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 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
90,768 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 electrical problems

electrical problem

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2001 Toyota RAV4 Owner Comments (Page 2 of 3)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #36

Jun 302011

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 74,770 miles


I am writing because I own a 2001 Toyota rav 4 that started acting up a few weeks ago. It started having problems when accelerating it would make a strange sound and instead of moving it seemed to slow down and then it would all of a sudden start jerking. I got scared a few times because when I needed to accelerate for example: When entering the highway, it would not move due to this shifting problem I almost had an accident with my 6 & 8 year old daughters in the car with me!! I took the car to a Toyota dealer 2 years ago because I received recall notice from them due to the check engine light that had been turned on for a while and instead of fixing the problem free of charge as stated on recall notice, they told me I should pay to have spark plugs and coil repaired. I told them that I was there for them to fix the problem that was causing the check engine light but they never did!! I didn't go back because I felt that they were taking advantage of me because instead of fixing the problem which Toyota sent recalls for, they didn't. now 2 years later, I took it back to them and I find out that this problem my car is having is due to needing a new ECM/ECU. The Toyota guy said that I would have to pay over $1,000 just for this part! and if that didn't work then they would have to replace the transmission. Here's the thing: Toyota has known that there is a defect with the ECU for a long time and they know that due to a defective ECU the transmission will eventually be damaged. Why didn't they do anything about it 2 years ago" they purposely don't say anything so that by the time your car does have problems, they use the "you're out of warranty" excuse to make you pay them for something that they should've fixed to begin with. Now my transmission is damaged and I had to take it to someone else since I don't trust Toyota due to their dishonesty. Something needs to be done! what if I would've had an accident with my daughters due to them not correcting this"

- Palm Springs, FL, USA

problem #35

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 #34

Apr 232011

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 145,000 miles
The engine control module failed while driving in a public parking ramp. The failure caused a momentary loss of power followed by very hard shifting from 1st gear to 3rd gear with surges during acceleration.

- Ramsey, MN, USA

problem #33

May 292009

RAV4 6-cyl

  • 127,000 miles


2001 Toyota Rav4 ECM and transmission replaced in may of 2009. Paid out of pocket. Replacement was a rebuilt transmission installed by dealer (victory Toyota in canton, mi) second transmission failed after 17,000 miles. Paid out of pocket again. No help from dealer or Toyota corporate. Found out that dealer just swapped trans, did not actually rebuild trans. Took it to an independent trans shop. Independent discovered a washer missing that caused third gear to strip (defect in second trans). Trans repaired, but then got a hard downshift into first gear when stopping, check engine light and P0420 P0430 codes. Independent trans shop cleared codes, and told me that if it happened again to have dealer re-flash ECM. Worked ok for about five days, then got the hard downshift into 1st gear again. Took it to dealer. Now they say the charcoal cannister needs to be replaced. I will submit for re-imbursement under extended warranty, but am seeking reimbursement for second transmission which was a direct result of the first ECM and trans failing.

- Dearborn Heights, MI, USA

problem #32

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 #31

Mar 242009


  • 80,000 miles
March 2009 vehicle check engine light came on and I took vehicle to autozone for a diagnostic check. Check indicated that the shift solenoid was bad. I took vehicle to Toyota of bedford and was told I had to get another diagnostic because they don't take diagnostic from other places, so that cost me $100. After their diagnostic check was performed, they claimed it was just the gas cap and turned the light off. Within a couple of weeks the light can back on while I was driving on the freeway. In June 2009, the car started having shifting difficulty, getting stuck in a gear then jerking out of it. I took it to a foreign car specialist shop and they changed the transmission fluid, I drove it for a few weeks again, then it shifted hard while driving and the check engine light came on again. I have to get off the freeway sometimes when the car gets stuck in a gear and won't accelerate!!! I read complaints exactly like mine with the 2001 Toyota rav 4 and can't believe nothing is being done. This is dangerous and not a driver error, this is clearly a manufacturer error. Why do you have to wait until someone gets killed before a recall can be ordered. This a part that should never be defective and if it is it should be fixed without question.

