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:
111,900 miles
Total Complaints:
119 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. not sure (46 reports)
  2. replace transmission (28 reports)
  3. replaced ecm (21 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 1 of 6)

problem #119

Feb 152006

RAV4 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 96,000 miles


Transmission began slipping, and I was out of warranty at the time. I did some research, and it turned out the ECU controls the shifting and transmission pressure. The not-enough solenoid pressure is what's causing it to slip in the first place. I found a local place that rebuild/replaces the ecu. Luckily I caught it early enough to not damage the transmission. I swapped the ecu, flushed the transmission fluid, and it was good. I've put another 260k miles on it since then, and am now waiting for it to die someday.

- itsagim, Boynton Beach, US

problem #118

Sep 012019


  • Automatic transmission
  • 110,000 miles

It started off with just a little clunk. Then as I drove more it got worse and worse. Then the check engine light came on and I never put the two together. But sometimes it would drive fine and other times it wouldn't. I'd be turning left and the car would just not accelerate. The RPMs went up but the car would barely move. The only time I could get it to shift was to let off the gas then press n the gas again. Brought to multiple mechanics and the problem didn't replicate itself. Then it did and they said my transmission needed replaced. Multiple placed quoted around $3k. I decided to keep driving it and get every little use out of it but then it got so bad that it felt very unsafe driving.

I never got it fixed and just sold it. Even with my new car I always give enough time because the experience with this Rav4 was awful and scary at times. And this was at 110,000 miles and expected it to last much longer than that.

- Brendan L., Westerville, US

problem #117

Mar 152017


  • Automatic transmission
  • 135,000 miles

It was during a ice storm and my transmission just decided to take a sh*t on me and it was so scary because it was very slippery and icy the rpm just went really high and didn't move and its giving me a headache on how much its gonna take to fix.

- James H., Troy, MI, US

problem #116

Apr 142017

RAV4 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 150,000 miles


I ran into a huge problem a few days before Easter Sunday's Family Road Trip. "No fun there."

Now it's looking like I will have to get a new car, after keeping up this one. Sucks!!

- Brandon W., New Orleans, US

problem #115

Sep 152015

RAV4 LX 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 125,000 miles

The transmission began what I thought at the time was slipping. It would stall and then accelerate quickly in lower gears. I recently found out that Toyota knew about this year's ago. I was never notified by either Toyota or my dealership. It is a significant problem as I live in the Washington, DC area. I was told by my local mechanic that I would need to repair/replace my transmission. About $3,000 to $4,000. Needless to say I was beside myself as the car is otherwise very nice and had not experienced any significant problems.

- Dennis D., Falls Church, VA, US

problem #114

Jan 122015


  • Automatic transmission
  • 72,000 miles

The car was taken into the Toyota dealer, at the time there was a hard shift condition and Mil "On' with Solenoid fault, at the time I was unaware of the problem with the ECM (engine control module) in the 2001, Toyota RV4, the service department never advised me of the problem or what was needed to be done to repair my car, I was advised that I had a bad Solenoid and I would need a new transmission that would cost, $3,400.00, they failed to tell me that using the car was dangerous. I drive my truck an average of 6,000 miles a year, so when Toyota first came out with their so called bulletin, in 2006, my car was 72 months old with 36,000 and would have been covered by Toyota's Federal Emission Warranty, the same is true of the 2009 bulletin, however I was never notified of the problem existence, the problem hit my car in 2015, I was passed the months, however the millage was

72,000 miles, which seem to be the time when this problem occur, my problem is, if I replace the ECM and the automatic transaxle still has harsh shifting and /or MIL "ON", I will have to replace the transale. I believe that Toyota has been negligent by not informing their customers when this problem was first detected.

- phyllisf, chicago, IL, US

problem #113

Apr 102016

RAV4 4 Cy 2wd

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles


I am 63 years old and permanently mobility handicapped. I work two part time jobs. I cannot afford to get this fixed, get it diagnosed or purchase a used car. I cannot walk to get to where I need to go. I am totally dependent on this vehicle. I barely pay rent, utilities and have food stamps. Now I am going to be without transportation. I

purchased this vehicle new, 15 years ago and have cared for it as best I could. I am terrified to drive it but have to and pray that I do not get killed in it. This is a horrific position to put customers in at my age. I will never purchase another Toyota as long as I live. I am trying to get a charity vehicle and will donate the RAV4 to a charity because then I can write it off as a loss on my taxes.

