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.


really awful
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
103,300 miles
Total Complaints:
9 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. not sure (8 reports)
  2. engine overhual (1 reports)
2003 Toyota Matrix engine problems

engine problem

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2003 Toyota Matrix Owner Comments

problem #9

Nov 032015

Matrix AWD,XR 1.8L 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 147,838 miles


click to see larger images

engine failure engine failure engine failure

So my son's wife purchased the car less than year ago, I changed the oil etc... checked it all out and seemed like a nice little rig, a week ago she added some oil cause they where going on a trip to silver-wood so 4 people in it they started up the lewiston grade,pretty steep hill, the car developed an knock so she brought it to me, I checked the oil and it was about a quart overfull, it was due for another oil change, so I changed the oil and filter, (I noticed there was metallic/brass in the oil) when I started it after sitting, it made a terrible rod knock and then quieted down, (I am a 25 year veteran mechanic, I know) told the kids to trade it in asap or to at least limit the driving, well it is there only rig and they are just getting going in life and now this! so I trailer-ed it home, because it started knocking while they where driving it so they shut it down, yup it had a rod bearing that had rolled on #2 rod, destroying the crank and rod now they have no transportation and or the money to purchase another rig! going to cost $1000.00 at least just to find a used engine! after reading all the complaints about this engine having bearing and rod failures after about 100,000, sounds to me like the filter system on the engine is inadequate causing the bearings to prematurely fail! So is it really worth fixing? it will just do it again! right? it's a nice little rig, to bad it has such a piss poor oiling system, also the kids just received a notice from Toyota to take it in and have the air bags replaced, in a recall. I have a 1970 Chevy 1/2 ton 4x4 pick up with over 600,000 miles on the original motor and still runs today, to bad they dont build em like that anymore, now they are considered throw away rigs! ohhhhh what a feeling! anyone need a good matrix shell?? cheap! ccccccccyyyyyyyaaaaaa! humpmaster out!

- humpmaster, Clarkston, WA, US

problem #8

Jun 112015

Matrix XR 1.8L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 139,500 miles

Today on my way to work (9 miles distance) the car started making a ticking noise, that turned to rattle when I hit the gas. I called the Toyota dealership (Andrews Toyota in Milwaukee) to have it looked after work. They could not fit me in today, so I made an appointment for tomorrow morning.

Coming back from work, after 4 miles, the noise became louder, and the engine died. Kaput! Waiting for the tow truck, I noticed that oil leaked from under the engine. There were no leaks of any fluids before that. I had the car towed to the Toyota dealership -a couple of miles from where it died- and tomorrow they will call me with the (bad) news after they look at it. As I read the other Matrix Owners complaints, I realize that I have the same problem as you good people. My car was religiously maintained, and had never any problems.

At least, it made it to almost 140K. I was hoping for 200K, but I will not pay 3 or 5K to have this mess fixed.

Toyota has a reputation for reliable cars, I guess until they are not....

I will write an update tomorrow, but I'm afraid it will not be about a problem solved.

Update from Jun 12, 2015: One day later, and the dealer's mechanic announced there is a big hole on the block (where the rod went through) and a new engine will cost about 4k. Matrix, rest in peace. I'm out shopping for a good deal.

- ssss, Milwaukee, WI, US

problem #7

Nov 202010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles

I have a 2003 toyota matrix base model with 120,000miles. The engine started to make a very loud rapping noise. I had it towed to a reliable mechanic. He knew exactly what it was. It was diagnosed as a rod bearing. When he disassembled the engine to verify the 2 halves of the bearings were melted together on rod 2. Upon further examination the other 3 rod bearings were also going and runined the crankshaft. It will cost a pretty penny to replace the 4 rods and the crankshaft as well as the suspect oil pump and all the seals. I am not sure if it is worth it. I have put so much money into it already. I will keep you posted on the cost. I have read about other matix with the same issue. There has to be a manufacturer defect. I bought a toyota before and the body died before the engine. I bought this one due to the reliablilty of the first car.

I am not going to purchase another toyota because their quality has decllined over the years. They state in their vision statement they want to make their customers satisfied. Well I am not!!!!! Note: Oil changed every 3 to 5,000 miles. Have already replaced the entire exhaust and front calipers, rotors and pads.

- Carol W., Pittsburgh, PA, US

problem #6

Jul 052010

Matrix XLR

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles


Always changed oil on time & performed all other required maintenance on the vehicle. Driving home & the car just cut off. Towed it in to the dealer...pulled the cover off & found that the cam shaft had broken & oil was not getting to the top of the engine. No warnings at all...just died. Now I have a nice shiny Toyota sitting in my yard with a $5000 repair cost.

- bjtoile, Temperanceville, VA, US

problem #5

Jan 052010

Matrix XRS 2zzge

  • Manual transmission
  • 98,000 miles

This car has been babied its whole life. She has had regular oil changes, was garage kept and well maintained. In fact the when the mechanic opened up the oil cap on my motor and the cap on the new one (the new one has only 28k miles on it) my motor looked better. Long story short: I threw the rod on the #1 cylinder and it tore two holes in the block. I am in the process of tearing it down to figure out what happened. So far I have removed the valve cover, cams, VVTLI oil-actuated rods, and bearings - and I haven't found out what went wrong, yet. I will update with pictures. I am taking them as I tear it down. I will also update with what happened as soon as I know.

