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:
1 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
98,333 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 transmission problems

transmission problem

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2001 Toyota RAV4 Owner Comments (Page 3 of 7)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #81

Dec 132009


  • 116,000 miles


During a trip to the los angeles area from our home in fremont, ca. Our 2001 Toyota Rav4 refused to enter 1st gear, then would slam into gear suddenly, causing a bucking effect. After about 2 hours and some attempts at adding trans fluid it started running ok. Two days later on the freeway home it suddenly started in again, leaving us with no power to drive on the road to get out of the way of traffic until it slammed into gear again. We made it back home by remaining on the freeway and not stopping as much as possible. I took the car to my mechanic who informed me that the transmission was ruined and needed replacing. He showed me the chipped-up gears on the unit. After repairing the transmission I drove it for a day and a half and the slipping and bucking started in again. I immediately returned it to the shop and they spent a lot of time checking it because it was working just fine for them. Computer diagnostic came out normal. I told them to keep it and drive it for a day. Sure enough it went bad after about 5 hours. After having the actuators replaced they returned the car to me. It lasted 1 day. At that time I checked online and discovered the problems with the ECM. I printed it and gave it to my mechanic. They replaced the ECM with a new one ($1200) since no rebuilder would re-program the old one because of the recurring problems with it. The car now runs fine but only after about $4000 because of a faulty ECM that no one seems to want to admit is the real problem.

- Fremont, CA, USA

problem #80

Mar 312010


  • 120,000 miles
I drove my car to work and it was driving and shifting just fine (automatic). I parked, turned the car off, and went inside to punch in. Not 10 minutes later I returned to start the vehicle and it immediately shifted hard out of park into reverse. When it shifted into first gear I could tell there was a problem, the car basically sputtered into the gear and could barely shift out of it into second. Once it did the car jerked forward and I felt like I did not have good control of it due to the way it was jerking in and out of gear. During this time the rpms would go way up and suddenly down again, and it seemed like every time I applied the gas (and thus engaged the transmission) the vehicle started reacting in an unpredictable manner. There didn't seem to be any rhyme or reason for when this happened, sometimes it was ok but in general the car had a great deal of trouble shifting out of 1st and 2nd gear. Once I was going over roughly 30mph the car was generally ok, but would occasionally sputter. As far as events leading up to the failure, the engine control module has been recalled I believe twice on this particular vehicle and it has always had check engine light problems. The check engine light had been on for roughly 12K miles previous to this happening with no incident; the diagnostic read that I needed a new catalytic converter but 1) the computer, in my opinion, isn't reliable because it's been recalled/reprogrammed and clearly has a defect and 2) the catalytic converter dying should be a slow death with a gradual decrease in gas mileage and eventual "choking" of the engine at up to 40K miles after the diagnosis. This happened immediately and from one engine start to the next.

- Ann Arbor, MI, USA

problem #79

Mar 262010


  • 125,841 miles
Toyota 2001 Rav4: Check engine light has been on since at least August, 2004 (documented). Toyota claimed to fix per a recall notice. From February 2002 to date, there has been intermittent groaning beneath car, whining in first gear, and what felt like clunking. Could not pass smog tests because of check engine light code. In October, 2009, car died. Could not restart, had to wait for tow (midnight on a dark road). Had work done in Oct, 2009, and I requested the parts. They replaced my coils, plugs and air filter for $1,330. I have had brakes replaced, fluids changed, O2 sensors replaced ( since then, the car is mis-shifting, clunking or groaning, rough engine. On 3/25/2010, I took it in and Toyota service recommended that I "let it go" and buy another car. They told me to just come and get the car without any work done, because it would cost me between $6,000-$7,000 for repairs. I was never told that I had ECM and transmission problems throughout all of these visits to Toyota service. I believe that Toyota "waited me out" so that they could just sell me another car instead of revealing the true cause of my problems. The ECM and transmission for this car is no longer available as a new item, so I would have to get a rebuilt transmission, which the defective ECM would end up destroying. I am afraid to drive the car because of the possibility that the transmission will fail.

- Walnut Creek, CA, USA

problem #78

Dec 222009


  • 89,900 miles


On December 22nd, I experienced slipping transmission problems. I took it to our local Toyota dealership, and was told that there was no problem. I then took it to a independent transmission shop. I learned that that my transmission was destroyed, and had to be replaced. A rebuilt transmission was installed. I still had problems, and upon further investigation, the torque converter had to be replaced. With the torque converter replaced, I drove my Toyota rav 4, only to experience more problems. I personally began invesgating the problems with Toyota rav's, and learned of all of the other complaints logged against Toyota, due to transmission problems. It has been 3, almost4 months, and my Toyota is currently in the shop, getting a shift solenoid. I called Toyota, for assitance, and was told that it was not covered under warranty. Currently, I have over $4700 in repairs to this vehicle.

