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:
55,217 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 engine problems

engine problem

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2003 Toyota Matrix Owner Comments

problem #9

Jun 302011


  • 129,000 miles


My son was driving our 2003 Toyota matix, accelerating up to speed after pulling onto the interstate on-ramp when the engine began to make a loud clicking sound. There was no engine warning light or smoking from the engine or exhaust system. He reduced speed, pulled over and exited at the next exit. Although the car had lost significant power, he was able to continue to drive to the dealership, located nearby. The oil pressure switch had failed and the oil had leaked out. There was no level on the dipstick. After replacing the switch, adding oil, the engine still has a loud knocking sound, is low on power and will not idle. It is not burning oil. Diagnosis is internal engine damage and that engine must be replaced. The car has 129,000 miles on it, has been regularly maintained at the dealership and was one month and 1500 miles short of its next oil change. Dealer verbal estimate is $5000 for replacement engine, from a breaker's yard. Independent estimate is $3000 - 4000. Basically, the car is an economic write-off.

- Rolling Meadows, IL, USA

problem #8

Oct 062008


  • 111,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Matrix. While driving 65 mph, the engine failed in the middle of the road. The road conditions were not a factor. There were no warning lights illuminated prior to the failure. The contact was driving in rush hour traffic at the time; therefore, he was accelerating and decelerating before the failure occurred. Roadside assistance pushed the vehicle out of the middle of the freeway and it was towed to the repair shop. The vehicle was inspected for two days and engine sludge was determined to be the cause of the failure due to improper lubrication, although there was oil present in the engine. The manufacturer stated that the engine failure was not covered for the Matrix; however, the Camry was covered. The Camry and Matrix have the same exact engine and the contact feels that it should also be covered. He was provided with reference number 200810070867. The VIN was unknown. The failure mileage was 111,000.

- Altadena, CA, USA

problem #7

Sep 062007

Matrix 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,886 miles
On 6 September 2007, my wife was driving the 2003 Matrix, when without warning the motor started to make an excessive noise in the engine, she pulled over a called me, I met her where she was and verified the noise sounded terminal, called for a wrecker, had car towed to the dealer, 2 days later, I was informed that the engine had thrown 3 rods, mileage on the car was 60,886, just out of warranty, spent the next week in Toyota usa arbitration, they deem lack of lubrication caused the damage and washed their hands of the engine repair. On 21 September, I paid almost $4500, for what was supposed to be a new short block. Well, the new short block has as much road grime as the transmission, and 52 miles later the engine was "whistling", opened the hood to check the engine, the coolant was 1/2 gallon low, the oil is 1/2 quart low and a couple of loose bolts, one of which mounts the accelerator cable/bracket to the engine. Called the dealer, the service department was closed, but the receptionist recommended I go buy antifreeze and oil at the local supermarket. I once again, called Toyota usa, created another ticket with them.. currently impatiently waiting for Monday morning when I can go to the dealer/service department..

- Charleston, SC, USA

problem #6

Apr 142007

Matrix 4-cyl

  • 82,000 miles


I was driving the vehicle home when the check engine light came on steady. I did not pay much attention to it as I realized that more than likely the problem was an oxygen sensor or something emissions related. 5 more minutes went by and the light started blinking, accompanied by a pinging sound coming from the engine that coincided with engine rpms. Within 30 seconds the car died. After a local repair shop received the towed vehicle, they diagnosed the problem. The pinging"was caused by the piston hitting the spark plug. Translation, I needed a new engine. When this happened for 30 seconds it caused an electrical short which caused the car to suddenly fail. The car had 82,000 miles on it, and I had babied it since day one with nothing but synthetic oil.

- Lawrenceville, GA, USA

problem #5

Nov 082004

Matrix 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 35,940 miles
I'm an owner of a 2003 Toyota Matrix and my engine has the famous sludge issue related to past Toyota autos of recent years. I don't have all my receipts (I really almost never save them) for maintenance but I have a few... well, Toyota is refusing the warranty and I'm starting to see more complaints about possible engine problems with the car! my car has 36,000 miles on it and is still under warranty and just today I've been told the engine can't be saved! I'm livid and feel that there is something else wrong causing these issues but Toyota isn't saying either way. I'm retaining a lawyer and possibly dropping the car if this issue isn't addressed! there are 4 similar complaints on the NHTSA site already and I be we see more as these models cross the 24K mile marker!

- Tampa, FL, USA

problem #4

Jul 032004

Matrix 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 38,000 miles
I have a 2003 Toyota Matrix with approximately 38,000 miles on it. Vehicle was driven for about 6 or more hours when it began a loud knocking sound, and started to lose power. Then there was a loud bang. As it turned out, the car had thrown a rod through the front of the block, as well as blew the starter from the transmission housing. In addition there was a hole in the back of the oil pan about 3 inches in diameter. From the spot where the engine blew up I took measurements. The initial oil spot was 121" long by 18" wide. From there the car sprayed oil 1104' averaging 15" to 18" wide as it coasted downhill to a stop where it made another oil spot about 15" wide by 24" long. The dealership (newark Toyota 1344 marrows rd.. newark, de 19711) is alleging that the care had no oil in it although I provided maintenance records and a video of the oil spill from the start of the breakdown to the finish. They said they were denying the warranty work for lack of maintenance.

- Middletown, DE, USA

problem #3

Jul 022004

Matrix 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 39,000 miles


I was driving vehicle for about 4 hours prior to problem. Vehicle starting making a tapping noise as if the valves were knocking. Oil started leaking out from under vehicle, and then the engine threw a connecting rod through the engine block and lower oil pan destroying the engine. The dealership is fighting me and concluded that there was no oil in the engine when all the oil came out when the rod struck the hole in my pan.

- Middletown, DE, USA

problem #2

Oct 302002


  • miles
Consumer visually noticed oil leaking from vehicle. Dealer diagnosed that the crank shaft key had failed and replaced.

- Hayward, CA, USA

problem #1

Dec 292002

Matrix 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 1,130 miles
While driving, consumer attempted to make turns and steering was very hard. Consumer visually noticed a fluid leaking from under vehicle. Dealer diagnosed that the power steering pump had failed. Ts the next day, consumer noticed more fluid leaking. Dealer replaced crankshaft and keyway. Dome lit inoperative. Bulb replaced. Check engine light was on. Dealer found evaporative system malfunctioned.

- Hayward, CA, USA

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