- Twinsburg, OH, USA

problem #30

May 152010


  • 128,000 miles


Toyota Rav4 2001 - computer problems & total transmission problem my Rav4, 2001 model initially started giving "check engine light" and having hard time accelerating from stop signal. The BBB approved service center checked it and found out the error code as P0750 and advised the replacement/rebuilding the transmission to fix the problem. They charged me approx $3000 for this transmission rebuild work/fixing the error code issue. Two days after, I got the same problem again and when I took it to the same service center, I was told that the computer system is the culprit for causing the problem. Now, based on the details available on the internet (, I understood that this is the common problem of Toyota Rav4 cars. When I spoke to Toyota customer service on 800-331-4331 (case # 1006150572), they said they are helpless. I am interested to file a complaint with carsafety to take this up with Toyota as to why this common problem of Rav4 is not being addressed/recalled, though there are customers facing serious safety problems with the car. The problem can even lead to accidents resulting in the loss of the lives. As an example, on freeway, while going at 60mph, the speed suddenly falls down to 30 or even 20mph and continues like that for few minutes before it goes automatically to higher speed. This failure occurs every 10-15 minutes if not earlier.. the whole transmission was rebuild (including the solenoids, geartrain components, torque converter etc), the computer was replaced with a total of approx $4500, though there were no deaths/injuries yet. This problem needs to be taken up seriously with Toyota and needs a quicker resolution. Thanks in advance.

- Irving, TX, USA

problem #29

May 242010

(reported on)


  • miles
Letter from congressman on behalf of constituent regarding alleged safety defects in the ECM computer on his 2001 Toyota Rav4. The consumer stated the failure of the ECM caused a pause in the transmission with the 1st and 2nd gears. Toyota claimed the problem was corrected in 2004.

- Dublin, CA, USA

problem #28

Dec 102009


  • 99,500 miles
Transmission started jerking and slipping in second gear then jumping to third gear, then taking off in third gear, flush tranny and reprogram ECM, din"T 'help also check engine light is on for code P0758, I was told I need a new ECM and a new transmission. Toyota knew of this ECM problem and fail to notified its customers

- Hobbs, NM, USA

problem #27

Mar 232010


  • 98,000 miles
My 2001 Toyota Rav4, 98,000 miles, has a problem. Transmission shift around 30miles and engaging shift 2nd to 3rd, RPM gauge jumping up 5,000~6,000 RPM on every driving and finally check engine light came up. Dealer ship said it was out of warranty and needed reprogram ECM. After fixed it happened again they said it needs new ECM and reprogram. And had same problem. Now they say it needs transmission rebuild too. They already knew these problem through their bulletin some years ago and didn't noticed owners. It would be very dangerous if shift was changed when RPM gauge jumped up. It should be a recall issue. Also I read some article for class action lawsuit was filed for this.

- Grand Rapids, MI, USA

problem #26

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 #25

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 #24

Jul 242009


  • 102,494 miles
Faulty computer. I am the original owner. The computer caused the transmission to engage into wrong gears, resulting in transmission failure. Cost to me of $4,847. I was never notified by Toyota of this problem. Technical bulletin #1046.

- Malone, WI, USA

problem #23

Aug 032009

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 105,000 miles
I bought new[ Dec. 2000] a 2001 Toyota rav.4 limited..with 4cyl/.automatic 4spd.O.D.transmission +all the xtras...I have kept it up -mechanically and body wise near perfect...almost all thru Toyota dealers, as I plan to pass it on to my granddaughter. During the first week of Aug. 09 I was driving on a 4 lane local highway @35/40 mph and the "check engine light "came on and then a loud bang and growl all while bucking down TO10 mph and dropped into first gear. After pulling over to a stop, I checked under the hood and body--no leaks or hanging parts...after I phoned the local Toyota dealer I drove the car [now stuck in 2nd. Gear the short distance back home..the next day the dealer found 2-codes stored--indicating a defective ECU.or electronic control unit also known as a ECM or electronic control module....this $1500. Computer part sends all the signals to the solenoids in the auto tans. When to shift comes the safety concern--seeing that the ECU can go bonkers at any time, it is only a matter of time before someone is moving along at 50/60/65mph and boom the car drops down in 1st. Gear god forbid if there are 2 or 3 children in the car and a 80,000lb.semi is on their rear-worst yet at night with bad mine is not the only one in your files and the internet has thousands of near misses on this problem Toyota knew about as far back as 2003.that the 01--02 and 03 rav 4 had this safety concern so they tweaked the ECU per a tsb in 06 I had purchased the premium 100K. Warranty and the E.C.U.went out at 105K. With some phone calls to Chicago area rep.Toyota agreed to send me a long awaited check for one-half part only cost..nothing for troubleshooting-towing -or labor main concern is Toyota [I feel ]isn't one bit pro active on safety concerns when owners call the 800# in California..I hope NHTSA can get this on fast track for safety..thank you...P.S. I have old part...

