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:
112,050 miles
Total Complaints:
117 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. not sure (46 reports)
  2. replace transmission (27 reports)
  3. replaced ecm (20 reports)
  4. new tramsmission (8 reports)
  5. replace transmission & ecm at the same time (7 reports)
  6. added a bottle of Lucas transmission treatment (2 reports)
2001 Toyota RAV4 transmission problems

transmission problem

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2001 Toyota RAV4 Owner Comments (Page 2 of 6)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #97

Sep 292011


  • Automatic transmission
  • 101,400 miles


It all started just one day, no warning what so ever. It was having trouble shifting, and when it tried to shift sometimes, it shook the whole car body. My car goes to the dealership ever 5000 miles, so when I got the word that my transmission is failing I am in total shock. My Rav4 had the extended warranty up to 100,000, how convenient now that the extend warranty if up my transmission fails prematurely. The dealership is telling me about $5300 to fix it. My Rav4 mostly city driving, so it was never stressed by the open road. I think I am going to look into the Class Action suit in the US District Court for the Northern District of CA!

- Lionel B., San Ffancisco, CA, US

problem #96

May 272011


  • Manual transmission
  • 55,407 miles

Super low mileage on my vehicle. But since I'm over the extended 10 year warranty (with this stupid ass defect, which should be recalled & covered no matter what!!!), Toyota wont help me with repairs or parts replacement. Talk about POOR Customer Service... The vehicle is unsafe. I will NEVER buy another Toyota & will NEVER recommend for people to buy TOYOTA... Called Toyota Corporate, USELESS!!! Very unpleasant people to deal with. I was told basically, "TOUGH! You are over the 10 year warranty, they don't care about the Low mileage!!! So disgusted with Toyota !!!

- Cecilia S., Streamwood, IL, US

problem #95

Jul 222011


  • Automatic transmission
  • 125,000 miles

My problems started on a Friday. My RAV4 started to have major shifting problems as soon as I drove out of my garage in the morning. It was even shaking.This seemed to only happen after I was stopped. The engine light went on so I was VERY concerned. Couldn't go to my local place to have it checked out because it was closed on weekends so I went to Tires Plus where I've had oil changes and some repairs done. They quoted me 800.00+ for the computer and 7000.00 for the transmission. I told them that was out of my league. They handed me a bulletin from Toyota which said to replace the computer first and if issues continued, to replace the transmission.

Needless to say this put me in a tailspin of sorts. I did drive it sparingly on the weekend. That Monday I went to my local place who told me 2200.00 to replace the transmission. I even considered buying a new car because I wasn't sure I wasn't to throw good money into a 10+ yr old car.

My brother convinced me to call Toyota and ask if this is possibly covered. Surprisingly they told me the warranty had been extended to 10 years/150000 miles. [of course I had not received anything from Toyota on this. I would have remembered!] I made my appointment, took the car in and had the computer replaced at no cost to me.

Thing no time was I notified by Toyota that there was a problem. Fortunately, I just beat the extended warranty deadline by 4 days!! I have been faxing Toyota a list of my complaints and asking for a response. Seems like all they are willing to give is a phone call and a 'so sorry'.

Here's the fax number......310-468-7814. Please please please inundate them with your complaints and concerns. Ask for copies of the service bulletins and extended warranty information. We as consumers have a right to this information.

- leslie42, Milwaukee, WI, US

problem #94

Aug 012011


  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles


2001 RAV4 automatic with 60,000 current original miles, had a slight problem since owning it with shifting hard when cold, but it was occasional and resolved quickly. Last week drove the car and could not get it to shift when entering the freeway. Dragged as cars were piling on my rear and then jumped into gear. Now every time it shifts it shifts hard, like a pop.

