NHTSA — Power Train: Manual Transmission Problems

CarComplaints.com Seal Of This Might Hurt

CarComplaints.com Notes: The Pontiac Vibe is the mechanical twin of the Toyota Matrix.

Both models were a joint GM-Toyota venture, manufactured together at a NUMMI production facility in Fremont, CA. Only the heating & A/C systems are different.


hardly worth mentioning
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
70,511 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 Pontiac Vibe transmission problems

transmission problem

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2003 Pontiac Vibe Owner Comments

problem #18

Aug 042011

Vibe 4-cyl

  • 70,152 miles


2003 Pontiac Vibe 5-speed. Transmission bearings failed, causing the transmission to grind itself up and strand the car. Fluid changed every 30K miles. First transmission died at 70K miles and the second one now died at 110K miles. Third transmission getting installed to correct a faulty design. Buying a brand new one this time and it has cost me thousands of dollars so far.

- Middletown, CT, USA

problem #17

Dec 152009


  • 110,000 miles
Grinding noise began to occur under vehicle. Upon investigation in online forums, many other Toyota matrix and Pontiac Vibe owners had the exact same experience resulting in total transmission failure caused by a defective main shaft bearing.

- Edgerton, WI, USA

problem #16

Dec 302009


  • 62,000 miles
A slight noise was detected in the vehicle. The noise worsened over the course of a 800-mile trip. The nose was a rhythmic sound that was detectable when the transmission was in gear. The car was towed to a transmission repair shop for diagnosis and repair. The mechanics were familiar with similar problems on this model year car with this transmission. Upon inspection, they found a cluster shaft bearing was destroyed. We were lucky and had stopped driving the car soon enough that there was no collateral damage in the transmission. Had we continued to drive the car, it is likely the bearing would have been totally destroyed sending balls and fragments into the transmission. Ultimately, this could have caused extensive damage to internal components of the transmission which, in a worst case situation, could have caused the transmission to seize. Had the transmission seized while traveling at highway speeds, a crash would have been likely. Once the damaged cluster shaft bearing was found in our transmission, it was replaced with a new part. The transmission was reassembled and returned to service.

- Brighton, MI, USA

problem #15

Apr 012007


  • 98,812 miles


Catastrophic transmission failure on 2003 Pontiac Vibe (5 speed manual transmission) resulted in difficult vehicle control while pulling to the side of I-95. Mechanic diagnosed as due to faulty bearing in transmission. Correlates with many reports in online forums of same vehicle having transmission failure at approximately 100,00 +/- 20,000 miles.

- New London, CT, USA

problem #14

Nov 202007


  • 82,000 miles
Pontiac Vibe with about 80,000 miles. I was driving at about 35 mph when the transmission seized causing the front wheels to lock and the car to loose control temporarily. Luckily no injuries due to lack of speed and traffic situation. I made several complaints to General Motors, and they made no offer to fix the problem. The local GM dealer wanted $3500 to do the repair. I did not have that money, so I opted to by a used transmission and have a local shop install it for a total of $1300. I do not have the broken transmission anymore. I now have about 140,000 miles on the car and the transmission is seized again. I have not repaired the vehicle. My concern is that someone is going to be killed as a result of on of these transmissions seizing and causing the car to loose control into oncoming traffic. I have heard of many other people with the same issues. Please act before someone is seriously hurt.

- Sandpoint, ID, USA

problem #13

Nov 192009


  • 110,000 miles
While driving my 2003 Pontiac Vibe on the freeway the manual transmission froze up causing sudden deceleration and the engine to die. I briefly loss control of the vehicle and narrowly avoided an accident before getting the car to the side of the road. The dealer inspected the transmission and described it as a catastrophic failure of the transmission. This transmission failure issue is apparently a known issue with 2003 transmissions made by Toyota in Pontiac Vibes and matrix.

- Cross Plains, WI, USA

problem #12

Apr 252009


  • 155,000 miles


Trans went out again, this time after 55,000 miles. Currently 158,000 miles on car and have to replace with a 3rd trans.

- Taylor, MI, USA

problem #11

Jun 032008


  • 103,000 miles
2003 5 speed trans went out at 103,000 miles after I was told was due to faulty bearings.

- Taylor, MI, USA

problem #10

Aug 152008


  • 58,030 miles
With no advance warning, manual transmission catastrophically failed on interstate highway. Vehicle jerked to stop and was unable to be driven. Mechanic found a broken transmission drum requiring complete transmission repair.

- Moreland Hills, OH, USA

problem #9

Dec 242006


  • 82,000 miles
We have a 2003 Pontiac Vibe with the standard 5-speed transmission. Routine maintenance was performed (by myself, not the dealer). Transmission had to be replaced at roughly 82,000 miles. Yes, this really ruined our christmas in 2006 as it happened on christmas eve with my wife and (then) 2 year old daughter in the car. Yes, it really stunk that it was just enough out of warranty to not give us any protection. Here's a funny thing, though, that I thought was interesting. When we went to get the car after being repaired (at a little country garage in the middle of nowhere) the mechanic told us that he had the exact same problem the previous month with another Pontiac Vibe with the 5 speed transmission. Strange coincidence in a town where the population is less than 2000, I think. What are the chances? we had the transmission replaced to the tune of $3000 and still have the old one- thinking that it was just a matter of time until a recall was placed on this faulty transmission.

- Friendsville, PA, USA

problem #8

Jun 152008


  • 100,000 miles


My 2003 Pontiac Vibe (Toyota matrix sister vehicle) tranmission failed. After researching this problem, I discovered this is a very common problem related to a defective output bearing in many/all 2003/2004 Vibe/matrix vehicles equiped with 5 speed manual transmissions. This is not is not a high volumn vehicle or common configuration but discussions on the internet lead me to believe Toyota and GM are ignoring a major (expensive) vehicle recall incident. Please investigate. Thank you for your time and assistance.

