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 3 of 6)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #64

Mar 202013

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 52,231 miles


Trans began to race, while car was moving slowly. Shifting became slow and loud. Acted like it was stuck in the low gears and was having difficulty shifting from 1 to 2 to 3, etc. The trans was laboring to make the necessary shift from the low to the higher gears have not driven car since that date except for analysis, etc.. to date, the various experts (joke) ( Toyota included ) say I need either the ECM, trans., or both the current price for repair is $6,775 + tax ( this was a special price that was quoted by a Toyota dealer ) I have dealt with the car dealer, Toyota(Corp) sales managers, etc and, to a person, received their sympathy, but, no support whatsoever. How is it possible for this Corp. To continue to refuse to correct an obvious fraud ( they new abt this problem since day one ) and continue to refuse to provide corrective steps" I bought this auto in Aug of 2011 with 47,00 miles on it. I drove it for 4,400 miles when the trans. Failed. Now, having learned about the prob. With this model, how is it possible that this auto was sold without any of the problems ever being disclosed at the time of the sale ? as a matter of fact, it was stated that "this car will last me a lifetime, given its low mileage and pristine condition " I have learned that Toyota issued a directive in 2001( ") that extended the warranty to 10years or 150,000mls, , whichever comes first. I then found out that I was not entitled to any assistance as I was outside the 10 year period. How is it they can use this logic when they have acknowledged that a problem exists and one that will not go away or correct itself regardless of time or mileage? knowing the inherent problems with the auto, the manufacturer should be held accountable and correct all problems without any exclusions or fine print items.

- Phila, PA, USA

problem #63

Apr 152013

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 79,100 miles
My wife drive a 2002 Rav4 to work. On April 15 2013 while on her way to work like always she stopped at a red light. As the light turn green she pressed the gas the car started moving and suddenly lost acceleration, the driver behind her did not have time to reacted and rear ended them. My 2 year son and my wife shocked my son cried for a little bit and my wife had a sore back. An the beginning when she told me these I didn't think much of it. One week after the incident she told me the check engine light came on I told her maybe you didn't close the gas cap good when you put the gas if it still on I will get it check. Sure enough the engine light went off on its on.shortly after she told me the car is not driving normal if we could swap cars. I drove her car for couple days and occasionally I start experiencing a low acceleration and sometimes a hard shift. Took the car to the Toyota dealership and was told that Toyota has an open bulletin for the ECM witch control the gear of the transition but the bad news the said even do I had only 80100 miles they said the warranty is out by time. Once I read about this problem on several forum I realize that was exactly what my wife try to explain me. I contacted Toyota about what happen and told them about the accident they give me a case number and told me some one will contacted you with in 24 hours.

- Houston, TX, USA

problem #62

Apr 012009

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 84,000 miles
In 2009, 2010, and 2011 my 2002 Toyota Rav4 exhibited sharp, rough shifting into and out of gear, often when on the freeway. The vehicle also had a check engine light that repeatedly came on. I was initially advised by a non-Toyota repair shop that the issue was with the transmission and it had to be replaced. However, upon taking the car to a Toyota dealership they stated the problem was with the ECM. In 2009 they re-programmed the ECM, in 2010 they re-programmed the ECM and in 2011 (after the extended warranty was issued by Toyota Corp) they replaced the ECM. They never did any service on the transmission. Now in April 2013 just 17months after they replaced the ECM it happens again and they tell me I need a new transmission and I have to pay for it because it's out of the extended warranty. Since the ECM was throwing the transmission in & out of gear for 3 years, isn't it obvious that the transmission was damaged by the ECM? it was even mentioned in the service bulletins that the ECM was possibly causing damage to the transmission and the dealerships may also have to replace the transmission at the same time the ECM was replaced. Yet because they chose not to repair or replace the transmission on my car in 2011 while it was under warranty, I now have to pay for what should have been done in the first place. Toyota has been aware of this problem since 2006 yet they never issued a recall or notified owners until a class action lawsuit was filed. Toyota needs to satisfy their customers by issuing a recall and admitting that both the ECM and transmission need to be replaced on any 2001-2003 Rav4 that experiences rough shifting, or shifting in & out of gear, or codes that reflect a problem with the ECM or transmission. This is dangerous for drivers and Toyota is negligent in preventing injuries and deaths due to a known defect.

- North Las Vegas, NV, USA

problem #61

Mar 182013

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 160,000 miles


About a week ago my car began having issues shifting gears. If I pulled into a turn lane I would slow and start creating a danger for both me and other drivers. I took my car to a transmission specialist, with over 30 years of experience. He let me know that 2002 Rav4's have a recall on the computer that controls the transmission. He also said that in certain cases he knew Toyota had replaced the transmission as well. I took it to the dealership where the computer was replaced and I was told that the transmission had an extended warranty of 10 years or 150,000 miles. My car was 19 months and 10,000 miles over the extended warranty. The transmission specialist let me know that the transmission was directly damaged by the computer. When I called the manufacturer they let me know that they didn't agree with the program, thought that it should have been a recall instead of extended warranty but there was nothing they could do for me. The manufacturer representative also let me know that there are others in my same situation.