Stopped driving it. Called Toyota and it is 3 months out of warranty. We had called them about a year ago about the problem and they suggested we take it to a dealership, but we lived on an island in Alaska and were 100 miles by water to the dealership (no roads). Waited until we moved. Toyota says it will not extend the warranty. Hard to believe a car with 60,000 miles can't run properly! Hard to believe Toyota will not stand behind the reliability of their vehicles and do what is right! We have been a loyal Toyota family our entire lives, but this is probably the last Toyota I will ever own.

I suggest anyone living in rural America that does not have access to a Toyota dealership may want to think hard about owning a Toyota!

- sitkawhales, Pasadena, CA, US

problem #93

Mar 092011


  • Automatic transmission
  • 174,000 miles

transmission just started slipping last week, seems mostly to be from 1st to second gear. It will hesitate then clunk into gear. I don't want to put much money into this, do I fix or junk it? No way I will go to the dealer, they are big time crooks............

- Bruce M., Ridgefield, CY, US

problem #92

Apr 012010

RAV4 L 2.0L L4

  • Automatic transmission
  • 147,000 miles

I had the same problem with my RAV4 (2001) and the mechanic told me exactly the same, that I had to replace both the transmission AND the ecm, but I found out that the transmission was ok by repairing the ecm. The problem was that the technician couldn't properly diagnose the transmission while the ecm was defective. As for the ecm, yes, it is extremely expensive, but we sent it to a repair shop ( that a mechanic I know recommended me. For aprox. $240 they fixed it and my RAV4 was on the road again, running like new in no time, It was last year and until today, we have had no more transmission problems at all.

As a curious thing, my RAV4 was less than 150,000 miles at that time and the dealer told me that it applies only to "certain" letter or number in the VIN number. Not sure which one, but they denied the service in warranty. I guess that Toyota is tightening the ropes on this, as maybe there are more vehicles involved than they thought.

I hope this helps fixing problems of others with the same issues.

- John G., San Juan, PR, US

problem #91

Nov 142010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 160,000 miles


Car started having problems shifting . . . would either hesitate / not accelerate or slam into the next gear and scare me to death . . . am just not sure what to do about it. The Toyota dealer charges an arm and a leg just to diagnose a problem . . . and it sounds like the fix for this will be more than I should probably put into a vehicle with 160,000 miles! From the similar situations mentioned on this site, it sounds like this should be a flat-out recall because it's DANGEROUS to drive. Barely got my 3 year old granddaughter home safely the last time I drove it.

Update from Dec 11, 2010: Dealer gave me a "discount" and replaced the ECM for $922. Seems to be working OK, transmission doesn't appear to be damaged. Still doesn't seem right that these weren't recalled and that so many people are paying so much. Hopefully I'll get enough miles out of the RAV to make it worth my while.

- jkg83, Hastings, MI, US

problem #90

Aug 262010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 93,000 miles

Car was operating normally until yesterday morning when I noticed it was shifting properly. Shop ran diagnostics and told me that the transmission fluid needed to be flushed and a few other things to the tune of $800. When the called me to tell me that the work was completed, they asked if they could keep the car overnight because the mechanic still didn't like the way it was shifting. They later called to tell me that the transmission had to be replaced because the "planetary gear was coming apart" and that this was a known problem with the Rav4. They gave me an estimate of $6,000 to replace. I am going to get a 2nd opinion.

- Cory S., Aurora, CO, US

problem #89

Mar 022009


  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles

I always had thought toyota's where the only cars that i would buy. but now i have a change of heart.i got a recall notice but its over the miles now not fair at all im sure toyota new about this problem years ago. its bad when they want help u and thats all your family will buy. my parents have three toyota's and i have one brother and he has two toyota's and i have three. toyota im going else where when looking for a new car.

