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2003-2007 7th-gen Honda Accord problems guide highlights:

  • The earliest 7th-gen Honda Accord models tend to have automatic transmission as well as stereo and HVAC problems, though the latter can affect older ones, too
  • The 7th-gen Accord’s ignition switch, starter motor, headliner, and power steering problems are fixable, though severe paint failure is expensive to deal with
  • Tracking down the source of a 2003-2007 Accord’s oil consumption issues might require specialized tests, but they’re fixable

If you want a practical, reliable, affordable, and surprisingly fun used car, a Honda Accord is usually a solid choice. And while they’re nearing classic-car age, most 2003-2007 7th-gen Accords still rank high on the reliability scale. But while used Honda Accords can hit 100,000 or even a million miles, even they develop problems over time. And the 7th-gen model has several issues worth mentioning.

Now, some 7th-gen Accord issues are commonplace among many high-mileage used cars. After 100,000 or more miles, most cars will need new engine mounts, light bulbs, and suspension bushings, for example. Also, while some Accord Hybrids had battery issues, all hybrid batteries eventually wear out. However, there are several problems specific to the 2003-2007 Honda Accord that you, the potential buyer, should know about. And that’s what this guide is for.

The earliest 7th-gen Honda Accord models had some notable automatic transmission problems

A maroon 2003 7th-gen Honda Accord Sedan in the desert
2003 7th-gen Honda Accord | Honda

Admittedly, one of the most infamous 7th-gen Accord problems should be resolved by now, but it’s worth keeping in mind. And not just because of how expensive it is to fix.  

When Honda launched the 7th-gen Accord for 2003, it both the four-cylinder and V6 models new five-speed automatic transmissions. Unfortunately, these transmissions started breaking down even before the cars hit 100,000 miles. They’d start leaking, wouldn’t go into gear, and/or would downshift at random moments. But the Accord wasn’t the only one with transmission woes: the contemporary Pilot and Odyssey, as well as the Acura MDX were recalled, too.

Honda eventually determined that these early 7th-gen Accord transmissions were insufficiently cooled. On cars with fewer than 15,000 miles, it retrofitted an additional oil cooler feed line to cool the gears. Cars with more miles, though, either got new, revised transmissions or that retrofit, depending on their gears’ conditions.

1AAuto notes that post-2004 7th-gen Honda Accords can still develop automatic transmission problems from insufficient and/or dirty fluid. So, if you go for a test drive and notice harsh shifting, consider shopping elsewhere. Also, if you’re thinking of buying a 2003 or 2004 Accord, make sure the recall work is complete.

Audio and HVAC problems aren’t uncommon on high-mileage 7th-gen Honda Accords, especially early ones

The automatic transmission problems aren’t the only reason why early 7th-gen Accords aren’t the best used picks, though. In addition to those issues, 2003 Accords often suffer stereo backlight failure. Furthermore, it’s not unusual for early 7th-gen models to suffer total audio and HVAC display failure, Samarins claims. And speaking of the HVAC system, 7th-gen Honda Accord air-conditioning systems often break as the cars pile on the miles.

Fortunately, these issues are repairable. The A/C problems often stem from an A/C clutch or clutch relay failure, Samarins says. It’s not the cheapest repair, but even with labor, it usually costs well under $1000. As for the stereo display failure, you can solve that by upgrading your audio system. Which, if you want Bluetooth, Android Auto, or Apple CarPlay in your 7th-gen Honda Accord, you’ll have to do anyway.

A handful of four-cylinder 7th-gen Accords have oil consumption problems, but they’re fixable

A beige 2003 7th-gen Honda Accord's 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine
The 7th-gen Honda Accord 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine can have oil consumption problems | Honda

Although high-mileage engines consuming a bit of oil isn’t unusual, it’s not typically something Honda engines are known for. Yet it is a 7th-gen Honda Accord problem, Samarins reports, albeit not as widespread as you might think. However, though it’s tricky to solve, it’s still fixable.

Firstly, multiple owner forums claim it’s mostly Accords with 2.4-liter four-cylinder engines that suffer from excessive oil consumption. That doesn’t mean V6 models can’t burn oil, but rather that their issues usually stem from the ‘usual suspects.’ In other words, unless they have clogged PCV valves or worn valve stem seals, the V6s usually don’t consume extra oil. The four-cylinder engines, though, often chew through oil even with fresh seals and clean PCV valves.

