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:
102,653 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 1 of 3)

problem #56

Nov 032016


  • 63,192 miles


My 2001 Toyota Rav4 has 63192 miles on it. It began exhibiting transmission/acceleration problems yesterday while driving my granddaughter from school, about a 2 mile round trip on city street traveling approximately 35-40mph. The car refused to pick up speed and began to jerk due to shifting/missing gears, all by its self. The car has an automatic transmission so should not exhibit these problems. I found out today that this was a known problem to Toyota and there was a voluntary recall that I had no knowledge off. I contacted Toyota and they refuse to assist with rectifying this problem saying the date for the recall has passed, but I was never notified of said recall to begin with. The problem just started and although the vehicle is 15 yo, it has always been immaculately maintained and serviced and only has 63K miles on it so should not be having any transmission issues. I want Toyota to rectify this problem as it is a problem with their module and not due to the age or condition of the car. There have been many reports of this same issue with this exact vehicle year and model and Toyota has knowledge of these issues. The car is not safe to drive and this should be addressed by Toyota and fixed immediately. In an article found online, Toyota admitted to this manufacturer defect and despite the defect, Toyota did not offer any special warranty coverage. Instead, the bulletin said repairs would be covered under the federal emissions warranty of 80,000 miles or eight years from the time the vehicle was sold. But this is not an issue with the age of the vehicle and it has less than 80K miles on it, and it is due to a manufacturer defect which should be covered.

- Huntington Beach, CA, USA

problem #55

Sep 282014


  • 120,000 miles
We were almost hit at a street light. Upon accelerating our car the engine died due the transmission or malfunction of the electric control module. We were lucky if the person behind had not slammed on brakes we would have been hit. Also the car has problems with shifting while drive on freeway. We always now stay in the slow lane because we fear to pass,

- Oroville, CA, USA

problem #54

Jun 052015


  • 61,000 miles
Have been experiencing harsh shifting for the last week or so but the most debilitating transmission problem occurred on 6/5/2015 while driving 35 mph. I ended up driving directly home using "low" gear because I was afraid of damaging the car further. I am the original owner of this car and purchased it new in 2001. 7 years after purchase, back on 3/10/2008, it was serviced by Toyota under a "special service campaign" where they reprogrammed the ECM under warranty. I imagine it was for the harsh shifting problem (see T-sb-0156-10). It has obviously come back 7 years later. Programming only good for 7 years?

- Thousand Oaks, CA, USA

problem #53

May 262015


  • 102,000 miles


Vehicle shifts very harshly and jerks. I suspect it has something to do with the transmission and the electronic control module.

- Chesterfield, MO, USA

problem #52

May 062015


  • 147,295 miles
The contact owns a 2001 Toyota Rav4. While driving approximately 40 mph, the vehicle failed to shift gears without warning. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic where it was diagnosed that the ECM computer module needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The failure mileage was 147,295.

- Lehigh Acres, FL, USA

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problem #51

May 122015


  • 86,155 miles
Harsh shift between 2 and 3, probably due to ECM failing

- Ephrata, PA, USA

problem #50

Feb 112015

RAV4 4-cyl

  • miles


I bought a Toyota Rav4 two weeks ago, and saw there was a recall on the engine control module, but assumed that Toyota would replace it if mine needed replaced. My vehicle's ECM had been reprogrammed, so I assumed it would be fine. I was wrong. After about a week, my vehicle started shifting harshly, and I had to crawl along a busy expressway with my four-way lights on with cars flying past me. And I had to limp through intersections, then immediately stop my car from lurching forward -- what if a person had been walking across the intersection?? Toyota says my vehicle's too old to be covered under the recall to replace the ECM. Absolutely appalling. If their first recall obviously didn't work, owners should not have to pay for a huge mistake Toyota made. It is only fair that this is covered for the lifetime of the car. It is not fair for people like myself who have to buy a used car. I don't know how this hasn't been investigated yet. It is obviously a safety issue seeing as the car crawls through busy intersections and someone could easily hit you. Or you could be trying to merge onto a highway and the car could refuse to accelerate and a car could hit you then. Or if it's a snowy or icy day and you try to climb a hill, you could easily not make it up the hill and roll backwards into the car behind you. Or the transmission could go out altogether suddenly, seeing as this is a known risk when the car starts shifting harshly. We should not have to wait for someone to die or be seriously injured before there is a recall for the lifetime of the vehicle for this huge problem. It is only by the grace of god that I haven't been injured or anyone else around me.

- Mechanicstown, OH, USA

problem #49

Dec 112014

RAV4 4-cyl

  • miles
I purchased my 2001 Toyota Rav4 in July 2012, . now 2 years later and still owe a good amount on my car I am having the same issues with the ECM as the others. I called Toyota and there is nothing they can do to assist people that are purchasing these cars that have not been taken care of. This issues I am dealing with include the transmission slipping and revving higher, or the loss of power when going from a complete stop. Toyota helped the owners, with an " extended warranty" 10 years / 150000 miles. That is all good but the warranty was from the first date. Basically from day 1. that is not fair to the people who purchase these cars second hand with no knowledge of the issues. This is a huge safety issue and could case an accident cause you don't know when it is going to happen.