Toyota should be ashamed for the numerous complaints online regarding this vehicle and for their total disregard for the lives of their customers. I am going to let everyone know that they would be making a horrendous mistake to ever purchase a Toyota.

- Marysue H., Richmond, VA, US

problem #112

Mar 152016


  • Automatic transmission
  • 179,500 miles

if toyota had notified us in advance that there was likely to be a problem 2/3 of the cost could have been avoided.

- Max R., Tucson, AZ, US

problem #111

Jul 152015

RAV4 LE 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 115,000 miles

I have loved my RAV4 and would purchase another if I wasn't on Social Security Disability, right now it doesn't run at all I have major electrical problems, battery works but I have headlights and that's the only electrical I have. Car started to not shift properly and /or shift hard, lose power, then slow down and shift hard, and the computer scan says solenoid for catalytic converter. I have never had problems before now all of a sudden I get slammed. Is there a recall? This sucks...I have $0 to fix this and I think it is the emc/emu.

- sharonbushey, Fort Atkinson, US

problem #110

Jun 152015


  • Automatic transmission
  • 136,000 miles

I called Toyota and the Customer Service Rep told me it would be covered, even though I told her it was over 10 years old. She told me to drive it to the nearest Toyota Dealer 45 miles away. This time I figured I could have the ECU replaced, but since she said it would be covered and to take it to the dealer. She gave me a case # to give to the dealer. I drove it there. Tranny started really acting up.

Dealer confirmed the ECU and Transmission but not covered under extended warranty. I called Toyota and they said they can see where the customer service gal I talked to said it would be covered. They said she was wrong and she would be "counseled" on this issue. I explained the drive may have caused unneeded excessive damage. They said sorry and offered a 10% discount on the $5000 fix. Kind of like a band-aid for a severed limb. Absolutely horrible service. I should have bout the Honda CRV.......

- Bob Z., Mt Pleasant, MI, US

problem #109

Jul 162014


  • Automatic transmission
  • 146,000 miles


Purchased this vehicle used. Didn't know at the time there had been a recall on the transmission and the previous owner never addressed it. First we need to replace a computer piece at a cost of $1,000 and possibly the transmission for an additional cost of $2,500. The recall expired and Toyota acknowledged that it is still a problem but will not address it with us. It is our problem.

- Lynn S., Pelican Rapids, MN, US

problem #108

Jul 012014


  • Automatic transmission
  • 108,000 miles

I was never made aware of the COMPUTER defect that causes various TRANSMISSION related damage. The car has always had difficulty when shifting (especially from a stop or when making turns) but I didn't really think much of it...

Every time the check engine light came on, I took it to the dealer...THEY NEVER MENTIONED THE NEED TO REPLACE THE COMPUTER!

Now the past 3 years it's been one thing after another going bad.

Have there been any class action lawsuits???

- alsdove, Millersville, MD, US

problem #107

May 292014


  • Automatic transmission
  • 107,000 miles

The vehicle began making sporadic hard shifting between first and second gear; then it moved to more often hard and hesitating shifting between second and drive gears (with of without O/D). I visited several garages which gave the car a road test but the malfunction never happen while testing. Many occasions the problem occurred several times during driving (except of course while the mechanic was observing) Several mechanics suggested replacing the computer and/or the transmission. I felt that I was in for a rip off!!!!!. I tipped the mechanics for their effort but decided to find other types of information. However, after reading some of the complaints and descriptions I opted to disconnect the battery and shorting the cables for few seconds. Also, turning the ignition on and trying to start (while the battery was disconnected) This step assured me that the memory on the computer was wiped out. After reconnection of the battery and insuring they were firmly installed, I proceeded to drive the car for about 60 miles while I was doing some errands. The shifting between second and drive was still present but with lesser sudden jerking. Also, for a day or two it did not happen too often. After the third day, the problems disappeared (the computer learned????) and it has been running very smoothly ever since. One full week has passed and I decided to write this article hoping it can help someone. Byron

- byronn, Petaluma, CA, US

problem #106

May 212014


  • Automatic transmission
  • 145,000 miles

Problem started suddenly & without warning. Transmission will shift out of a gear but not shift into the next. Called my regular shop where they told me that on this model you have to remove the engine to get to the transmission. Couple of thou for sure. I love this little car so this really sucks! The extended warranty does not apply any more due to age of vehicle. Have not decided yet if I'll have it fixed....

