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:
86,794 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 transmission problems

transmission problem

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2003 Toyota Matrix Owner Comments (Page 1 of 2)

problem #33

Nov 142010

Matrix 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 93,000 miles


Manual transmission failure in a 2003 Toyota Matrix. Mostly highway miles, maintained regularly at the dealer. Noticed a noise and took it to the dealer and they said everything was fine. A few thousand miles later, there was a high pitched whine out of fifth gear. Upon stopping and restarting, pretty much all the forward gears were grinding, popping, squealing. Repair at the dealer was quoted $2500 for a used transmission and $3200 for a new! about half the value of the car.

- Athens, OH, USA

problem #32

Jul 012010


  • 76,000 miles
I recently noticed a strange extra noise in my transmission, noise is a low purring sound and at lower speeds in lower gears.

- Kissimmee, FL, USA

problem #31

May 142010


  • 70,268 miles
2003 Toyota Matrix xr manual transmission - 70,000. The transmission needs to be completely replaced. Subtle engine knocking, more noticeable when lift foot off accelerator. Sudden onset while exiting freeway- rpms hovered when shifted into neutral, difficult to put in 1st on start, then horrible noise when started moving forward then completely seized in place. Whole process in less than 60 miles. Assessed at private shop and then dealership which quoted over $4,000. Corporate/regional district office offered no assistance, compensation, or acknowledgment of issue. This is a frequent problem that has been reported in numerous cases in the 5-speed Matrix and Pontiac vibe.

- Fallbrook, CA, USA

problem #30

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 #29

Jun 012008


  • 66,000 miles
Whilst driving at 55 mph the transmission started to grind and then locked up. At 66,000 miles the transmission was shot. Reading on edmunds this appears to be a common problem. Here is the link. I had to put a used transmission in at a cost of $2,000 and suspect the same failure will happen with this one. I'm filing a complaint now due to the amount of other Matrix drivers this is happening too.

- Fort Wayne, IN, USA

problem #28

Aug 262009


  • Manual transmission
  • 81,000 miles
My 2003 Toyota Matrix has a manual transmission. A bearing in the transmission started to fail (noise) at 80,000 miles. This type of failure is common for both the Matrix and the Pontiac vibe (identical car). Luckily I had it changed before any accident occurred. Neither Toyota nor GM are providing any customer support despite numerous complaints regarding the 2003 manual transmission.

- Atlanta, GA, USA

problem #27

Jul 012009


  • 90,000 miles


Noticed and increasing grinding noise coming from the transmission. Had the transmission fluid changed also having the mechanic look for metal shaving with none found. Took to transmission specialist who confirmed the "differential" was going to fail soon and advised to not drive the car until repaired.

- Turnerville, GA, USA

problem #26

Feb 012010


  • 175,000 miles
A rattling noise started under the car. It would disappear when the clutch pedal was pushed down. Over a 2 day period, the noise became very loud and became more like a clacking noise, but not constant. We took the car to a transmission specialist. The transmission is shot and we've ordered a new transmission. I told the technician there were lots of reports about the '03 and '04 transmissions. When the service technician spoke to Toyota about any frequency of this happening with the '03 Matrix, Toyota said they hadn't had any reports on it. (I understand they fixed problems by '05) this is the 3rd Toyota we have had. Never had transmission problems. I hope the replacement transmission does not have the same problems.

- Anderson, IN, USA

problem #25

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 #24

Nov 292009


  • Manual transmission
  • 100,000 miles
The transmission on my 2003 Toyota Matrix died after 100,000 miles and it's a manual. I purchased the car used and it had about 70K miles on it. I had a transmission fluid flush at about 80K. The car started making noises and then I couldn't shift it into gear and then it completely died. I had to have a new/rebuilt transmission put into the car for about $2,500. Apparently this is fairly common with the Matrix and I don't think it's specific to the 2003 car.

- Arcata, CA, USA

problem #23

Aug 012009


  • 130,000 miles


Grinding noise began, shortly thereafter the transmission failed. I've replaced the transmission twice already and cannot afford to replace it again. The car now sits as I continue to make payments on it.

- Ashland, WI, USA

problem #22

Dec 272009


  • 88,000 miles
While driving down the highway one evening, an odd clicking sound was heard from the front end of our 2003 Toyota Matrix (manual transmission with 88,000 miles). The sound was louder with acceleration. After getting off the highway, the sound was noted to be louder in higher gears, and absent when the clutch was pressed down. The vehicle was brought in for service at our local Toyota dealer the next morning. After paying a $95 diagnostic fee, we were told the vehicle needed a new transmission at the estimated cost of $3300, with nothing being covered by any warranty or recall. We brought the car to a transmission specialist for a rebuild. The bearings, rings, and two transfer gears were replaced, along with the clutch, at a cost of $2100. It is noted that the mechanic had a delay in getting the parts due to a manufacturer back order, reportedly from a high demand due to many others with the same problem with this make/model car! this is our first Toyota, which we bought due to their good reputation. It has been regularly maintained and subjected to only normal driving conditions. We have never had a vehicle with transmission problems and are shocked that this expensive repair was needed on such a young car. Toyota should be held responsible for covering the cost of what appears to be widespread transmission failure due to defective/inferior parts used on this vehicle!

