Print this page 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.


pretty bad
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
111,000 miles
Total Complaints:
58 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. not sure (26 reports)
  2. replaced electronic control module (ecm) also known as pcm (20 reports)
  3. replaced ECM and transmission (12 reports)
2001 Toyota RAV4 transmission problems

transmission problem

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2001 Toyota RAV4 Owner Comments (Page 1 of 3)

problem #58

Sep 052006

RAV4 4wd

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,039 miles


Chronological Service and Occurrences detailing RPM / SUA Problem with Toyota 2001 RAV 4:

Owner periodically experienced Sudden RPM Engine Racing Problems usually when stopped at a traffic light or stop sign with foot correctly placed on brake pedal - while engine idling. Owner reported receiving notification card (#SSC601) entitled "A Special Service Campaign" sent by Toyota Motor Co. instructing that his ECM unit be "reprogrammed" with new "Logic" (their words) as instructed.

Owner had RAV 4 serviced as requested, however RPM problem persisted, occasionally emitting Engine Diagnostic Light. Repeated servicing of RAV 4, the RPM racing occurrences were mentioned to Toyota Service Center, however tech/mechanics unable to locate problem. Sent letter to the President of Toyota Motor Co. back in February 23, 2010 about recurring check engine diagnostic light.

Received a letter from Customer Relations dated March o4 2010 and called Customer Relations, as instructed in the letter and L/M. In the interim, Owner received another notification from the Toyota Motor Company, this time in a detailed two page letter form Entitled ZTL - Certain 2001 through 2003 Model Year RAV 4 vehicles which specifically listed owner's VIN # in the header of the letter. The letter stated that the warranty on the owner's RAV 4 would be extended for150,000 miles or ten years for a "harsh shift condition" that would only require the ECM to be REPLACED and if needed, replacement of the Automatic Transaxle unit. However, this servicing and replacement would only be implemented with the following specific codes: P0750, P0753,P0755, P0758, or P1760. Owner sent letter to Toyota Motor Co. on August 27, 2010 with receipts from Toyota Service Center regarding engine light problem and recurring RPM engine racing problem. Request for reimbursement was denied in a response letter dated November 1, 2010 from Toyota regarding "not meeting criteria under Csp 01-03 my Rav 4 Transaxle Ecm Warranty Enhancement".

Fast Forward: RPM racing problem has reoccurred had to shift to P-Park to stop RPM racing wildly. In June 2018 had transmission fluid and oil changed w new filters, RPM problem seemed to subside. In February 2019, while coming to complete stop at congested T/L intersection, owner reports sudden RPM/engine racing wildly causing SUA (Sudden Unintended Acceleration) RPM/Engine jerking forward while owner applies more brake /pedal pressure - force of sudden RPM's fast acceleration with combination of RAV 4's 4WD traction/force and foot on brakes still moves RAV into rear end collision.

Owner quickly shifts to P-Park. Damage occurred to front of owners RAV 4 and back of SUV in front of RAV 4. Police Report filed and Owner immediately reported incident to Toyota Motor Company. A case number was filed with the Toyota Company and a third party Engineer/Inspector was dispatched by Toyota Motor Company to examine RAV 4 and download EDR and other devices regarding the Sudden Unintended Acceleration with the strange sporadic re-occurring RPM /Shifting problem.

Owner is awaiting response from Toyota to determine cause of mechanical or electrical (ECM) malfunction/problem causing acceleration and accident and reimbursement determination for car damages with good faith extension of warranty to cover parts and labor for replacement of malfunction ECM Unit and/or Transaxle replacement.

Update from Aug 1, 2023: Update after Toyota dispatched third party engineer to inspect owners Rav 4 regarding SUA problem. After the Inspector spent 5 hours examining the electronics, (owner wasn't allower to watch and observe the inspection), the inspector said he had to send the results to Toyota Corporation and they would contact owner. The owner recieved a letter from the legal Department at Toyota. No evidence of a sudden aceleration had been found and mentioned that perhaps floor carpet might have been in the way of the pedal. Owner responded that the floor mat was securely attached to the floor hook and was not caught nor in the way of the pedal. Owner requested a copy of t h e complete examinationn report from the inspector,,and was denied. Owner requested report again in order to hire a technician to examine the Rav 4, he was againndenied access to the report. Owner lost faith in Toyota and thought it was odd that his request for a copy of the examination report regarding the SUA RECURRING PROBLEM was DENIED.