- Tinley Park, IL, USA

problem #22

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 #21

May 102009


  • 140,000 miles
Engine control module and auto transmission failure. Bought rav used July 2007 with 109,230 mi. Check engine light was on (has remained on) but was diagnosed as O2 sensor & rav operated perfectly (live where emissions check not required). May 2009 tranny started alternating between working good, shifting rough, slipping between gears, and not downshifting at slow down or stop. Had mechanic with over 15 yrs experience at Toyota dealership check it (after hours). He was unaware of connection to faulty ECM so we thought trany was bad & he flushed tranny. That reduced frequency of symptoms but did not stop them. We still thought problem was mechanical & tranny rebuild/replace was inevitable & I drove it longer to save up money for repairs. I live on a semi-rural Ohio state route with 55mph posted limit & 65mph average speed. I had numerous near misses when the vehicle would not accelerate properly or began to accelerate normally then slipped, hesitated, or refused to shift. My 18yr old son drove the rav in Dec & pulled out of our driveway in front of a semi tractor trailer rig with what would have been safe distance except that the rav decided not to accelerate. The truck was able to pass, but had there been oncoming traffic, it would not have been able to slow enough in time. Intermittent symptoms continued until 12/14/09 when 2nd & 3rd gear burned out & I drove home 20 miles in 1st. Just parts thru Toyota will cost $2000 for rebuilt tranny plus $1000 for ECM. Independent repairmen can fix the ECM for $65. Had I at least known root cause of the symptoms was ECM not tranny (Toyota's known since 2006 or before) I could have saved $4-5K & avoided 7 months of risky driving. I challenge anyone who thinks this is not a safety issue to drive one of these and rely on it when it fails in 65mph traffic. Or we can wait until someone is killed where there is enough evidence to show this problem was the cause of the accident and not poor driver judgment.

- Granville, OH, USA

problem #20

Jul 302009


  • miles
I bought my 2001 Toyota rav 4 in 2004. In July 2009, my transmission started slipping and bucking. I have done some research and it seems that this has been an issue for many others with a 2001-2003 Rav4. It is terrifying to drive this vehicle but it's all I have. It would cost me more to replace the transmission than it would to just pay it off. I am concerned that I will have an accident, as I do a lot of commuting. I am so disappointed that I have invested so much money in the maintenance of this unreliable vehicle. I heard about Toyota's recall on the news yesterday and I am disgusted that Toyota has not addressed this issue. This should be as pertinent as a faulty accelerator. I bought my Toyota because I had heard that they had a reputation for safe, well-made vehicles. My life is put on the line everytime I have to drive that contraption, and I expect that if nothing is done about this issue to ensure a compensation or extended warranty of some kind, Toyota will lose my business( among many, many others, I'm sure.). more importantly, everytime anyone who is having this issue with a Toyota rav 4 gets in the car, they are increasing the risk of injury or death caused by an accident from this cheap, faulty, unreliable transmission. Please consider this issue when reviewing Toyota's lack of concern for their driver's safety. I am sure that some bigwig is sitting in an office somewhere, profiting from the money that Toyota saved by using defective parts.

- Round Rock , TX, USA

problem #19

Jan 262010


  • 114,000 miles
In our 2001 Toyota Rav4 we recently began experiencing difficulty transitioning between gears. The car jerks and takes a moment to shift. We took it into the dealership and were told that the computer and transmission needed to be replace. Upon researching this I have found hundreds on cases of the same thing happening to 2001-2003 Rav4 owners.

- Spokane, WA, USA

problem #18

Jan 052010


  • 68,860 miles
I have an automatic 2001 Rav4. While driving we noticed the hard shifting into different gears. Then it started to lurch and stall. It happened sporadically. Then within a week's time every instance you drove it this happened. It took two times before my mechanic saw that it needed a new transmission, and a new computer that talks to the transmission(ECM engine control module) which they installed.

- Des Moines, WA, USA

problem #17

Jan 202010


  • 134,000 miles
My transmission needs to be replaced on my 2001 Rav4 due to a faulty computer.

- Phoenix, AZ, USA

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