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:
112,037 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 6 of 6)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #17

May 102008


  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles


Hello as you can see I'm a joining the List of MANY Rav 4 owners...

I need some Help I really don't know what to do.. I can't afford this... And it seems like it's not our problem... They Built the car they should be fixing it know that there are this many problems.. I bought my car to the transmission shop the Man looked at my Husband and told him 3,000... because he already knew what they problem was said there was a woman that came in a view months a go with the same problem... The Transmission man told my husband that When Toyota Remodeled the Rav 4's of 2001-2003 that they built them with computers in the Transmission.. and that they are three computers standing alone.. but when one stops working it is the cus of all the other computers and that they can't just repair one they have to change all three.. what a CRAP OF BULL....


- , Stamford, CT, USA

problem #16

Aug 102007


  • Automatic transmission
  • 95,000 miles

This 2001 RAV4 is the 3rd new and 5th Toyota I've owned - all 3 new cars were purchased at the same Toyota dealership. Although I had no success with getting any help/cooperation from the dealership when the problem first started in August 2007 (at approx. 95,000), I take a copy of the complaints found on line to the dealer and spoke to the Sales and Servicing Customer Service manager and insisted that they work with me to resolve this issue before I become a part of a class action lawsuit against the corporation and the dealership as well.

- , Federal Way, WA, USA

problem #15

Apr 242008


  • Automatic transmission
  • 68,436 miles

Like everyone else my Rav began having problems shifting gears and stalling when trying accelerate from a stop. It occurred for the first time Thursday evening, and I dropped off the car Friday morning. Thanks to the posts placed by others, I was armed with Technical Service Bulletin and demanded that they replace the ECM and not just reset it. I can't figure out the cryptic language they use on their invoices, so I'm not sure what exactly was done. I've left messages, but I have not been able to speak with anyone at the dealership. I've driven the car for nearly 3 days and the problem seems to be "fixed." I guess we'll have to wait and see.

- , Culver City, CA, US

problem #14

Apr 102008

RAV4 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 112,000 miles


My wife calls be at work one day and says our 2001 Rav 4 is having shifting problems. I tell her to check the fluid, so she does and says it looks ok. A couple days later, I took it to AAMCO, and they tell me that it is very low on fluid, and the transmission is fried. Now this car had just had a major tune up a couple weeks before and all the fluid levels were checked. Either this happened very fast, or AAMCO is feeding me a line. After searching the web, I suspect there is an ECM issue, so I take the car from AAMCO to the dealer. I gave the dealer the TSB referenced here and tell him it looks like the problem and I need at least an ECM and maybe a transmission as well. The dealer re-flashes the ECM, and says it seems fine. No codes logged, but the car still isn't shifting right. I questioned their analysis but I just got a 20 minute lecture about ECMs, and they say I need a transmission. After calling around, turns out this transmission fails so much that there are no used ones available, and the rebuilt ones are crazy expensive. Reputable transmission shops can't rebuild it for less than about $3000 because it's so complex, so if you get a lower estimate get it in writing, as AAMCO tends not to give you all the bad news until they have your transmission in pieces. Since a new remanufactured toyota unit is only 4,000$ I'm going to go with that and hope to get some good life out of this car. My fear, based on the experience here is that once they get this new transmission in, it won't fix the problem and perhaps the entire issue was ECM only from the beginning. My advice to those with this problem is this:

If you need a transmission, it's going to cost $3k plus for that, even if the initial estimate is less than that.

So don't take it to a transmission shop at first!!! They WILL find all kinds of horrible things in your transmission, they allways do. Try the ECM first, even though its kind of expensive. Remanufactured ECM's are only a few hundred bucks. This is what's recommended in the TSB from Toyota.

The transmission in the RAV is the same one as the Lexus RX, and it fails frequently too. This has made this transmission one of the most expensive to replace. We all paid an up-front premium for Toyota reliability, if you're reading this, you lost that bet. I will open a complaint with Toyota and see if they will do anything.