If that’s the case with your four-cylinder 7th-gen Accord, the issue is likely blown piston rings. Specifically, the lower oil control rings, rather than the upper compression rings. Because the latter usually blow, technicians often diagnose oil consumption problems using engine compression and leak-down tests. However, the oil control rings only seal the combustion chamber against oil, not pressure. So, if they’re blown, those tests I mentioned won’t catch that.

In short, four-cylinder 2003-2007 Honda Accord models can develop oil consumption problems. But if changing the PCV valve and valve stem seals doesn’t solve it, schedule an oil consumption test with a local Honda dealership. Especially if your catalytic converter and/or O2 sensors fail.

It’s not unusual for 7th-gen Honda Accords to suffer power steering problems

Moving on from the engine but staying in the engine bay, HondaProblems notes that 2003-2007 Honda Accords often develop power steering whines. This can happen if the previous owner(s) didn’t change the power steering fluid often enough. But it’s often because the O-rings that seal that fluid away have failed after years and hundreds of thousands of miles.

When that happens, air gets into the system and creates bubbles. A hydraulic steering pump is great at moving fluid around, but air not so much. And the result is a squealing, whining pump.

Now, if the pump fails completely, you’ll need to replace it. But usually, you just need to replace your 7th-gen Accord’s power steering hoses and those O-rings. Fortunately, this usually costs even less than replacing the A/C clutch. And if you’re worried about potential power steering failure, like many of these Honda Accord problems, a pre-purchase inspection typically catches them.

By now, 2003-2007 Honda Accords often have paint problems

Paint problems aren’t unheard-of on some used Hondas, and the 2003-2007 Accord is no different. From peeling paint to clear coat failure, after 100,000 miles, these Accords often look rough. But failing paint doesn’t just look bad—it also leaves a car more vulnerable to corrosion.

If the Accord you’re eyeing only has a few small rough patches, a paint repair kit might be enough. However, if the car’s paint is really starting to go, the only option is a professional respray and/or a wrap. Neither of those things is cheap; even a simple wrap runs $2000-$3000 or more for something Accord-sized.

Admittedly, if you live somewhere dry that doesn’t see road salt, paint problems on a cheap 7th-gen Honda Accord aren’t necessarily deal-breakers. If snow, ice, and rain make regular appearances, though, that’s another story.

High-mileage 7th-gen Accords can develop ignition and starting problems

As their odometers tick up, 7th-gen Honda Accords can develop some ignition system problems. Starter motor failure isn’t uncommon, Samarins says, though that’s often the case with many high-mileage vehicles. However, ignition switch failure is a bit less common. And yet, the 2003-2007 Accord can suffer it, too, 1AAuto notes.

Although the ignition switch often comes bundled with the lock cylinder, you can buy it separate for around $50-$60. And while replacing it requires removing some trim, you can do it yourself with a few hand tools. As for the starter motor, it typically costs $100-$200, with V6-specific ones on the higher end. It’s a more involved process to replace it, and it will require temporarily removing some exhaust parts. But it’s still doable at home.

The other good news is ignition switch and starter motor failure are pretty easy to diagnose. If the Accord won’t start after jumping the battery, it either has a faulty ignition switch or starter motor. But if you can’t turn or remove the key easily, it’s likely the former. And if twisting the key turns on the lights but not the engine, it’s the latter.

Make sure your 2003-2007 Accord’s door latch actuators are working properly

Power door locks are usually convenient, but not when they latch and unlatch on their own. These are problems some 7th-gen Honda Accord owners might face when their door latch actuators fail, 1AAuto reports. Alternatively, the doors might just never lock or unlock.

Fortunately, as with the ignition switch, replacement actuators aren’t terribly expensive; think $15-$30 each. You do have to remove the door panel and waterproof inner covering to replace them, but the process doesn’t require any specialty tools. Though, as with any other repair, if you don’t feel confident, there’s no shame in trusting a professional mechanic.

You might need to budget for headliner repairs

The gray-leather front seats and dashboard of a 2005 7th-gen Honda Accord Hybrid
2005 7th-gen Honda Accord Hybrid leather interior | Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Finally, after many miles, no used car will have a perfectly pristine interior. But apart from inevitable scratches and stains, the 7th-gen Honda Accord is also prone to headliner problems. Over time, the fabric covering the roof panels starts sagging and can even fall off.

Now, if your 2003-2007 Accord’s headliner is only sagging slightly in one spot, it’s repairable. Just cut out the sagging part and glue in a replacement square of the same color. There are even inexpensive repair kits ($40-$90, depending on fabric quantity) specifically for this purpose. But if your headliner is sagging severely, you’ll need to budget for a full replacement.

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