- Graton, CA, USA

problem #60

Nov 012012

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 93,000 miles
My car started to shift gears erratically and uncontrollably. I found out that Toyota has a technical service bulletin on this problem for 2001 - 2003 Rav4 cars and have extended the warranty to 150,000 miles. When I contacted Toyota they said my VIN# is not included even though my date of manufacture and symptoms are the same. My mechanic says this is the same problem as other Rav4S. Toyota refuses to explain why they exclude certain VIN#S and I think they simply trying to reduce their financial exposure. Need your help to deal with Toyota. I have always followed up with factory commended serviced, mainly through Toyota. The VIN# for my car is [xxx] information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Encinitas, CA, USA

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problem #59

Dec 062012


  • 140,002 miles
This past summer the 2002 rav 4 started giving indications that something might not be right. The car had always gotten its required mileage maintenance which was also due at the time. So those things were done. However, over the last three weeks the following started: --the engine light came on, then off; --there was hesitation when accelerating/ a harsh jerk and shift when changing gears --the vehicle would sometimes slip back into neutral and stall while driving three independent Toyota-certified technicians diagnosed that there is a problem with the transmission, so we took it to darcars Toyota where the car was purchased. The technician there confirmed the diagnosis but said we needed to contact the warranty enhancement department. After placing me on hold for about 5 minutes, she told me that the car had exceeded the time for the warranty by about 3 months and therefore nothing could be done. Is Toyota willing to jeopardize the long-term customer loyalty and more importantly, the safety of their customers, just because the car chose to display its problems 3 months later?

- Silver Spring, MD, USA

problem #58

Nov 012012


  • 165,000 miles


Out of the blue while in rush hour traffic, my car started shaking, jerking, slamming into gear, not accelerating, and at times it felt like the brake was being applied when I stepped the gas. When I first took it to the dealership a day after this happened the first time, they could not find anything because they could not duplicate the issue during a test drive. Literally minutes after picking my car up and driving off the dealership lot, it started happening again in stop-and-go traffic. This time it was much worse and I was afraid as the person behind me almost rear-ended me. I took it back to the dealership and they tell me I either need a new ECM or a new transmission. But after researching this on the internet, it is a huge issue that is happening to a lot of 2002 Toyota Rav4 owners. And we as the owners are at the mercy of the unknown - this happens out of no where and is horribly unsafe and yet Toyota takes no responsibility.

- Lakewood, CO, USA

problem #57

Oct 202012


  • 71,300 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Rav4. The contact stated that while trying to shift into reverse she encountered extreme difficulty. The contact was able to shift into drive and the vehicle was able to be driven to a private mechanic where it was determined that the transmission failed. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was contacted about the issue. The failure and current mileages were 71,300.

- Columbus, OH, USA

problem #56

Oct 242012

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 125,000 miles
I was driving my 2002 Toyota Rav4 down the interstate when the check engine light came on at the same time that the RPM's of the vehicle began escalating far beyond where they normally would. After testing the vehicle at different speeds, I determined that the car would not shift from fourth to fifth gear. Took it to my local mechanic, who determined that there is nothing wrong with my transmission. What's wrong is that the electronic control module (ECM) that controls the transmission had failed. He contacted a local Toyota dealer to see if he could source the part and discovered that it was a known failure and we needed to take the car to the dealership. We did so, where we were told because we purchased the car new in may of 2002 (ten years, five months ago) that they were refusing to repair the car's ECM as it fell outside of their 'adjusted' warranty period. I contacted Toyota's corporate customer assistance, where I was told that yes, Toyota knows that the part is going to fail. They extended the warranty to cover more of the cars that would be affected. However, since I purchased my car five months longer than their arbitrary ten year coverage period regardless of the fact that the mileage of the car falls far below the listed coverage that they are not going to do anything to repair my vehicle. Not only that, but the dealership quoted $1400 for the ECM repair and another $4800 for the transmission - saying that the transmission had to be replaced, even though they hadn't inspected it (I asked!!) and I had already had an independent mechanic check it out and said that it was fine. I do not understand how it is okay for Toyota to sell millions of people cars with known safety defects and say that they are not responsible for the repair - knowing that if the repair isn't made, that people will be killed driving these cars.