- Springfield, OH, USA

problem #77

Mar 242010


  • 120,000 miles
My 2001 rav 4 bagan having trouble with the transmission. I have trouble getting started and the car shifts very hard. When the car finally shifts, it often lurches forward. I have trouble getting on the highway and am fearful to drive in traffic. Very scary!

- Lakewood Ranch, FL, USA

problem #76

Mar 202010


  • 112,000 miles
2001 Toyota Rav4, transmission has started to jerk us around, lurch in traffic and feels like it comes out of gear while driving/accelerating in traffic or pulling out into traffic. Then all of a sudden you are not moving.

- Girard, OH, USA

problem #75

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 #74

Mar 242009


  • 75,000 miles
Toyota 2001 Rav4 transmission shift problem since March 2009. Approx miles to date 95,750. When I first took it in, I checked with autozone for diagnostic check which was free because the check engine light came on. I then took the readings to Toyota who told me they wouldn't accept autozone's diagnostic and I had to get another one from them which cost $100. Then they told me it was just the gas cap and turned the check engine light off. Within 2 days, after my E-check, the light came back on has been on ever since. I have taken it back several times for oil changes and they never said that there was a problem. The diagnostic from autozone stated the shift solenoid was bad but Toyota said it was the gas cap. I have done some research and I am now aware that I am not the only one with this type of problem. This is shameful that they choose to ignore this serious malfunction to get major money from the consumers. I am more upset with the fact that I bought the car in may of 2006 and they knew then that there was a problem. The warranty is a joke, that's a major part that they won't honor and they are purposely ignoring it so that it's not covered or their problem. Why wait until someone gets hurt or killed because they don't want to own up to their defective parts. My car will get stuck in first gear and jump to second very hard. I have taken the car to a foreign car repair shop last spring and they did a quick fix by trying to see if replacing the transmission fluid to see if that worked but it lasted for only a week. During my last maintenance check at Toyota, I was told I probably had six months, still never acknowledging that it was a defect in their part or that it was covered. It's not fair to the consumer to be ignored and taken advantage of by this company. Please don't ignore our complaints they are real and serious.

- Twinsburg, OH, USA

problem #73

Feb 092010


  • 93,500 miles
Hello, my wife and I purchased a 2001 Toyota rav 4 in 2003. It served us well until about a month ago, when at 93,500 miles it began to have shifting problems. When the car was cold, I would step on the accelerator and the car would crawl along; then it would begin to slip, as if I had hit a patch of ice--the engine would rev but the car would not go forward. And I heard a loud and ominous clanking noise from underneath the car as I crawled along. As the engine warmed up, the problem subsided so I headed home. As I was driving down the highway the car stalled momentarily. Thankfully, no accident occurred, though I could have easily been rear-ended. After many hours spent with my mechanic, our selling Toyota dealer, and a local transmission shop, we were told that the ECU module in the rav was going bad and that is what wrecked our transmission. We needed a rebuilt transmission and a new ECU module. Grand total for the work: A whopping $4500! I googled the problem and read that hundreds of other people have experienced the same problem; that in 2006 Toyota issued a service bulletin to its dealers, acknowledging that there was a problem with ecus in ravs model year 2001-2003. But the owners of these vehicles were never notified, leading to a burn-out of rav transmissions all across the country. A class action lawsuit has been filed against Toyota to get them to take responsibility for their defective parts. I called Toyota; they politely but firmly refused to pay for any of the work, simply claiming the vehicle was out of warranty. Then I spoke with the general manager at the dealership--same answer. This is not simply a matter of money and inconvenience; these vehicles are dangerous and I believe it is just a matter of time before someone gets into an accident as a direct result of these defective parts that Toyota installed in its vehicles. Please pressure Toyota to take responsibility for the problem it has created! thank you.

- St. Louis Park, MN, USA

problem #72

Jan 102010


  • 103,000 miles
My 2001 Toyota rav-4 began having gear shift problems about January 10, 2010. It bumped, lurched, burped going into 2nd, 3rd and 4th gears. I took it to my regular service dealer and they checked it over, they drained and replaced the fluid, pan gasket & filter. While driving it home it began the gear problem again. I then took it to a recommended transmission shop. They reconditioned the transmission. It was ok for a few days; took it back; more work done as part of transmission warranty. Still not fixed. Big problems shifting into second and third gears most of the time.

