really awful
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
116,059 miles
Total Complaints:
43 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. Replace transmission (34 reports)
  2. not sure (5 reports)
  3. rebuilt transmission (4 reports)
2003 Toyota Corolla transmission problems

transmission problem

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2003 Toyota Corolla Owner Comments (Page 2 of 3)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #23

Mar 122012

Corolla LE 1.8L

  • Manual transmission
  • 191,000 miles


This is my first toyota. I bought it because I because I believed the hype that Toyotas last a long time. I was expecting to get 300k out of this car. I just had the clutch replaced two months ago. When the clutch was replaced it was making this new noise I never heard before fast forward to just 6 weeks later the noise got so bad I had to bring the car back in. They now tell me I need a new transmission. I did some research and found a mountain of complaints from other Toyota owners with the same issue. I always praised Toyotas but as of today if this might change depending on how this situation is handled. I am extremely disappointed and if I have to purchase a new car I guarantee it won’t be a Toyota. Toyota I hope your listening. I would like to hold onto some faith that Toyota will stand by their product. Lets see.

- , Woodland Park, NJ, USA

problem #22

Feb 062012

Corolla LX 1.8L

  • Manual transmission
  • 125,000 miles

First off, if you have this problem report it to Toyota and post on AutoBeef, their are so many complaints they could issue a recall. So, my 2003 Toyota Corolla was very reliable up until last week. I was driving my commute and noticed a deep womp womp womp type sound, but originally I thought it was my brakes wearing out, and maybe a warped rotor giving the intermediate noise. It did this for about four or five days, then noise became louder and more noticeable, so I took it in and got my mechanic to check it out, thinking it was just brakes. He called me the next morning and said it was my my transmission and would need a new one! I was in disbelief thinking how does a manual transmission go out on a Corolla with 125k miles. I then called another shop that specializes in transmission repair, they said bring it by and I check it out. Cheap me, drove the car their as it seemed not that bad when I first brought it in to first shop. I noticed it had gone down hill really bad, and was making all kinds of bad noises. Luckily the other the shop was only couple miles down road, but by the time I got their sounded like I had rocks in my transmission, and would want to pop out of gear. So the other shop checked it out and said same thing, but gave me a couple options, either buy used or re-built. I went back a forth with shops to negotiate best deal, got the transmission specialty shop to put in re-built with 18k, 18 month warranty for about $2300. Got car back, had some faint funny sounds, but nothing too pronounced. Drove it about 20-30 miles and boom, broke again. Got car towed back to shop and now waiting on a new re-built transmission to be installed, under warranty of course. I then searched on internet and found the manual transmission in the 03 corolla is just junk, something to do with bad design with bearing and I was very lucky to get 125k. I always swore up and down about toyota, now I certainly thick differently, but I guess anyone can mess up from time to time. I called Toyota to file complaint, they couldn't do anything for me but I tried and have case number on record. At least they could do is admit they made a design mistake and offer to fix it or pay for parts to fix it correctly, as they are just losing customers as a result. It appears after the 03 models they fixed the issue, knowing what they did wrong in design or manufacturing. If you get this fixed I would recommend trying to get a rebuilt one with the beefer bearing, that they used in 04 & up models or if you get used see if you can get 04 & up if compatible. If you have a 03 manual corrolla, and this has not happened to you, I would really consider selling your car before it does, as the fix is expensive and still left wondering if it will just do it again. In my opinion, one thing any car manufacturer should get right is a manual transmission. Toyota certainly messed up in this design and just lost a customer for life, unless they decide to issue a recall and admit to the mistake, but I doubt they will.

Update from Feb 24, 2012: Got new transmission fixed right now, it seems to work pretty good now. I got rebuilt one, so hopefully they fixed whatever does not last (bearings I think). This car is still cheap miles, so I will run it for few more years and have 18 month warranty on new trans now. Just be aware of this issue on 2003's, and buy accordingly.