- Michael P., Desert Hot Springs, US

problem #57

Aug 012017

RAV4 2.4L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 137,255 miles

Didn't know about the problem with the ecm on this model of car. Bought it, still owe money on it and the Ecm went out. Replaced it after only driving the car less than 45 miles like this and my transmission now has to be replaced. Bought this car at Toyota of Olympia and they did not tell me about this defect.

- Faith L., Tenino, US

problem #56

Jun 212017


  • Automatic transmission
  • 124,000 miles

My 2001 RAV4 ECM was calibrated in 2008 by a local dealer under recall 601 Service Campaign. At that time the car had just over 63,000 miles. It now has 124000 and the transmission is hard shifting again.

Is Toyota fixing a recurring problem with the ECM?

- Ernest D., Belmont, US

problem #55

Jun 022017


  • Automatic transmission
  • 68,000 miles


I was told my Rav4 was not covered for this problem, as it exceeded the time and and date. My vin number was not listed with them. I have 68,000 miles on my car. Taken good care of this car. Cost to me will be $4000, and you are not covering this defect? Computer and transmission. I am a senior, and $4000 dollars is a lot of money to pay for your mistakes. How could I possibly get this resolved with you? I have owned the car since 2004 and it has low mileage. You need to extend this warranty and include my vin # . IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, I DO HAVE A CASE # 1706053467 Thanks, Jane Papp

- Jane P., Pleasant Hill, US

problem #54

Apr 032017

RAV4 2.O

  • Automatic transmission
  • 135,000 miles



- Albert A., El Monte, CA, US

problem #53

Sep 012016

RAV4 Limited 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 131,600 miles

Toyota confirmed that they have issue with ECM and transmission, they had extended warranty 10 years or 150,000 miles whichever comes first. My car is now 15 years old, Toyota advised that even if it is true that they acknowledge this problem they cannot help me fix it because my car is over 10 years.

This is not fair because this is an issue that I did not create, this is clearly a TOYOTA problem. It should not be my issue that I am only experiencing the issue just now. Toyota should fix problem that they know exists.

- nucum, Mountain House, CA, US

problem #52

Oct 152015


  • Automatic transmission
  • 103,000 miles


"Extended warranty" announced in 2010, with coverage of 10yrs/150,000 miles --whichever comes first -- is both joke and insult added to the financial injury done to owners who have had to pay more than the car is worth to have it repaired. Furthermore, Toyota's whispered admission of a problem was not intended to reach the ears of independent mechanics and even some of its own dealerships, causing many unnecessary transmission jobs that still remained threatened by the ongoing malfunction of the ECM.

The magnitude of the problem and the manner in which it has been handled should be enough to have board members and senior execs drawing straws to determine who will be the first to commit sepoku. But it seems to be easier for them to live with disgrace and dishonor by doing in their customers instead.

- sueroncv, Carmel Valley, CA, US

problem #51

Dec 202014


  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

I purchased this car 2nd hand and started having issues in 12/14. The check engine light came on and I took to a garage that was open on a Sunday night. They told me the car was still safe, and that I should consider taking it in to a transmission shop. In Feb 2015 I brought to my mechanic. I spent 700.00 on the ECM. But the damage was done. I have to replace the transmission at a cost of about 4,000!!!!!

My question is or my complaint is how is someone supposed to know about this issue? And what is someone like myself supposed to do? Toyota keeps sticking their heads in the sand hoping it will go away.

I called Toyota customer service and was advised that there is nothing they can or will do to assist the people buying these cars that did not have the corrections done.

I guess I amout of luck and when I purchase a new car it will not buy another Toyota. Toyota does not care about there car owners.

This issue can be very dangerous. I almost caused serveral accidents while driving down the road. This ismy 2nd and like I stated most likely my last Toyota cause they do not stand behind there product.

