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

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:
92,963 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 Toyota Matrix drivetrain problems

drivetrain problem

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2003 Toyota Matrix Owner Comments

problem #17

Aug 252016


  • 107,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Matrix. While driving, the check engine sensor indicator illuminated and the vehicle experienced hard shifting. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic who diagnosed that the ECM was faulty. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The VIN was not available. The failure mileage was 107,000.

- Bethesda, MD, USA

problem #16

May 092016


  • 110,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Matrix. While driving various speeds, the vehicle stalled without warning. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic where it was diagnosed that the third and fourth gears were not getting any oil and tearing the bearing and transmission apart. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 110,000.

- Savage, MD, USA

problem #15

Jun 152014


  • 125,000 miles
It seems to be nearly a class action lawsuit over the 5 speed manual transmissions used in the Matrix< corolla< vibe and a few other models as the lay shaft bearings fail after so many miles! is there a recall or recourse to get factory assistance for this issue! si there any financail help for this problem out there?

- Waterford, MI, USA

problem #14

Aug 262013

Matrix 4-cyl

  • 115,000 miles


My son was shifting from 1st to 2nd gear when there was a loud popping metal sound; he took the car out of gear, coasted out of harms way and then got the car towed. My son said that it was dangerous and unexpected. We had just had our mechanic change the oil and test drive the car last week after putting on new tires. The car was diagnosed with needing a new transmission. This is the 2nd transmission that has been replaced as defective on this car. Am a single mom with multiple jobs and cannot afford to pay for a billion dollar company's' mistakes..(when providing a service or product to the public that costs money, if I make a mistake I admit it, correct it, am sorry and make it right at my expense).

- Blairsville, GA, USA

problem #13

Nov 172012


  • 97,700 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Matrix. The contact stated that while driving various speeds, there was an abnormal grinding noise when the vehicle was decelerating. The vehicle was taken to the dealer for diagnostic testing. The technician advised the contact that the transmission would have to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The VIN was not available. The approximate failure mileage was 97,700.

- St Paul, MN, USA

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problem #12

Jun 102011

Matrix 4-cyl

  • 132,000 miles
My transmission had been racing off and on for a couple of weeks. The car just didn't feel right. I went to make a left turn out of my street and my car just stopped moving. I was in the middle of the road and nothing would happen when I stepped on the gas pedal. It turns out my transmission died and I had to spend several thousands dollars to have it replaced. After 8 months my check engine light is still on and everything I try doesn't work. I've replaced oxygen sensors, speed censors, etc. I've put more money into this car in the last year than I should have. I see that other people have transmission problems, too. I can't imagine whey this hasn't been addressed by Toyota yet.

- Annandale, NJ, USA

problem #11

Jan 012012

Matrix 4-cyl

  • 126,663 miles


Prior to incident, vehicle ran and shifted fine. Vehicle was never used for towing or other extreme use. Transmission fluid was changed at these mileages: 31,669; 61,023; 92,012; and 105,330. Vehicle was otherwise well-maintained, and driven with care by experienced users of manual transmissions. The first three tranny fluid changes done at Toyota dealership. On Jan. 1, 2012, Toyota Matrix (2003), w/manual 5-speed transmission had sudden, severe failure on tollway. Roadway was clear. Vehicle did not hit anything in the road to precipitate this. Vehicle was just starting to decelerate for toll booth when sudden, harsh, grinding, metal-on-metal sound began. Car was then unable to shift into first gear, and shifted into second with difficulty. Vehicle was pulled over to side of road immediately and towed away. An independent transmission specialist removed & disassembled tranny. Diagnosis is: Everything in 5th gear is broken. Fifth gear literally broke. Pinion shaft & everything housing ring gear is also broken. Apparently 1st through 4th gears look ok. Transmission re-build is advised, using Toyota factory parts. Estimated cost $3,100. In addition, I had vehicle towed 45 miles from rural site of failure ($160). And I had to rent a car to get home from failure site ($225+). I still must return to fort wayne, in to pick up repaired vehicle when ready. I have now read of widespread tranny failures in matrixes. Toyota dealers and toll-free number personnel admit no knowledge of such issues. But, every independent source I've consulted acknowledges these drivetrain issues. Since these failures are so common, Toyota should take responsibility. A recall, or at least Toyota admitting and taking financial responsibility for this is in order. I loved my 1989 Camry, but no longer have any trust in Toyota. NHTSA, please help us. Thank you.

- Madison, WI, USA

problem #10

Dec 012011

Matrix 4-cyl

  • 92,000 miles
While driving, the car seized up and locked - dead in the middle of the road. Luckily we had taken side streets and not the freeway, where we would have surely been rear ended. My 8-year-old was in the backseat. Mechanic is saying a gear blew out and tore through, melting part of the transmission core. We already replaced clutch at 80,000. Car is not salvageable. This is very dangerous. We sat (unable to push the car, it was locked up - 6 people tried) in the middle of the street, a few feet from the intersection - nearly hit several times, with flashers on until tow truck could come. This is not the first report of this - it needs to be made public so people can get their transmission looked at and fixed before someone dies.