- Jacqueline W., Hamlet, NC, US

problem #88

Jul 012010

RAV4 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 157,000 miles

Today is aug/3/2010 for about 3 weeks i do not use my rav4 because is terrible and perhaps will have an accidente ans affect more persons, i saw a mechanic and told me the problem was the trasmision but after a week i receive a letter where toyota explain de problem but, i went to the dealer and explain the problem, they check and told me the solution is the the computer. my rav4 has 157000, they said i have to pay 1200 for fix the problem because is cover ten 10 or 150000 miles the occurs first and also have to pay 72 dollars for the inspeccion. please help me how get help, because i think toyota must pay for all. pedro aviles

- Pedro A., Santa Rosa, CA, US

problem #87

Jul 132010

(reported on)

RAV4 L 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 172,000 miles


Like many others, my ecm chip malfunctioned in Oct. 2009 but I refused to pay the $1200 to replace it. After driving with occasional clunks in the transmission, it finally went out completely when I was out of state in July 2010. Now estimates range from $3000-$5000 to rebuild or replace the transmission. Unfortunately, my car is not worth that much due to high mileage. I wish toyota would have alerted owners and fixed the problem. Now I can identify with all the toyota issues in the past year.

- grumpyoldgoat, Duluth, MN, US

problem #86

Jul 082010

RAV4 2.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 93,206 miles

I brought the vehicle to the toyota dealership who first charged me over $60 to look at and said there wasn't a problem because it wasn't showing any problems then. After I drove it out of there, it started jerking and shifting badly to the point that I almost got into an accident when it downshifted and I had to pull over the major highway. Toyota then said I had to have the ECM changed but first they had to open up the tranny case to see if there were any damage. Upon seeing no filings they said the fluid that was replaced was wrong so they changed that only to phone me afterwards to say that I needed a new transmission! I am never going to buy a toyota again.

- rmedina, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

problem #85

Apr 052010

RAV4 LX 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

Just don't understand why companies seem to hate to admit they and/or their suppler's made a mistake and once it shows up refuses to admit and/or fix it at their expense, yea right, it's the money and status.

- may, jr., Rosenberg, TX, US

problem #84

May 052010

RAV4 3.2L V4

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles

well.. too scary to drive. it gives thud moving from 1st gear scare to accelerate.

- 2001rav4, New Hyde Park, NY, US

problem #83

Jan 132010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 187,000 miles

My 2001 RA4 started giving me problems in Jan. 2010. The transmission started slipping jerking, shifting hard into 2nd and I lose the power to accelerate.I have to put my flashers on to keep from being hit from behind. There have been no codes found & no check engine light by anyone who has checked it. I had the transmission rebuilt. I drove it for two days and the same problem occurred. I paid $1,700 to have it repaired. I took it back to the transmission shop, they said there is nothing wrong with the trans, it must be electrical. This is really sickening. Toyota needs to do something. I didn't know that there were so many complaints about the RAV4.

Update from Jun 17, 2010: I have my car back and it's running O.K. I finally had the ECU/ECM replaced after the check engine light came on again; that seemed to have fixed the problem. I'm sorry that I had to spend a total of $2,800 to get my car working properly. The ECU cost $1,089.00. (I think the best way to describe the problem was that the car felt like you were stepping on the brakes when you really weren't.) If you have this problem with your Toyota please have the ECU checked first. It could save you time and money.

- morganoh, Bedford, OH, US

problem #82

Oct 172009

RAV4 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 93,000 miles

I purchased this vehicle with less than 12,000 miles on the odometer after owning a Honda CRV in 2002. My wife complained that she wanted her CRV back from the time I purchased this vehicle but I really thought it might be a better vehicle than the CRV. This proved to be so until the car reached 60,000 miles and the MAF sensor failed and I noticed then the transmission did not change exactly like I thought it should but I thought it might be just the age of the vehicle. We only put about 8 to 9000 miles a year on the vehicle. So I ignored it. I gave the vehicle to my daughter who has gone back to school to drive. She lives 6 hours from me. She has driven the car about 10,000 miles and began complaining about the transmission not changing properly and since Oct 2009. Last week she called and stated the vehicle's transmission was slipping badly and not changing properly. She took to independent Toyota shop and they diagnosed it as the ECM failure. The cost is $1200 and since I have over 80,000 miles on the car I am on my own. This was a recognized malfunction by Toyota but the car was never recalled. This really upset me and that is why I am writing this blog. I have found a number of places on the internet that will repair the ECM at a reasonably price but I feel Toyota should recall the car and replace the ECM and possibly the transmission. I am not sure at this point but the transmission may have to be replaced!!! This is a safety matter. My daughter told me that she was almost hit in traffic when she attempted to pull into traffic and as a result of the transmission not working properly was unable to move into traffic and was almost involved in an accident!!!!!!!!!