- Howell, MI, USA

problem #7

Dec 232007

Vibe 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 86,700 miles
We were driving to my parents home for the christmas holiday. On the interstate, in fifth gear, at a speed of 65 to 70 miles/hr, the car started making a high whining sound which was immediately followed by a clunk and grinding noise. We pulled over. Nothing was visible. We limped to the exit and had the car towed. Upon inspection, the rear pinion shaft bearing had failed in the transmission, ruining the rear case assembly, pinion shaft and both fifth gears. Both fifth gears had broken teeth and were replaced. The initial replacement set of 5th gears was defective and had to be replaced ( the transmission jumped out of 5th gear). The second replacement set was installed and found to be the wrong ratio and had to be reordered. The third set of replacement fifth gears was installed on Feb. 12th 2008 and seems to be working correctly as of today. The whole process took 7 weeks to complete.

- Walnut Cove, NC, USA

problem #6

Jan 012008


  • Manual transmission
  • miles
2003 Pontiac Vibe with manual transmission failure. Consumer stated that the transmission failed in the middle of the intersection. She would like reimbursement because a used transmission will cost her about $2,000.

- Decorah, IA, USA

problem #5

Oct 082007

Vibe 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 58,500 miles
My 2003 Pontiac Vibe manual transmission failed at 58,000 miles. The car started making a clunking noise. Two blocks later it came to a dead stop in the middle of an intersection and could not be pushed out of the way. This is a potentially fatal problem if this had happened on a highway. Pontiac will not acknowledge a problem. This is the same car as a Toyota matrix. There are many, many incidents of both matrixes and Vibes with manual transmission failures at low mileage.

- Decorah, IA, USA

problem #4

Oct 262006

Vibe 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 51,000 miles
Clutch on 2003 Pontiac Vibe GT burned out at 52,000 miles. Parts were not covered under warranty. After 2 weeks at dealer for repairs, I picked the car up and it was not shifting properly. Returned car to dealer. The second clutch they installed in car was defective. The third clutch was ok, but car is still not shifting correctly. Called Pontiac about the problem. They said I should check with the dealer about any problems with transmissions. The dealer said that they had no factory warning about the problem. Clearly there is a problem with the clutch fly wheels.

- Saddle Brook, NJ, USA

problem #3

Feb 272005

Vibe 4WD 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 29,000 miles
Clutch began slipping in fall 2004. I purchased vehicle in December 2002 with 325 miles on it. Sold to me as new with full bumper to bumper warranty, that of course excluded brake pads and clutch liner. I driver with almost 30 years experience of manual transmission. This is my 4th vehicle with manual transmission. Took vehicle to dealer after being advised in March 2005 that vehicle couldn't pass NY state inspection due to clutch problem. Inspector would not even hook it up to machine. Of course dealer service said they never heard a noise or any vehicle needing clutch replacement at 30000 miles. They would not absorb cost, and I had to replace to the tune of $1300 after their generous discount of 10%. after I complained about original quoted price of nearly $1500. I say this, without sarcasm, they were very nice, just wouldn't allow warranty coverage. It should be noted that when I first purchased this vehicle it was after having a different one overnight that I drove off the lot with less than 15 miles on odometer that exhibited problems shifting from 2nd to 3rd gear. Dealer tried to say it just needed an adjustment, but I refused to keep the car, and had service manager at that time check vehicle. He admitted that it was a defective transmission problem, and the dealership replaced the vehicle when I refused repair. That service manager is no longer with that dealership, so I had no way to collaborate this information without going back to sales. I am halfway through a four year lease. Did not drive much between November and February 2003 as I have another vehicle.

- Staten Island, NY, USA

problem #2

Sep 242003

Vibe 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 13,000 miles
I have a 2003 Pontiac Vibe GT and am experiencing a manual transmission problem. I have noticed a rattling/grinding noise coming from the gearbox that began at approximately 13K miles. The noise sounds like a grinding sound or something loose in the gearbox on decelerating or constant speeds in first, second, third and forth gears. When the clutch pedal is depressed, the grinding/rattling noise goes away. The noise can be replicated by keeping the engine speed at 1600 RPM's I sent a fax to the service manager of parks automotive group, Inc on 09/23/2003 describing the gearbox problem in detail and I spoke with him via the telephone. He assured me the problem would be addressed. I brought the vehicle to parks automotive group, Inc on 09/24/2003 at 0740 hours. The service department at 0945 hours contacted me and they stated they found the problem and it was fixed. The service rep stated the problem was with a loose clip. The service manager stated they found cargo fastner clips in the rear cargo area that were the cause of the noise. The service manager stated they heard the noise from the gearbox when the car was in neutral and it was normal. The service manager stated the vehicle was test driven by two people after the cargo fastner clips were removed and the noise was gone. I spoke with a Pontiac customer service representive on 09/25/2003. The service rep contacted the service manager in regards to the problem and was told the same diagnosis. The service rep agreed with me their diagnosis is not logical for a noise coming from the gearbox. The noise was not caused by cargo fastner clips located in the trunk. In regards to the cargo fastner clips they have been removed since September 2002; the clips screw into a rail on the floor of the trunk and come with straps to secure cargo in the trunk. Since picking up the vehicle from parks automotive group, Inc on 09/24/2003, the noise from the gearbox still exists and nothing was repaired by the dealership.

- Port Royal, SC, USA

problem #1

Nov 062002

(reported on)


  • miles
Consumer called complaining about the transmission also describes that while the gear is on park the vehiicle will roll. Dealer stated that there was nothing wrong with the vehicle.

- Bridgewater, NJ, USA

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