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 5 of 7)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #41

Sep 272009


  • 11,600 miles


2001 Toyota Rav4 stalls at stop lights, does not want to shift into first or second gear, very dangerous for our driver at college in St. Louis. In research, have found numerous similar complaints re 2002 Rav4S and it appears it is faulty engineering. Diagnostics indicated internal transmission problems.

- Decatur, IL, USA

problem #40

Jul 212009


  • 85,000 miles
The contact owns a 2001 Toyota Rav4. When attempting to accelerate, he experienced gear failure. The vehicle was taken to the dealer and the transmission module was replaced. The failure mileage was 85000 and the current mileage was 97335.

- Fenton, MI, USA

problem #39

Sep 132009


  • 98,000 miles
While driving at typical city speeds, the transmission made a loud clanking sound and the car stated stuttering intermittently. Often when starting from a stop, the car had trouble finding a gear and did not move forward. While driving, sometimes there was little or no acceleration. This caused a problem for drivers behind me. The fix was a new engine control module (ECM). Fortunately, the mechanic knew about Toyota's technical bulletin on this matter.

- Thornton, CO, USA

problem #38

Sep 182009


  • 115,000 miles


The ECM computer on my 2001 Rav4 is failing, causing the transmission to stall during automatic shift change. This occurs each time you start in 1st, moving to second gear and is very dangerous. This lasts several seconds and can repeat in second gear. Traffic behind you can easily run into you and if you are entering a freeway, you can be seriously injured by transmission failing or stalling as a result. Toyota issued a tsb in 2006 to dealers yet did not notify owners. This is a serious safety issue and an immediate recall should be issued to repair this problem. My mechanic and one dealer I talked to indicate that the ECM computer and transmission need to be replaced at an estimated cost of $5000. My mechanic indicated he has seen over 100 vehicles on this at his business alone. This is not an isolated problem. Since my vehicle is over 8 yrs old and 115K mileage, there is no extended warranty. Why did Toyota notify its dealers in March 2006 of the problem and not notify the customers. Why have you not addressed this issue by asking Toyota to issue a recall to correct this very serious issue. If the computer fails completely, the car will more than likely stop in traffic. My mechanic indicates that a new computer must be put in and the transmission must be re built. This started on Friday, Sept 18th, about 4pm as I was driving home on the freeway. I had the vehicle immediately checked and this was the determination. I have parked the car since and cannot drive it until repaired. Please advise on this before someone is seriously injured or killed. Thank you.

- Dublin, CA, USA

problem #37

Sep 172009


  • 118,000 miles
Complaint regarding ECM on 2001 Toyota Rav4. ECM causes shifting issues with automatic transmission resulting in unsafe operation of vehicle. Requires replacement of ECM at a minimum.

- Enfield, CT, USA

problem #36

Jan 282009


  • 75,473 miles
The contact owns a 2001 Toyota Rav4 utility. The contact stated that intermittently the vehicle would down shift. As a consequence his risk for vehicle crash was increased. He has taken the vehicle to multiple dealers, in which the technician have reprogrammed the ECU, replaced the computer module and transmission. None of the repairs have remedied the failure. He contacted the manufacturer and was only offered a $300 discount toward future repairs. The failure mileage was 75,473. The current mileage was 80,426.

- Macedon, NY, USA

problem #35

Aug 262009


  • 172,500 miles


2001 Toyota Rav4 4WD car has not had any problems until recently when the transmission started acting up. It is very intermittent. When starting from a stopped position or getting onto a freeway the car will loose its power. The transmission slips, jerks, and engine speeds up without car properly accelerating. Very dangerous situation because you cannot merge with traffic, can"T get out of the way of other vehicles once the car enters an intersection, or could get rear ended by other vehicles. I can drive the car for a couple of days without the problem showing up. Had it in to my mechanic twice and they can"T reproduce it to fix it. No problems show up on the computer check. When it does happen it might only happen once when starting out from a stop and then be fine for many days or miles. I cannot make it do it. After researching this problem on the internet I have learned it is a defective design problem with the ECM module that controls the transmission. Toyota has issued a technical service bulletin dated March 6, 2006. They have not notified owners of the problem.

