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really awful
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
96,250 miles
Total Complaints:
17 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. transmission and clutch assembly has to be replaced (12 reports)
  2. replaced transmission bearing (2 reports)
  3. the transaxle must be replaced (2 reports)
  4. not sure (1 reports)
2003 Toyota Corolla transmission problems

transmission problem

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2003 Toyota Corolla Owner Comments

problem #17

Oct 012006

Corolla CD 1.8L

  • Manual transmission
  • 52,817 miles


I bought a new 2003 Toyota Corolla in 2003. After about 15,000 km there was a vibration while driving in 3rd gear. I had it in the shop 3 times with Toyota replacing various things which didn't fix the problem. Finally Toyota put in a brand new transmission. Fast forward a couple of years to late 2006 (85,000 km) and the drivetrain started to make a faint grinding sound. It turned out to be the differential. The transmission once again needed to be replaced. Fortunately it was still under factory warranty so it didn't cost me anything. I sold the car in 2007. Hopefully the next owner didn't have any transmission problems.

- David R., Abbotsford, BC, Canada

problem #16

Sep 022014

Corolla CE V4

  • Manual transmission
  • 73,011 miles

I truly feel that toyota knows the problem exists and they do not want to do anything about it.

I will never buy a toyota ever again.

- Frank R., Markham, Ontario, Canada

problem #15

Dec 222012

Corolla LE 1.8L

  • Manual transmission
  • 115,000 miles

Add another 03' Corolla to the list of failed transmissions. My mechanic says it has to be rebuilt or replaced. Not sure it's worth it after reading all the complaints on the internet. I now have an immaculate 03' Corolla sitting in my driveway as a monument to these crappy transmissions. I urge everyone who has had a problem with this transmission to call Toyota (1-800-331-4331) and report it. Maybe, just maybe, someone will listen.

- K. R., Quinque, VA, US

problem #14

Jan 112012


  • Manual transmission
  • 106,072 miles



Update from Jan 17, 2012: The car was serviced regularly, and the transmission was lubricated at 60,000 miles. Not only did I have to get the transmission and clutch replaced, but the replacement had to be NEW because "no one is rebuilding Toyota transmissions", so the total bill was over $4,000!

- foxaz, Flagstaff, AZ, US

problem #13

May 272011

Corolla LE 1.8L

  • Manual transmission
  • 137,000 miles

Car has only 137,000 miles. Have noticed a noise coming from the front of the car and is getting progressively worse. Put the car on jack stands and ran car in gears, noticed loud noise coming from the transaxle. Pinpointed the loudest part of the noise at the outer end of the transaxle. Checked the oil and it was full and still gold colored. I will probably have to get the transaxle rebuilt and might as well replace the clutch also.

I am not very impressed with the longevity of the car. It has always been taken care of and never driven hard. My next car will be a Ford.

- Terry B., Murrieta, CA, US

problem #12

Oct 302009

Corolla Sport

  • Manual transmission
  • 156,586 miles

In July of 2009 I leave my husband. All I leave with is my 4 kids and my car. In Oct 2009 the trannie and differ went in the thing.So cause I had no s*ty carolla left, I lost my job.I never received and child I went without a car till March of 2010.That really SUCKED with 4 kids and alone.So when I did scrape up the cash I didn't fix the piece of s*t I went out and bought a ford windstar but that's a whole new complaint.By the way the car is still sitting in the yard at the garage.But now cause its been sitting for so long it will now need everything else so i don't even think I'm going to fix it maybe sell it for parts.I'll NEVER BUY A TOYOTA COROLLA AGAIN. ;-(

- aubinmorin, Val Des Monts, QC, canada

problem #11

Apr 022011

Corolla S 1.8L

  • Manual transmission
  • 108,000 miles


hi to all. i just got my firs toyota 2003 corolla s. nice car i havent insured yet. because the next day it would not go in gear an when it did, sounded like a grinding noise from the diff.

i was thinking is was the clutch. but something broke in the diff. this sucks. if i back up the front wont move. i had to push in my drive way with my truck and drag it cause the wheels lock up. toyota should do something about this? and if you have one of these cars be careful it does not lock on you in the freeway cause you will end up a bad accident.

