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 1 of 7)

problem #121

Sep 282011

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 130,000 miles


Automatic transmission sometimes hesitates when shifting and sometimes starts in 3rd gear instead of 1st. Check engine light came on a week ago, similar to when shifting problems began.

- Olympia, WA, USA

problem #120

Aug 132011

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 151,000 miles
I have a 2011 rav 4 with 151,000 miles on it. I had my transmission fluid flushed when I got my oil changed in early June of 2011. My transmission starting "jumping" in early August of 2011 when in almost any gear. The problem came on very suddenly with no warning signs. The day it happened, I called my local Toyota dealership who has done all of my servicing and asked if it could have possibly had to do with the flushing of the system two months prior and if there had been any recalls on my vehicle for this sort of problem. They said that it was unlikely to have anything to do with the flushing and no, there had been no recalls that they were aware of. I was referred over to a transmission shop that rebuilds transmissions and got it into the shop that very next morning. The shop rebuilt my transmission and charged me over $3000 to do so. When I picked my vehicle up and drove it, it jumped when only driven half of a block. The transmission shop owner suggested I drive it a little bit more and take it from zero to 60 mph on the interstate. I did so but two days later, my transmission failed to accelerate when I pulled out into traffic, which was extremely frightening seeing that I am five months pregnant, and it also began to jump again, in almost any gear after it finally accelerated. I took it back to the transmission shop and after three days, they determined that it must be the ECM. They replaced this for me and charged me another $600 to do so. Once again, when I picked my vehicle up and drove it, it jumped when only driven half a block. I am beyond broke and frustrated that a) Toyota sent out no notifications to owners of this year and model warning owners of the potential dangers associated with a failed ECM and B) that even with a new ECM and rebuilt transmission, that my transmission is still not operating as it should.

- Portland, OR, USA

problem #119

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 #118

Aug 082011


  • miles


The contact owns a 2001 Toyota Rav4. The contact stated that the electronic control module malfunctioned, causing the vehicle to stall in the middle of the road. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer, where a diagnostic test was performed and the dealer stated that the transmission was faulty and needed to be replaced. The contact also stated that the faulty transmission was a known issue with this year, make and model. The failure mileage was unknown.

- Elkhart, IN, USA

problem #117

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 #116

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 #115

May 202011

RAV4 4-cyl

  • miles


My 18 year old has a 2001 rave 4 the mechanic says that the ECU has trashed the transmission so now she needs both to be replaced. I have found many complaints on line about this problem and most likely not many people know to contact this Agency or this would have been addressed by now. Please refer to the Toyota service bulletin March 3, 2006. Toyota is aware of the issue! this problem has the potential to cause an accident due to lose of power or stalling of the vehicle. My daughter has been very fortunate not to be in an accident due to this ECU /transmission problem.

- Bradshaw, TX, USA

problem #114

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 #113

Apr 252011


  • 85,000 miles
The contact owns a 2001 Toyota Rav4. The contact stated while driving 35 mph his automatic transmission failed. The transmission had also previously malfunctioned. The vehicle will be taken to the dealer. The manufacturer was not contacted. The failure mileage was 85,000.

- Royersford, PA, USA

problem #112

Mar 012011

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 108,000 miles
I own a regularly serviced and well maintained 108,000 mile 2001 Toyota Rav4 with a transmission concern. Car upon acceleration will not respond, revs, slips and lunges into gear. This occurs intermittently. Two independent transmission specialists have inspected this vehicle and stated that the problem they diagnose is a computer problem which is malfunctioning communication to the transmission. They have recommended not repairing the transmission but Focus on the car's computer. Toyota dealership finds no computer codes on the diagnostic check to indicate any problem whatsoever with this vehicle. Toyota case manager and dealership service manager states to drive this vehicle with all the safety concerns mentioned until a check engine light indicates a computer problem. Toyota serviceman rode in vehicle with this owner and felt the above mentioned safety transmission problems and reported it back to the manager. No repair work was recommended because the computer codes did not communicate a problem. Other than the service tech who drove in this vehicle and felt first hand the transmission slipping and not responding, Toyota refuses to acknowledges there is a problem. The computer communicating information to the transmission on many 2001 Rav4 vehicles have proven to malfunction according to Toyota's own service bulletin. According to my research a malfunctioning computer has led to many transmissions being damaged in Toyota vehicles. I am at a loss as to what to do. I am also very disappointed in Toyota's run around and their dismissive attitude when bringing a safety concern to their attention.

- Somerville, NJ, USA

problem #111

Feb 012011


  • 183,000 miles


The contact owns a 2001 Toyota Rav4. The contact stated that the vehicle was unable to shift between gears properly. The vehicle was no longer under warranty and was not repaired. The manufacturer did not offer the contact any assistance. The current mileage was 193,000 and the failure mileage was 183,000.

- River Edge, NJ, USA

problem #110

Feb 052011


  • 129,493 miles
Faulty shifting in 2001 Toyota Rav4 related to the ECM causes the vehicle to slow down and almost come to a stop when trying to accelerate or pull out into traffic. ECM was replaced but the faulty shifting still occurs. According to the dealership this means that the vehicle now needs a new transmission. While the vehicle is 10 years old, it has less than 130,000 miles on it. This should not be occurring. Toyota customer service refuses to acknowledge that this issue is due to the ECM and its poor design despite extending the warranty for exactly this issue. There are multiple reports on the internet from Rav4 owners who have experienced the same problem.

