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:
88,852 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 1 of 3)

problem #54

Jan 072016


  • 135,000 miles


When I change gear or press accelerator to give gas, my car doesn't pick up race and doesn't shift the gear. It will do on its own. The engine light keeps coming turned on, even though thisngs have been replaced.

- Arlington, VA, USA

problem #53

May 122015


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

- Ephrata, PA, USA

problem #52

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 #51

Jan 202014

RAV4 4-cyl

  • miles


While in cruise control on an incline my Rav4 accelerates out of control so I have to apply the brake to get it out of cruise control. I had this on 2 Rav4S, both 2001, one was 4WD and the other 2wd. Toyota tried to repeat the problem in the first vehicle by sending it home with a tech who drove to modesto. They could not repeat it...on my current car it does the same and Toyota best answer was not to use cruise control after he asked why I was using it anyways. I was worried about the ecus in these cars and before buying it, sent the private dealer to Toyota to remedy this. Now I find out they only flashed the ECU under the recall which they new didn't fix anything. Now 2 years later I face the harsh shifting condition....all on me. Im lucky not to have been hurt by either of these issues not addressed properly by Toyota, and thank god my 9 year old wasn't with me when the car stopped shifting properly.

- Pleasant Hill, CA, USA

problem #50

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 #49

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 #48

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 #47

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 #46

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 #45

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 #44

Sep 032013


  • 193,000 miles


I am newly employed with the post office so I need my car. I was out driving my route when all of a sudden it was lagging a little when I went to take off. Then when I was able to get some speed between boxes it was like it slipped into neutral and then jerked really hard and kicked into gear, I took it to a mechanic and also the dealership. After I took it to the mechanic I found out that there was a bulletin put out in 2010 about the same exact issue, so I called the dealership and made an appointment. They told me the same thing the mechanic did and that my car wasn't covered under the bulletin because it was outside the 10 year or 150,000 mile range. I cannot afford to have to pay this out of pocket and I need my car. The estimate that I got was $1536 from Toyota and then there is the possibility that I might have to have the transmission changed too. This is crazy especially seeing as Toyota knows about the issue and notified some people but not all Rav4 owners. I am out there driving my car and could pull out at the wrong time and get hit because of the fact that there is no pick up and go in this car anymore. I love my car and need my car.

- Cameron, NC, USA

problem #43

Dec 062012

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 119,000 miles
Harsh vehicle jerking with bad automatic shifting/acceleration. Used emergency lights and narrowly avoided accident with badly performing vehicle. Problem is diagnosed as failed ECM. Manufacturer is aware of this issue (Toyota document T-sb-0156-10) but did not inform owners. ECM failure in my car caused a very dangerous driving situation. This could have been easily avoided by pro-actively replacing the factory installed ECM if I had been given the T-sb-0156-10 information. I was driving with my 2 and 4 year old daughters at the time. This part failure is a recurring problem for this car. Please have Toyota notify owners before this happens to them. Thanks.

- Morrisville, NC, USA

problem #42

Oct 132012

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 111,000 miles
On 10/13/2012 we purchased this vehicle. We headed South on a busy freeway and had the driver's side window down as we proceeded up the entrance ramp gaining speed to safely move on the freeway we attempted to close the power window by pulling up on the designated switch and experienced this window as soon as it closed would instantly go back down. Repeated attempts same outcome. Cars were on all sides, the gust of rain hitting my face made it hard to see while my attention was focused on getting this window to stay closed and at the same time avoid collisions due to the distraction of a window that would not stay shut.