- Elizardo G., Manchester, NH, US

problem #10

Jun 172010

Corolla S 1.8L

  • Manual transmission
  • 135,000 miles

A year ago my car was assessed as the wheel barring gone by the dealer ship. The care had been making a noise for about a month. I had it replaced. Car still made the noise and they could not figure out what the problem was and was told that it was nothing and to drive it. About 10 months after the date of that service I was driving my car and it made a grinding noise when going along in 5th gear and and when I pulled over and stopped the car it never went in to gear again. It will cost 3,000.00 to fix it and Toyota will only give me 1,200.00 trade in. I feel totally screwed over. I had a Toyota corolla CE before this one and had no problems. If they do not stand behind their product, I will not get this car fixed and will get a different brand. I feel that my bragging over the years of how great my toyota was has come back to bit me. Sad owner of a broken Toyota Carolla S. :-(

- Joanna M., Johnson, VT, US

problem #9

Dec 142010


  • Manual transmission
  • 93,206 miles

I hate to say, but I joined the ranks of this growing problem yesterday afternoon. I was driving on a busy highway and the car just stopped going. It seized on the right shoulder of the highway, with about 2 feet of my car hanging onto the expressway. Good times.

My mechanic looked into the problem today and he said that his transmission dealer told him that this problem is so common that he keeps the 2003 model corolla in stock!! How brutal is that?

I have dealer-maintained my car and done everything by the books. I am soooo very annoyed right now that I am facing a 2700 dollar bill for taking care of a vehicle that I thought would last. Arg.

Don't buy this vehicle. I swore up and down before that this was the best "investment" that I could have made, but now that I realize how many people have had the same issue as me, without any action on Toyota's part, I am seriously reconsidering my recommendation to anyone in the near future.

- T M., Waterloo, ON, Canada

problem #8

Nov 052010

Corolla LE 130-hp, 1.8-liter I-4

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles

This is the second time I have had this problem happen to my car. Around February last year, I had my transmission replaced with a used one which cost about $2,000. The same problem has occurred, and the 1 year warranty has expired, so I have been given the choice of a.) buying a rebuilt transmission for $3,600 or b.) buying another used transmission for about $1,600. The rebuilt one comes with a 3 year, 100,000mile warranty but it would mean that I've spent around $6,000 just on replacing transmissions.

The representative from the dealer even told me that the 2003 Corolla is notorious for having this sort of problem. I haven't decided whether I should get another transmission yet. SO much for reliability... There should do a recall on this issue. I'm not going to get another Toyota...

- Ken N., Richmond, IN, US

problem #7

Aug 242010

Corolla Sport 4 cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 98,000 miles


Well here is the story. This is the 2nd time this transmission went, the first time it broke was in August of 2008 with 98,000 miles on it. It cost us $2,300.00+ from a very good transmission repair shop( it was used with a 12 month warranty.) It is a well known problem with this year, make, model. Just try and find a used manual transmission for under 1,500.00. They are in high demand because they all break. I don't think we will fix it this time. I will update the current mileage with you all( car is at the dentist parking lot ) There are so many complaints about this on the internet that it is astonishing. We had the Catylitic Converter also fail at 83,000 miles and Toyota would not help us out at all. We just missed the warranty at 80,000 miles.

We own a 2002 Tacoma, but we will never buy Toyota ever again. A manual transmission should last 200,000 miles. At this point, I am going to have some stick on(maybe magnetic) yellow Lemons made up and put them on the Corolla when it gets towed home so everyone can see from the street as they drive by. Heck, I may even put them on my Tacoma( I work in downtown Boston) and when people ask me about the lemons I will tell my story about 2 manual transmissions gone bad in our Corolla and Toyota refusal to ever help or even admit that this is a well known problem.

- Jennifer P., Marshfield, MA, US

problem #6

Mar 012010

Corolla S

  • Manual transmission
  • 75,000 miles

My Corolla's transmission went out right at 75K. Had to replace the whole thing. I am finding more and more people with the 03 S Corolla having the same issues. I sure hope Toyota comes out and admits there was a problem.

