Huge win for car owners! All TSBs to be made public. The Center for Auto Safety just made the NHTSA (US Government) make public the full text of all TSBs from now on. They are the same organization that has petitioned the NHTSA & filed lawsuits to protect car owners over exploding gas tanks & other major safety issues. Whenever you drive in your car, you are safer thanks in part to a lot of work over the years by this small but very effective consumer advocacy group.

Please take a moment & say thank you by donating $5 or whatever you can to the Center for Auto Safety. Notes: If you're looking for a vehicle with one of the most complained about transmission on the road, look no further than the 2001-2003 Toyota RAV4.

In 2001 Toyota completely redesigned the popular SUV. While some enjoyed the new look, they did not enjoy the harsh shifting, jumping from gear-to-gear and eventual transmission failure that cost owners well over $3,000 to fix. The problem stems from a malfunctioning Electronic Control Module (ECM).

Consumer outrage coupled with pressure from different agencies led Toyota to extend the warranty nationwide back in 2010. The previous power train warranty only covered 5 years/60,000 miles, while the extended warranty now covers the transmission and ECM for 10 years/150,000 miles. Toyota also pledged to reimburse any owners who had previously paid for repairs, if they had "proper proof". Good luck collecting on that one.


pretty bad
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
111,472 miles
Total Complaints:
53 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. not sure (24 reports)
  2. replaced electronic control module (ecm) also known as pcm (19 reports)
  3. replaced ECM and transmission (10 reports)
2001 Toyota RAV4 transmission problems

transmission problem

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2001 Toyota RAV4 Owner Comments (Page 3 of 3)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #13

Sep 102009

RAV4 3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,025 miles


The ECM just went in my 2001 RAV4 (120000+ miles). I have a co-worker that had the same exact thing happen to his Corolla (year and mileage unknown, but newer than my vehicle). He was told it's a very common occurrence, so this isn't a RAV4 issue alone. I'm fortunate that my mechanic made a few calls and found out about this issue instead of just replacing or rebuilding the tranny. Unfortunately, if there's a certain lifespan for this ECM, it's not considered a defect and Toyota won't issue a recall. It sucks, but that's the way it is.

Update from Dec 28, 2009: This will be THE LAST Toyota I ever buy. Starting in May 2009, the water pump went ($1100 to replace). Four months later the ECM went ($1000 to replace). In November I noticed I wasn't getting much heat or air flow through the vents. So far it's taken four days and almost $1000 to fix THIS problem. First it looked like the cables that control the opening and closing of the vents; now it appears I need some kind of heater control box. So, RAV4 owner out there, your problems are only just beginning. By the way, I only have 124,000 miles on it. My brother has a '92 Ford Ranger with over 230,000 miles on it that he only needs to start looking to replace now. Should have kept my Acura!

- , Guilford, CT, USA

problem #12

Jun 222009


  • Automatic transmission
  • 97,324 miles

I am experiencing the same problem with my vehicle. Toyota is not willing to do anything to address this problem. Customer service must be tired of people calling because they are very rude. We all need to ban together and get a class action lawsuit going. There was an article in the New York Times addressing the problem on 8/26/09. A spokesperson from NHTSA said they were looking into it but is concerned if it is a safety hazard or customers just being inconvenienced. I was left with the impression that an organization that is suppose to have the best interest of the American citizens is ignoring a life or death situation. I have sent letters to all the news stations, the white house, bbb and to the governor in my area. As of today, no one has responded. I really don't believe this is a major problem. We have to ban together and make Toyota take responsibility. If you have information on a class action lawsuit, please forward it to me.

