke all of sudden with no warning while driving. Could have been very dangerous if I was traveling at a high speed. Luckily was traveling at very low speed. Vehicle has always been serviced at Honda dealership and is up to date, they have no explanation how this occurred and Honda is not willing to help fix the issue, I have been told new cvt transmission is needed. They had extended the warranty because so many complaints received, but mine expired 11 months ago. Honda should have done a recall with this issue! it is a safety hazard and they are sweeping it under the rug and wont correct their faulty cvt transmissions.

- Hilliard, OH, USA

problem #65

Dec 262010


  • 85,000 miles
Transmission will slip causing the car to shudder / shake, acceleration will not occur when needed. Problem is especially bad starting from 0 mph up a hill, or when 2 or more passengers are in the car. Dealer will not offer the recall, although the same problem has been addressed in Japan, as they have sent out a recall for the same issue overseas.

- Midlothian, VA, USA

problem #64

Jul 262005


  • 40,440 miles
My 2003 Honda Civic hybrid has a history of the transmission/car shuddering and slipping during acceleration. This has been occurring regularly since July 26, 2005 at 40,440 miles. On one occasion after having the clutch replaced, transmission fluid sprayed all over the engine and manifold while traveling down the interstate which would have caused the fatality or serious injury of my son driving the car had it ignited. The spokesman at the Honda dealer in portland Oregon said my son was very lucky not to be engulfed in flames. Since this occurrence, the shuddering issue has continued requiring regular trips to the Honda dealer. Each Honda service representative I have complained to have said there is nothing they can do because Honda of America has not authorized a fix to the defect other then to burnish the start cluth and change the transmission fluid. This has only been a band aid fix which hasn't worked for some time now, but originally used to work for about 2-3 thousand miles at which point the problem re-occurred. This is clearly a defective product and Honda is using a band aid approach to mask this serious defect until the warranty has expired, at which point, they quickly say the transmission needs to be replaced with a new one at the owners expense (approx $3,400 to $4,000 dollars). Honda of America claims to have fixed the problem in their new transmissions but they have not been willing to use this fix on existing cars like mine until the warranty expires. I have actually been told this by Honda representatives. All this is despite a safety recall for this very same problem in Japan, india, and indonesia. Please investigate why Honda of America has not been held accountable for this serious defect in their Honda Civic hybrid 2003 cvt transmissions.

- Maple Valley, WA, USA

problem #63

Oct 042010


  • 124,000 miles
The transmission suddenly fails every 30-40K miles creating a traffic hazard that will result in a crash without warning. Also, the ima battery does not hold a sufficient charge creating a loss in power and a possible accident.

- Walnut Creek, CA, USA

problem #62

Oct 012010


  • miles


2003 Civic hybrid with cvt has transmission issues. Upon accelerating from a stop (even slight acceleration), the whole car will shudder and harsh slipping feel will start until the car gets moving a bit. Far worse when starting on an incline from a stop. Honda replaced my transmission while under warranty at about 40K miles, but it quickly began having the same issue at around 70K miles and has been having the issue ever since. Getting a transmission fluid change helped a bit, but it is costly to continue changing that fluid at earlier than the manual recommended 30K mile intervals.

- Annandale, VA, USA

problem #61

Sep 172010


  • 101,360 miles
Transmission failure. There is a vibration and forward jolt during take off from a stop. Honda extended the warranty but I pass it by one year. They recalled the transmissions in Japan but fail to accept responsibility in the us. They suggested performing "burnishing" and it should last another 20K miles. I had this done two days ago at the dealership and can still feel the vibration and jolt. Honda used this transmission for the 03 and 04 Civic hybrids and fail to accept responsibility for their error and now thousands of owners, including myself, will be forced to purchase another vehicle because the repair cost in $4500 and there is a 6-week waiting period. This is irresponsible of Honda to place this burden on their customers, especially in this recession, because they put out a faulty product. It is said that you have to have lives taken, such as the Toyota recall, for a us company to admit and correct a mistake they made in their design.

- El Segundo, CA, USA

problem #60

Nov 012009


  • 150,000 miles
The transmission for my Honda Civic hybrid is failing. It's now at about 170,000 but the problems I've been experiencing have been occurring since I bought the car. The problems have to do with bucking on acceleration, juddering on acceleration, and the car moving in reverse when the gear is in drive and now a noise is coming from inside the transmission. I purchased this care new in 2003 and have been taking it in for service every 10K mi. This is my first car so I thought the "bucking", juddering and "reversing while in drive" was by design, but it wasn't until years later that I googled my car and noticed other people had similar problems. Just google "Civic hybrid transmission". I'm now faced with paying almost 4000 to replace my transmission. Interestingly, there have been transmission complaints for other Honda products of the same year (Acura TL, Honda Accord). I really think there's a flaw in transmission components of at least some Honda models from the 2002-2006 production year.

