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:
89,804 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 #13

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 #12

Feb 012012

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 109,008 miles
My vehicle has begun experiencing harsh shifting. It will not accelerate immediately and it will jump forward at times. This is a reported problem with the 2001 rav 4. I received a letter stating there was the possibility of compensation after one has this fixed. As one a person who cannot afford to fix this out of pocket that is not a lot of help. This is a known issue and should be recalled!

- Bellevue, WA, USA

problem #11

Feb 272012


  • 120,000 miles
When accelerating and decelerating, the engine jumps and fails to change gears. This is extremely dangerous in situations where one must get out of the way of other cars (generally every time driving). When taken to the dealer, I was told there was a malfunction in the internal engine control module.

- Mission Viejo, CA, USA

problem #10

Jul 262011

RAV4 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles


The contact owns a 2001 Toyota Rav4. The contact stated that while driving approximately 30 mph, the accelerator pedal failed to respond and a loud popping noise was heard. After numerous attempts, the vehicle began to operate normally and was driven to the side of the road. The identical failure recurred. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer for diagnosis and they stated that the computer module and transmission would need to be replaced. The vehicle remained at the dealer for repair. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 60,000...updated 09/19/11 there consumer stated there was an ongoing harsh shift. At times, the transmission had an ongoing sluggish/slip. According to the service invoice from the dealer, the transmission had an internal wear and tear malfunction. The fluid was very dirty. The dealer recommended a transmission replacement. Updated 12/30/11

- Pasedena, CA, USA

problem #9

May 292011


  • 136,000 miles
The contact owns a 2001 Toyota Rav4. While the contact was driving 35 mph, the engine warning light illuminated, and the transmission began to exhibit severe hesitation in a jerking motion. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer for diagnostic testing and confirmed that the transmission, ECM module and a faulty trans axle needed to be replaced. The contact discovered there was a prior voluntary recall issued by the manufacturer pertaining to the ECM module; however, the contact did not receive notification of the recall. The manufacturer stated that the recall expired in January 2011 and they were unable to provide further assistance. The vehicle was not repaired. The approximate failure mileage was 136,000.

- North Miami, FL, USA

problem #8

Sep 142010


  • 150,000 miles
The contact owns a 2001 Toyota Rav4. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic for inspection. The technician detected that the front engine cross member completely rusted. The vehicle was also taken to an authorized dealer where a diagnostic test was performed at the owner's expense. In addition, pictures were taken of the defective component and forwarded to the manufacturer for further investigation. The vehicle was not repaired. The technician recommended that the vehicle not be driven due to safety risks. The contact was waiting for a response from the manufacturer. The failure mileage was 150,000. The VIN was unavailable.

- Monticello, NY, USA

problem #7

May 152010


  • 132,000 miles


The contact owns a 2001 Toyota Rav4. The contact stated that the vehicle would sporadically stall while driving at various speeds. The check engine light would illuminate when the failure occurred. The dealer advised that the electronic control unit (ECU) was damaged and would need to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer would not provide any assistance. The failure and current mileage was 132,000.

- Norwood, MA, USA

problem #6

Dec 202009


  • 69,840 miles
My 2001 Rav4 Toyota jerks forward after a complete stop. Had it checked at Toyota dealership, they didn't see what was the problem but they told me it may be the transmission or the engine control. If I decide to do the job, they cannot guarantee that will fix the problems but it will cost about $6,000. Took it a local mechanics they could not help me as well.

- Maplewood, NJ, USA

problem #5

Dec 092009


  • 128,881 miles
My 2001 Toyota Rav4 threw a rod, resulting in a total engine failure. The connecting rod endcap bolt broke. This is not a maintenance item and it should never brake. The rod punched a hole in the engine block. The whole engine has to be replaced. The Toyota dealership says there's nothing they can do about it since it's not under warranty.

- Rice, WA, USA

problem #4

Aug 242009


  • 69,400 miles
Check engine light comes on 2001 Toyota Rav4 vehicle. Vehicle stops running at any point during driving operations. This issue affects the engine/emission/transmission systems and are a severe hazard to owners of this vehicle. Toyota is ignoring the growing number of owners of this vehicle until enough deaths/serious injuries occur.

- Canterbury, CT, USA

problem #3

Jun 252009


  • Automatic transmission
  • 97,323 miles


Somewhere around the later part of June, 2009 my car began hesitating. I took it to the dealer and they could not find what was wrong with it. I took it back and then was informed the it was my ECM. I contacted Toyota to have this problem fixed since it was a manufacturing problem during production. They informed me that it was my responsibility to get it fixed. My vehicle has around 97,000 miles on it. This is happening on a regular basis. Several times my family and I were endangered because someone almost hit my vehicle from the back because of the hesitation. As of today, I have not been successful at getting Toyota to offer any assistance in getting this repairs. The consumer stated the vehicle would loose acceleration and the RPM spiked. Whenever the consumer stopped at a light, the vehicle failed to move immediately. The technician informed the consumer the transmission was slipping, due to a problem stemming from the ECM, which was not reading properly which was affecting the transmission. Updated IVOQ. 08/07/09.

- Landover, MD, USA

problem #2

Mar 252004


  • miles
While driving, the engine light would illuminate and the vehicle stalls intermittently. The dealership was notified, but did not resolve the problem. The cause has yet to be determined.

- Columbia, MD, USA

problem #1

Dec 222002


  • miles
Consumer states that while driving at any speed the engine light comes on and will stay on the remainder of the time the vehicle is being operated. Dealer notified.

- Cowpens, SC, USA

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