- Portland, OR, USA

problem #9

Dec 052011

Matrix 4-cyl

  • 78,000 miles
Excessive transmission noise in tranny and noise stop when clutch is push in.

- Orlando, FL, USA

problem #8

Oct 072011

Matrix 4-cyl

  • 89,000 miles
The transmission failed. Has been serviced regularly. This seems like it is a common problem with this make and model car. I believe this should be a manufacture recall issue. The transmission could have locked up while driving and caused an accident. Looks like it will cost between $2000 and $3000 to repair. This is a problem that should not have happened.

- Ventura, CA, USA

problem #7

May 162007


  • Manual transmission
  • 65,000 miles


My 2003 Toyota Matrix had a failure in the rear main bearing of the manual transmission. The cost was $1800 to rebuild the transmission with new bearings. The problem has occurred again, at 133,000 miles, due to design defect. The transmission oil does not properly reach the rear main bearing, which causes failure.

- Tacoma, WA, USA

problem #6

Apr 252003

Matrix 4-cyl

  • 23,000 miles
The throwout baring in my 2003 Toyota Matrix xr 5-speed transmission went out at approximately 23,000 miles and caused the transmission to fail. Toyota replaced the transmission at the love Lexus Toyota dealership in St. Albans, wv, where the vehicle was purchased brand new with zero miles. This second transmission, at approximately 64,000 miles, failed as well with the same prescribed issue (throwout baring in the transmission). After researching this issue ( this issue has occurred in a plethora of Toyota Matrix' 5 - speed transmissions that Toyota had placed in the 2003 - 2005 Toyota Matrix'. please, please, please help recall these transmissions and hold Toyota accountable for placing faulty transmissions in these vehicles before another one goes out and I have to fork over another $3200 + for a new transmission. I have receipts to prove all of these claims and will be glad to share any information I need to in order to help a recall come to light.

- Cross Lanes, WV, USA

problem #5

Oct 012004

Matrix 4-cyl

  • 35,000 miles
Clutch began slipping at 35000 miles while still under warranty. Dealer claimed there was no problem and no adjustment required. Clutch continued to get worse. On subsequent trips to the dealer, they repeated that there was no problem and that the clutch was normal. An independent shop told me otherwise. The slipping continued to get worse until by 75000 miles it was undrivable. Then the dealer said it needed a clutch and that the wear was normal. I have driven manual transmission cars for 40 years and never encountered such a short lifespan on a clutch or a more unresponsive dealer. I have service records indicating that the dealer was notified about the problem within the warranty period and on more than one other occasion and that they did not adequately inspect for this issue.

- Valley Glen, CA, USA

problem #4

Oct 032011


  • 120,000 miles
5-speed manual: For the last 10K miles, engine compartment has been making an unusual noise when gas is applied or when downshifting. At 120K miles, problem became much worse and when applying gas, sometimes a loud whirring noise, like a spinning sawblade, comes and goes. Mechanic drained transmission and found metal particles. $2200 for rebuilt transmission.

- Alamo, CA, USA

problem #3

May 312006


  • 60,000 miles
2003 Toyota Matrix xrs transmission problems, slipping gears or clutch while under load, recurring problem for the duration of owning the car. It is very unsafe on the highway as it does not get up to or maintain speeds. Filed a complaint with Toyota with no response. Toyota said there was no problem with it when I took it in to get looked at, but it was slipping the whole drive home and since then. I believe there is a definite problem with the transmission and I am not the only one that believes this, how many people must complain or does someone have to die for them to take some action?

- Lititz, PA, USA

problem #2

Feb 052010


  • 130,000 miles
Driving down the highway our (03 Toyota Matrix, manual trans), (North bound I-45 conroe, Texas) the car abruptly started a thumping slapping sound. From the frount end. Asap! pulled to the side of the road, stopped and turned the car off. My husband arrived, to figure out the problem. He had me turn the car on without starting and pushed the vehicle. The thumping, slapping sound is coming from under the engine. To be continued.

- Montgomery , TX, USA

problem #1

Aug 172007

Matrix 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 75,000 miles
I own a 2003 Toyota Matrix 5-speed with 75K miles on it. Serviced every 5K miles by the dealership until 60K, and has had regular oil changes and all manufacture suggested maintenance. Purchased new by me from Toyota & Scion of lake city in seattle. On 6/17/2007, I was driving on state route 520 through East king county (divided, limited access highway). The car suddenly began making a loud high-pitched noise, then lurched to a sudden stop. I was able to pull off the highway but if I hadn't been right next to the exit when the noise started, I would have frozen in a lane of traffic moving at 60 mph. I had literally 90 seconds to deal with the sudden loss of the drive train, and absolutely no advance warning to any impending mechanical failure. Currently, Toyota is reviewing whether they will extend the power train warranty (60K/5year) to cover my car.

- Seattle, WA, USA

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