- Az, AZ, USA

problem #109

Jan 012010

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 187,000 miles
Beginning in Jan. 2010 the transmission in my 2001 Toyota Rav4 suddenly began shifting erratically. Just after entering I-35 it downshifted from overdrive to I'm guessing second gear. This sudden deceleration nearly got me rear ended by a semi truck. It also destroyed the transmission. I am advised that the transmission and the ECM that caused it must now be replaced, @ a cost of $4200. The car is currently inoperable as the transmission shifting is so erratic you don't know if it will go into gear and if it does, what gear and it shifts so erratically it's like riding a bucking horse. Just getting it the three miles to the shop was taking my life in my hands. This problem is going to get someone killed, if it hasn't already. Being of limited means, I have not repaired the car yet.

- Kansas City, MO, USA

problem #108

Feb 102011

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 112,000 miles
2001 Toyota Rav4 transmission is shifting hard and into inappropriate gears. While accelerating, the transmission is not shifting into a higher gear as it normally did. Now it hesitates between gears (neutral) and then randomly shifts into a lower or higher gear often jumping from gear to gear until settling into the proper gear. This behavior just began with 112K miles.

- Mount Prospect, IL, USA

problem #107

Jan 112010


  • 58,000 miles
The ECM is Toyota 2001-2003 Rav4 causes rough shifting in the transmission and it eventually causes the transmission to stop functioning. This means the car can and will come to an abrupt halt. This has happened to my family several times and now the tranny is no good at all. This is all after receiving a few letters from Toyota regarding this problem and bringing it in for service on the ECM after I'd already paid $1400 to Toyota for the same service. They never changed anything, just "reprogrammed " it. Now, even with Toyota saying publicly that they will stand by the vehicle, after catching so much heat from the public, they still deny me coverage as well as reimbursement and they even charged me a storage and diagnostic fee! this ECM problem has been a well known defect since 2006 and Toyota was and fully aware of the issue. Your car suddenly stopping on the highway is one of the greatest dangers one can face while operating a motor vehicle.just to be clear, the first time the car stopped on me was in 2006. I contacted Toyota and they acted as if I was out of my mind. I paid, the $1400 to the dealer for a new ECM. 2 weeks later the car stopped again. The said it was my fault. 6 weeks after that, ( still in 2006) Toyota sent a service letter describing the exact problem I'd paid for but I got no refund. A month later, yup you guessed it.I paid again and everything was ok at best until January 2009 when it stopped yet again. I can't afford to keep spending money like this for a problem that is entirely Toyota fault and of which they are aware. Please protect the american people.

- Boston, MA, USA

problem #106

Dec 282010

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 130,000 miles
Toyota Rav4 2001 sudden acceleration, and throttle surge... no way to stop car with brake pedal.

- Los Angeles, CA, USA

problem #105

Jul 022009


  • 170,000 miles
Entering highway and the vehicle would not shift. The vehicle would not go over 30 mph and had to pull over to avoid being hit.

- Sylvania, OH, USA

problem #104

Oct 162010

RAV4 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 87,900 miles
2001 Rav4- automatic transmission the car started shifting gears and having problems taking off from a stop position a week ago. There was no "check engine" light blinking to let me know what the issue was. I took it to the Toyota dealership where they couldn't find any problems and "think it might be the computer". when it first happened I almost got into a accident with another vehicle in front of me. After I left the dealership, sure enough the car starts jerking back and forth. I called Toyota customer service where they told me they recognize the problem as the ECM (seems to be the problem with other complaints I have looked into), but nothing can be done about it as it is not on the recall list and the car came from Japan to Canada then to the United States (seriously?). I guess Toyota will not do anything until someone is killed in an accident.

- Saint Petersburg, FL, USA

problem #103

May 292009

RAV4 6-cyl

  • 127,000 miles
2001 Toyota Rav4 ECM and transmission replaced in may of 2009. Paid out of pocket. Replacement was a rebuilt transmission installed by dealer (victory Toyota in canton, mi) second transmission failed after 17,000 miles. Paid out of pocket again. No help from dealer or Toyota corporate. Found out that dealer just swapped trans, did not actually rebuild trans. Took it to an independent trans shop. Independent discovered a washer missing that caused third gear to strip (defect in second trans). Trans repaired, but then got a hard downshift into first gear when stopping, check engine light and P0420 P0430 codes. Independent trans shop cleared codes, and told me that if it happened again to have dealer re-flash ECM. Worked ok for about five days, then got the hard downshift into 1st gear again. Took it to dealer. Now they say the charcoal cannister needs to be replaced. I will submit for re-imbursement under extended warranty, but am seeking reimbursement for second transmission which was a direct result of the first ECM and trans failing.

- Dearborn Heights, MI, USA

problem #102

Apr 152010

RAV4 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 180,000 miles
The contact owns a 2001 Toyota rav-4. the contact was driving 10 mph when he discovered that the vehicle would not shift into gear. The vehicle was taken to a local mechanic where they suggested that the transmission computer would need replacing. The vehicle was repaired yet the failure persisted. The contact was advised by an authorized dealer that the entire transmission would need replacing. The dealer reprogrammed the ECM in 2007 but that did not remedy the issue. The contact stated that the manufacturer should be liable for the vehicle failure. The failure mileage was 180,000. Updated 12/21/10 updated 12/29/10

- Antioch, CA, USA

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