ANNOUNCEMENT: The Car Book 2018 is now online!

Ratings on over 1,000 new & used models going back 5 years, from the Center from Auto Safety. Learn more about The Car Book 2018 here. 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.


hardly worth mentioning
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
101,994 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.

2001 Toyota RAV4 drivetrain problems

drivetrain problem

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2001 Toyota RAV4 Owner Comments (Page 3 of 4)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #21

Sep 282011

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 130,000 miles


Automatic transmission sometimes hesitates when shifting and sometimes starts in 3rd gear instead of 1st. Check engine light came on a week ago, similar to when shifting problems began.

- Olympia, WA, USA

problem #20

Jun 052011

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 160,000 miles
Started having problems with my 2001 Toyota Rav4. It seems to happen mostly after I have come to complete stop and try to accelerate. It will start to move and then automatic transmission will not shift and it stops accelerating. I have almost been hit from behind several times. Also check engine light has been on for two years. Dealership told me it was due to needing new catalytic converter, which I found out later had already been replaced once in 2005. After searching for info online I found out about safety recall for the engine control module (ECM), this has been replaced, and engine light is now off, but transmission is bad. And Toyota is not taking any responsibility for ruined transmission.

- Nebraska, NE, USA

problem #19

Feb 262011


  • 158,000 miles
The contact owns a 2001 Toyota rav 4. the contact stated that the vehicle would not shift gears while driving. Once she was able to get the vehicle to shift, the vehicle began jerking abnormally. The vehicle was taken to a local repair shop where the failure was diagnosed as an electrical failure within the computer. The manufacturer was contacted but offered no assistance. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure and current mileage was 158,000.

- Duarte, CA, USA

problem #18

Jun 202010


  • 81,369 miles


ECM failed on my 2001 Rav4 and Toyota refused to pay for repairs. When it failed it put me in an extremely dangerous situation. This was after a recall on the ECM. So I had already brought my car into the dealer and had the ECM reprogrammed. If I had died in an accident would anyone have checked the ECM to see it was not working? I definitely could have been killed and people should not be on the road driving these cars that could at any minute start acting erratically.

- Santa Cruz, CA, USA

problem #17

May 242010


  • 130,940 miles
Suddenly, while merging onto the highway, my Toyota Rav4 (2001) seemed to go into neutral gear and then harshly shift into 2nd then 3rd gear with a lurch. Now, whenever I accelerate after a stop, the same thing happens. I have been told my ECM and possibly transmission needs replacement.

- Duxbury, MA, USA

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problem #16

Apr 122010


  • 103,690 miles
My 2001 Toyota Rav4 was jerking forward while driving causing me to almost cause a major accident while my 3 year old was in the car. The car would do this intermittently then it became worse. I was very scared to drive the car and had no choice but to borrow money so I could take the car in for repair costing me approx. $1800 to replace the ECM.

- San Jose, CA, USA

problem #15

Sep 032009


  • 115,000 miles


2001 Toyota Rav4 began shifting very jerky while on way home from store. Very scary. Would lunge and jerk to start out but after 2nd or 3rd gear was okay. Was told by Toyota I needed a new transmission. Took it to my mechanic and his transmission servicer had a much better price. The transmission co reported back to me that I needed a new computer as well as a rebuilt transmission ($2700) and that this (faulty computer) was a condition Toyota was fully aware of. Apparently the computer for this year/model was known to be faulty and in this case was telling the transmission to access 2 gears at the same time (according to them). Reported this to Toyota national headquarters and the woman said I was out of luck because the car is out of warranty. I was never made aware that there was a problem with the computer, even though I had called Toyota several times because of an engine light that kept coming on.

- Erie, CO, USA

problem #14

Nov 052007


  • miles
I have Toyota Rav4 2001. I bought it in 2007 from Toyota dealer and 5 month after the transmission started acting up.the car is about 80,000 miles right now. I don't know what I coud do.

- Elizabeth, NJ, USA

problem #13

Aug 302001


  • 2,000 miles
Event 1: 1. shortly after buying car, noted engine revs would soar by 700 to 800 rpms between gears while shifting manual transmission. Found this happened by just disengaging the clutch without shifting even with foot not on the accelerator pedal. 2. the rev soaring happened consistently. No consequences except for an unpleasant driving experience. 3. computer was reprogrammed by the dealer from whom I bought the car. Rev jumps reduced to about 400 RPM. A second reprogramming reduced it to about 200 RPM. This behavior still exists. Event #2. 1. about six months after purchasing the car, noted that when cruising with rpms above 2800 RPM in 5th gear with cruise control engaged and foot not on accelerator pedal, on disengaging the clutch, the engine revs would soar to 3,200 RPM to 3,500 rpmand remain there for periods ranging between 5 seconds to over a minute. This occurred while the car was coasting and slowing while not under power. 2. this behavior frequently occurred under the above conditions. No consequences except as a profession engineer and former sports car racing driver, I knew this behavior was not normal. 3. behavior examined by my local Toyota dealer. Mechanic hooked up recording box to car, but I was unable to replicate the behavior on this occasion. Data examined by a Toyota engineer who pronounced there was not a problem. Later, I was again able to replicate the behavior. After yet another computer reprogramming, this behavior of remaining at a high RPM seems to have stopped. However, the engine revs still will surge to about 3,400 RPM before dropping off.