- , Midlothian, VA, USA

problem #21

Jul 252008

Corolla CE 1.8L

  • Manual transmission
  • 80,110 miles

I have always enjoyed driving a manual transmission. So when I bought this car I thought that it would last me, But to my surprise the thing took a big DUMP with a loud gear-crunching flurry. I thought the thing blew up, it was so loud. Thankfully I got to the shoulder of a commuter crowded highway and then waited and hour for a tow to a Mechanic Shop. $2,545.28 later, rebuilt transmission, and new clutch (had to be done at the same time according to the shop) I was back on the road again....

See my new complaint in another post (what happened at 130,000 miles BOOOOO!!!! on Toyota.) I never thought I would say this, but I am seriously considering never buying another Toyota and instead I am considering FORD...... Woooooo..... that is saying something. ISN'T IT!!!

- , Simi Valley, CA, USA

problem #20

Mar 152010

Corolla LE 1.8L

  • Manual transmission
  • 132,000 miles


My 2003 Toyota Corolla LE started making a clanking noise that sounded like a rattling chain about two months before my 5-speed manual transmission failed. The day it failed I was on the interstate about 300 miles away from home. First it made a terrible grinding sound that lasted about five seconds then something broke completely loose and the car jolted with a large "thud" that caused the drive train to bang and jolt the car constantly until I pulled over to the side of the road. I had to have the car towed about 15 miles to the nearest town. The dealership told me that several of the bearings had been thrown out and that they probably banged around the transmission and damaged several parts. I had to have the entire transmission replaced at a cost of around $3400.

I purchased my Corolla because of its reputation for reliability and never expected to have such a major repair at 130,000 miles. My car was babied from the day I bought it brand new in April 2002. It was never once abused. I am really disappointed in Toyota and will probably never buy another one.

- , Bloomington, IN, USA

problem #19

Oct 052010

Corolla S 1.8L

  • Manual transmission
  • 152,000 miles

5 spd manual tranny finally gave up the ghost. Was grinding for over 1 year getting progressively worse. Didn't matter, the diagnosis was the same early as later, replace it. I opted for used (I gambled and lost) since a new one was double the cost $4k vs $2k. The problem was a very limited warranty on the used one. I noticed the same noise starting about 2 months ago. New solution = trade it before it gets worse. TOYOTA....your rep is in the toilet. Probably go with different manufacturer. I can't believe Toyota is not offering help or at least a fix.

- , Syracuse, NY, USA

problem #18

Oct 092011

Corolla S

  • Manual transmission
  • 125,600 miles

I bought this car because of reputation. This car had been reliable up until now. We've always been careful to follow the maintenance schedule and have not abused the vehicle at all. But 6 months after purchasing this used Toyota Corolla S, the transmission started to make growling noises. We were advised to try some treatment in the Transmission fluid. The noises seemed to get a little better. My auto repair technician informed me that I would eventually need to replace the transmission.

4 months later, my car made an awful noise driving down the freeway. When I pulled over, the car was difficult to get into a lower gear. I had it towed 60 miles to my repair shop and they stated that the transmission failed and that is why the vehicle locked into gear.

Now I need to have the transmission replaced, but my mechanic is having difficulty locating an affordable used transmission because it seems that this is a very common problem for Toyota. He found us a rebuilt transmission, but when we asked about the likely hood of a repeat issue, he said it too might eventually have the same problem, just like a used one would. We wanted to know because others have reported that the transmissions have a design issue with the transmission. Many reported that the bearings fail internally causing catastrophic internal damage.

We have to decide whether to get it repaired and whether we should replace it with a rebuilt one with a warranty, then whether we should get rid of it, sell it or trade it…

