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:
3 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
105,575 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 RAV4 drivetrain problems

drivetrain problem

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2003 Toyota RAV4 Owner Comments (Page 1 of 5)

problem #86

Sep 012016


  • 74,650 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Rav4. While driving approximately 30 mph, the vehicle suddenly decelerated when the accelerator pedal was depressed. The check engine warning indicator illuminated. The contact attempted to accelerate again and the vehicle responded very slowly to approximately 15 mph. The vehicle was driven to the contact's residence. The vehicle was taken to the dealer where it was diagnosed that the engine control unit failed or there was possible transmission failure. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The failure mileage was 74,650.

- La Crosse, WI, USA

problem #85

Sep 052016

RAV4 4-cyl

  • miles
We were on a family vacation on labor day weekend, when we merged on the freeway and my Toyota rav 4 would not shift over. We almost were hit by oncoming cars from the freeway. I swerved to avoid a crash and crashed into the ditch. I checked on line to get Toyota phone number when I noticed there was a recall and extended warranty on this part on Toyota rav 4 2001 2002 and 2003. I purchased the car in Oct 2010 from dealership carmax, they told me they were not aware of the problem. If I was aware I would have taken it to get it fixed. This is a safety issue with this problem. I might have lost my family and myself. I contacted Toyota, they stated to me they had contacted you guys and it's not under a safety issue on these cars, it was a problematic issues. My question to you is somebody has to die first to be considered safety" Toyota will not honor any repairs because it's passed the 10 year and 150 thousand mile mark. Are you kidding me? ! my car acted up at 163 miles, so my family and any other Rav4 are not safe do to a expired extension" ! that is not good. I'm very upset about this situation. My priority is my family like every ones else's family. The gov should make it a lifetime extended warranty so if we didn't hear about it after the fact, it should be honored and have Toyota and gov fixed this issue. Thank you [xxx] information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Auburn, CA, USA

problem #84

Aug 262016


  • 92,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Rav4. The contact stated that while driving 5 mph, the transmission failed. The vehicle was taken to be diagnosed and the technician informed that the ECM needed to be repaired. The vehicle was repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The failure mileage was 92,000.

- East Northport, NY, USA

problem #83

Aug 242016


  • 82,000 miles


I was driving my 2003 Toyota Rav4 and attempted to merge into another lane when I experienced a very hard shift from the transmission causing the vehicle to stall with a reving engine noise and avoided being rear ended by a truck. I purchased my Rav4 brand new in 2003 to accomodate my disability needs and only have 82,000 miles.I checked with my mechanic today and he looked up the Toyota recall on these Rav4 transmission failures and not once did Toyota inform me about the recall. How is disabled individual on fixed income to afford $3000 for a transmission on a well maintained Toyota with only 82,000 miles. I wish Toyota would show some empathy to accommodate an individual whose sole purpose of a brand new Rav4 would fulfill his daily physical challenges in life and now left with a Toyota with 82,000 miles in need of a transmission. This Rav4 is no longer safe to be driven given its nature of safety concerns.

- Elk Grove, CA, USA

problem #82

Jul 222016


  • 158,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Rav4. The contact stated that while driving at 50 mph, the vehicle began to experience a harsh shift while the vehicle began to reduce in speed. The contact stated that a burning odor was present. The vehicle was taken to a dealer where it was diagnosed that the automatic transaxle failed and the transmission would need to be replaced. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The failure mileage was approximately 158,000.

- Newaygo, MI, USA

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problem #81

Jun 242016


  • 115,100 miles
The transmission acted up. It would work well, then it was like if it was in the wrong gear.

- Richton Park, IL, USA

problem #80

Jun 182016


  • 95,500 miles


My 2003 rav 4 starting shifting gears erratically, starting in 3rd intead of 1st gear, very sluggish to get moving after stopping. Toyota issued a warning regarding a faulty ECM in this model and extended the warranty to 10 years/150000miles. Unfortuantetly my car is 13 years old and 95,000 miles and Toyota would not fix. On the way to the dealership to have this fixed my car was turning left into 2 lanes of traffic and stalled and would not go into gear, a car nearly T-boned me but he was able to swerve into another lane. I could have been killed because of this problem. Toyota needs to take responsibility for this issue and correct all cars on the road today.

- Raleigh, NC, USA

problem #79

May 052016


  • 108,000 miles
ECM failed causing harsh shift transmission problem while driving in lower gears

- Coeur Dalene, ID, USA

problem #78

May 162016


  • 170,000 miles
Had this car for only 10 months (my daughter worked 2 jobs to buy it) and it started clunking when it was put into reverse and then not shifting properly while driving. Took it in and it was the computer, and it would be minimum of $1000 to fix it. It has 170,000 miles which for a Toyota is not a lot. Can't believe this was never a recall and it is now past the warrenty. I love my Toyota but this is not ok that they won't own up and pay to fix it!!!!

- Lackawaxen, PA, USA

problem #77

Apr 052016


  • 103,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Rav4. While driving approximately 30 mph, the accelerator pedal was depressed and the vehicle jerked. As a result, the vehicle became stuck in second and third gear. The failure recurred intermittently. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic where the failure was undetermined; however, the technician discovered that the computer damaged the transmission. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 103,000.

- Davenport, IA, USA

problem #76

Apr 022016


  • 144,540 miles


Transmission slipping when shifting from first to second gear

- San Diego, CA, USA

problem #75

Feb 052016


  • 47,000 miles
My Toyota 2003 rav 4 began having transmiision shifting problems. At times when in motion this vehicle would not continue driving for a few seconds. It also happened on the highway and put us in a very scary and dangerous situation. I took it to my mechanic. He researched and diagnosed the situation. After running a diagnostic, he found error code PO750. He had to replace the engine control module which controlled the transmission.. he also found bulletins sent out by Toyota that this was an issue, but no recalls were found. I had to pay $2091.63 to fix this problem. I have the receipt.