- yrutripin, Crestview, FL, US

problem #4

Dec 152008


  • Automatic transmission
  • 45,398 miles

I sent this letter to the president of Toyota USA but, they refused to assist in anyway. Office of the President Toyota Motor Sales, USA., INC. 19001 South Western Ave. Torrance, CA 90501

Re: VIN 2T1KR32E83C074706 – Case #’s 20812220115, 200812310223, Etc..

On November 29, 2008 I bought a 2003 Toyota Matrix with 44,598 miles on it. After about 500 miles (about a week after buying the car) the check engine light came on, it was over a quart low on oil and had a engine code P0420. A couple of days later I checked the oil again and it had used over another quart. I was told the PCV valve could be bad so I had it replaced and the oil topped off. After this I drove the car 50 miles and it used around 2/3 a quart of oil. I called the Toyota experience center and told them the problems I was having and they told me to take it to the local dealer to have it checked. The person I talked to, looked up the VIN # and told me that the engine on this car had been rebuilt at 41,459 miles, in November 2007 at Headquarters Toyota, In Miami, Florida. He also told me that Toyota would probably pick up the repair since it had less than 4,000 miles on a rebuilt engine (currently the car has 45,398 mile on it).

I took the car to my local dealer L&S Toyota, in Beckley, WV on December 23, 2008 and told them that the Toyota experience center asked me to bring the car to them. L&S Toyota did a compression test on the engine and it failed. The service manager at L&S Toyota told me the engine block should have been replaced when Headquarters Toyota rebuilt the engine, but hadn’t been.

After about 10 calls to Toyota Corporate and numerous case numbers the verdict was in today. Terri the Service Manager at L&S Toyota of Beckley said they will not fix the engine unless I pay for the repair myself. Furthermore, Terri told me I would be responsible for the cost of the compression test and putting the valve cover back on. John Lino from Headquarters Toyota told me they would take care of the repair but I would have to bring the car there, which is 950 miles away and I would have to have the car shipped since its not drivable using that much oil. Also, I would have to fly down to drive the car back. John Lino from Headquarters Toyota said he didn’t understand why that L&S Toyota of Beckley would not take care of the repair but, every car dealership is independently owned.

Both of these dealerships are governed by Toyota Motor Sales, USA, so how can the one get authorization to do the repair but the other one can’t? The 2003 Matrix that I am referring to is the 8th Toyota that I have owned, because of their reliability. And I assure you if this car is not fixed I will never buy another one. Also, I plan to having this letter translated to Japanese and sending it to your Corporate Headquarters in Japan.

I am sitting here wondering what happened to the honor and values that Toyota was built on, which is the reason I have bought your automobiles since I was in High School. The first Toyota I had was a 1976 Corolla, which I sold with 278,000 miles on it, and it was still running well. Out of the 7 other Toyotas I have owned I have never had a major problem with any of them. So how can a Toyota engine blow up twice within 45,398 miles and you don’t take responsibility for it?



- Michael G., Beckley, WV, US

problem #3

Dec 182008


  • Automatic transmission
  • 108,000 miles


very surprised to find out this is a problem with toyotas. thought i bought a better car. replaced one motor, because of oil consumption and ultimately engine destruction, apparently with another having same problems. first road trip experienced use of one quart of oil per 300 miles. not a good ratio. probably will go back to buying dodges.

- burninoil, Lexington, KY, US

problem #2

Mar 182008

Matrix XR 1.8L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,028 miles

I bought this Matrix new 5 years ago at Cavender Toyota in San Antonio. I had all scheduled maintenance done at the dealership. This was a great little car. Last Tuesday night, 2 days before I had an appointment for 90,000 mile maintenance, I noticed a clicking sound in the engine when I accelerated. I took the car the next day to the dealer. I was told that the engine would have to be torn down and rebuilt and they weren't sure what exactly the problem was, but basically the engine was shot. I could have the repair done for around 5K, or cut my loses and sell the car. I don't understand how the engine could have gone so bad so fast. At the 85,000 mile oil change, there was no problem.The attitude that I have gotten from the dealership is that this is mechanical failure, and while it is rare in a Toyota, it does happen. To add insult to injury, I had to pay $69.50 to get this bad news. I sold the car and bought a Hyundai. If I would have bought a Hyundai 5 years ago, engine failure would have been covered under their 100,000 mile warranty. Guess I'll be taking my 2007 RAV4 elsewhere for servicing, if I even keep it. I was a loyal Cavender & Toyota customer, but not now.

- krash, San Antonio, TX, US

problem #1

Sep 232007

(reported on)

Matrix XR 1.8L

  • 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 accelorator 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..

- Michael C., Charleston, SC, US

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