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.


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
6 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
2 / 0
Average Mileage:
106,019 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 transmission problems

transmission problem

Find something helpful? Spread the word.
Get notified about new defects, investigations, recalls & lawsuits for the 2002 Toyota RAV4:

Unsubscribe any time. We don't sell/share your email.

2002 Toyota RAV4 Owner Comments (Page 1 of 13)

problem #254

Apr 192014


  • 84,000 miles


The contact owns a 2002 Toyota rav 4. the contact stated the vehicle suddendly accelerated independently and immediately the check engine light illuminated. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic. The technician made the contact aware of an unknown manufacturer recall related to the transmission. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The VIN was not available. The failure mileage was 84,000 and the current mileage was 84,329.

- West Orange, NJ, USA

problem #253

Jul 032013

RAV4 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 67,950 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Rav4. The contact stated that the vehicle hesitated and jerked while accelerating. The vehicle was taken to a transmission specialist where a diagnostic was performed that indicated that the transmission needed to be replaced. The manufacturer advised the contact that the transmission replacement warranty was expired. The vehicle was not repaired. The approximate failure and current mileage was 67,950. Updated 10/29/13

- Avon , CT, USA

problem #252

Jun 012011


  • 104,000 miles
My Toyota 2002 rav 4 suddenly would not accelerate when more gas is given thereby being more dangerous on highway for possibly being hit by traffic behind. Such a sudden change in shifting possibly transmission mal-functioning happens also while driving at a higher speed.

- Springfield, VA, USA

problem #251

Jan 152011

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 175,000 miles


Several months ago my transmission began to slip and the check engine light came on. Subsequently as I drove the car, it began to lurch and I lost control of it several times. I took the car to Toyota dealer then and they could not identify the problem but suggested replacing the ECM unit as a "possible fix." They suggested that perhaps the whole transmission needed to be replaced. I wanted a second opinion and took the car to a specialist. He could not find a problem either. After a search on the internet, I found that not only was this imminent problem well-documented, but Toyota dealers had been made aware of it in 2006! T when I took the car back to Toyota last week, they admitted that they had been informed, but could not repair the car free of charge as I have 180+K miles on it. Had Toyota notified me about the issue in 2006, I would have replaced the module then. Now the car is completely undrivable and cannot even be sold.

- Danbury, CT, USA

problem #250

Apr 252011


  • 122,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Rav4. The contact stated the driver attempted to accelerate from a stop but the vehicle would not accelerate. The failure was not diagnosed and the vehicle was not repaired. The failure and current mileages were 122,000.

- Callahan, FL, USA

problem #249

Apr 102011

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 102,000 miles
My 2002 Toyota Rav4 began shift erratically 2 days ago. Not shifting to 2nd gear the finally jumping into gear. 102,000 miles. Sounds like a common problem that Toyota should own up to and make right. Dealer is asking for $4000 to replace transmission.

- St. Peters, MO, USA

problem #248

Jan 122011

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 91,620 miles


2002 Toyota Rav4. Started a month ago harsh shifting from lowest gear to the next, hesitation then abrupt shifting or no shifting at all by transmission, either with or without overdrive applied. Replaced oxygen sensors and ECM, okay for a week but back again. Repeats the same problem from complete stop then slow acceleration, gear shifting is not timely and sudden unexpectedly creating a jerky motion.

- Seattle, WA, USA

problem #247

Feb 182011

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 62,500 miles
My Toyota Rav4, 2002, began shifting hard, clunking into gear, and accelerating prior to shifting on its own. I took the car to a Toyota dealer who has told me that this issue is not covered for all VIN numbers of Rav4's sold. We shall see if he is correct as I told him that the article from the NY times sure looks like it covers all Rav4's between 2001 and 2003.

- Tucson, AZ, USA

problem #246

Jan 302011

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 113,000 miles
The transmission of my 2002 Toyota Rav4 was damaged due to a failure of the eletronic control module. The issue was first discovered not by a check engine indicator light, but by nearing being smashed by on coming traffic when the car failed to shift as I was crossing an intersection. This is a serious safety issue. The failure in the transmission is sudden and I was extremely fortunate that it did not result in an accident. Through research, I've come to learn that Toyota has been aware of the issue since March 2006. I have not been informed of situation by Toyota to date. I really feel a recall is in order. This is a very dangerous defect.

- Columbus, OH, USA

problem #245

Sep 082010

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 172,000 miles
I was climbing a steep hill when my Toyota Rav4 just seemed to jump out of gear. I had to undertake special measures to turn around without engine power and coast down the hill. It was towed to a Toyota dealer who told me the ECU had damaged the transmission. They advised me it was out of warranty and would cost $4500 to repair. I had it towed back home. I since found that many are experiencing this problem with the Toyota Rav4. Someone needs to make Toyota accountable for this obvious defect. So much for being a loyal Toyota customer. Help! please. Its parked in my driveway.

- Ramona, CA, USA

problem #244

Jan 082011

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 129,000 miles


During a snow storm, my vehicle's transmission started revving up to 5000 rpms without shifting into 3rd gear. I thought my tires were slipping because of the weather, but over the next 2 days as my car would heat up, it would continue. I had a repair shop look at it and they advised me to repair or replace the transmission. Toyota suggested I bring it to a dealer. The dealer said that I need to have my transmission flushed and to replace the ECM/ECU - which costs $900 and there's no guarantee it'll fix my problem. I'm not receiving any assistance from Toyota hq or the dealership as far as receiving a guarantee that this will fix my issue, and they won't provide information on what to do if the issue still persists.