- , Woodinville, WA, USA

problem #13

Apr 032008

RAV4 4 cyl 4x4

  • Automatic transmission
  • 68,000 miles

so now after talking to Toyota they told me that i had my car in to reflash the ECM back in Dec. 07. What I took it in for was a problem with the ECM with Error codes p0141 p1346 and p1349. This was all about a check engine light due to a bad sensor and has nothing to do with the transmission. They lied to me and my problem is related to a harsh shift condition and the solution is "If the vehicle exhibits the above condition, replace the ECM (PCM)." but Toyota will not cover the cost to fix the transmission due to the faulty computer.

here are the 2 different problems they are having with the damn computer.

- , San Diego, CA, USA

problem #12

Apr 032008

RAV4 4 cyl 4x4

  • Automatic transmission
  • 68,000 miles

I have the same problem as everyone. When I talked to the Toyota dealer service center the guy said he had never heard of a Rav4 transmission going out. He then told me that if I had a history of being faithful to the dealership in getting my car serviced they might have been able to help me out. I have always done routine service (like oil changes and brake work etc) so there was no need to go there. I am so angry that the transmission went out just after the warranty expired and now I am out $3400. If anything comes of a lawsuit please count me in, I can't believe that this car has turned into such a POS, I will never buy a Toyota again and will warn my family (who only owns Toyotas) to beware

- , San Diego, CA, USA

problem #11

Mar 222008

RAV4 2WD 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 108,000 miles


Last Saturday, I went to a fight on the strip in Las Vegas, NV. As I was pulling out onto the strip, I nearly caused an accident due to the jerking of my car. Initially, I thought I had it on the wrong gear, however, I became aware, the car was starting to sound like it was struggling and the kicking became excessive between (0-30 mph). I made it home okay considering, I decided to take the freeway home since their isn't too much stopping.

The next day was Easter so I had to wait until Monday to take it to the shop. On Monday, I brought it into an auto shop just about 3 miles away from my house. The diagnostic came up as "solenoid."

When he called Toyota for the part, they quoted $1495 and were somewhat familiar with the problem. Toyota said their was a service campaign (a.k.a SSC) released for 2001-2003 RAV 4's 80,000 miles or less on the ECM (Engine Control Module) a.k.a the "brain of your car" And these problems do not occur for a majority of our fellow RAV 4 owners until after 100,000. However, this repair only covers reprogramming of the unit, which in turn, STILL DOES NOT FIX THE PROBLEM.

From my thorough research, the faulty ECM for 2001-2002 RAV 4's are causing the transmissions to go bad. However, there has been no blogs or posts on when the ECM actually starts to do damage on the transmission.

Since the problem shifting began, I probably drove my car approximately 12-15 miles. So I'm not sure if the transmission has been affected. All I know is that if I pay for ECM ($1500 for labor and part) there is no guarantee that the transmission will still function, which will end up costing me $3300-3500 for a rebuilt transmission. Which means this unexpected repair will cost me and many other RAV 4 2001-2002 owners, approximately, $5000 to fix. Which comes out to be the Kelly Blue book value of our RAV in good condition.

This seems to be an ongoing issue and I am one to fight for justice. I would suggest all of you who are in the same issue to file a claim with Toyota corporate.

Phone: 800-331-4331 Fax: 310-468-7814 Mon - Fri, 5:00 am - 6:00 pm PST Sat, 7:00 am - 4:00 pm PST

Thank you all for responding to my questions regarding this issue.