- Canal Fulton, OH, USA

problem #34

Aug 052009


  • 100,000 miles
Rav4 2001 transmission problem, the transmission went at only 100,000 miles, dealer replace the transmission but they charged me $3,600 this include the new ECM they installed required by warranty in the transmission. Please make note if there is more vehicles(Rav4 2001) with this issue.

- Arlington, VA, USA

problem #33

Sep 042009


  • 145,095 miles
Car had check engine light coming on; mechanic ran diagnostics on system- check engine light went off. Radiator needed replacement. After car pickup, car gradually started shifting abnormally between 2nd and 3rd gear- 2001 Toyota Rav4.

- Sparks, NV, USA

problem #32

Dec 312006


  • 80,000 miles
My 2001 Rav4, with just over 80K on it, went belly-up. Two days before the extended warranty expired (bought it certified used), the transmission started slipping, disabling the car 2 hours from home. The dealer it was towed to said they couldn't find anything wrong with it, put in 3/4 qt of tranny fluid, called it good. In February, after it was out of warranty, it once again died on a trip, again 2 hours away from home. The dealer I had it towed to this time said it needed a new transmission. The code was P0770 for solenoid malfunction. After long negotiations with Toyota they replaced the transmission.

- Ithaca, NY, USA

problem #31

Oct 172008


  • 85,000 miles


Fall '08 2001 Toyota Rav4 began stalling unexpectedly while changing gears between 2 and 3 rpms. Sudden jerks and halts occur after coming to complete stops and attempting to accelerate to go. Diagnostic test claims solenoids but Toyota dealership suggests replacing ECM and/or transmission. An expense of about $4500 without guarantee of fixing the problem. Extremely dangerous when driving in highway, keeping up with traffic pace suddenly halts and looses power.

- North Hills, CA, USA

problem #30

Jun 082008


  • 93,000 miles
January 2008 I had the ECM reprogrammed by Toyota after receiving a letter to come in for this. On June 3, 2008, I experienced a sudden stutter followed by a loud noise while driving. The following morning while driving to work the vehicle stuttered and felt like it was going to stall. It would hesitate on acceleration. I called the dealership for servicing and took the care in. The advisor told me to replace the ECM and transmission. The service code indicated that the transmission failed. The Toyota tech service bulletin (TC002-06) from 3//3/06 indicated that improvements had been made to the manufacturing process of the ECM and to repair this problem, R&R ECM which was not done in the recall.

- Dacula, GA, USA

problem #29

Dec 152008


  • 99,820 miles
My 2001 Toyota Rav4 began acting up and would not shift correctly. It would shift very hard, and would often hesitate before shifting into gear. The check engine light came on, and the vehicle was taken to a transmission shop. The shop recommended replacing the transmission and ECM monitor to correct the issue, as they were very aware of the issue with the Rav4's and also because metal shavings were found in the transmission pan. Toyota is well aware of this issue, and continues to try and avoid their responsibilities with these vehicles. In March 2006, Toyota sent dealers a technical service bulletin warning them that some consumers might complain about harsh shifting. It said improvements were made to the computer "manufacturing process to reduce the possibility of this condition occurring." It then told the dealers to replace the module and if that did not work to replace the transmission. But consumers owning the vehicles were never notified about the problem. Toyota also refused to do anything is the vehicles mileage is over the 80,000 warranty period, and lucky for them, most vehicles do not have any issues until they are out of the warranty period.

- Olean, NY, USA

problem #28

Aug 152009


  • 68,700 miles
2001 Toyota Rav4 has transmission slippage/harsh shifting. Manufacturer defect in ECU is well known but Toyota will not replace defective item. Anyone driving this model is in a "ticking time bomb" for transmission failure. If it happens at speed, there will be death/injury incurred. Information was in N.Y. times on 8/26/2009 article. I am the owner of this vehicle and want to be added to the NHTSA list of complaints/concerns about this well known defect. Request Agency pressure Toyota to recall/replace ECU/ECM/transmission as needed on every operational Rav4 in the 2001-2003 range. Toyota issued a technical service bulletin TC002-06 on March 3, 2006 advising service managers to replace ECM/transmissions.. "only if customer complains" this is a devious way of avoiding an outright notification/recall and I request your good Agency help owners like me who are endangering their families/them selves & the general public on our roads. I am a licensed driving instructor in the state of Connecticut and will make everyone I know aware of this dangerous situation with a Toyota product. Your assistance is appreciated.