Update from Apr 25, 2010: I am happy to post the solution to my problem was corrected for aroung $100. I researched the problem on the net and learned that a service to repair the computer was available for around $60 and i had the computer removed and sent it to the company and they repaired it, It was re-installed and after driving the vehicle for about 25 miles the computer corrected the problem. Now after approx. 4 weeks of driving it seems to be okay.

- colbass, Whiteville, NC, US

problem #81

Mar 312010

RAV4 L4WD 2.0L 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles

I've had the ECM reprogrammed per Toyota's recalls, and about 15,000 miles ago the Check Engine light came on. It's come on many times before, all supposedly fixed by the reprogramming, and a diagnostic "revealed" that I needed a new catalytic converter. Since this car has spit out bad codes before (causing the car to stall on the highway and need a reset) I chose to continue driving the car as it was driving fine and the gas mileage hadn't really been affect. Then today, out of the blue, it starts acting like it's choking whenever I give it gas trying to get it up out of first gear. Once it gets out of 2nd it's generally okay, but shifting up or down is totally unpredictable and unsafe any time any gas pedal is applied because it affects the transmission. This happened, literally, from one car start to the next. Got out of the car, got back in, turned it on, and this hard shifting immediately happened. I'm extremely disappointed as there is clearly a problem with the electronics module in this particular model year and Toyota needs to own up to it by fixing these cars for free. I haven't taken it to be looked at yet as I'm dreading what I'm going to hear since this current economy has me using my car for delivery and I can't afford even a thousand-dollar fix, especially if there's no guarantee the same thing won't happen again.

- Erin U., Ann Arbor, MI, US

problem #80

Mar 272010

RAV4 L 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

I had this car for 4year and I never had any trouble I though it going to last along time but on march 27 it star with a knock when I brake since then just couple days after I hardly move on the street and can you believe that Toyota transmission will not get to 100000 miles I use to know only American car do that I will not trust Toyota no more it suck like the other

- Ted S., Attleboro, MA, US

problem #79

Oct 202009

RAV4 Limited

  • Automatic transmission
  • 81,000 miles

I LOVED my Rav4... UNTIL NOW!! My car all of a sudden starting puttin & jerkin one day just out of nowhere. It lasted for 2 days then stopped for a month. When it happened again I took it into a service shop well basically they didn't know what was wrong & since I was a woman who knows NOTHING about cars had me fix everything but what was causing the problem & $1,600 later they tell me that its transmission problems & that there is a recall with the ECM & If I take it to my Toyota dealer that it will be fixed FOR FREE!!!! so I spent my tuition money on a problem that Toyota should have told me about in the 1st place! Toyota doesn't need anymore bad publicity & they just keep digging their own grave! Im so angry at the car shop & Toyota I cant see straight.... This will be my last Toyota they have truly dropped the ball on customer service skills.

- A'leia F., Omaha, NE, US

problem #78

Nov 192009

RAV4 4 Cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 159,000 miles

I have the same problem with my rav 4. started shifting hard , and acting like it was stuck in 2nd gear. took it to dealer said it was the ecm, replaced that left the dealership and it was twice as bad.. I have two young boys and cant drive them around in an unsafe vehicle.. toyota needs to look at all of this and fix this problem also.

- Jessica F., Given, WV, US

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