- , Landover, MD, USA

problem #11

Sep 012009

RAV4 L 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 122,000 miles

Recently I had my granddaughter in the car with me and suddenly the car started acting strange when I would come to a stop and start off again. Felt like a big hesitation and then it would jerk and finally engage. The check engine light came on so I went home and parked it. I mentioned to my daughter the problem I was having and she told me to check and see if my gas cap was on tight. That evening I was thinking about it so I went out and opened the gas cap and screwed it back on. The next morning I went out got it my car and went to the store. The engine light was off and the car was running fine. I was happy and grateful that the gas cap was an easy fix. My happiness was short lived. Two days later as I drove to work the problem with the hesitation and slipping started back up. I promptly took my car to my mechanic. He checked it out and advised me that it was a transmission problem and recommended I take it to an AAMCO in a nearby city. I drove over to AAMCO the following morning. On the way there the check engine light came back on and the car started having problems shifting from 4th to 5th gear as well as from 1st to 2nd. After inspecting my car I was advised they would need to disassemble the transmission to find out was wrong as it appeared the problems were inside the transmission. The cost for that would be $350.00. I okayed that to be done and they called me later to advise that the transmission would have to be rebuilt at a cost of $2800.00. That was so much more than I ever expected but I went ahead and okayed the work. When I went to pick up the vehicle 2 days later, I was advised there was another big problem. I was advised that the computer was causing the rebuilt transmission to do the same thing it was doing when I brought it in and that the car could not be driven or it would destroy the transmission again. I was told the cost to replaced the computer was another $1100.00. Well, there I was, completely stunned and over a barrel. Today, at a total cost of $3907.14 I drove my car home. I don't know if my car is even worth $3907.14, but I am now in debt for that much. In September 2007, I put $2500.00 in this Rav4 for a new radiator, all new belts and several engine oil leaks. In October of 2008 I had to have the engine rebuilt at a cost of $1500.00. Now 11 months later I just put another $3900.00 into my Rav. This is nearly $8,000.00 in 2 years.!! I do not abuse my car. I am a 52 year old grandmother with a limited income. I can't afford this car and now I can't afford to get rid of it. Will I ever buy another Toyota. I doubt it. I realize my car is

Update from Oct 31, 2010: I wanted to update everyone on my transmission/computer issues. I recently received a recall notice for ZTL - Certain 2001-2003 Model year RAV4 vehicles Customer Support Program - Specific Malfunction Indicator Light "On" Diagnostic Codes and/or Harsh Shift of Automatic Transaxle. I wrote a letter to Toyota and explained to them what happened with my transmission and computer. I sent them a copy of my bill from AAMCO that specifically stated that the computer was responsible for the damage to my transmission. I requested reimbursment for the $3900.00 repair bill. I assumed it would be a waste of time, but figured I had nothing to lose. Last week I received a letter from Toyota requesting a copy of my title or registration to show proof of ownership as they were reviewing my claim. I was a little excited because I figured they were going to do something regarding my claim and I figured anything they did would be better than nothing. Yesterday I had another letter from Toyota. When I first opened it I thought it was a rejection letter, but once I put my glasses on I realized it was a letter thanking me for contacting them and a check for $3664.48! I am pleased beyond words. Toyota has earned back my confidence and my business.
I don't know if I had written this letter a year ago if Toyota would have reimbursed me. I don't know if the recall happened because of this website and all the complaints from all of you that had a similar problem. I want all of you to know there is hope and you should write or call Toyota. The customer experience number is 1-800-331-4331 or by mail Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. 19001 S. Western Ave. Torrance , CA 90501 Fax # 310-371-7756. Once they receive your letter or call they will assign you a case number. Again, the request for reimbursement was under the Csp 01-03my Rav4 Transaxle Ecm Warranty Enhancement. Good luck to all of you!

- , Marciopa, AZ, USA

problem #10

Aug 092009


  • Automatic transmission
  • 91,000 miles


Should I replace my ECM before my transmission goes bad?

I am having similar symptoms as listed for 2001 Rav4 transmission problems, and I'm currently having the solenoid replaced, which the shop hopes will fix the problems. Apparently my transmission is still fine. But I've been reading how all 2001 Rav4 owners are having this problem, and it's the fault of the ECM. So I'm wondering if I should just replace the ECM before it ruins the transmission. BUT, I don't want to just fix the ECM if it doesn't fix the problem. Any advice? I'd really appreciate some hindsight.