- Columbia, MO, USA

problem #71

Feb 052010

RAV4 4WD 4-cyl

  • 178,200 miles


My complaint is about my 2001 Toyota Rav4. About three weeks ago I started having problems with my transmission. The transmission started to shift as if it were going to stop. It started to jerk, slow down so much until I thought that I was going to get hit from behind. I had to put my flashers on so the other drivers would slow down and go around me. I do not feel safe in my car anymore. I have had the transmission checked but no error code appears. I was told without a code they don't know what was wrong. The transmission will shift O.K. for a while and then it will start, jerking, losing power, and failing to accelerate. I am afraid to go very far in my car for fear of being stranded. I see that other people are having the same kind of problem with their Toyota. Please help! thank you

- Bedford Ht, OH, USA

problem #70

Aug 152009


  • 86,000 miles
2001 Toyota Rav4 at 86,000 miles having transmission trouble due to electronic control module.

- Summerville, PA, USA

problem #69

Feb 112010


  • 92,000 miles
The contact owns a 2001 Toyota Rav4. The contact stated that when pulling from a light and trying to depress the accelerator pedal, it did not respond. All of a sudden, the vehicle jerked forward as if someone had stomped on the gas pedal. She noticed the problem several times prior to the failure to a smaller degree. She took the vehicle to a repair shop and the mechanic stated that the transmission was the cause for failure and most likely needed to be rebuilt. The contact called the manufacturer and filed a complaint with a representative. The vehicle had not been repaired at the time of the complaint. The current and failure mileages were approximately 92,000.

- Charleston, SC, USA

problem #68

Apr 182009


  • 87,145 miles
Transmission slipping, unable to accelerate. Severe jerking, bone rattling and very jarring, loss of power and vehicle stalling. Occurred several times, had repaired immediately and a high cost to me. Transmission hasn't felt right since. Stopped driving vehicle to replacement of ECM was replaced. I'm not confident that the transmission didn't suffer damage during this limited time it was driven and until the repair could be made. I haven't felt completely safe because the failure was so severe and quick to surface.

- Wilmington, DE, USA

problem #67

Sep 152009

RAV4 4WD 4-cyl

  • 56,000 miles
2001 Toyota Rav4 suddenly started shifting hard/jerking...took to mechanic, who could not find check engine light...drove vehicle few days and the problem returned...had vehicle towed to Toyota dealership, told transmission would have to be replaced, ECU failure.

- Arvada, CO, USA

problem #66

Jan 202010

RAV4 4WD 4-cyl

  • 108,000 miles
The transmission on my daughter's 2001 toyata rav started slipping two weeks ago. My daughter still is a college student and still resides at home commuting to school (15 miles one way) everyday. I am a mechanical engineer and have religiously maintained all our vehicles and know that the transmission should not give any problems with just over 100,000 miles. I have driven all my vehicles way past over 160K miles and never have had any problems. I have researched the internet and there are alot of complaints with this same problem. Toyota should be made to recall and fix the problems.

- La Mesa, NM, USA

problem #65

Jun 032009


  • miles
I also had to shell out $3000 to replace a faulty ECM for the Toyota Rav4 2001. The car had low mileage and just past the 7 year warranty. The car's transmission is not shifting and the car almost died on the way to the dealership. I found thousands of reported cases of people sharing the same grief and apparently this problem with the ECM extends to 2002-2003 Rav4 and corollas as well. Toyota knows about this problem because they had a recall the patch the ECM at 2006. But the patch does not work and perhaps a small bandage to mask the real problem. And Toyota banked on the fact that car will exceed the warranty so they blow all of us off and make us pay for the part or dump the car. I brought this up with the dealership and also with Toyota headquarter and they vehemently denied this is a wide spread problem and refused to fix the problem for free or to do a recall. But just doing a casual search this problem is the highest reported problem with any Toyota and this problem spans to eu and australia as well. The only reason why this is not publicize is because luckily no one died, or we don't know about it. But the Rav4 can easily stalled on the freeway and causing another car to slam into the Rav4. Toyota has a history of lying to the public. For the last 10 years, their cars all had some type of electrical problems. It's not just the accelerator or brake issue, it's electrical. They have a poor design that kills. I hope this letter can prompt another investigation into other models of Toyota that had suffered with other issues in the last decade.

- Woodland Hills, CA, USA

problem #64

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 #63

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 #62

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

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