- Marianne M., Belgrade, MT, US

problem #105

Nov 152013

RAV4 L 4

  • Automatic transmission
  • 97,500 miles

AAAAAAhhhhhh....Toyota really blew it with me on this truck. I purchased this 2001 Rav4 Oct 2003 with 28500 mi from Honda dealership where I was an employee. Original owner traded for larger vehicle and had a transferable extra care extended coverage available to transfer for a small fee $25 with a Toyota dealer inspection,and was good for 7years or 100,000 miles. Sept 3 2003 Elgin Toyota serviced vehicle, gave inspection forms to me for transfer. Within 30 days new extra care policy was transferred to me. This vehicle is my wife's and she does 99% of the driving in this truck. The 1% is me going to gas station and car wash.

Before this vehicle my wife had a company car for over 15 years and maintenance requirements were very strict and expensive, also habit forming. She still reminds me she is high maintenance and expensive too. Clean, full of gas, well maintained, with regular servicing. 10 years go by (very quickly) with no problems, complaints or even aggravation from this great little truck.

Now comes Nov 2013 just over 10 years and stuff starts going through the recirculate. The Rav 4 slips in and out of gear, bangs, does not accelerate almost causing 2 different accidents. This great little truck has only 97,500 miles so off to trans shop. 2 independent trans shops say Toyota has known problems with 2001-2003 RAV 4 auto trans and has been making the corrective adjustments. I call Elgin Toyota. Service writer, told me trans repair warranty was extended to 10 years 150,000 miles from in service date which was Jan 2001 on this truck. December 7 2013 I called Toyota customer care and guess what? They don't care, gave me a claim number (for no reason) and said too bad, go fix it yourself and they were very generous to extend the warranty to me and then told me this truck was not in my name anyway and the Vin on this truck wasn't eligible for Toyota's generous free safety adjustment.

My concern now is how an unsafely produced vehicle (Toyota was aware of this problem in 2006) and tells me the owner of this product it is now my responsibility. I was never made aware of these safety problems nor was my wife. This truck is 13 years old. 97500 easy miles well kept not abused and or driven hard. To bad Toyota. Here is my responsibility..... big family..4 kids, 10 grand kids, 2 sisters, two brothers, 4 nephews over 25 cars in immediate family. Son in Army grandsons in ROTC, nephew and grandson in marine corps so guess what Toyota.......We stand for your right to build unsafe cars and sell them in America. NOBODY in this family is going to buy or drive one and for sure recommend not buying Toyota or Lexus. The family prefers Fords and Nissan anyway. They stand behind their products (in front of them too). ONE Supra and one unsafe RAV 4 4 for sale. good by Toyota

- Joseph S., Streamwood, IL, US

problem #104

Nov 092011


  • Automatic transmission
  • 160,000 miles

In order to avoid the transmission problem that is common in the 2001 Toyota RAV4, I had my ECM recalibrated in August of 2010. On November 9, 2011, I couldn't get my car to shift into gear when I put it in drive. The engine would rev, but the car wouldn't go. I would have to take my foot off the accelerator, then barely give it gas, and it would slowly start going...and eventually shift gears, very roughly. This happened in a couple of very dangerous situations...pulling into traffic and making an unprotected left turn in traffic. Sometimes it just slowed down, and sometimes it didn't work at all, but it was impossible to wait until there was no traffic.

Surprise, surprise, the ECM gave out despite having been recalibrated. I paid the dealer (Charles Maund Toyota in Austin, TX) $1000 to replace it, with the hope that the transmission would not have to be replaced, too. Though the dealer told me that the new computer took care of the problems, it did not. I realized on the drive home that some of the issues (namely, rough shifting) still remained. I had to replace the transmission for another $2600. I did not have it done at the dealer, where I'm sure it would have been more.

Since the dealer recalibrated my ECM in 2010, they're saying this is not the same problem. Toyota Corporate says it's not a safety issue. I can't believe people haven't been killed related to this issue. Obviously, the recalibration doesn't do the trick. I'm told the purpose of the recalibration was to get loyal Toyota owners beyond the mileage warranty, so Toyota would not have to take any responsibility.

Prior to having the work done, I called Toyota Corporate to discuss these issues. I spent about 10 minutes on the phone with a woman, and this is, basically, how the conversation ended: Toyota Rep: "Have you ever owned a Toyota before this one?" Me: "No." Toyota Rep: "Are there other Toyota's in your household?" Me: "No." Toyota Rep: "I'm sorry, there's really nothing we can do for you."

