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:
2 / 0
Average Mileage:
94,433 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.

2002 Toyota RAV4 drivetrain problems

drivetrain problem

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2002 Toyota RAV4 Owner Comments (Page 2 of 6)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #84

Sep 182010

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 106,010 miles


Transmission slips in reverse - brought to dealership - ECM and transmission replaced - spent $4,997.42 to replace. Investigation done now on recurrence showed this to be a known issue and Toyota was supposed to notify us (we were never notified), and reimburse. They now refuse to reimburse nor acknowledge this problem is known. July 2014 same issue -but worse recurring with replacement ECM and transmission from dealer. Toyota refuses to acknowledge problem when contacted. Concern this is appearing very common in internet searches that this is a known public safety issue.

- Sanford, NC, USA

problem #83

Jul 072014

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 176,500 miles
I was beginning to pull onto the interstate highway 75 in venice, Florida, when the car started bucking uncontrollably and I could not get up to speed to merge into traffic. It then jerked into gear and I went on. It seemed to have a problem shifting into 3rd gear. It seemed to happen when pulling away from a stop light as well. I took it to a transmission shop, who put his computer diagnostic on it. He said the computer was not showing as bad, so he rebuilt the transmission. I got the car back and it started doing the exact same thing! I took it back, he rebuilt it again, still with no bad computer codes showing. Still not functioning correctly, even though he had replaced the burned 3rd gear. I paid $2200 for this. Now it needs a $950 computer! it is a 2002 and I read online that these vehicles had a transmission issue and owners were reimbursed for this. Mine did not act up until this point. I am a single father raising a young daughter. I need this car to take my daughter to school safely and to get to my job. How can I get reimbursed for this problem? I love my Rav4 and want to keep it. I bought the Toyota because everyone says they will run forever, but I can't afford issues like this. I take good care of this car. I have had Jeep and other cars up to 300,000 miles and never had transmission issues. Thank you so much.

- Englewood, FL, USA

problem #82

Jun 132014

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 74,123 miles
Several times during the week of June 2, 2014, my check engine light went on and off periodically. I had my mechanic check the codes, but she found nothing wrong. On June 13, 2014 I was driving N. on highway 101 near redwood city, ca. It was about 6P.M. in good weather; I was in stop-and-go commute traffic. I had slowed to a stop in the far left lane, of 5 lanes, due to slow traffic. When traffic began to move again, I accelerated and the transmission seemed to be "slipping"; I revved the engine, but there was no power going to the wheels. There were many cars behind me blowing their horns. Then the car began to "clank" and "chug" and it sounded like the transmission was grinding. I turned on my emergency flasher lights and pulled very slowly over to the shoulder across 5 lanes of traffic! I had several near accidents, but I made it to the shoulder! the car would only go very slowly, but the loud noises stopped, so I pulled off the freeway at the nearest exit (which was very close). I would have stayed on the shoulder if the car was still "clanking" from the transmission area, but the noise had subsided. I felt that there was a serious mechanical (transmission) problem with my car. I called my daughter and asked her to drive to my location. I was going to call for a tow truck when she arrived. She arrived in about 45 minutes. I restarted the car and put it into "drive" and accelerated gently. The car sounder perfectly normal, and accelerated at a normal speed with plenty of power. We decided to try to slowly drive the car home if it continued to drive normally. We got home fine, but just as I was pulling into my parking lot, the car made loud noises again and lurched a few times as I pulled in the driveway. I had the car towed to the nearest Toyota dealer the next day. That's when I began to discover all the problems rav 4's had had with class action's&ECM failures.

- Santa Clara, CA, USA

problem #81

Jun 182014

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 220,380 miles


Defective engine control module (ECM). As a result of sending the wrong signal to the transmission, it got ruined and the transmission had to be rebuilt. If there was a recall on the ECM for the 2002 Toyota Rav4, I was not aware of it, or I still did not owned the vehicle.