Looks like the Corolla manual transmissions are bad news…

- , West Bend, WI, USA

problem #17

Oct 032011

Corolla CE/LE/S

  • Automatic transmission
  • 96,000 miles


Our daughter is a college student who lives approximately 240 miles away from us. In addition to school, she works 2 jobs. She counts on her car to meet her responsibilities. We THOUGHT what we had selected was a reliable car for her. She was terrified when her car started rattling when she was driving on the Interstate with her 8 year old charge in her car seat (she works as a nanny for one of her jobs). The engine light light came on and this 21 year old realized some thing was dreadfully wrong with her car. As we have been (but now are rethinking our position) loyal Toyota customers for many decades now, we have had dealership care for this car all along. During the April service there was no problem with the transmission. Now we are told that the transmission is"flaking" metal inside the transmission. How does THIS happen? Then the highway robbery starts. We are miles away and cannot assist our daughter. We must count on the kindness of strangers to assist. Even though WE have been loyal to Toyota they use this vulnerability of our being so far away to their economic advantage and tell us that we must pay more than $4,000 for the car to be repaired. On top of that our daughter must pay $20 day, plus gas, to rent one of their cars. What else can she do? She's stuck and we are too far away to help. We learned that Honda has 100,000 mile warranty on their transmissions. Guess where we are shopping next time we need a new car, unless Toyota does the right thing for us and our daughter. BTW, we have a 27 year old Toyota driving son. That means they are losing 4 loyal Toyota customers in one fell swoop!

- , Fort Myers, FL, USA

problem #16

Aug 102010

Corolla LE 1.8L 4 cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 125,000 miles

One more to join this unfortunate club.` I too have a 2003 Toyota Corolla LE, manual transmission with 125.000 miles that now needs a new transmission. My wife was driving it with my daughter when the issue presented itself. The car was making a terrible grinding noise and hickups as well. It was like if the car were having an epileptic seizure. She had to pull over to the emergency lane on the highway not knowing what was happening. We had the car towed to the nearest Toyota dealer, which turned out to be a huge mistake. The dealer had misquoted me for a flywheel price/issue at $1800, which the day after turned out to be a new transmission needed at $3900 instead. I couldn't understand the error and was very surprised at what I was being told happened. I lost $300 just to get the car out of there which upset me since they had mis-diagnosed the issue from the begining and mis-quoted me. Plus I had to tow it again back home. Now the car is sitting on the driveway waiting to be fixed.

After reading all the posts online, which are many, I am not even sure if it's worth fixing this car just to have the same issue come back like it has for so many others. I can't believe that this is happening to a car that my wife and I bought solely for the reliability aspect of the Toyota's. Well this is not the case anymore. I was ready to give up until I started doing some research into the matter. I found that this is a very common problem amongst 2003 Corolla's for some strange reason. There has yet to be a recall and I'm not sure there ever will be, but the fact is we as consumers still need to report this to the right people.

I would strongly advise anyone with this issue to file a complaint here on AutoBeef.com and on the NHTSA.com site or directly on: http://safercar.gov/Vehicle+Owners

There are many other sites where you can post/vent your experience but will not help you in the end. Please take the time to do this. There was a recent recall on the Matrix as soon as the level of complaint reported on NHSTA site reached 100. If we all pull together I am sure we can get the same attention. The issue is people sometimes just want to get rid of the vehicle and never take the time to complain. I mean... who can really blame them? This kind of thing sucks and the last thing you want to do is think about it more. But please take the time. Also call Toyota directly to file a complaint and get a case number. This will be helpful in the event there is a recall, you'll get reimbursed.

Thanks for reading this.

Best of luck.

- , Cambridge, MA, USA

problem #15

Feb 022011

Corolla S 1z

  • Manual transmission
  • 105,000 miles

Make me the 10th person on this site alone to have had their 03 transmission go out. Mine is still rolling, however whenever there is a load on it in any gear, it's growling really bad. Toyota originally said it was a throwout bearing, which is not the transmission, but still wrote it up as an overhaul. Minimum $3000. Upon getting this news while at lunch, I lost my appetite. When I picked it up, I demanded to know why a throwout bearing required a rebuild so we talked to the shop chief who said his peeon wrote it up wrong. He actually took the car out himself and reported it as bad case bearings, which is indeed a slight rebuild. They ended up giving me the estimate for free because of the confusion, so now the car that I have loved for 8 years is out in my garage. I plan on doing all the work myself and then selling the car. Thanks Toyota for letting me know you suck for free!