- Minneapolis , MN, USA

problem #48

May 052014

RAV4 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 148,000 miles
My 2001 Toyota Rav4 had the same problem that was covered in Toyota's extended warranty and recall for this make and model. According to a July 10, 2010 article online at it is an issue with the automatic transmission and electronic control module. The issue, which affects around 235,500 vehicles, can lead to a damaged, rough-shifting transmission. While the Rav4 for those model years was originally covered for five years or 60,000 miles on power train components, Toyota is extending coverage to ten years or 150,000 miles. The auto maker is also offering to reimburse current or former owners for repairs already made. For me, the problem did not appear until near the very end of the coverage date. It was mis-diagnosed and when problem was finally identified, I was told it was outside the warranty window and Toyota would not cover the repair. This issue is well known to Toyota and widely documented. The consumer stated the vehicle was not picking up speed as quickly. Updated 11/10/14

- Austin, TX, USA

problem #47

Sep 092014

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 166,000 miles
I was driving along and came to a stop. When I started to go, my rav had no power, then it lurched and almost stopped. I had to nurse it-slowly accelerate-in order for it to move. Every time I stopped and started it did this. Once it made a noise like a hard shift from the rear of the car. I had to put my emergency flashers on to drive it safely, and drove to a transmission shop. In speaking with them, they said that Toyota has a known recall on this situation! the computer locks up the transmission. They called Toyota and gave them my VIN, it has not been replaced. Its going to cost anywhere from $1500 to $5000 to fix, depending on if the transmission is actually messed up or if it is the computer causing the problem. He has to pull the transmission to check it first. If it is the computer they said about $1000. Who do I contact to get reimbursed for this recall? when I put my VIN number in your site, it says there are no known recalls. The internet says differently. I need help!

- Broomfield, CO, USA

problem #46

Aug 042014

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 175,691 miles


Recently the check engine dashboard light on our 2001 Toyota Rav4 came on. I took the vehicle to an auto parts store that offered a free diagnostic check; it indicated troubleshooting code P0770; the technician explained that the transmission tries to simultaneously shift into 2nd and 3rd gears due to faulty signals from the ECM (electronic control module) that regulates the transmission. This explanation seemed consistent with the cars behavior (not climbing even a small hill and having to restart it) and numerous accounts we've read online that suggest the ECM defect remedied for a while by a recall in 2007 and evidently a few years after that by a class action suit no longer in effect is still an ongoing problem. We towed the rav to our closest authorized Toyota repair facility, then explicitly asked if they would check both the ECM and transmission. The service rep gave a $4200 transmission replacement estimate, but made no mention of the ECM module, even though I specifically asked about this. 1) Toyota should extend their recall on the ECM modules indefinitely and pay for both ECM and transmission replacement, since this is a fundamental design defect and a significant safety issue. If the circuitry in the ECM were to malfunction at high speeds it might cause fatalities or serious injuries. 2) the specific Toyota dealer should have included the ECM in their estimates and made greater efforts to work with Toyota to remedy this specific situation and all affected vehicles in general, for the safety and welfare of their customers. It would appear that this dealerships service department intentionally diverted attention from the ECM defect and its liability to avoid the expense and complicity involved in what would seem to be a legitimate on-going safety issue.

- Castle Rock, CO, USA

problem #45

Jul 172014

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 177,882 miles
Vehicle accelerated by itself while driving at 45mph. I had to use both brakes to stop the car and experienced a harsh shift condition while trying to shift to park. Dealership checked it out and stated that the ECM has been reprogrammed in 2007 and they were unable to duplicate anything at this time because no warning light came on during the incident even though I reminded them about the class action lawsuit for 2001-2003 model year Rav4S.

- Missouri City, TX, USA

problem #44

Aug 012014

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 175,000 miles
ECM was replaced in 2007. No problems at that time. In May 2014 brakes plus misdiagnosed problem and fixed almost everything possible. Check engine light never went on until the day before the problem. Transmission started acting up and when I went to pass a person on a bicycle slipped into neutral. Then it jumped back and forth like trying to go from one gear to another, with nothing happening. I could have been hit by a truck at this point, but avoided. Took the rav back to brakes plus. They said it was the transmission. Would cost $4500-5000 repair. They never even checked the diagnosis - which when we took to auto zone (which will read the problem as ECM). Then towed the car to the dealer. They said the transmission is "smoke." Called the Toyota rep and only got a case number. Of course the car is 13 years old and we have had it 12. It is at 175,000 miles. We can't put another $4,500 in this car. The ECM should not have gone out again. The check engine light should have gone on in may from what we assess considering the problems we experienced at that time. I would not advise anyone to purchase a 2001-2003 Rav4. I am not sure I'd every purchase another Toyota. It looks like Toyota has stuck us with a nearly $5000 repair if we want a new trans. And we just put $2,700 into it in May.