After spending nearly $4000 to remedy the problems, I called Toyota back. Again, I spent about 10 minutes on the phone with the rep. In the end, she told me she could give me a $250 credit, for dealer work only, if I would send her the receipts after the work was done. She said I could take it or leave it.

I had planned to purchase a Toyota FJ Cruiser as my next vehicle, and, up until these incidents, I was a proud and loyal Toyota supporter. Needless to say, now I will NEVER own another Toyota again.

- walkertx, Austin, TX, US

problem #103

Jul 132012

RAV4 4x4

  • Automatic transmission
  • 93,000 miles

My 2001 Rav4 one morning suddenly started to jump from 1st gear to second gear. It was also sluggish when moving and would not move when put on drive. I found out that Toyota had problems with there main computer EMC and of course my warranty had expired so I decided to take a chance a brought a refurbished one on E-bay for $189 life time warranty and it worked like a charm. Easy to replace located behind the glove box. Must drive car slowly at the beginning to let computer adjust to the sensors. When it first happens do not continue to drive the car because it will ruin the transmission.

- frankiev9, Piscataway, NJ, US

problem #102

Jul 012011

RAV4 L 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 88,000 miles

My 2001 Toyota RAV4 is a piece of SH%$. And whoever had it before me thanks for selling your problems on someone else. I have the dreaded hard shift from park to reverse or drive, hesitation from a start, high revving shifts, etc. Tried having the ECU fixed. That did nothing. Had the ECU replaced. That did nothing. But wait, let me explain. When you pull the plugs on the ecu for a minute, then plug them back in, the Rav4 runs good the first 3-4 times you use it. The one day when you get in, it starts acting like crap again. It does this with both ECU's. I had my transmission adaption tables reset by a factory scan tool. That didn't do anything either. I can drive with all this going on, pull over and let it iled for 5-10 minutes in park, and sometimes it goes away on its on, and sometimes it doesn't until you pull the plugs on the damn ECU again, then it's good for the next 3-4 times you use the car, then goes back to acting like ass again with all the same symptoms. Now 700.00 dollars later on (2) ECU's and one scan tool reset, I'm out of ideas. Toyota told me I was out of their extended warranty by two months on the ECU/Tranny issue that they extended to 10 years or 100,000 miles already. Plus the techs couldn't find anything wrong because I've never had a check engine light or code ever for this. And it never did it when they had it either. I'm so mad I could explode seeing all these people on here with the same issue.............THANKS TOYOTA!!!!!!!! NEVER AGAIN!!!!!!!!

- Roddy G., Cape Coral, FL, US

problem #101

Feb 062012


  • Automatic transmission
  • 98,317 miles

My daughter and I bought this car from a Toyota dealership right at 3 years ago. Good condition, no problems. It reached 10 years at the end of 2011. So, at the beginning of February 2012, the transmission goes out. The dealership service department took their time in making sure that was the problem (at no charge - the service guy is not the bad guy here), and then told her it was transmission. He also told her that the transmission going out is a KNOWN PROBLEM for the 2001 Rav4, usually occurring between 90K to 100K miles (she falls in that range).

He told her that her car was a few months past warranty, but because she is a very light driver (lives in L.A., walks the 1 block to work, uses her car for shopping and seeing friends) - anyway, because she is a light user, he said that Toyota should waive that few months and work with her.

Toyota Customer Service (yeah - that's an oxymoron) first told her that there was another problem she must have fixed before they'd consider it. She spent about $300 fixing that problem. Then they told her that something else had to be done. She took care of that. Many hundreds into that, they told her that they weren't going to cover the transmission, because "they don't want to spend the money to fix this car." And yes, that is an exact quote. I asked who "they" was, and he said his regional manager. I asked to have my call routed to the regional manager, and was told that I don't have the right to speak to him.


We are a Toyota family - every one of us has a one. My husband has a Corolla for his daily commute, I drive a Camry, and we wanted to put my daughter in a Toyota, so we all agreed on the Rav4 for her. If this problem is not taken care of, and if Toyota does not at least work with me on this, we will no longer buy Toyotas, and the only future dealings I have with them will be via attorney.

What HORRIBLE customer service!

- Melody M., Houston, TX, US

problem #100

Dec 282011


  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,681 miles

Took the car to the dealership today because I heard of recall on ECM problem that ruins transmission. Waiting to hear back on what they say. Looking for any information so I have my facts straight since this seems to be a common problem.

- Douglas H., Omaha, NE, US

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