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:
87,000 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 engine problems

engine problem

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2001 Toyota RAV4 Owner Comments

problem #6

Jul 252011


  • 113,000 miles


The contact owns a 2001 Toyota Rav4. The contact stated that while driving 30 mph, the vehicle began to hesitate and the transmission would not shift into gear. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer, who stated that the engine control module was defective and needed to be replaced. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure, but offered no assistance and referred the contact to the dealer. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure and current mileages were 113,000. The VIN was not available.

- West Allis, WI, USA

problem #5

Jul 032011

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 169,000 miles
I noticed vehicle was not accelerating or going into proper gear. I was alarmed when I couldn't pick up speed turning left. Engine light lit when I got home. I spoke to Toyota today about the known ECU issue with 2001-2003 Rav4S. My car was serviced in 2007 when there was a recall but they will not address the issue now since the warranty expired. I am very disappointed with Toyota not addressing the ECU/ECM issue to a satisfactory manner. This is a safety issue that Toyota should show more concern over.

- Lake Forest, CA, USA

problem #4

Sep 292006

RAV4 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 135,000 miles
I have a 2001 Toyota Rav4 [xxx] the engine type is a 1azfe. I recently learned about a Toyota oil gel problem with engine type 5S-fe. The motor may be different, but my story is the same. This is a work vehicle that was maintained. In Sept 2006 I called Toyota to complain about the $2800 repair due to what they had called "oil gel". the reference number for this call is [xxx]. at the time I was unaware of the law suit in process for some Toyota engines due to this exact thing! Jan 19th 2007, while driving, my car's engine light went on and 30 seconds later there was a plume of blue smoke ( the bartow fire department was called as I was on I-75 in Georgia and someone thought the car was on fire). There was no fire, just smoke. I pulled over immediately. The car was towed to the service dealership where they told me I had thrown a rod. They claim the two are unrelated occurrences. From what I have read on web sites, they seem very related to me. The repair in Sept was costly, to have the rod thrown 4 months later makes me think the 1azfe engine may have some defect as well. The car could not be repaired without a totally new engine. We chose not to repair it. I believe Toyota should pay for the repairs in Sept 06 and the tow in Jan 07, as I am convinced this is a defect. I can provide all the oil changes and maintenance records as this has been a work vehicle for me. I wonder if other Toyota engines should be examined and reported. The dealership and Toyota have both claimed this engine is not involved. I disagree. Had I not pulled over I am certain a fire would have begun with all the engine oil on the motor. Updated 07/11/2012 information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6)

- Atlanta, GA, USA

problem #3

May 112001

RAV4 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 5,000 miles


5 months after purchase the service engine light came on. A dealer reset it and said it was the gas we used. Every year we go through the same thing when we purchase cheap (no-name brand) gas and had to be reset by a garage or dealer. Now we run a tank or two of better (name brand) gas and the light may go off. I know that this happens to other Toyota.

- Lancaster, PA, USA

problem #2

Jan 032006

RAV4 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 51,000 miles
: the contact stated while driving 30 mph the engine stalled and the vehicle lost all power. The vehicle was towed to the dealer for inspection. Upon inspection it was determined the baffle under the oil cap broke off. As a result metal pieces went into the timing chain, causing the engine to seize. The engine was replaced. Updated 3/20/2006 - the consumer was able to locate a tsb which referenced this problem.

- Kerrville, TX, USA

problem #1

Jan 232004

(reported on)

RAV4 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 49,000 miles
The vehicle intermittently stalled without warning, but would restart within seconds. This occurred while driving at any speed or stopping. Sometimes the engine warning light flashed before the vehicle stalled. A diagnostic test was performed but no failure code was found.

- Watsonville, CA, USA

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