- New York, NY, USA

problem #59

Apr 022010


  • 122,899 miles
2003 Honda Civic hybrid purchased at 66,000 miles at 90,359 miles slight shutter/judder when moving from a complete stop. Honda diagnosed (04/08)cvt for judder. Added one start clutch burnishing procedure/add two start clutch burnishing as a recall service. Now same problem again. Now at 120,000 miles experiencing same problem vehicle slips, shudders on take off from full stop. Repair will be $1200 to replace start clutch. When starting from a dead stop I hope the vehicle will move. I have to really press down on the gas petal to get the vehicle going and I do think this is a safety hazard with my vehicle. Had the egr valve changed at $400 repair(0708).

- Edwards, MS, USA

problem #58

May 152007


  • 75,000 miles
I have a Honda Civic hybrid 2003. I bought it used at 63,000 miles. For the first 10,000 miles, I had no problems. Then a slight shudder started to happen each time I moved the car from a stop, especially when on an inclined hill. I took it to the dealership, where they flushed the transmission, which they said was completely black. A few months later, the problem returned. This time they did a transmission flush and a "burnishing' process. The problem returned again in a few months, and I had the process repeated. Finally I read online that many others were having similar problems. I got Honda to partially pay for a replacement starter clutch. The problem went away for a few months, then returned. Now I am paying for a second starter clutch because the shudder is worse than ever.

- Dorchester, MA, USA

problem #57

Mar 122010


  • 59,000 miles
2003 Honda Civic hybrid- starter clutch has failed at 57,000 miles. Car surges unexpectedly. Must have it replaced or will adversely affect safe driving of the vehicle.

- Seattle, WA, USA

problem #56

Mar 202009


  • 47,000 miles
I feel a big jerk when decelerate my car from 70miles/hour with my foot off the gas pedal. There has been no accident but I feel that if the car breaks down as a result of this jerk or if the jerk is strong enough, then I may run into some accident. The problem is intermittent. I took the care to Honda dealer, but the problem didn't happen during test drive. A lot of people are having the same issue with this model. It looks like a manufacturing defect. Car detail: Honda Civic hybrid 2003. It's an ongoing problem.

- Fremont, CA, USA

problem #55

Jan 272008


  • 56,000 miles
I purchased the car used in 2006 with 21,000 miles. The transmission failed at 56,000 miles (1/27/08). Told needed transmission overhaul. The transmission also failed again at 89,000 (2/4/09) miles, requiring another transmission overhaul. 6 months later experiencing similar symptoms (shuddering/shake/vibration between 30-50 mph) as before took it to aamco to get an outside opinion and I am told the torque converter is failing and if not replaced will cause transmission failure once again. The car currently has 124,000 miles on it. So much for Honda reliability.

- Barrington, RI, USA

problem #54

Oct 152008


  • 80,000 miles
Honda Civic hybrids with the cvt transmission develop what Honda refers to as a judder. What is actually happening is the "start clutch" in the transmission slips during take off from a stop and causes the car to judder or shake. When this happens in any condition other than perfectly dry roads you can temporarily lose control of the vehicle because the vehicle is front wheel drive and the front wheels can lose traction and spin. I have even had this happen when the front tires are sitting on the painted white line found at most intersections. Honda is very aware of the problem. There are thousands of complaints documented online, yet Honda has been very reluctant to properly address the situation. Honda claims this is not a safety issue, but I have temporarily lost control of my car on wet roads several times. I can't imagine trying to drive one in the snow. Here are a couple of links that will take you to discussion groups about this problem. townhall-talk.edmunds.com/direct/ view/.F0B3259/262 www.cngchat.com/forum/showthread.php? 266-2001-2005-cvt-transmission-warranty-extension-for-slip-judder Honda has extended the warranty period for this problem. In my specific case they kept ignoring my request to rebuild the transmission until I was beyond the extended warranty. In my case I filed a complaint with Honda american and negotiated to split the cost with them. There are a lot of people out there who have not been so lucky and have had to pay in full for the repairs.

- Lake Alfred, FL, USA

problem #53

Jan 222010


  • 76,000 miles
Transmission on 2003 Honda Civic stopped working on the highway in the middle of the night (about 11:30pm on a Friday night). This is a safety issue, because what if I was rear-ended by someone on the highway & I and a friend (girls) were alone in the car at night & if I had been unable to get home, we would have been susceptible to attack by late-night miscreants - we were on our way home from a church youth meeting - since we were in the middle on the highway in queens, NY. I was able to feel something was wrong & maneuver the car over where we collided with the curb and managed to get the car off the road, but it died with the corner of the rear, driver's side bumper sticking out onto the highway where it could have potentially been hit by another car.

- South Ozone Park, NY, USA

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