- James P., Katy, TX, US

problem #5

Aug 012008

Corolla LE

  • Manual transmission
  • 105,000 miles

In the beginning of August 2008, my transmission stopped working. It started with a noise at about 70,000-80,000. I had a mechanic take a look at it, and there was no way to know what the noise was without ripping apart the car. So I waited. About 105,000 miles I was driving in 5th gear, heard a noise, and then soon the car wouldn't roll. Took the car to AAMCO transmissions. They said it was clearly a defective or inferior part as the bearing had gone out. I'm still in the process of getting this fixed as the bearing replacement doesn't seem to have resolved the issue. I called Toyota Motor company to start a complaint, they claim they don't see a history of complaints or have reports that it's a "problem" part, but did state if they did get complaints that it could become a recall issue and I could get reimbursed. To date I have spent $2000 on repair costs, not including rental while the car was in the shop. This has been a major pain as my mechanic shop is not even really sure how to resolve the issue 100%. At one point it was in the shop for over 30 my rental bill kept on accruing!! think....Toyota cars usually have the reputation of going and going and going!!!

- treelea, Salem, OR, US

problem #4

Jan 152009

Corolla LE

  • Manual transmission
  • 48,000 miles

It just doesn't make sense that a car with less than 50,000 miles has the transmission go.

- Leigh B., Englewood, NJ, US

problem #3

Aug 222008

Corolla S 4 cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 51,000 miles

I was 45 years old when I bought my first new car and it happened to be a Toyota Corolla 5 speed. My husband owned an old toyota for years 300K plus, my son too had an old one 250K plus. We thought this is the only way to go. This Corolla lasted just after my powertrain warranty ran out and the service man said it was my fault for not buying the extended warranty. My used FORD Taurus lasted longer than this piece of crap. This is unacceptable. They want $3600.00 dollars to repair the transmission. Then my engine blows.... no thanks. Toyota is not budging on the fact this might be a lemon. They are very defensive about it and I think Larry Miller Toyota is a pack of thieves. I am done with Toyota, I am done with Larry Miller Toyota, Phoenix Arizona. (Camelback Toyota). Oh I forgot to mention that when my husband first called to see what was wrong they did not mention the transmission. They said my brakes and my struts needed replacing. My husband said are you sure you looked at the transmission? (it makes enough noise to wake the dead)

They call back 4 hours later, oh ya, yer transmission is going out too. By the way your warranty expired 8 months ago. Shoot, I say go back to china, japan were ever it is you come from and take your plastic over priced heaps with you. Surely America can do better than this?

- mcfarlin, Phoenix, AZ, US

problem #2

Oct 092008

Corolla LE 1.8L 4 cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 105,000 miles

I am now at the point where I HATE Toyota

I was driving and heard a click in my transmission and when I stopped the car was leaking transmission fluid. I had the car moved to Aamco and the entire transmission and clutch assembly has to be replaced.

It turns out that there was a rod/pin that broke off into the transmission and caused extensive damage and I am now out of warranty on this stupid car.

It is $2972.08 to fix the car and this is 100% out of pocket because my car no longer has a warranty. I have went back to Sterling McCall Toyota and have spoke to the service manager because there is evidently a defect in the 2003-2008 model transmission but only time can tell the results of that finding.

- Alicia T., Houston, TX, US

problem #1

Jul 182008

Corolla S 1.8L

  • Manual transmission
  • 107,000 miles

The differential went out on my 2003 Corolla S with a manual transmission. I was cruising along in fifth gear and it started making noise; when I pulled over, the car wouldn't move. As it turns out, the differential (gears) is shot and I need a whole new transaxle (differential and transmission) at a cost of $2,213.57 plus tax and labor! It only has 107,00 miles on it and all service has been done at the dealer. I have talked to two mechanics who tell me that there is a defect in this manual transmission. One worked on the same problem before. The other said this transaxle is in 2003 through 2008 Corollas, so watch for many more people having this problem. (Gee, I wonder why Toyota changed the tranny for 2009). I had a 1985, 1990, and 1994 Corolla with NO problems. This one is major.

- Gabe J., Minneapolis, MN, US

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