- Allentown, PA, USA

problem #80

Feb 192014


  • 61,135 miles
I was driving West on northgate way toward meridian avenue. The car (automatic transmission) failed to shift gears and almost stopped in the middle of the intersection near I5 northbound entrance. I continued to drive to meridian way and turn left. I pulled over to the curb on meridian way and turned the car off. I then restarted the car and drove home to wallingford (3 miles) by pacing the car so that I did not have to interact with other vehicles. (this occurred early on a Sunday morning so traffic was light.) I was barely able to drive the car up my driveway - shifting continued to be a problem so that the car stalled and did not respond to the accelerator. Toyota has a document that describes the problem. However I cannot access any assistance from Toyota because the car has been in service greater than 10 years. The experience was very frightening. The failure is episodic and unpredictable. I feel Toyota should replace the ECM in any car that fails in this manner. There are technical service reports on the website. The warranty is limited to 10 years or 150,000 miles, whichever occurs first.

- Seattle, WA, USA

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problem #79

Dec 202013

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 88,970 miles
We bought this car off my mom (who was the original owner and has taken immaculate care of it!) just two months ago! out of nowhere the car started to experience "hard shifting". because it couldn't shift like it should, it was a road hazard/safety issue! we took it into the Toyota dealership that very day. They told us it was the ECM and maybe even the transmission! the approx. Cost would be $1,100 to replace the ECM, and thousands more if it was the transmission. They said they would have it done by Tuesday (christmas eve.) I started researching the problem because it didn't make sense that this car that had such low miles would have this problem. Well, I found out this is a widespread problem with the Rav4. Toyota knows about it and has not recalled this part! there was even a lawsuit against them, but that only led to an extension of the warranty to 10 years or 150,000 miles, whichever comes first! our car only has 88,900 miles but because it is 11 years old, it won't be covered by a warranty! we are out $1,180 right at christmas time! and they did not get the car fixed until Dec. 27th! (kind of puts a damper on christmas plans when you don't have your car!):( I called Toyota in hopes that they would help us because they know this part is faulty, but I was met with an unsympathetic response! basically, "its out of warranty so it won't be covered!" Toyota needs to recall this part, and reimburse those who have already had to fix it, not only because it is their moral obligation to do so, but also because someone could be killed if they don't! please recall this part, be decent human beings, instead of being worried about your bottom line! there are more important things than money, Toyota! as mad as I am about being out the money to fix this problem (that Toyota knew about) I am glad that I am only out the money, rather than mourning the loss of a loved one.

- Pleasant Grove , UT, USA

problem #78

Sep 182013


  • 100,000 miles


When I was driving about 40mph the car would lurch, not all the time, but every so often. When I was backing up the car would make a clunking noise. I took my car to have the transmission repaired with my mechanic, it was repaired but the local but he said that if the computer part of the transmission isn't dealt with, it would happen again. I went to the Toyota dealership with the recall paperwork that my mechanic printed out for me and they said that 10 years have passed and they wouldn't honor the recall.

- Hacienda Heights, CA, USA

problem #77

Oct 062013

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 94,230 miles
Attempting to enter highway, car lost power, eventually kicked in, immediately brought car to dealer. They serviced fuel injection, fuel system, spark plugs. Found no problem with transmission. 4 weeks following repair, hesitation happened again, this time check engine light came on, returned to dealer and was told the transmission and ECM unit needed replacement. Going through all my previous service records, came across a service ticket dated 05/18/2012, showing a service performed on a faulty ECM unit. Toyota was aware of this problem, but never informed consumers that the faulty units could affect the transmission, and driving ability of the vehicle. I am stuck with a $5,000. Repair bill, but I also could have been involved in an accident, had I been merging onto a busier highway. There have been many complaints filed, but yet no action taken by the national highway traffic administration...will it take a loss of life, or serious injury before action is taken?

