definitely annoying
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
40,697 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 Hyundai Santa Fe transmission problems

transmission problem

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2003 Hyundai Santa Fe Owner Comments

problem #20

Jul 262011

Santa Fe

  • 120,000 miles


Car jerks violently when at highway speed even though it has new shocks, struts, and front drive axles. The transmission also seems to engage suddenly when moving forward from complete stop. Regular maint. And transmission inspection performed.

- North Hollywood, CA, USA

problem #19

May 012009

Santa Fe 4-cyl

  • 64,400 miles
I purchased a used 2003 Hyundai Santa Fe in December 2008. The vehicle operated well for six months. Suddenly, while driving on the freeway one day, the car began to jerk. The problem went away for two months, then returned more violently with the vehicle turning off while at stops and driving in traffic, even at 35 to 40 mph. I noticed the RPM's drop suddenly when the car jerks. However, the check engine light doesn't come on, and neither do any other indicators that something is wrong with the vehicle. I have paid to get the crankshaft sensor and coils repaired on the car, but the problem still persists. After almost three years of having the vehicle, which I am still paying off to the finance company, the car still jerks while driving even at 30 mph within in a 2 mile radius of my home. I have to drive the vehicle slowly, without accelerating and sudden stops to keep the jerking to a minimum. I have called Hyundai usa about the problem, but they cannot do anything because I no longer have the warranty, since I am the second owner. The Hyundai dealership cannot pinpoint the problem and neither can other mechanic shops. I am practically paying for a car that doesn't work! I have seen that there are several other owners who have this problem, and have heard that there was a recall in Canada about the same issue on the car jerking, but not in the United States. I seriously believe there needs to be a recall for this same problem here in the U.S. before a serious accident occurs, such as with Toyota vehicles.

- Chula Vista, CA, USA

problem #18

Dec 182010

Santa Fe 6-cyl

  • 66,000 miles
From time to time, my 2003 Hyundai Santa Fe with an automatic transmission jerks violently while under normal operating conditions. Sometimes this occurs while traveling at a steady speed (around 40 mph) and sometimes it happens just after I resume acceleration after lifting off of the accelerator (coasting). I really have to 'baby' the accelerator all of the time or this would happen much more often. There is a definite problem here, which could potentially cause harm to myself and others on the road. Unfortunately, I know that nothing will ever be done to correct or address this problem.

- Houston, TX, USA

problem #17

Nov 132010

Santa Fe 6-cyl

  • 37,000 miles


I have a 2003 Hyundai sante fe and I have had continual transmission problems since I bought it in 2004. My first encounter started around 37,000 miles, the vehicle began to slip/hesitate while driving on the road. The dealer couldn't find the problem three separate times. I tolerated the nuisance for about a yr until one day I was driving and the transmission 'got stuck'! I had to drive home in first gear for 15 miles! the dealer couldn't re-enact it, but definitely charged me $1800 to flush the transmission, amongst various other 'part replacements'. the problem seemed to 'disappear' for about 4 mths and it started again! transmission would jerk, skip and miss no matter what speed I was going, but then disappear.. it was moody and intermittent, not constant and dangerous. The dealer still couldn't find the problem! then one day I placed the vehicle into reverse and it jerked back hard!! my head was close to hitting the steering wheel. At first I thought the vehicle was struck by another vehicle, but soon realized that it was the transmission because it began to squeal and whine! the serpentine belt and the crankshaft pulley were replaced and the problem seemed to be corrected. Just two months later, I was stranded on the highway, again, without any forewarning! I was driving my son to school and all of a sudden, the tranny didn't want to go into gear, again, and it jerked a few seconds after it slipped. I had to creep my way home by driving about 500-750 ft and then the tranny slipped and violently jerked, put vehicle in reverse a few times and then tried again. Ever since I began to have these problems when I first bought the car I have been searching online and following the large amount of similar and worse complaints regarding the same problems. I am surprised that this problem has not been addressed and further looked into. Please, research this.. please investigate this type of problem, please.

- Lady Lake, FL, USA

problem #16

Apr 232009

Santa Fe

  • 28,546 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Hyundai Santa Fe. The contact stated that when the vehicle was parked and he attempted to accelerate, the transmission malfunctioned and the vehicle lunged forward; the duplicate failure occurred when he shifts to reverse gear. The failure occurred intermittently after the vehicle was parked and then restarted. The dealer stated that the diagnostic test did not indicate any error codes. He called the manufacturer three times and was instructed to take the vehicle to the dealer and if there were no codes, he would have to pay the repair expense. The current mileage was approximately 32,100. The failure mileage was 28,546.