- Julie H., Minneapolis, MN, US

problem #50

Aug 082015


  • Automatic transmission
  • 76,404 miles

This Toyota Rav4, with only 76,000 miles on the odometer, should not need to have the transmission replaced at a cost of ~$3,700.00. As an aside, I had the engine rebuilt 3 years ago at a cost of $1,895. So, in the past 3 years I've spent ~$5,600 in major repairs...I feel like I'm starting to buy the car all over again! All work was done by the dealer from who I bought the car, Toyota of Riverside. I really like the Rav4 but these constant rebuilds do not jive with Toyota's reputation, which is why we bought this car in the first place.

Update from Aug 15, 2015: The saga of the tranny of my 2001 Toyota Rav4 continues…We got the car back from the dealer and drove it home. Within a day it was refusing to shift in a timely and smooth manner. It was slow to shift gears when starting out, jerking wildly. When it finally did shift it made a loud “boom” sound shaking the vehicle and I felt the tranny was coming through the floorboards. So, back to the dealer. The dealer checked their service records and discovered that although a new tranny had been installed the original ECM was not replaced. We were told this was needed and should be installed with every new tranny. Also, the ECM was a separate $1,200 item (not included in the price of a new tranny) but we would not be charged, as this item was not initially quoted to us. Now waiting for the new ECM install.

We overall are very happy with the Rav; I figure it gets about 30MPG. However, spending ~$6,000 in repairs over the past 3 years coupled with questionable repair expertise of the local dealer has given us pause to think: would be buy a Toyota again, especially considering corporate Toyota’s ducking of this well documented tranny/ECM safety issue?

- Arnold R., Riverside, CA, US

problem #49

May 072015


  • Automatic transmission
  • 141,800 miles

I am out nearly $4,000 at this point... not done yet! Toyota refuses to do anything about the ECM/Transmission issue that they have known about for over 10 years. The only reason that they extended their warranty to 10 years/150,000 miles (whichever comes first) is because there was a class action lawsuit brought against them, although most of their representatives seem to not be aware of this fact. When I told them that I only have 141,800 miles, they said that there is nothing that they can do, it is out of the 10 year part of the warranty.

Toyota is a BAD COMPANY! They will not stand by their product and fix their mistakes. If they would have recalled the ECM and replaced it when they knew that there was a problem, I wouldn't be out the $4,000. The ECM MAKES the transmission need to be rebuilt. This NEVER should have gotten to this point!

- toyota sucks, Orlando, FL, US

problem #48

Mar 152015

RAV4 4

  • Automatic transmission
  • 139,000 miles


When I turn on the car and hit the gas it doesn't seem to have it's full power. It feels like it jumps but it sounds as if I was switching gears but it an automatic car.... When it shifts from second to third gear it makes a weird sound and it takes really long to switch. After that the noise goes away, but once I hit my brakes it starts all over again. It's very difficult to drive because I'm scared to ruin my transmission and I just brought the car one month ago.

- Jose R., Lindenhurst, NY, US

problem #47

Jan 302015

RAV4 L 2.0L 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 151,000 miles

Initially, I can smell something burns in while driving. A few days later, the car transmission doesn't seem to shift properly. The car runs horrible. Thought I may cause accidents because the car would stutter on acceleration and deceleration and can't go up to speed limit. Took it to a corner street shop, they said it was transmission. Took it to the dealer, they replaced the computer and confirmed it fixed the problem.

- Thien N., San Jose, CA, US

problem #46

Dec 032014

RAV4 L 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 137,720 miles

Bought my 2001 RAV4 and got to looking at the recalls on it. Found lots of info about the ECM causing the automatic transmission to go goofy and creating havoc to the owners via costly transmission repairs and ECM replacement. Being that I wasn’t able to find out if my 2001 had anything done to prevent this from happening, I took the initiative to go ahead and purchase a “fixed/repaired” ECM from an aftermarket company to prevent happening to me what I have read about from others.

Nothing but great reviews from everyone who dealt with this place ( and the service they received. I’m posting this to say that I feel that Toyota is taking the same stance as Caesar and washing their hands of the issue when they know there is a problem with the ECM sending out bogus signals to the transmission. Who knows, just might get my 200 bucks back by posting this if Toyota does in fact one day own up to the problem. Drive on. . . . .