- Calverton, NY, USA

problem #76

May 012013


  • 82,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Rav4. The contact stated that while driving approximately 15 mph, the accelerator failed to respond to acceleration attempts. The contact also mentioned that the vehicle erroneously decelerated while the accelerator pedal was being depressed. The vehicle was taken to the dealer where the technician stated that the transmission was causing the problem and the computer would need to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was notified. The failure mileage was 82,000.

- Corona, CA, USA

problem #75

Oct 012013

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 69,317 miles
This is a well-known problem with the engine control module (ECM) malfunctioning, causing hard shift conditions, transmission damage, possible accidents and injury.this problem is affecting up to 235,500 Toyota rav 4 models between 2001-2003. My experience is typical of the numerous complaints that can be seen posted here; Toyota needs to issue a complete recall on the defective ECM units and compensate for losses incurred.

- Bothell, WA, USA

problem #74

Sep 042013

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 83,504 miles


On September 9, 2013 while driving my rav 4 to work, I experienced a strange behavior, the car suddenly stopped moving and I had to press on gas several times and it would move as if like it is choked, in a minute everything went normal as it has always been, I was a little worried but then after driving about 2 miles and stopping at a stop light, this thing happens again and when I try to push on gas it started moving a little and then there is this "thud" sound as if something was holding wheels of my rav 4 from moving and then suddenly it let the wheels run. I took the car to Toyota service center (Toyota Scion of concord) and been told that my car needs a ECM to begin with and that Toyota has a tsb out there as well "extended warranty" which in my case is expired since my car is 2002 and the warranty is 10Y/150 K miles, whichever is earlier. I am concerned as to why this discrepancy, Toyota knows or had known over a period of time that their vehicle had an issue and they cant be putting life's of buyers at risk by not doing a recall of that. Please I am requesting that some action needs to be taken on this and such continued acts of concealing information with owners / sub-owners of vehicles and that this condition leaves at lot of lives at risk besides financial loss.

- Charlotte, NC, USA

problem #73

Sep 212013


  • 163,340 miles
Today my Toyota Rav4 2002 began to have automatic transmission shifting issues. It has an excessive jerk when shifted from park to reverse, it is slow to shift from 1 to 2, and it jerks like I was rear ended when shifting to the next gear. I contacted my local Toyota dealer and was told there are no outstanding recalls on my car, the ECM software was updated before I purchased it used. I asked if they had any issues with the transmission on this model and year and I was told "no". they recommended I bring it in for a diagnostic check for $104 just to check it out. Afterwards I thought I would check the net. I found numerous threads regarding the 2001-3 ECM/transmission issue. It appears a number of owners have submitted complaints to NHTSA. Please add me. They are ignoring this issue and pretending they do not know anything about it.

- Fredonia, NY, USA

problem #72

Sep 142013

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 129,714 miles
Original owner of 2002 Toyota Rav4 AWD. Was driving home from a friend's house and stopped off near my home for an errand. Left the store, (car was running, family inside) and proceed to drive towards my house. The engine was running but the car was barely moving. The tach was at 4,000 and I was barely going 5 mph. Suddenly and without warning the car raced forward at a high rate of speed. I slammed on the brakes to avoid a rear-end collision. After it was safe to move, I stepped on the gas again and the car sluggishly moved at about 5mph again. The whole ride home (less than 5 minutes) the car was either slow or fast without much pressure on the accelerator. Upon arriving at home and trying to parallel park the car, I noticed that the transmission was sluggish and made loud noise when shifted into reverse. This wasn't normal and it troubled me. I looked up online the symptoms and saw the tsb and the class action lawsuit against Toyota. I never received any information on this. This is my first time hearing about this. Ok 10 years/150,000 miles from 1st drive. Here's my problem - I bought the car in 11/2001 - I am over the years and under the mileage, so I don't qualify" the class action lawsuit was settled in Jan/Feb 2012. Tell me what happens to the people who purchased their car before Jan/fen 2002 - are the out of luck" I am no longer driving this car till this is fixed and safe. Please NHTSA - make it a mandatory recall - over 250,000 SUV's are affected. Make it right - make it safe!!