- Canterbury, CT, USA

problem #27

May 182009


  • 83,732 miles
My Toyota rav 4 (2001) suddenly started sliding, jerking, motor racing in may of 2009. It had just passed the 80,000 mi mark, and the shifting of the transmission nearly stopped. I had bought it used, and when we checked with the local dealership, found that the 2006 bulletin on the problems with the ECU which controls the transmission had resulted in the ECU being 'flashed'. so it had the work done which would supposedly fix the problem. It is lucky that it happened on a street and not on a freeway, which would most likely have resulted in a terrible accident. Toyota was phoned, a complaint was made. Nothing has happened. At my own expense, I had the ECU rebuilt; the damage to the transmission was there, but the rebuilding of the ECU enabled me to drive the car. I don't know how long it will last.

- San Bruno, CA, USA

problem #26

Apr 172008


  • 88,586 miles
Cost of repair: $2684.47 & car was at dealership for app. 1 month total. My Rav4 started occasionally shifting hard and would not go into the next gear. When it finally went into the next gear it felt like a sudden jump. The engine would rev and the rpms would increase while the car was in neutral. It reached a point where it would not go into the next gear at all. I took it to Toyota dealership. I spoke with service advisor, he said that the problem was due to the engine control module. A service bulletin (TC002-06 89661-42650) instructed in cases such as mine the ECM was to be replaced. And he also strongly advised that the transmission fluid needed to be flushed, although it did not show any need to be, but he and the master mechanic felt it would be needed. The original quote for the above was over $1500. When I complained that I didn"T feel it was right that I should pay when it was a known bad ECM the price dropped for ?customer loyalty, blah, blah". they felt they did me a favor and only charged me $740.47. Two days after I got it out of the shop it did the same exact thing. I had been very disgusted with the service I received, the not returning of phone calls, etc. The last place I wanted to go was back to the dealer. On or about May 2, 2008 I took it back to the dealership. The engine oil light had begun to flicker. The original problem still existed. They were unable to duplicate the problem. The check engine light was on. They said the engine oil light and the check engine light was on due to oil gelation and the catalytic converter. I went for a ride with service advisor tom druzynski and we quickly were able to duplicate original problem. I was then told the transaxle needed to be replaced and the engine rebuilt. Service adv told me repairs would cost $7000. I unsuccessfully complained to corporate Toyota 2 times. Repair cost went from 7000 to 1800.the A/C hasn't worked since.

- Penfield, NY, USA

problem #25

Jul 032008


  • 86,000 miles
I gave the rav 4 gas the engine was revving up but the car did not move. I put it in neutral and then drive to no avail. I had to be pushed off the road since the car did not move. I had to have the transmission rebuilt at a cost of $3700.

- Roslyn Heights Ny, NY, USA

problem #24

Jan 042009


  • 81,000 miles
My 2001 Toyota rav 4 started experiencing hard shifting late last year. The shifts became harder early this year particularly between 2nd and 3rd gear. I've never had any serious problems with my vehicle and at that time I had probably 78000 miles. When the hard shifting occurred, my vehicle would almost stall completely while driving. I started doing some research and discovered a known transmission trouble "supposedly" solved by reprogramming my ECM card(which I had done). This however did not solve my problem. According to other's who had the same thing done, the transmission will have to be replaced because the faulty programming has already damaged my existing transmission. I am still driving my Rav4 waiting for it to completely fail. Toyota should be responsible for replacing the transmission. I bought a Toyota at a higher price point, for it's reliability! the 1st major repair made on my vehicle should not be the transmission.

- Rowlett, TX, USA

problem #23

Mar 232009


  • 97,000 miles
The ECU computer on a 2001 Toyota Rav4 caused the automatic trans to not shift like it should. It got so bad that it felt like it went into park coming to a red light. Computer ECU had to be repaired and the trans rebuilt and the trans shop that did the work was not so good. Toyota wants $4200 to fix.

- Manchester, TN, USA

problem #22

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

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