- Bristol, CT, USA

problem #243

Dec 242010

RAV4 5-cyl

  • 104,421 miles
Either the ECU or the transmission is not working right. The automatic transmission can usually change between 1st and 2nd gear but it usually cannot change between 2nd and 3rd. The engine usually revs as the transmission slips. If we ease up on the accelerator or sometimes we to pump it a little, then the transmission changes gears. There have been a few occasions where the engine revs and the transmission catches on its own but this is causes the car to accelerate when we do not expect it to. This just started happening recently. We had noticed for the past few months that the transmission would change a little harder than normal, but not the car is not drivable due to safety reason.

- Fremont, CA, USA

problem #242

Dec 102010

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 54,000 miles
2002 Toyota Rav4. The transmission slips from 1st to 2nd gear uncontrollably and causes a sudden surge in the vehicle that makes driving it not only dangerous but a liability to me. Toyota should be concerned with this, considering their recent problems with sudden acceleration and braking. The car was bought through a Toyota dealership, which makes it all the worse because of the fact that they knowingly passed this car through their inspection process and did not do a damn thing. Tell Toyota to fix this problem for the safety of millions of people on the road.

- Stoneham, MA, USA

problem #241

May 222010

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 87,000 miles
I have a 2002 Rav4 I purchased used in May 2010 for $9,000. A few days after purchasing it, the transmission started slipping. Almost had numerous accidents when needing to accelerate when pulling out into a busy road and the transmission failed to get out of 2nd gear into 3rd gear. Had the transmission replaced/rebuilt for $3,500, the ECM flashed for $265, 3 new oxygen sensors put in for $900. Now the car is still doing what it did even after all that money spent. Looking up on the web, found many owners had the same problem and almost all had to replace the ECM. I am now trying to get an appointment with a Toyota dealer to get this done. Very disappointed in Toyota.

- Kailua, HI, USA

problem #240

Dec 012005

RAV4 6-cyl

  • 60,000 miles
2002 Toyota Rav4 - while driving on the freeway, my car may automatically go from 60 to 40 mpr in matter of seconds. Or my car will get stuck on 60mpr & violently jerk. Twice have I taken it in for an ECM recall. My engine light has been on ever since 60,000 miles and now it's at 150,000. The extended warranty has been issued but my car is over the limit (154,000 miles). This extended warranty should have been issued "years ago" now it's too late. My car has had problems ever since my check engine light has turned on at 60K.

- Norwalk, CA, USA

problem #239

Feb 112007


  • 93,000 miles
ECM/transmission failure on my 2002 rav 4. I ended up cleaning out my savings over this car. After recent bulletin from Toyota, I submitted necessary paper work for some reimbursement. I was told that I was not eligible because the car was made in puerto rico, not us!!!!!! I bought it used from a Toyota dealer in va. Why did Toyota send me the notice"???"

- Surry, VA, USA

problem #238

Sep 132010


  • 160,000 miles
Our 2002 Toyota rav-4 has about 120,000 miles on it. The transmission has begun to act up beginning about 2 weeks ago. It has gone from bad to worse, and in investigating solutions to the problem, we have been stunned to read about the many hundreds of complaints that Toyota has received re: 2001-2003 Toyota rav-4S, which were thought to be transmission issues exclusively, and turned out to be faulty ecms. This happens every time that we drive this car, and we now refuse to drive it on the highway because of our difficulty in getting it to accelerate without the rpms being so high that we know it's damaging the transmission/engine.

- Pearland, TX, USA

problem #237

Aug 252010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 150,543 miles
2002 Toyota Rav4. After stopping at an intersection I took off and the automatic transmission seemed to be in high gear, then it jerked and the engine raced and the transmission down shifted. This happened two other times within 10 miles. The ECM unit had failed. I researched this problem on-line and found that many other people had the same issue. Toyota claims that this problem was fixed in 2008 on this vehicle but we have owned the vehicle since may of 2007 and did not have any repairs done.

- Louisville, KY, USA

problem #236

May 082009


  • 110,029 miles
For a long time the check engine light kept turning on in my 2002 Rav4. I went to a dealer immediately. He said that this only happened because I didn't screw the gas cap tightly enough. He manually turned off the light and I went on my way. The light kept coming on and I kept going back to the dealership who said they couldn't find anything wrong with the car. Then suddenly, in may of 2009, the car started jerking and shaking while I drove. At times it would stall almost to a stop and nothing I did, even applying the gas did much more than rev the engine. I ended up having to fork over more than $3K to get it fixed, but that wasn't the end of it. My check engine light up again. I took it to a different shop, as I had moved across the country at the time. They ended up having to replace my 02 sensors, all 4 of them. That cost me another $500. I only found out later from a friend that Toyota had sent out a recall on the ECU and transmissions for vehicles with less than 80K miles on it. Mine was already over 100K and did not help me one bit. Needless to say, I no longer have any confidence in this company. My family bought Toyota for years. I recently got a note explaining that they would pay for my repairs... now I'm scrambling to find the receipts and hope they will honor their promise. They cannot undo the potential danger their mistakes could have cost me and my passengers. There is not one note of apology in the recall either. I felt the need to file a complaint despite the recall because Toyota should be made to fully reimburse their customers who have had to go through not only the headache of dealing with the mechanical problems, but also because of the other people and families this negligence may have physically hurt, or god forbid, killed. The fear and danger of driving this road hazard is also motivation enough to make sure as many complaints are heard and addressed.

- Los Angeles, CA, USA

problem #235

Aug 162010


  • 91,781 miles
2002 Rav4 automatic transmission hard shift into reverse and mis shift between gears.

- Hillsboro, OH, USA

Read the next 20 complaints »

Not what you are looking for?