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.


definitely annoying
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
22,032 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.

2002 Toyota RAV4 steering problems

steering problem

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2002 Toyota RAV4 Owner Comments

problem #6

May 012003


  • 18,000 miles


I purchased the 2002 Toyota Rav4 new from the dealership. One day while I was on my way to work I almost wrecked because the drive belt got hung up on something and it chewed up my drive belt. Also, I started noticing every time that I wanted to speed up my Rav4 would hesitate and not go in gear. If it did go in gear it made a noise like a grinding type of noise. I called the Toyota dealership and they did nothing. I called the Toyota motor usa and told them about my problem and I was told that Toyota does not manufacture any defective vehicles and they refused to do anything. The I read where there had been a recall on all 2001, 2002 and 2003 Rav4 Toyota vehicles because of faulty transmissions. I then sent a letter to Toyota motor corporation usa and again they refused to do anything. The Rav4 has been parked in my garage and it has only 35,000 miles on it and everyone in my family is afraid to drive it. I thought that when a car manufacturer has a recall that the manufacturer has a responsibility to fix the defect. In my case Toyota has refused to do anything. Can you Agency ask Toyota why they have never offered to do anything for a legitimate recall which involes the problems that I am having. Thank you.

- Elkview, WV, USA

problem #5

Aug 062003

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 22,000 miles
I purchased my 2002 Toyota Rav4 SUV in August of 2002. Ever since I bought the Rav4 something has been wrong with it. The first 3-months that I had the Rav4 the drive belt was chewed up and almost caused me to wreck. The transmission started making funny noises like a grinding sound and the transmission would not shift. Sometimes I would just have to pull off of the road because the Rav4 transmission would not shift. I called and talked with the dealership and they said that nothing was wrong with my Rav4. I finally just parked it because my wife would not drive it and I would not drive it. Toyota would not fix my vehicle nor would the dealership. My brother-in-law said that he would try to find a used transmission and put it in my new Rav4 SUV. The used transmission was purchased at a car parts and salvage place for $1,700 and my brother-in-law put the used transmission into my new Toyota Rav4 SUV. I have contacted Toyota motor corporation several times and they said that they are not going to do anything about paying me for the used transmission that I had to purchase. Can you see if Toyota will listen to you about my complaint? than K you.

- Elkview , WV, USA

problem #4

Jul 022003

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 3,000 miles
I purchased my Toyota Rav4 in August, 2002. Eleven months later while driving by the state capital I was going to make a left hand turn and when I did, I almost hit three parked cars because the main drive belt had broken. This drive belt controls about everything to do with steering, air conditioning and etc. I had to have my car towed back to the dealership where I had purchased the vehicle. I had to pay for the labor and new belt because I was told by the dealership that my warranty did not cover this. Then I started having problems with the Rav4 transmission. It started to make a growling sounds and would not shift gears correctly. Some times I had to completely stop, because the transmission was not working. This almost caused other cars to hit me or me to hit other cars. I made several attempts to get the dealership to fix my transmission and they would not.I called Toyota motors Corp. Usa and tried to explain my problems with the Toyota people. They totally blew me off and they have done nothing to fix my transmission problems. I quit driving the Rav4 for three years because it was untrustworthy and Toyota would not fix the transmission. My brother-in-law said that he could probably find a used transmission from a vehicle parts place and that he would install it for me at no charge. I ended up paying $1200 for a used transmission that was from a wrecked 2005 Toyota Rav4. After the transmission was put in I have had no problem with the used transmission. I understand that there is a lawsuit against Toyota over transmission problems in their 2001, 2002 and 2003 Rav4 SUV's. I feel that Toyota should reimburse me for the out of pocket expenses that I have incurred.

- Elkview, WV, USA

problem #3

Aug 302012


  • 88,000 miles


Dangerous transmission problems occurred in this car. The car would stall before going into second gear. Once it occurred as I was in an intersection. There are low miles on this so there should not be a need for repair or replacement at this time.

- Evergreen Park, IL, USA

problem #2

Jul 072003

RAV4 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 1,189 miles
On July 7, 2003 I was on my way to work when the battery discharge light came on and I had no steering capability. I was travelling about sixty miles per hour on the interstate. I almost hit the median divider before I could steer the vehicle to the side of the road. I called the dearlership and explained what had happened. They told me to have the vehicle towed in, they didn't even offer to have it towed. Incidentally this is a new vehicle with less than 1100 miles on it and I had only driven the vehicle about one week before the above happened. The dealership kept my vehicle for two days and I went to get my Rav4 and asked what had happened. The service manager said that the drive belt pulleys had not been properly installed on my new Rav4 and that caused the drive belt to come off of the pulleys and broke the tensioner and the housing guide. I took the car home and the next morning, the new Rav4 would not start. I jumped srtarted the Rav4 from my wifes vehicle and let it run for about fifteen minutes thinking that the battery just needed a charge. My wife was going to use the neew Rav4 vehicle that day to shop. She called me about mid-morning and informed me that the new Rav4 vehicle would not start as she had gone to the mall. That evening my wife and I went to the mall and jum started the vehicle agin and I finally got it home and it is now in my garage, it just will not start. I called and talaked to the service director about all of the problems that I was having with my new Rav4 SUV. He equated my break-downs to going to the store and buying a box of four light bulbs and taking the light bulbs home and putting a new light bulb in a lamp that had a burned out light bulb and when the lamp is turned on then the new light bulb burns out. This really made me angry. I told him that there was big difference in a fifty cent light bulb and a $25,000 new vehicle with only 1100 miles on it.

- Elkview, WV, USA

problem #1

Apr 012002


  • miles
Steering column will steer to left and right, and the vehicle is uncontrollable in traffic. Dealership is aware of problem.

- Huston, TX, USA

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