- Fredericksburg, TX, USA

problem #12

Aug 162009


  • 84,795 miles
My transmission started slipping and bucking in Aug. 2009. The car would loose power and almost stall out. While driving on the highway I came close to being rear ended due to loss of power. I had taken my car in to have it looked at and was told that I didn't have codes so they could not tell me what the problem was and would have to wait for it to happen again or bring it back what the check engine light came on. Before I left the lot the light came on and the code P0755 was the code used to repair the car. This however did not fix the problem, and I began to do some research and it seems that this has been an issue for many others with a 2001-2003 Rav4. I called the Toyota company and was told that this is a known issue, but because my car was out of warranty they would not help fix the issue. Due to the fact that this is the only car I have and needed to go to work I had no choice but to pay to get the car repaired. I feel that this is an issue that Toyota needs to address along with the current issues they are having with the recall models now. Just because no one has died from this issue does not mean no one will, if the owner does not know about the problem and are driving on the highway with their families in the car with them.

- Huber Heights, OH, USA

problem #11

Dec 232009


  • 78,100 miles


1. transmission failed despite Toyota dealer having replaced the ECM on the 2001 Rav4. 2. car not shifting correctly between 1st and 2nd gears with new transmission and replaced (in 2007) ECM. Could be dangerous in certain situations. 3. Toyota replaced the part in 2007, but the problem was not fixed. Have since discovered that they retooled this part 3 times since 2007, which tells me that the new part was just as faulty as the original. Toyota will not replace the part for free because it was replaced once already and the new part only had a 12 month warranty.

- Boulder, CO, USA

problem #10

Nov 162009


  • 109,000 miles
1 & 2. recently I had to have the transmission rebuilt on my 2001 Toyota Rav4. The engine control module (E.C.M.), which tells the transmission what to do, apparently is faulty (a problem that Toyota has acknowledged but failed to do anything about) which causes the transmission to essentially self destruct. I was driving through an intersection when my engine started revving and my car dramatically slowed down. After pulling over and putting it into park, I shifted to drive and my car lurched forward, almost crashing into another car. I feared for my life in both situations and feel that this product is extremely faulty. 3. my transmission will need to be rebuilt for approximately $3,500, but if Toyota had notified customers about this problem earlier then we would have been able to rectify the ECM before it caused a transmission problem and endangered my life.

- Des Moines, IA, USA

problem #9

Aug 152009


  • 120,000 miles
Had to replace transmission on 2001 Rav4 (Aug 09) and then it was repaired once again after the transmission started doing the same thing (Nov 09). I was told it was due to a faulty ECM. Which I have never been notified that there was even a problem from the manufacture. Have paid for rebuilt transmission & ECM unit.

- San Diego, CA, USA

problem #8

Oct 012009


  • 60,700 miles
The contact owns a 2001 Toyota Rav4. The vehicle would not shift from first to second gear. Also when the engine warning light illuminated on the instrument control panel, the vehicle would lurch forward. The vehicle was taken to the dealer, but they could not duplicate the failure. However a mechanic discovered that the electronic control module was sending the wrong message to the transmission. The computer monitor was repaired.however because of collateral damage the transmission needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure mileage was 60,500 and the current mileage was 60,700.

- Plymouth, MA, USA

problem #7

Aug 202009


  • 98,000 miles
2001 Toyota Rav4 has a defective transmission control module which causes the car to slow down rapidly in traffic causing serious health risks to all persons nearby. Toyota issued a bulletin to all service instructing them to replace the tcm to prevent this problem from taking place. Toyota does not warn their customers about this problem and simply waits for the problem to happen and by then the tcm causes damage to the transmission and the vehicle is out of warranty. There are hundreds of consumers experiencing this problems and Toyota will not repair the vehicles under warranty. I cannot believe that a company like Toyota would operate this way after building a reputation of being a quality auto maker. I have been quoted a discounted rate of $ $3500 to repair my car by the dealership. This is robbery.

- Orange, CA, USA

problem #6

Sep 182009

(reported on)


  • miles
Letter to the secretary from consumer requesting assistance with an alleged life threatening issue re 2001 Toyota rav 4. the consumer stated she was almost rear ended due to the vehicle stalling. The consumer stated Toyota rav 4's have a transmission glitch.

- Landover, MD, USA

problem #5

Sep 152009


  • 114,250 miles
2001 Toyota Rav4 - manufacturer-programmed ECM failure leading to hard shifting, problems accelerating, and misfiring. Unfortunately, Toyota is only covering the repair cost if under 80,000 miles. Appears this is happening to many people no matter what the mileage is and since this is a safety issue, a recall should be made to repair this free of charge to the owner. I had to pay over $1300 to get this fixed.

- Akron, OH, USA

problem #4

Apr 222009


  • 86,000 miles
Fault ECM causes transmission shifting problems. No service bulletin issued to owners.

- Las Vegas , NV, USA

problem #3

May 232009


  • 83,150 miles
My car is Toyota Rav4 2001 2wd automatic. Recently, the car on acceleration started doing hard shift. Many people have complained about it. when I purchased the car from private party, I had asked Toyota of kirkland (wa) to check for ECU module. I was told it is the right module and not the recalled one. So, I purchased this car from the private party. After 9 months of using this car, I get the same problem which so many people have experienced. The car jerks when accelerating. Sometimes it refuses to accelerate. Toyota extended the warranty on the car but when I purchased it was not under warranty. I think it is a faulty part in the car. If replacing ECU does not fixes the problem then we have to fix the transmission which will cost me additional $4000. To replace new ECU or ECM, it costs $1100+. please ask Toyota to recall the Rav4S. This is a big blow to us in this economy.

- Bellevue, WA, USA

problem #2

Dec 102008


  • 99,820 miles
My 2001 Toyota Rav4 is a victim of the ECM failure that causes transmission issues. This is a well known issue with 2001 and 2002 Rav4's that Toyota refuses to acknowledge. The ECM unit fails, and destroys the transmission in the process.

- Olean, NY, USA

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