- , San Diego, CA, USA

problem #9

Jun 072009


  • Automatic transmission
  • 71,000 miles

I took my car in for an oil change and tune up. When I got my bill it was $259.00. I told them the check engine light came on and I had the recall for this issue to bre reprogrammed. They said they reprogrammed it but as soon as I drove away it came on again. They told me that my transmission computer was bad and it would cost $1300 to replace but they could not promise me that would fix the problem of the car's engine doing the harsh shift. The test showed a error code of PO750 which was on their notice sent toToyota, (because it was not sent to the customers) TC002-06 dated March 15, 2006, which stated they KNEW this was a problem and if anyone came in with the condition to replace the ECM. The condition was 96 months or 80,000 miles, whichever came first from the vehicle's in-service date. When I took my car back to them with this notice, they told me since I was not the first owner, it went back to the date the vehicle was first purchased. The vehicle was first purchased in February 2001 which made the notice expire in February of 2009 for the 96 month deal. I asked the service man why he did not tell me this when he told me about the transmission computer needed to be replaced and he was very short with his answers. I had already checked it out but did not tell you. Now they want me to pay $1300 for a part that they say they cannot guarantee me to fix. That means I would have to pay an additional cost of a transmission replacement if that did not fix the problem. I called Toyota of America and explained the situation and they took my information and said a Customer Service Manager would get with me, gave me a case number and everything. No one has tried to contact me, but I did get an email from Toyota thanking me for being a part of the Toyota family and invited me to Toyota Access to purchase another Toyota. Toyota SUCKS.

- , Orange Park, FL, USA

problem #8

May 102009

RAV4 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 68,500 miles

hi there,

did anyone reprogram the ecm, or replacing a new computer in his rav4 before having any problems with the transmission? and how is his car running now ?

i have a 2001 rav4 (68000 miles) without any issues, i have a recall from toyota , i went to the dealer , he updated the ecm program , and i want to know if that will avoid problem in the future, or i must buy a new computer before it is too late.

please any answer can help.

thank you

- , Austin, TX, USA

problem #7

Jun 072009


  • Automatic transmission
  • 71,000 miles


I have a RAV4 2001 that I took in to Toyota to have a tune-up and oil change and check the engine because my check engine light came on that day. Well the bill came to almost 300.00 after they did their thing and informed me the transmission computer was bad and needed replacing. I asked if that would fix the problem I had my recall paper for them to reprogram the ECM. They gave me my car with a notice

- , Orange Park, FL, USA

problem #6

May 042009


  • Automatic transmission
  • 88,000 miles

Feeling really stupid right now. Have ALWAYS loved my Toyotas - drove them to their graves - but this situation is unbelieveable! My 2001 Rav4 started "thunking" into reverse and shifting hard in 2nd and 3rd. Bought it used from dealer in 2005 - no problems until now at 88000 miles. Took to local repair guy. Rebuilt transmission for $2400. Took back to repair guy with same problem. Replaced solenoid (?). Took back to repair guy with same problem. He called Toyota "several" times before found out about ECM. They're sending it in to be "rebuilt" for another $700. Now I find out this is a common - EXPENSIVE problem for the Rav4. With the economy the way it is - can't afford to fix it - can't afford to get rid of it!

Update from Jun 1, 2009: FINALLY got our car back (4 weeks in shop) after replacing ECM at a cost of over $1100.00. Luckily our local repair guy went the extra effort (many phone calls) and miles to tow it to an out of town Toyota dealer (local dealer wouldn't help) and had new computer programed. This will be the last Toyota we'll ever own - getting rid of it as soon as economically feasible!

- , Elkhart, IN, USA

problem #5

Sep 082008

RAV4 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 125,000 miles

if you are having shifting problems with your rav4 then the trouble is the computer(ecm). this causes false codes with the check engine light as well as hard shifts. I originally took my car to a transmission specialist. had it thoroughly checked out and was told i most likely was going to need a new transmission. fortunately i put them on hold and started doing some extensive research on my own. i discovered that Toyota was aware of this problem but was under no obligation to fix it past the 80k mile warranty period. their fix was to reprogram the computer. i already had this done within the last twelve months. so i was told that a new computer would be $1200 from Toyota. i later found a company on ebay by the name of check engine. you send them your ecm and they will repair it and ship it back to you the same day that they receive it. they guarantee their work and have an excellent customer satisfaction rating. they charged me $380. my transmission shop removed and reinstalled the ecm for me. it has been 6 months now and the rav4 is running like new. please don't waste your money on transmission repairs until you get your computer fixed. the computer is the problem. transmission,check engine light etc are just symptoms. faulty computer will tear up transmission if left unchecked.