- , Bartlett, TN, USA

problem #14

Nov 152010

Corolla CE 1.8L 4 cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 98,000 miles

Very dangerous negligence by toyota who has clearly shown how long it taked to force defects to be disclosed after 7 years of selling defects with no intent of ethical product defect action! This is no different but too expensive to include in the current list of confessions and recalls? Transmission is too expensive and one recall Toyota will deny!

Had a manual transmission problem in a new Tercel too???

- , Columbus, OH, US

problem #13

Oct 012010

Corolla L

  • Manual transmission
  • 112,000 miles


This was the first car I bought brand new, after extensive research. Hoped for 200,000 miles of use. Kept up with maintenance. At 112,000 miles it broke down on highway and was towed. My mechanic could not find a rebuilt manual transmission so he called Toyota. Surprising to him they had several 2003 manual transmissions that could be shipped immediately. My mechanic was surprised at how available the transmission was and that I even needed one. I had desperately hoped that what I needed was a clutch. No, the clutch is in good shape! Sooooo the clutch has outlasted the transmission. That is backwards & wrong. I am further surprised at how I am not alone with this problem. It looks like there are many manual transmissions blowing up in this car.

I am really upset with Toyota and truly feel betrayed. Plan on calling dealer, Toyota Corp. and my state's Attorney General's office on consumer/vehicle issues.

- , Parkton, MD, USA

problem #12

Oct 232010


  • Manual transmission
  • 130,000 miles

this is the second time the transmission has gone in our toyota. I see from this site we are not alone. The first time it went was at 65K miles, right after the warranty expired. We opted for a rebuilt transmission that cost almost 2K, but was cheaper than the dealership that would have been over 3K. Now we are at 130K and it's gone again. Done with Toyota and sorry to report it.

- , Trade, TN, USA

problem #11

Aug 052010

Corolla S 1.8L

  • Manual transmission
  • 77,000 miles

My car made an awfull noise driving down the freeway. When I got off freeway car was difficult to get into gear. Towed to a transmission shop and they stated that the pinon bearing went bad and that the vehicle locked into 5th gear. Had to have my transmission rebuilt with an aftermarket bearing kit.

- , Redding, CA, USA

problem #10

Aug 192010

Corolla S 4 cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 78,000 miles

I've owned several Toyotas and been pleased with them all. When I purchased my 2003 Toyota Corolla S, I expected to enjoy it for at least 200k miles. I was VERY disappointed when my transmission started to make growling noises shortly after our extended warranty ran out at less than 70k miles. My mechanic informed me that we would eventually need to replace the transmission. He suggested that we might be able to buy some extra time by using synthetic oil in the transmission. We tried that, but it didn't help.

A week ago, at 78,000 miles, my wife was driving out of town and the transmission started grinding and rattling and sounding like it was about to fall apart. Then, 5th gear went completely out, and the rest started to shake and bang. She was able to make it off the freeway and we had to have the car towed 90 miles back to our mechanic. He had difficulty locating a used transmission because it seems that this is a very common problem for Toyota. He found us a rebuilt transmission, but said it would probably have the same problem eventually. The company that rebuilt the transmission said that the design of the transmission--especially the bearings-- was faulty. We got it repaired and are now thinking of trading it in on a DIFFERENT brand of car.

We're VERY disappointed in Toyota's quality in this vehicle. We will make sure to let everyone know!

Toyota pull your head out! Our family (extended family included) HAD been loyal Toyota buyers, but no more!!!

- , Ferndale, WA, USA

problem #9

Jun 082010

Corolla CE

  • Manual transmission
  • 118,061 miles

I bought a brand new 2003 toyota Corolla was so happy to get my new car. I have never had any problems with this car and I love my car until yesterday. I went to take my mom for a nice lunch noticed my car started making a noise..we pulled over looked underneath didn't see anything carried on as we went the noise got worse the gears were grindind especially in the lower gears...took my mom home, came home. Told my husband he decided to go for a drive....guess what the car would not go into reverse he tried over and over right away he said DAM its the transmission...and he works on cars all the time. I was so upset my car is not that old but of course past the 5 year mark.