- Rockland, MA, USA

problem #21

Dec 122009


  • 103,000 miles
After normal driving and wear and tear (103,000 miles), manual transmission on 2003 Toyota Matrix has gone bad, resulting in a needed replacement of the transmission, clutch, and clutch plate.

- Painesville, OH, USA

problem #20

Dec 142009


  • 138,000 miles
I heard a scraping and grating noise as I exited the freeway that I thought was some trapped debris under the front end or in the wheel well. I pulled into a gas station to investigate, finding a loose plastic plate ( a recurring problem with the cheap plastic screws and fasteners used) I rigged something to hold it up and get home. After a few more blocks the sound intensified and the car began to shudder and shake and I heard a pop. I pulled over, got towed home, and the next morning had it towed to a shop. The mechanic informed me that my transmission was shot and would need to be replaced. The car only has 140,000 miles on it, and I do not drive it like some crazed maniac. An internet chat room has recorded lots of Matrix owners with the same transmission issues...I am going to need a new transmission and a new clutch.

- La, CA, USA

problem #19

Oct 032009


  • 92,000 miles
I own a 2003 Toyota Matrix with a manual transmission. The car only has 92,000 miles and the tranny needs to be replaced due to a bad bearing. From my research on the web I have seen this happen to many others. I spoke to a repair shop that does rebuilds and he informed me that Toyota had gotten bad bearings and used them on a series of transmissions and they tend to go bad around 80K to 120K miles. He himself has rebuilt many.

- Lake Elsinore , CA, USA

problem #18

Aug 292009


  • 94,542 miles
My 2003 Toyota Matrix completely broke down in the middle of a highway. The transmission is dead at 94,542 miles. Toyota refuses to take responsibility.

- Cincinnati, OH, USA

problem #17

Aug 102009


  • 115,000 miles
After 200 mile round trip, noticed a grinding noise when accelerating. Took Matrix to dealer, who told us the bearings in the transmission were bad, and needed replaced. 2003 Matrix, 115,000 miles (mostly highway, we have a long commute to work) bearings replaced and clutch work done for $2063. When asked about this, was told "sometimes things break".

- Stoughton, WI, USA

problem #16

Jun 032009


  • 63,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Matrix. While driving at any speed, the contact hears a ticking sound coming from the transmission. Prior to the noise, the transmission would slip gears occasionally. The vehicle was taken to the dealer and they stated that the transmission needed to be replaced. The current and failure mileages were 63,000.

- Ann Arbor, MI, USA

problem #15

Jun 012009


  • 130,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Matrix. The contact stated that the transmission bearings were faulty. While driving at an unknown speed, she heard an odd sound coming from the engine compartment. The dealer found failure with the transmission and verified that the bearings needed to be replaced. The manufacturer was not willing to assist with the repairs. Through online research, the contact discovered that the manual transmission failures were common for her year, make, and model vehicle. The failure and current mileages were less than 130,000.

- Kelso, CA, USA

problem #14

Mar 092009


  • 105,000 miles
2003 Toyota Matrix manual 5 speed transmission has completely come apart due to being built with bad throw out bearings. Loud rattling noise began 6 months ago even though the transmission and the entire vehicle has been maintained flawlessly. Two weeks ago, on March 9, 2009 my boyfriend was driving on the 15 freeway going North when the car began to make a horrible rattling noise. My boyfriend pulled the car over to safety off the freeway and took a look. He knew it was the tranny, he didn't need to see anything...the first clue was that it would not go into 1st or reverse gear at all. We had to get it to a place that we could park it legally, so he started it in second gear and the car wailed and whined and sounded like metal was breaking apart as the car literally limped it's way the entire short ride. Warranty good for 100,000 miles, but my car is out of warranty at 105,000 miles. Toyota will not acknowledge the fact that the entire 2003 Matrix line is experiencing this issue, and will not even do anything as a goodwill gesture. A brand new tranny from Toyota is $4000+/-, and the problem will most certainly happen again - as I have seen many, many people attest to. A rebuilt transmission is less $...Toyota needs to be held accountable for this. My car could have been involved in an accident due to this failure on the freeway, to say nothing of the fact that it's very scary and unsafe to leave your vehicle on the side of the road, as well as breaking down in the middle of the night.

- Lake Elsinore, CA, USA

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