- , Las Vegas, NV, USA

problem #10

Mar 202008

RAV4 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 91,000 miles

I started having this problem a week ago. I started having shifting problems and a couple of loud bangs so I had the transmission flushed out and then the problem stopped. I drove the car for 5 days and then the problem was back. I brought it to a mechanic and they ran a diagnostic check and no codes came up. They also felt the shifting problem once and then it didn't happen again. I brought my vehicle to a Toyota dealer and as we speak they are driving the vehicle to see if they can duplicate the problem and so far they haven't been able to. When I found this site I was astonished at how many people are having the same issue. The dealer mentioned to me that Toyota came out with a Technical Service Bulletin sometime in 2006 on how to fix this problem and extended the warranty to 80k. There are curtain codes that will tell them if it is the ECM or the Transmission. What do you do if they run a diagnostic check and NO codes come up, what do you do then!!! From what they have told me there is no test they can do to see if its a defective ECM, so what do you do in the mean time, ruin your tranny and then find out it really is the ECM....then your stuck with 2 problems. If no codes are registering should I still replace the ECM??? to be safe, I dont know about any one but I work hard for my money and to just start process of elimination is nuts...

- , Woonsocket, RI, USA

problem #9

Mar 212007

(reported on)

RAV4 L 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 86,000 miles

Stopped changing gears and had hard time getting going after stops. Made a banging sound. Took to several mechanics and all agreed it needs a new trans. $3500.++ NEVER used to tow, gently used since I bought NEW. NO MORE TOYOTAS FOR ME. POS

- , Mansfield, MA, USA

problem #8

Feb 162008

RAV4 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 119,000 miles

My Toyota Rav4, with a mileage of 119,000, has exactly the same transmission problems that you both describe. I have just spent $3320 to replace the transmission and now Toyota tells me that what I really need a new computer module at "$1395 less 10% discount".

The information I have gathered so far is that Toyota has been aware of this problem for at least couple of years. The ECM (Engine Control Module) HAS A DEFECT that, (in layman's language -- I am not technical but I understood what was explained to me):

1) causes the "check engine" light to go on,

and more to the point

2) fails to "balance or rev up the engine" when the vehicles is idling in Drive mode. This loads/puts pressure on the transmission mechanism, causing the car to vibrate/rattle hard while on idle. This eventually wears down the mechanism.

It is my belief that Toyota could have averted the transmission problems we are now having by recalling the affected models and fixing the ECMs. Why should we be spending close to $5,000 for no fault of ours? THE TRANSMISSION PROBLEMS ARE NOT DUE TO "NORMAL WEAR AND TEAR". THEY ARE DUE TO A DEFECT OF THE ECM.

- , South Plainfield, NJ, USA

problem #7

Jan 282008

(reported on)

RAV4 Limited

  • Automatic transmission
  • 78,400 miles


I am having similar problems to what everyone has listed here. The car was shifting hard in the lower gears, so I took it to Aamco Transmissions. They rebuilt the transmission, but problems persisted. The problem persisted and they suggested it may be the computer. I took it to Toyota and let them know what Aamco said. They said there was no computer update, so I took the car back to Aamco. However, about 3 weeks and several rebuilds later, Aamco located the actual TSB that stated the ECM was known to cause the problems I was experiencing. I contacted the dealer, who flat out refused to look at the car again or refund my money from the missed diagnosis. I went to another Toyota dealership, who replaced the ECM under the warranty (per the TSB). Transmission problems still persisted, so I immediately took the car back to Aamco for yet another rebuild. The car is still in the shop, so we will see if this finally fixes the problem. I agree that Toyota should be held responsible for this problem that they are very aware of. Had they replaced the computer back in 2006 when the computer problem was first pointed out to the dealerships, my transmission would not have been damaged and I would not have had the costly repairs that I am currently experiencing. Has anyone been successful in fixing the problem or getting Toyota to cover the costs associated with the defect int his car?