- airblair, Middleburg, FL, US

problem #45

Jun 012014


  • Automatic transmission
  • 122,000 miles

We never got the information about the extended warranty for these severe issues with this model and year, and our Toyota dealer in Durham, NC, told us a few years ago that they had re-programmed our ECM because of some issues and that we should never have a problem as a result.

The car had only about 122,000 miles on it, so we had decided to spend about $700 last year to fix a lot of little items and tune it up, thinking we could get another few years out of it. Over the past four years, it had not been driven a ton -- mainly just errands within about a 15 miles radius -- and we had no issues with it at all.

This June, the car suddenly started driving weird, with rough shifting, especially between second and third, and a lack of pickup that felt awfully dangerous, especially for getting on a highway. It felt like the engine would rev and rev before shifting. The problems were almost instant -- with no warning. It was just almost undriveable all of a sudden.

The dealer we visited in Virginia said that it would be $1,200 to change the ECM and then possibly as much as $5,000 to change the transmission. They gave us a "50/50" chance of needing a full transmission replacement. This seems way more than the average amount of repairs required, so we're not sure if we were getting taken advantage again with that quote.

We have not decided yet what to do with the car, but we are so incredibly disappointed with Toyota and we will never buy another Toyota. If you have an older Toyota Rav4, I highly recommend you get rid of it now, before it self destructs. We are switching our brand loyalty to another company. The Rav4's lifespan of 122,000 miles was not very impressive.

- Christina H., Durham, NC, US

problem #44

Sep 032013


  • Automatic transmission
  • 194,000 miles

I am newly employed at the Post Office so I need my car to work. When this problem started it was kind of sporadic and only happened from time to time but now it is happening every day throughout the time I am driving. I took it to a mechanic and they were able to tell me what the problem was. I looked up online and there was a "bulletin" about this problem back in 2010. So I called the Toyota dealership by me and set up an appointment. Knowing what the problem was they hooked it up to the machines and tell me the same thing that I already knew and then tell me that the bulletin does not apply to me because I am past 10 years and 150,000 miles. This isn't right. I am just a regular average Joe with a new job and I cannot afford to have to pay out $4000 possibly if the ECM doesn't fix the initial issue. I am not happy and I would like to be able to keep my car but will not be able to if I can't get this fixed. My biggest issue is that Toyota knows about this issue and didn't notify anybody about it so now that I am having the problem I can't do anything about it. This would be an easy fix for Toyota compared to me. They can just write it off. I can't write off a car....... : (

- hmahoney, Cameron, NC, US

problem #43

Nov 222012


  • Automatic transmission
  • 119,000 miles

Never experienced problem with transmission during the "extended" time frame granted by the manufacturer. My Rav4 has had all required maintenance, has been garage kept and only has 119,000 miles on her. She had just passed inspection the day before the problems began.

We had purchased a Gold extended warranty allowing 60 months / 100,000 miles. We received a notice from Toyota (which I saved) stating that if a problem developed with ECM or Harsh Shift condition...that it would be covered. At the time I had never experienced any transmission problems or had a mechanic indicate that there might be a problem...fluid appearance, etc...until it was TOO LATE.

Due to the fact that the ECM wasn't "WARNING" that there was a mechanical problem of any kind; check engine light never came on, and even after it was apparent that there was something terribly was throwing...showing...the wrong even the "certified" specialists attempting to remedy the problem...couldn't. None of them ever indicated or even seemed to be aware that there might be a problem with the ECM. We have spent nearly $700.00 dollars attempting to fix the problem...based on the codes generated by a faulty ECM.

Now, neither Toyota or Auto Nation are willing to take care of the problems. There is no question...THEY HAVE KNOWN these were issues that needed to be addressed. They have even altered the original instructions recommended to the maintenance departments from "adjust" to REPLACE ECM. There should not have been and there still should not be any limit; time or miles. The parts are faulty and need to be replaced. By the time I became aware there was a problem with the ECM...that problem had resulted in the destruction of the transmission. Now, they are acting as I should just be grateful it didn't happen sooner??? and that paying $4,000 + to replace parts...FAULTY parts...they now my problem! My husband sustained disabling injuries and suffers from TBInjuries. We are still; after 6 years, still fighting for SS Disability! We are not in a position to pay for these repairs or replace this vehicle. She is otherwise in what blue book would call "excellent" condition. I can not; in good conscience, even consider selling her to someone, knowing these issues will have to be addressed! What's a mother to do?!