We called toyota told us to bring it in but because it was past the 5 year mark it would not be covered....of course. Had BCAA come pick the car up and they said it should happen to a car at 7 years. So yes I am very disappointment I loved my car and did not expect this to happen will get it fixed and sell and move on to volkswagen jetta!

- , Kamloops, BC, Canada

problem #8

Feb 062010

Corolla LE

  • Automatic transmission
  • 59,000 miles

This car had been so reliable up until today. We've followed the maintenance schedule and not abused the vehicle at all. We bought the car new in 2003. My wife was coming to pick me up and the transmission just failed. Our failure fits the description of a number of other complaints. Immediate failure with a terrible grinding sound. My wife thought she had run over something and it was caught in the engine.

Additionally, since I am out of warranty year wise (Drive train warranty is 6/60,000) I first called the dealer I bought the vehicle from and then Toyota's main office. Toyota would not do anything for me because the warranty had expired in 2008 and I didn't extend.

With all their recall problems, you would think they might want to think about losing customers. We plan to fix the car, sell it and get another car.

I'll never buy a Toyota again, and will surely tell all of my friends what happened.

- , Somerville, MA, USA

problem #7

Feb 032010

Corolla LE

  • Manual transmission
  • 57,000 miles

I have seen a lot of postings on the internet about this same problem. Looks like the Corolla 2003 and 2004 manual transmissions are bad news. No one could believe that a manual transmission would fail - especially one with only 57,000 miles on it.

This was the first Toyota I ever bought and I bought it new. I will never buy another Toyota. I had always heard that Toyotas were so good. I guess they WERE but Toyota's days of reliability and quality are clearly in the past.

- , Stamford, CT, USA

problem #6

Jan 302010

Corolla LE 1.8L

  • Manual transmission
  • 67,000 miles

I just had the manual transmission in 2003 Corolla replaced at 67,000 miles. It is the same bearing issue others have mentioned here - the balls of the bearing on one of the gear shafts apparently fell out until there were only 5 of 12 left in the bearing. The dislodged bearings were subsequently ground up in the gears, and between that and the entire shaft moving all over the place the car made a horrible sound upon failure - the kind of banging that made me think at first I thought I threw a rod. I have been driving manual transmission vehicles for 35 years. I performed all recommended maintenance on schedule. I am still in shock. All my previous Corollas have been stellar. The trusted mechanic I took the car to at first thought it would be difficult to find a new transmission, but discovered there were FIVE in a LOCAL warehouse. This is a clear indication that the problem is known by Toyota. and you can bet they'll be hearing from me! At only 7,000 miles out of warranty you'd hope they'd step up, but I don't hold much hope and I didn't have the luxury of being without transportation until I duked it out with the company or the dealer. $3,800 later I have a brand new transmission (also had the clutch done at the same time)... basically, a 33% "new" 7-year-old car. I am crushed. With the recent recalls ala gas pedal issues, as a former brand loyalist, I will probably not be considering Toyota for my next vehicle.

- , Manville, NJ, USA

problem #5

Jan 012008

Corolla S 1.8L

  • Manual transmission
  • 80,000 miles

This was my cars first transmission failure. It started off grinding in 5th gear then slowly it moved through all the gears until it seized completely. When I got up the money to replace it I bought a used transmission and took apart the broken one for fun. A bearing had disintegrated and tore through gear teeth. I'm now 20,000 miles into the used transmission and the same noise is occuring.

- , Seattle, WA, USA

problem #4

May 012009

Corolla S 1.8L

  • Manual transmission
  • 100,000 miles

This is the second 5 speed manual transmission to fail in my car. I bought it used but the same exact bearing that failed in my first transmission is failing in this one. If I didn't find a 6 speed XRS transmission pretty cheap I would have fixed it as cheap as possible and gotten rid of it! DO NOT GET A 2003-2008 manual transmission from Toyota in any model; unless you want to wait until the have the major recall. Finding 5 speed transmission is also quite hard, rebuilt ones cost a pretty penny.

- , Seattle, WA, USA

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