- Brooklyn, NY, USA

problem #15

Jan 082009

Santa Fe

  • miles
I had great difficulty controlling the steering of my car. I took it to the dealer where they said they found nothing wrong. In January of this year during a snow storm I actually ran off the highway and down a slight slope. I then took my car to my repair shop where a corroded and bent training arm was discovered and replaced. I am now in the midst of a rebate from the company as the car was recalled for that particular part. When I took the car to have it checked for this defect I was told that the other trailing arm was not corroded enough to be replaced and that it would be sprayed to protect it from further damage. I am not comfortable at all with this remedy as I am now hearing the same noise from the left side as I heard from the right side when the problem began. Why can't the company do the right thing fix these problems so that those of us who drive Hyundai products can feel safe. Yours truly, marie E. enwright

- Vernon, CT, USA

problem #14

Dec 152006

Santa Fe

  • 46,000 miles


Since buying my car used in 2006, my 2003 Hyundai Santa Fe slips out of gear and violently jerks. On the highway it scares one half to death. And I see that there are many other complaints of this problem along with the vehicle stopping altogether. This problem happens so intermittently without an engine check light, that I knew a dealership would not be able to find a problem. Now the vehicle won't shift out of first gear.

- Venice, FL, USA

problem #13

Jan 022009

Santa Fe 4-cyl

  • 71,000 miles
My Hyundai Santa Fe 2003, 4 cylinder, 2.4 liter engine stalled 4 times. Engine light came on. I took it to service diagnosed with crank precision sensor. No covered under warranty. Doing research I found out that the 2001 and 2002 was recalled for this matter. Also found out that many 2003's are having the same problem. Also I find it disturbing that Hyundai wont cover this because it is and electronic part but the engine can just stall at any moment. Because it was recalled 2yrs prior should raise a red flag. I will be calling Hyundai Corp. Thank you soraya garcia

- Fairfield, CT, USA

problem #12

Aug 082008

Santa Fe

  • 41,000 miles
My 2003 hyuandai sante fe stalls anytime the crankshaft position sensor gets hot (at least this is what the service manager [Mr. Labese] at john amato auto - milwaukee, Wisconsin explains). I've had countless close call vehicle accidents and I have taken my vehicle in to be repaired only to have the vehicle stall over and over again even after the part above was replaced. This is very dangerous and very unsafe I have been very lucky to this point!

- Milwaukee, WI, USA

problem #11

Dec 012007

Santa Fe

  • Automatic transmission
  • 85,000 miles
I bought a used 2003 Hyundai Santa Fe about two years ago. The vehicle jerks when changing gears, actually lurches forward. I looked online to see if anyone else had this problem and there was a huge list. I think there needs to be a recall done for the transmission.

- Greenville, MI, USA

problem #10

Nov 302006

Santa Fe 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 47,896 miles


At approximately 47,000 miles, check engine light came on. In addition, vehicle experienced a sudden occasional jump in idle to 3000 RPM+ while in park and drive after three minutes or so of operation. While in drive, vehicle lunges dangerously forward. When this occurs, ignition is turned off, and restart takes several attempts. After restarting, the vehicle will sputter and refuse to accelerate normally for 30-60 seconds. Vehicle also stalls occasionally after 3 minutes or so of use when accelerating from a full stop. Vehicle was brought to napelton Hyundai, West palm beach, fl on Nov 30. Crankshaft position sensor and camshaft sensor were replaced. Before leaving dealership with service manager present and automatic transmission in park, vehicle idle suddenly spiked to 4,200 RPM. I was told dealer was closed, and to drive it home. On December 5, vehicle again stalled again in traffic at intersection almost causing a collision. After restarting, it refused to accelerate normally for 30-60 seconds. Vehicle was towed to back to napelton Hyundai because both the stalling and sudden acceleration are serious concerns that make this Santa Fe unsafe to operate. The service manager agreed fully that the vehicle was unsafe to drive. On Dec 20 I was advised that the vehicle was not repaired because attempts to duplicate the problems were unsuccessful. I was told to pick it up and drive it. I refused to do so. Napelton had over 20 days to detect and correct these major safety issues, and I will not drive Hyundai's failure into an accident. A review of NHTSA defects reported for this Santa Fe for 2003-2005 model years reveals over 40 similar incidents, some involving collision and injury. These are categorized under several different components including vehicle speed control, electrical system, vehicle speed control: Accelerator pedal, other, power train: Automatic transmission, and equipment. Perhaps the Santa Fe's can be recalled before deaths result.

- Palm Beach Gardens, FL, USA

problem #9

Nov 212006

Santa Fe 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 97,000 miles
This vehicle (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe) started having transmission problems just be for the warranty expired (100,000 miles), but we were told at the dealer that the warranty did not cover the power train system. So we paid to have some work done. But just today we woke up and went out to use the vehicle, and it will not go in gear, will not in neutral so we can move it or push it. It's just locked up, (fluid leaves are ok) if this were to happen to any one with this kind of vehicle in traffic it could be traffic problem. I do know others who own this kind of vehicle and do not have any problems, but I also know of one individual that has had transmission problems with theirs. So I'm just concerned on if I am the only person with this problem or if their are others, and why if they offer a 100,000 mi. Warranty dose it not cover the drive train? this dose not make sense to me. One very unhappy vehicle owner. P.S. this vehicle is registered to my wife, and her llc.