- Castle Rock, CO, USA

problem #43

Jul 142014


  • 115,092 miles
Sudden issue of erratic shifting and acceleration. The ECM was replaced. Hopefully the transmission has been spared. I've researched online and uncovered many many similar complaints. I understand there was an extended warranty, however, I am still not covered as the car is over 10 years old.

- Ellington, CT, USA

problem #42

Feb 152014


  • 95,000 miles
The contact owns a 2001 Toyota Rav4. The contact stated while driving various speeds on an icy and snow covered road, the transmission slipped gears without any warning. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer for diagnosis. The technician informed that the electronic control module was faulty. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the problem. The approximate failure mileage was 95,000.

- Montclaire, NJ, USA

problem #41

Jan 202014

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 189,000 miles
Car had no spark when cranking, my mechanic checked and traced the problem to the car's main engine and transmission computer (ECM), I ordered a used ECM for the same vehicle, car started but transmission was shifting was very abnormal, shifting was harsh making a loud thump when put into drive or reverse and starting off on third gear. The damage on the transmission was already done so I went and ordered a transmission and a new ECM since I found out that all ECM's had been updated due to all ECM's being damaged from factory. A lawsuit took place back 2012 in the case that was entitled milligan V. Toyota motor sales U.S.a in which Toyota acknowledged that the problem existed Toyota has ever since extended their warranty to 170,000 miles, even when they know the problem is there they still won't recall these vehicles for proper repairs.

- Sumas, WA, USA

problem #40

Jan 022014


  • 95,000 miles
Traveling at 30 mph or less the vehicle will stumble. This is a road hazard as traveling through an intersection the vehicle could have an incident whereby the ensuing traffic could cause a crash.this is a manufacturer defect that involves the ECU(electronic control module) that is the computer which controls the transmission. The problem is verified by Toyota as they extended the warranty for this vehicle for this problem that is 10 years or 150,000 miles. The vehicle age is beyond the 10 year limit. Therefore, I wish to pursue a recall for this problem. Thank you.

- Manchester, NH, USA

problem #39

Sep 272013


  • 95,000 miles
Just purchased this vehicle in September of 2013 with only 95,000 miles. Two days after purchase, the check engine light came on. Dealer said it was the catalytic converter. So it was replaced at a cost of over $600. Then two days later, the check engine light came back on. Dealer said it was the O2 sensor, that bill was nearly $350. Now for the icing on the cake. Four days after that repair, I was pulling out of my driveway to go to work and the vehicle did not want to shift in to gear, lunged forward and I nearly ran over some children at a bus stop! the dealer said the issue is with the ECM and possibly the transmission. The ECM was replaced at nearly $1100 and the problem still exists! dealer said next step is to replace transmission. That cost is $5700 and I can't afford it.there are so many complaints about this vehicle for similar problems. Why can't the government mandate that Toyota has to stand behind this problem? children were nearly ran over because of this problem and Toyota will not do a damn thing about it. Very sad.

- Festus, MO, USA

problem #38

Sep 082009

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 150,000 miles
I was sent a letter about the class action suit on the 2001-2003 Toyota Rav4. I asked to have my vehicle fixed, but was denied, because I did not request until after the extended warranty and the 150,000 had passed. I appealed their decision and I was denied again. I did have the module replaced with a new Toyota one, which was installed by a mechanic that does not work at a Toyota dealership. This module worked for a short period of time, but my rav is back to the same hard shifting safety issues it had before. I can't afford a new transmission or the new module to completely fix the safety issue. Even if they replaced the module again, I believe it has done too much damage to the transmission that will not be repaired by the replacement of this part. You pay for an extended warranty and maintain it like you are supposed to and Toyota does not take care of their customer. They made their money and that's that.

- Mead, CO, USA

problem #37

Sep 232013

RAV4 6-cyl Diesel

  • 104,568 miles
Was entering a limited access highway and wanted to merge onto highway. When I pressed down on gas pedal to speed up, the car hesitated, lurched forward, stopped, and then shifted harshly once again. I had thought I gave myself plenty of room to enter but because of the possible transmission problem, my car almost ended in a car wreck - an approaching car had to take drastic moves in order to avoid hitting my car. I then found out that Toyota knew about this problem with their ecms ruining these cars transmissions - something I was not aware, nor notified about. When I called them up - their Toyota customer service line, I found out they still had my old address from 2005! even though I've been going to my local Toyota dealership for years and they had my latest data. Toyota says they can do nothing to help with a possible $6,000 bill. My car is only worth about $8K if that. Their negligence caused these problems, and almost caused a serious accident and human injury and/or death.

- Westminster, MD, USA

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