- , Kennesaw, GA, USA

problem #6

Oct 022007

RAV4 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 121,000 miles

I have a 2001 toyota rav 4. It started having shifting problems in oct 07. so i took it to toyota dealer, said replacement of catalytic converter, and tranny replacement, i did the catalytic converter at 1100 at the toyota dealer. went to outside tranny shop for trans rebuilt. at 2800.00. on the way home from tranny shop, still doing the same thing. took back to dealer, NOW he says my rebuilt tranny is no good, due to the tranny shop, not replacing the ecu(computer) and tranny at the same time, im out of 3900, and they want another 4700, for ecu, and tranny..i am at a loss for words as to how mad I am. I wish toyota, would have told me, about the ecu and tranny needing to be replaced at the same time. Come to find out, the ecu may have contributed to the catalytic converter not working properly. Who do I complain to about this , as i now see, its an ongoing toyota problem.....

- , Corona, CA, USA

problem #5

Oct 012007


  • Automatic transmission
  • 109,983 miles

I can see I'm not alone with this issue. Having the exact same problem as everyone else. My 2001 Rav4 starting having rough shifts in first gear, engine revving but going no where. Took to highly recommended transmission shop, solenoid changed and $600 later problem still happening. Told it needed ECM reset, took to Toyota dealer and told I needed new ECM at $2200 because extended warranty expired (have 108,993 miles). Since I was just told this yesterday, I'm glad I didn't run out and have the ECM replaced right away. Seems this fix doesn't work... has anybody had any luck yet?

- , Haverstraw, NY, USA

problem #4

Oct 152007


  • Automatic transmission
  • 140,000 miles

first the check engine light comes on after being fixed, returns 7months after recall with i was not under. the code wasP0420-RAN this was traced to the left and right front 02 sensors. so i was told to replace engine air filter and do fuel induction cleaning service total 174.20 if the light comes back 645.00 for 02sensor replacement (is that for one or two?) next tech said shifts hard from 2nd to 3rd gear. trans wearing internally 3,636.00 used. on the highway i heard a loud thump like a pop i asked did something just fall off that we could replace? i just believe it that you'll never get 250,000 miles on the next generation toyota's

- , Detroit, Mich., USA

problem #3

Sep 282007

(reported on)

RAV4 L 2.0L 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

I'm so glad I looked here before getting this fixed. Mine has exactly the same problems described by others, surfacing at just over 100,000 miles. It started out as an annoying, intermittent rough-shifting problem, but I had to continue driving it over a few weeks' time, until it was finally so bad that I was worried I wouldn't make it home. I took it to a Trans. specialist who drove it with a diagnostic computer, and said it "did not demonstrate the problem". But on the way home, it was worse than ever. A simple diagnostic scanner (my brother works on cars) indicated "shift solenoid" as the issue. Scanned on several different occasions, it often showed that TWO solenoids were bad. My plan was finally to break down and buy the solenoids (couple hundred dollars each) and have them replaced. Now after reading these complaints, I'm going to have to do a lot more research.

- , Raleigh, NC, USA

problem #2

Sep 012007

(reported on)


  • Automatic transmission
  • 119,000 miles

After several trips to Toyota's service center, three transmissions and two ECM (engine control module) and lots of cash out of my pocket, my transmission is still having the same problem. Toyota knows about the problem but refuses to own up to it. This is very poor service for an automobile giant such as Toyota to treat their customers this way. They advertise service and reliability but fail poorly with the Toyota Rav 4.

No customers should have to pay $3500 or more for a problem that Toyota is aware of. Many people out there are having the same issue which to me is a broad problem and we need to address this problem on a higher level. We must not allow this company to continue to get away with this any longer. If anyone would like to contact me to address this issue, use the Send Comment link below.

- , Redford, MI, USA

problem #1

Jul 222007

(reported on)


  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles

Having the same problem as all others with the Toyota Rav4 shifting in to gear. I don't believe it's the transmission or the ECM. Had the ECM reprogrammed and the CHECK ENGINE Light is back on. Toyota suggest replacing the ECM and TRANSMISSION at the same time. ($5000). Have anybody got the transmission problem solved yet?

- , White Plains, MD, USA

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