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.


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
2 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
45,073 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 (Page 1 of 2)

problem #21

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 #20

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 #19

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 #18

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

problem #17

Apr 012012


  • 120 miles
Started having problems shifting gears, accelerating.

- Delano, MN, USA

problem #16

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 #15

Feb 042012

RAV4 4-cyl

  • miles


When attempting to accelerate from a stop, the car stalls. Automatic transmission does not hold on to a gear and when a gear is finally engaged, the car jerks violently forward. This is extremely frightening; I thought I was going to be hit because I stall in dangerous situations. Trying to enter a fast paced road is highly risking the chance of being read ended, and at times I would attempt to accelerate from a stop light only to crawl into the intersection and sit in horror. Sometimes higher gear would judder the car. Apparently Toyota knows the ECM is faulty and damages the transmission, but the actions they took on this matter were too late and barely caring. I was not notified of the danger. I had to come into the dealership to learn and by then my car is already out of warranty and my car is in no working order. No proper steps were taken to warn drivers of this hazard. The warranty they provide is incapable and restrictive of addressing the faulty ECM that will inevitably put unwary drivers in danger. I am still trying to learn more about this matter but Toyota representatives insist I pay out of pocket for a defect that would have been solved by a recall years ago.

- Las Vegas, NV, USA

problem #14

Jun 052011

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 102,000 miles
The transmission will not accelerate and then something suddenly "kicks in" and the truck will go- nearly been rear-ended numerous times- this is a big safety issue- told it's going to be a $4,000 transmission replacement- only 102K miles, like new. Also, at traffic lights, won't accelerate and people get ticked and need to pass and can't- numerous online complaints- add this. Unacceptable for Toyota.

- Grottoes, VA, USA

problem #13

Jun 152010


  • 140,000 miles
Erratic shifting on my wife's 2001 Toyota Rav4 (140,000 miles). Could not accelerate along with random downshifts. This was very dangerous on both surface streets and highway driving as vehicle would not accelerate when needed or radically slow down when it sporadically dropped into a lower gear. Took the vehicle to elk gove (ca) Toyota (egt). They indicated that the transmission was low on fluid (it was not, I checked) and recommended a flush. They flushed it and stated it was tested and ready to go. Problem was not solved. Egt then stated I needed a new transmission and possibly a new ECM. I chose to research the problem and towed my vehicle home. A quick search revealed numerous complaints on Rav4 ECM problems and several secondary markets repairing these defective units. Sent my unit out and had it repaired -problem solved. It appears that Toyota is not acknowledging the problem with the defective ECM. Had I not researched this, I would paid for a new transmission and ECM. In defense of egt, they did reimburse me for the transmission flush, but they still insisted that I needed a new transmission. Please add my complaint to any others you may have regarding Toyota Rav4 ECM problems, so that Toyota might admit that there is a defect in the units. My wife has always sworn by Toyota products - the recent swearing associated with Toyota is not the kind a company would covet.

- Sacramento, CA, USA

problem #12

Apr 022008


  • 129,000 miles
Toyota 2001 Rav4 hesitating transmission. Mechanic said the transmission could possibly be done and metal is grinding. Started all of the sudden. Does not shift out of gear from first to second, etc. Description of exact problem is here:

- Waldorf, MD, USA

problem #11

Feb 112010


  • 83,650 miles


2001 Toyota Rav4 started car put in drive applied gas and car leaped forward. Put transmission in neutral, engine was heavily racing, stepped on brake but could not stop car. Shut engine off and stopped in a snow pile. Took car to dealer for evaluation. Dealer could not find any problem.

- Mount Laurel, NJ, USA

problem #10

Feb 152009


  • 80,000 miles
2001 Toyota rav 4 the accelerator suddenly became stuck full open at a slow speed. Was able to bring car to stop by riding brakes and turned engine off. Happened one time. Car seemed fine after restarting. Nothing was done to correct because never could figure out cause and has never repeated.

- Yukon, OK, USA

problem #9

Sep 152001

RAV4 6-cyl

  • miles
Brakes were applied vehicle suddenly accelerated., ...

- Minneapolis, MN, USA

problem #8

Jul 022002

(reported on)


  • miles
Consumer set the cruise control at 35 mph, at the next block the vehicle began speeding at 60mph and was climbing, consumer shifted into neutral while the rpms went to 6000, consumer then shut off the ignition, dealer found that the cruise control actuator was at fault.

- Stow, OH, USA

problem #7

Jul 052002


  • miles
Our Rav4 2001 accelerated on its own after we came to a stop and resulted in us crashing head on into a brick building without the airbags opening causing tremendeous amount of damage to the building both autos on each side and of course our car. Two days before, it accelerated again after we came to a complete stop waiting in line for gas just missing us crashing into a truck.

- Syracuse, NY, USA

problem #6

Aug 232001


  • miles
On several occasions, with the car in park and still running, vehicle would make a huge clanking noise and would speed forward with uncontrollable acceleration, vehicle received body damage, dealer unable to locate problem.

- Pleasant Hill, CA, USA

problem #5

Aug 232001


  • miles
On several occasions, with the car in park and still running, vehicle would make a huge clanking noise and would speed forward with uncontrollable acceleration, vehicle received body damage, dealer unable to locate problem.

- Pleasant Hill, CA, USA

problem #4

Feb 132002

(reported on)


  • miles
The vehicle doesn't respond to throttle pressure and transmission doesn't shift down properly. This is noticed as a hesitation. When the transmission finally down shifts it shifts all the way to first gear, then roars for a few seconds, then shifts quickly.

- Bourbonnais, IL, USA

problem #3

Apr 022001


  • miles
The 2001 Toyota Rav4 has a significant hesitation problem upon acceration resulting in, my opinion, an extremely unsafe vehicle. At random times there is virtually no power produced by the engine for approx. 5-10 seconds when the accelerator is depressed. This results in a very dangerous situation when in heavy traffic. The dealer, admitting there is a problem, claims they have no idea what causes it, nor does Toyota. I have narrowly missed being hit by other traffic when I expected the vehicle to smoothly accelerate out of harms way when it did not.

- Winona, MN, USA

problem #2

Aug 252001


  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Vehicle exhibits intermittent hesitation upon acceleration from stop or low speed.hesitation has occurred since shortly after vehicle purchase date, with increased frequency during last 60-90 days. Hesitation occurs both with air conditionong on and off, and with 4-speed automatic transmission overdive on and off. 2-3 occurrences per week are currently experienced. Most frequent when vehicle is making slow turn (both right and left) and lasts 5-10 seconds even if accelerator is nearly fully depressed. Hesitation has also occurred when moving straight ahead from stop or from low speed (5-10 mph) stop and go traffic. Dealer has been notified and could not replicate problem or offer a solution, however vehicle was driven for only a short time by dealer's service technicians. Dealer indicates no report of similiar problems either at this dealership or to Toyota usa although I know of other 2001 Rav4 owners who have reported a hesitation problem to their dealers and have not had the problem resolved. While this problem is intermittent, this is, in some ways, worse than if it happened every time because there is no way to pedict the event and compensate for it.

- Elk Grove Village, IL, USA

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