- East Meadow, NY, USA

problem #71

Sep 082013

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 109,000 miles
I just got a Toyota rav 4 2002 auto and when driving with family the vehicle started to run sluggish, jerks when pressing gas, starts slow real slow after coming to a stop and this situation almost got us into an accident in us 81 near front royal Virginia. Additionally the check engine light came on. After taking vehicle to a mechanic it shows a code P0755 and reading about the problem is not a solenoid but it is ECM or ECU malfunction that the Toyota rav 2001-2003 are presenting which makes the car show a ghost code not a transmission code but rather a defective computer malfunction that cannot be repaired but replaced. Toyota knows about this problem and I do not see Toyota assumed responsibility and had passed the cost to vehicles owners and not a general recall to be fixed at manufacture expenses. Please research and make this issue a immediate recall because it had caused accidents due to the malfunction.

- Falls Church, VA, USA

problem #70

Aug 162013

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 111,326 miles
Transmission slipping, engine racing, hard shift with a loud noise.

- Fairfield, CT, USA

problem #69

Aug 132013

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 49,000 miles
We were just informed from our local Toyota dealership (gateway Toyota in toms river, NJ) that there is a known problem with the 2002 Toyota rav 4 automatic transmissions (high failure rate) and we were just informed that our transmission needs to be replaced. I believe NHTSA needs to investigate Toyota to see if a recall is in order.

- Toms River, NJ, USA

problem #68

Aug 072013


  • 80,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Rav4. The contact stated that when shifting gears, there was a delay before the vehicle would engage, causing the vehicle to hesitate and lunge forward abnormally. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic, who diagnosed that the ECM was defective and needed to be replaced. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure mileage was 80,000 and the current mileage was 80,600.

- Cambridge, MA, USA

problem #67

Jul 252013

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 140,400 miles
The dreaded 2001-2003 Toyota well known ECM safety defect began causing the transmission to shift harshly, and start in high gear instead of first gear, especially dangerous when pulling out in traffic. Sometimes it would cause the transmission to slip, causing high rpms. If not fixed the ECM failure will eventually destroy the transmission. Toyota increased the warranty as a result of a class action suit to 10 yrs or 150,000 miles instead of having a recall. I was over the years and under the mileage, so Toyota did not cover the costs for repair of this known defect..

- Strafford, NH, USA

problem #66

Jul 032013

RAV4 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 67,950 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Rav4. The contact stated that the vehicle hesitated and jerked while accelerating. The vehicle was taken to a transmission specialist where a diagnostic was performed that indicated that the transmission needed to be replaced. The manufacturer advised the contact that the transmission replacement warranty was expired. The vehicle was not repaired. The approximate failure and current mileage was 67,950. Updated 10/29/13

- Avon , CT, USA

problem #65

Jun 242013

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 119,765 miles
While driving on hwy I85 at 70mph my Toyota Rav4 suddenly locked up and caused vehicle to skid off the road. Thankfully, no one was injured, but car was towed to mechanic and estimated that the transmission transfer case may be cause...since then I have learned that Toyota had a recall on their ECM for rav 4 cars 2001-2003 that resulted in transmission shifting problems yet I was never notified because my VIN number was N/a indicating that my car would not experience any of the transmission shifting problems commonly associated with this recall. Unfortunately, the transmission shifting and lock-up problems that I am having is directly related to the computer faulty design of Toyota's ECM and yet they are not taking any moral or financial responsibility for my repairs. I'm filing this complaint because there has to be other Toyota owners that were not informed about the ECM recall such as myself that also like me, could be driving along the road in a well maintained car and suddenly skid out of control perhaps next time causing a fatality that could be avoided! proper notification regardless of VIN numbers so consumers can have cars inspected specifically for recall issues would have been the right thing to do and potentially offset the car repair issues I currently face.

- Raleigh, NC, USA

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