- Damascus, OR, USA

problem #41

Oct 082012

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 114,800 miles
October 11, 2012. On or about October 8 2012 I began having hesitation and jumping into gear as I am driving my 2001 Rav4. This happens mainly when accelerating from a stop sign/light. I am aware there has been a recall on many 2001 Rav4 vehicles. I bought my Rav4 from carmax in North attleboro mass on April 19 2012. So, I have not even had my vehicle for 5 months yet. On Thursday October 11 2012 I took my Rav4 back to carmax in attleboro with my complaint--I will be leaving the vehicle with them on Friday October 12 2012 so they can diagnose the transmission and the tcm (the transmission module which has had the recall). If it is found that my Rav4 is one of many under this recall, I will hope that Toyota will honor its' commitment and fix my rav. I do hope that lodging this complaint with you will help me in this plight, as I do not have the money to fix this problem and nor should I have to as to the above, and due to the fact that is was a recall with Toyota. Thank you.

- Woonsocket, RI, USA

problem #40

Dec 092011

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 115,790 miles
The transmission suddenly began slipping and jerking when accelerating from a stop or while in low gear and shifting from a low speed. I became aware of the ECM problem known to occur in my make and model of Toyota upon calling the dealership; however, I am being told that the warranty only covers ten years from the date of purchase (I purchased my car 11 years ago) despite the fact it is known that the ECM, the computer that controls the transmission, is defective and causes transmission problems. This is a dangerous problem as the car will not accelerate and the transmission slips. It is difficult to understand how Toyota cannot ethically cover this knowing it is defective and is probable to cause owners problems in the future, regardless if it's 8, 10, or 12 years down the line.

- Bakersfield , CA, USA

problem #39

Dec 012011

RAV4 4-cyl

  • miles
My vehicle was experiencing harsh shifting and hard engagement. I took it to the dealer today and was told the ECM needed to be replaced. I did some internet research and discovered Toyota received thousands of complaints regarding this issue as far back as 2006 in the 2001-2003 models. They extended the warranty to 10 years and 150, 000 miles. However, my vehicle is 6 months beyond the date (only 103,000 miles). I contacted Toyota and they will not pay for any repairs. In addition, I discovered that owners had issues with the replaced emc unit within 2 years-causing transmission failure or repeated ECM failure. I questioned Toyota as to why this was not a recall issue. They couldn't tell me. If it had been a recall issue, Toyota would be responsible for the repair and not me. In addition, how do I know that once I have my car repaired today, that I won't have the same issue or worse in 2 years--like many other customers? Toyota should be required to make this a recall issue--especially since there are thousands of people with this issue.

- Macomb, MI, USA

problem #38

Aug 202011

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 81,000 miles
We received a letter last year from Toyota notifying us about an extended warranty on a part that they expected to malfunction, the ECM - something to do with transaxle and a harsh shift condition. We were not currently experiencing the problem, so we did as the document recommended and filed it. Last week out of no where, we started experiencing this harsh shift condition. The car stalled out when we attempt to accelerate and then jerks into gear quickly and on traffic filled roads, dangerously. We promptly took it to the dealership and they diagnosed the car as needing that part replaced. Then they told us sorry, the extended warranty expired December 2010. Two months after we'd received the notification. I am unemployed, we are a one car family and now we have a vehicle we can't drive and can't afford to fix through no fault of our own and because of this extended warranty instead of a proper recall Toyota refuses to take responsibility for the malfunction of their product which could cause hazardous road conditions and jeopardize the safety of my family, so now due to transportation issues, my husband's job and our one source of income is at stake. Toyota has put my family in a bad situation and refuses to take responsibility. I want the ECM recalled and for them to take responsibility for their product.

- Tallahassee, FL, USA

problem #37

Aug 032011

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 119,000 miles
I have a 2001 Toyota Rav4 with a defective electronic control module. I called Toyota who told me that I had this part replaced in 2007 under a recall and only one to a customer. I also had missed the 10 years time limit, (from original use date), by a few months. It seems to me that if Toyota know this part is defective that the company shouldn't have replaced my ECM with another defective part. I don't understand the limit of one ECM. Especially since the replaced ECM was only 4 years old. I'm having to spend about $1100 for a part that Toyota knows is defective.

- Louisville, KY, USA

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

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