- New Rochelle, NY, USA

problem #74

Oct 232015


  • 83,559 miles
I was driving on city streets when the car violently jerked and speeded up. I was in fear of being in an accident and feared for my safety. I immediately took action to repair this car that was in mint condition to this point. The 2003 rav 4 module and transmission failed at 83559 miles, which is low mileage for a Toyota. Toyota motor Corp lost a class action law suit, and agreed to be responsible for replacement of transmission and module replacement of the 2001 to 2003 model year rav's 4 that failed within 150,000 mile usage or 10 year use. My car had only 83,559 miles at the time of failure due to the faulty original module that caused this transmission problem. In November 2006 Toyota issued a technical bulletin # 1046 with reference to 2001-2003 Toyota Rav4 transmission: U14of, U241E. Subject:2-3 blind up/harsh 2-3 PO755, burnt (C2, clutch, harsh rev. Engagement, wrong gear starts....saying that the faulty PCM in the toyoa Rav4's can cause the transmission problem that my car experienced..........(I have a copy of the document for reference, if necessary) the problem with the transmission in my Rav4 with only 83559 miles was a durability issue; Toyota sold the car with a faulty module, did not replace it when they admitted to the problem and the company needs to be responsible for any and all costs incurred.

- Los Alamitos, CA, USA

problem #73

Nov 012015


  • 95,225 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Rav4. While driving various speeds, the vehicle would hesitate to accelerate and the check engine light illuminated. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic who diagnosed that the transmission/transaxles experienced a harsh shift failure. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The VIN was not available. The failure mileage was 95,225.

- Orlando, FL, USA

problem #72

Jul 152015


  • 102,000 miles
The transmission started shifting erratically at times. After doing some checking online, I discovered that Toyota had put faulty ECM's in some rav 4S. The ECM controls the shifting of the transmission. You have to replace the ECM & the transmission if its damaged at a cost of $4,000 or more. Toyota knew about this & extended the warranties on these vehicles 10 years. Unfortunatley we didn't buy the vehicle until after the warranty time period had passed & this vehicle was never repaired. I called Toyota to see if they would still stand behind it but they would not. Now I have to pay for their faulty junk. Don't think I'll be buying another Toyota again.

- Two Rivers, WI, USA

problem #71

Aug 252015


  • 71,537 miles
My vehicle began to "buck" and then shortly thereafter the check engine light came on. I initially took it to the closest mechanic and was told I needed a new transmission and that they couldn't replace it. Told them to take it to krause Toyota. Was then told by krause it needed a new ECM but they were too busy and couldn't look at the vehicle for 2 weeks since I wasn't a "regular" customer. I then took the car to bennett Toyota - class outfit. They replaced the ECM immediately - which wasn't cheap. Cost me $1200. I have since heard that there was a recall on the ECM on my year Rav4 which I wasn't ever notified of. I feel Toyota should pick up this tab. I have low mileage for a 2003 car, and have always maintained it properly.

- Macungie, PA, USA

problem #70

Apr 062015

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 118,450 miles
The ECM is making a transmission failure.

- San Diego, CA, USA

problem #69

Apr 012014


  • 82,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Rav4. While driving at 30 mph, the vehicle hesitated when depressing the accelerator pedal and the check engine warning light illuminated. The failure occurred multiple times.the vehicle was taken to the dealer where it was advised that the transmission needed to be replaced. The vehicle was then taken to an independent mechanic where it was diagnosed that the ECM needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The failure mileage was 82,000.

- East Longmeadow, MA, USA

problem #68

Feb 172015


  • 134,600 miles
Bought car used and didn't notice the shift problem til later.shifts hard from 2 to 3rd gear. Many people have issue with this mostly being the ECM going bad then destroying the transmission. Both are expensive fixes and both are dangerous leading to accidents.

- Springboro, OH, USA

problem #67

Dec 012014

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 80,880 miles
I pulled onto the highway, and pushed the accelerator down to get into traffic, and the vehicle failed to accelerate instantly as it always had done. The transmission slipped, slowly getting into gear, and then only gradually caught, causing me to almost get hit in the interim by at least one car and a tractor trailer. Told by my mechanic that this was unusual for Toyota transmissions, he said I should go online and see if there were any recalls for this type of problem. Sure enough, Toyota had, under duress of a law suit, acknowledged the problem, and had issued an expansion of the warranty on this exact problem to 10 years or 150,000 miles. On the online description of the transmission/emc problem, it was stated that the problem usually started around 80,000 miles, which is what my 2003 rav 4 has on it. After first calling Toyota headquarters (torrance, ca) to get them to include my car under that extension, they said that it was too late and there was nothing they could do. I then sent them a registered letter begging them to help me, as the car was essentially a death trap with the slippage into the first two gears, and they responded with a letter telling me to call them back. This was fruitless, as the reiterated exactly what the first customer service rep told me. I asked them to put it in writing that they would not stand behind their product failure, which the rep said he would do. I have heard nothing from them since that call last week. I told him I did not get anything from their company telling me, the owner, that this problem in the power train existed, and that it was unfair that because I babied the car over the years I have owned it, the 80,000 miles just occurred recently, past the 2013 date that was in the new warranty extension. In other words, a problem that was known by Toyota to manifest itself around 80,000 miles penalized me in this case.

- Mechanicsburg, PA, USA

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