- , Anderson, SC, USA

problem #4

Apr 022009


  • Automatic transmission
  • 119,000 miles

I am so glad I found this Website. My 2001 Toyota RAV4 was shifting roughly in 1st & 2nd gear. It was scary hesitating and losing power in stop & go traffic... several times I almost got rear-ended. My Toyota dealer told me the repair to my car would be $5,600 for a new Engine Control Module (ECM), $1,300 for the transmission and $3,000 for a new catalytic converter. They even offered me $1,000 and they would take my car "as is" on trade-in!

Instead of giving them my credit card, I called Toyota of Grapevine, Texas (866) 374-4519 and ordered an Engine Control Module (ECM) for $800 plus $15 shipping. It took me 45 minutes to install myself. The ECM is right behind the glove box and can be removed with a little patience, a Philips screwdriver and a 10mm socket wrench with an extender. The car immediately shifted smoothly with the new computer. So, before you plunk down $5,600, try this $800 fix, unless your car has less than 80,000 miles and Toyota will replace the ECM for free.

- , Chicago, IL, USA

problem #3

Mar 232009


  • Automatic transmission
  • 93,206 miles


My problem began about two weeks ago. The gears of my RAV4 began slipping and the smell of burning clutches were clear indications that I need to get my vehicle to Toyota Service to have it repaired. After having gone to see Toyota, they then told me that there was no problem with the vehicle, even after taking it for a road test. I stressed the fact that the gears were slipping and a burnt smell was apparent. They told me that they could not fix the problem unless the ECM light was on.

What frustrates me is that similar problems to this vehicle are occurring worldwide. Shouldn't they be informed of all problems that arise to their product? I have read several blogs about similar complaints. I have now printed it out, highlighted the problems and will show the Toyota Service Dept. today. I just hope it's not too late. I asked the service clerk, "So I can't bring in my car to be fixed until my car dies?" --so frustrating.

Update from May 5, 2009: I've recently had my car checked by a licensed mechanic. He tells me it's the transmission (1800.00 CDN), then he tells me it's the computer (800.00 CDN) total=HEADACHE and STRESS! How do I get in contact with Toyota? What does it take to get a recall done?

- , New Westminster, BC, Canada

problem #2

Feb 052009


  • Automatic transmission
  • 86,000 miles

I took my car to a transmission specialist in February 2005 for the transmission was slipping between 2nd and 3rd gear. The problem only occurred in the morning when it was first started. Once the car was warm the problem never happened the rest of the day. The transmission specialist told me to take it to a dealership because there was a recall on the ECM. I did and they flashed it and told me the problem should be fixed. It wasn't. I picked it up and drove it for a few days and it still did the same thing. I took it back to the same dealership and they told me they didn't know what the problem was. I took it to another dealership a few days later and they said I needed a new ECM and a NEW transmission which would cost $4,000. I took my car back to the first dealership to tell them what the diagnosis was and they said I ONLY needed a new ECM. So I trusted them and replaced the ECM for $1,250. I left the car there and asked them to make sure the problem is fixed while I was out of town so in case there was any more work that needed to be done they could do it while I was gone. They reassured me that my vehicle was fixed.

I picked it up when I got back in town and didn't even make it out of the parking lot and the same problem was still happening. I turned around immediately and parked the car and told the Service Manager how unhappy I was. He said he would look at it Monday since it was heated and the problem wouldn't happen for him. So I left the car with him for 4 days and he called me on a Thursday and told me I needed a new transmission for $3,600. I explained to him that he just replaced the ECM for $1,250 and it didn't solve the problem, and I thought he should reimburse me for the ECM or put my old one back in. He told me that since my car sat there while I was out of town, they no longer had the old ECM.

I now have my car back at the transmission specialist to see if there is anything else I can do. How much money am I going to put into this car before I get results. I haven't had my car for over 2 months. STOP THE MADNESS!!!!!

- , Marietta, GA, USA

problem #1

Dec 062008


  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles

I used to think Toyota had a good reliable product . But I have learned otherwise . The problem with the transmission would not have been bad if there had been some warning of problems with the ECM . But since Toyota is playing stupid about the whole thing it is costing at this point approximately 4,000 dollars ,in a time when money is not easy to come by . I challenge Toyota to step up to the plate and take responsibility for faulty product. If anyone knows of a lawsuit going on please let me know.

- , Tucson, AZ, USA

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