Update from May 5, 2013: I am still having a hard time believing that Toyota has fallen so short of the expectations I had come to have for their company. I do want to say though that the Champion Dealership's Customer Service department and their chief mechanic have really done all they could to help resolve this issue.

Toyota's Corporate division has on the other hand fallen unbelievably short!!! Their most recent "gift offer" was a $1,500 discount (once all paperwork had been confirmed) toward the purchase of a new or certified used Toyota. Like I should even consider trusting them enough to risk purchasing another vehicle from them?! Then to add insult to injury; they would have only been able to offer me $1,000 trade in for my Rav4. The week before the "condition" began, this vehicle had been valued at more than $8,000.

Meanwhile, our '96 Toyota 4Runner, now our only means of transportation, has required more than $600.00 in brake work. NOT in the budget. I've had friends offer to help by doing the repair work for the cost of parts, but even w/that, I fear that Toyota probably won't agree to reimburse us ONCE they FINALLY get around to doing the recall. I am open to suggestions. Knowing that I am just one of TOO MANY other Toyota owners dealing with this same and many other issues keeps me trying to find an acceptable resolution or plan to see that Toyota takes responsibility for all issues and defects in their products.

- Chris S., Austin, TX, US

problem #42

Aug 252012

RAV4 L 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 150,000 miles

Toyota has betrayed its loyal customers with this one. They know the problem, they know it is their defect, they know how to fix it. Brought the car in feb 2011 with 134,000 still under the warranty for this issue. They reprogrammed the ecm. Didnt work. Now ecm is sabbotaging the transmission. It can be fixed but the car is now past warranty.

They would rather screw the customer. My fourth and last Toyota. Total loss at 150,450. Car is in excellent shape inside and out. Just spent 800 on new tires, transmission is still good despite faulty ECM. Fix ECM car is saved. But Toyota says screw you and will not fix it. I am a staunch and loyal Toyota customer. My first car a 1992 corolla still strong with 289,000. My 1996 Avalon a dream cruiser at 213,000. And a bulletproof 1992 pickup with 185,000.

Hey Toyota go to hell. Off to Subaru.

- Mike A., Old Saybrook, CT, US

problem #41

Jan 282010

RAV4 L 3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 106,000 miles

I am so disappointed in the Quality that I received from my Toyota Rav4 by it only having Low Mileage at first then Experiencing this problem and now my truck only have 106,000 miles on it and Toyota wasn't really any help on making it better to stand by their Name.

- tammync, Rocky Mount, NC, US

problem #40

Feb 152012


  • Automatic transmission
  • 139,000 miles

the mechanic who serviced my toyota thinks the problem is the computer,because he found nothing wrong with transmission.I drove it for two weeks did not have the problem,then it started again with a hard shift or like it was struggling to go.I've never had computer serviced could this be the problem.

-, Barnegat, NJ, US

problem #39

Mar 182012

RAV4 L 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 94,500 miles

My 2001 Toyota RAV4 suddenly had difficulty shifting out of 1st to 2nd (automatic transmission). My Check Engine light came on. I dropped it off at AAMCO for advice. AAMCO learned that there was an advisory from Toyoto which acknowledged the issue is caused by a failed ECM that must be replaced. It tickled a reminder in me about perhaps receiving a letter concerning it. I found the letter from Toyoto extending the warranty to 10 years or 100,000 miles whichever comes first. My car just turned 12 years old, 94,500 miles so is NOT covered due to exceeding 10 years. Also the letter states it must be brought to the Toyota dealership, but my transmission is already disassembed at AAMCO. AAMCO claims it will cost between $4500 - $5000 to replace the ECM and the damage done by its failure. I'm screwed. I've been a faithful Toyota owner and advocate for the past 12 years, but don't see how I can continue in light of this extreme unexpected expense and at time when I've been unemployed for several months. I am not happy.

- William S., Tucson, AZ, US

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