- Sheboygan Falls, WI, USA

problem #8

Sep 092006

Santa Fe 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
My 2003 Hyundai Santa Fe with an automatic transmission, started to shift differently. It would buck when shifting into a higher gear, if I attempted to go up a steep hill, the vehicle would lose all power and the check engine light would come on. I took it to a dealer, they replaced a sensor, said the vehicle would be fine. I drove it home only to have it still shift with a buck. I took the vehicle back to the dealer only to be told, after they kept it overnight, that it would need a $2800 transmission replacement. Of course, being a second owner, the warranty ran out at 60K.

- Arlington, VT, USA

problem #7

May 162006

Santa Fe 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Grinding sound from transmission of 2003 Hyundai sante fe.

- Zyzzx Springs, CA, USA

problem #6

Feb 102006

Santa Fe 4WD

  • Automatic transmission
  • 25 miles
On many occasions our 2003 Santa Fe has a problem with the transmission slipping and then violently jerking or catching back into gear, causing passengers to be slammed forward and backward in the vehicle. This occurs at anywhere from 20-65 mph and happens randomly. Has been taken to the dealership on 2 separate occasions with the exact same results - could not duplicate complaint.

- Crane, MO, USA

problem #5

Jul 112005

Santa Fe 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 57,000 miles
My 2003 santafe has an idle problem. It feels like it might stall when I'm sitting at a red light. This happens intermittenly and their is no code in the computer so they say they can't replace any parts. The car has bucked about 5 or 6 times over the last 2 months while I'm driving down the interstate at about 70mph. It's been to the dealer 3 times and they can not find the problem. I'm ready to get rid of the car because of frustration.

- New Lebanon, NY, USA

problem #4

Feb 062005

Santa Fe 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 33,000 miles
Recently, my 2003 Santa Fe has had a grinding/whinning/rubbing noise when I take off at low speeds. Sounds like might be transmission, wheel bearing or pulley, but not sure. Took vehicle to dealship and his analysis was that the noise was coming from the idler pulley. Ordered new pulley and will replace when it comes in. This noise would come and go at speeds between 5 - 25 mph and would last for several seconds up to a minute.

- Harrah, OK, USA

problem #3

Feb 112005

Santa Fe 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 1,000 miles
On many occasions our 2003 Santa Fe has a problem with the transmission slipping and then violently jerking or catching back into gear, causing passengers to be slammed forward and backward in the vehicle. This occurs at anywhere from 20-65 mph and happens randomly. Has been taken to the dealership on 3 separate occassions with the exact same results - could not duplicate complaint.

- Harrah, OK, USA

problem #2

Feb 072004

Santa Fe 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 19,000 miles
A crack in the windshield appeared one day. Nothing had hit the windshield. It is a small arc on the drivers side about 3" from the bottom of the windshield. When I brought it to the dealership they said that something hit it and the heat inside the car caused it to crack. The place where they said something hit the windshield only the point of a pin could fit in. I know nothing hit it. One a few occasions I have noticed a grinding sound coming from the transmission. I also have had the ABS engage when the breaks were not being applied and the road surface dry. There wasn't a reason for them to engage.

- Derry, NH, USA

problem #1

Jun 212003

Santa Fe 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65 miles
I took possession of a brand-new Hyundai Santa Fe (2003 - 25 miles on odometer) on Friday, June 20, 2003. Saturday, June 21,2003 I took the car out for a drive. Driving at 35 miles mph the transmission shifted (by it self) out of "drive (D") into...? (neutral, I'm guessing by the revving of the engine). The car rolled slowly due to its own forward momentum, however, pressing on accelerator succeeding in only revving up the engine - "drive" refused to engage. Several attempts were futile. I shut the car down (after limping to the side of a 6-lane road in traffic!). waited a few moments (perhaps a minute or two) and restarted the car. The transmission once more would not engage into drive. I shut the car down again and waited a little longer (perhaps two -three minutes) and started it again. This time the transmission engaged and I drove it home - very carefully! I contacted the dealership (keyes Hyundai in van nuys) and had the car flatbed towed to the dealership. I have no idea what the outcome will be. I have to wait until Monday, June 23 at 7:30A.M. (pst) for their service department to open. Meantime - I have a brand new car that has spent one day in my physical possession and will have spent over 72 hours sitting in the dealerships service bay!

- Granada Hills, CA, USA

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