- Dallas, TX, USA

problem #55

Sep 192012

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 100,600 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Rav4. The contact stated that the vehicle jerked abnormally while driving and would lose acceleration. The vehicle was taken to the dealer who performed a diagnostic which located the failure at the electronic control module (ECM). The manufacturer was made aware of the failure and denied any assistance with the repairs. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure and current mileage was 100,600. Updated 10/11/12

- Fairfield, CA, USA

problem #54

Aug 302012


  • 88,000 miles


Dangerous transmission problems occurred in this car. The car would stall before going into second gear. Once it occurred as I was in an intersection. There are low miles on this so there should not be a need for repair or replacement at this time.

- Evergreen Park, IL, USA

problem #53

Aug 072012

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 100,000 miles
We had just left a parking lot in our 2002 rav 4 and as we came up to speed the transmission began to jerk and try to shift into different gears. I all of a sudden had no power and a truck coming down the road almost hit us. As I depressed the accelerator the car revved up and all of a sudden engaged and spun out. Very scary and we were lucky!.

- Pinole, CA, USA

problem #52

Jul 272012

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 125,000 miles
My 2002 Toyota Rav4 has been sluggish since day 1, about 2004. This past weekend it was more sluggish than usual, after take-off. I drove it a few more times and after every drive, the transmission wouldn't shift easily, and when it did shift it was very hard. Almost a whiplash hard. It is getting worse, and this is only the 3rd day. I called the national Toyota number, because I found the extended warranty policy bulletin on-line, but I am 9 months over the 10 year limit, and even though it does not say 10 years or 150,000 miles, whichever comes first, I was told that the whichever comes first is an automatic...hmm should be in writing that way. And I called my local dealership, they told me the same thing. I called the local Toyota customer line, but was put through to voice mail. Really 9 car has 130,000 miles. I need help!

- Leonardtown, MD, USA

problem #51

Jul 142012


  • 122,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Rav4. The contact stated that the vehicle experienced harsh shifting. The contact also stated that when attempting to accelerate, there would be an increase in the engine rpms but the vehicle would not accelerate. The vehicle was taken to a dealer for diagnosis and the contact was informed that the ECM would need to be replaced. The contact was also informed that the transmission fluid needed to be drained and replaced. The vehicle was repaired. The failure and current mileages were 122,000.

- Browns Valley, CA, USA

problem #50

Jun 062012


  • 35,000 miles
The contact owns 2002 Toyota Rav4. The contact stated that while driving the vehicle, the vehicle hesitated to shift gears. The contact attempted to accelerate, but the vehicle failed to respond or shift gears. The check engine warning light was illuminated. The vehicle was taken to the dealer, where the electronic control module was found defective. In order to repair, the electronic control module would have to be replaced. The manufacturer was made aware; however no assistance was provided. The failure and current mileages were 35,000.

- San Jose , CA, USA

problem #49

Sep 112011


  • miles
The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Rav4. The contact stated while driving 55 mph, the vehicle hard shifted independently into a different gear without warning. The vehicle was taken to the dealer where it was diagnosed as the transmission needing to be replaced. The dealer offered to cover the cost of fifty percent of the repairs costs. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was not contacted.the failure mileage was not available and the current mileage was 118,000.

- West Plains, MO, USA

problem #48

Apr 152011


  • miles
I have a 2002 Toyota Rav4. About a month ago it started intermittently skipping/jerking and being stuck in gear. I took it to two Toyota dealerships, the first one informed me of a factory warranty extension for the ECU for my vehicle, but because the check engine light is not on they cannot get any codes, the second dealership told me the same thing as well as the Toyota company. The warranty is for 10yrs or 100,000 miles whichever comes first. I have 70,000 miles and it will be 10yrs the 25th of this month. I have researched this problem online and have found that hundreds of people have the same problem with this vehicle. Do I have any options to have this taken care of, asap because of the 10yr warranty that will no longer cover me for this?

- Fairmont, WV, USA

problem #47

Sep 212011

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 133,000 miles
Harsh shifting and jerking, particularily 1st & 2nd gear slow to accelerate launching and bucking hard engagement when put in reverse revs up from 2 to 3 - 4 rpms.

- Marietta, GA, USA

problem #46

Oct 152011

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 148,987 miles
The 2002 Toyota rav 4 transmission is now slipping & missing gears had some service on the transmission in 2011 October, but to do a full rebuild starts at $1700.then goes $$$up.

- Quarryville , PA, USA

problem #45

Nov 302011

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 148,231 miles
Very unsafe transmission Toyota 2002 rav 4 shakes doesn't go into gear.called Toyota will pay only if one of three codes come up on dealer only test charged 140 rip off. Dealer says transmission bad but no code. Toyota will not cover. Dealer and Toyota act like they never heard of this until you let them know you read about it. Problem shifting out of the blue.

- Fairfield, CA, USA

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