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 4 of 6)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #44

Jun 132011


  • 155,475 miles


I was going North on molly lane and going to turn right on us hwy 92 going East. I pulled into oncoming traffic when my car stalled and it acted like the transmission slipped. I was almost rear ended. I drove and picked up a pizza on townlake parkway and the same thing happened when I pulled out of papa johns. I knew there was a bad problem at that point. I was going to drive it home and have it towed to Toyota. Upon turning onto the entrance ramp it stalled again and had no power. The cars behind me were blowing their horns. At the top of the ramp it revved and then surged. I drove it home and had it towed. Toyota says that the ECM is bad and needs to be replaced and then they can check the transmission. I looked on the internet and found there have been numerous problems with the 2001 - 2003 Rav4's. this is a definite safety risk and Toyota should be made to do a recall to fix the ECM boards.

- Canton, GA, USA

problem #43

May 272011


  • 72,750 miles
I experienced sputtering and hesitation while driving my 2002 Toyota Rav4 a few weeks ago, the Friday before memorial day. The car has around 72,800 miles on it. Over the memorial day weekend the car was fine. The next week I experienced the same problem. Once I stopped the car at a light and then accelerated, the car would lurch and sputter. I feared the car would shut off in traffic or I would not be able to keep up with the flow of traffic. I stopped driving it. Two different mechanics (non-Toyota) have told me I need a new transmission. I then took it to a Toyota dealer after calling the national customer service number, mentioned in a New York times article from August 2009. There was a recall on the ECM which the dealer who I bought the car from was uncooperative in replacing. So far the car is still at a different Toyota dealership undergoing "diagnosis".

- Bloomfield, NJ, USA

problem #42

Jul 012010


  • 154,000 miles
Driving normally nearing a stop sign/light/potential need to stop. Apply brakes, vehicle jerks. Beginning to release brake and continue driving engine shuts off and all warning lights on panel light up. Shift gear normally into park, start engine, it turns over, shift gear into drive and engine shuts off. Try shifting into 2nd gear, 1st gear and engine shuts off. If car sits for a while (not able to determine that amount of time it varies) it may start. Has happened at intersections and am placed in the center of an intersection trying to get started. This has occurred in rush hour traffic several times. Have taken car to dealer where it is now for the fifth time. They placed a computer on the computer to get a reading and it did not display anything. I cannot afford to purchase a new car and cannot afford thousands in repair costs.

- Maple Heights, OH, USA

problem #41

Dec 172009


  • 101,830 miles


The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Rav4. The contact stated that she experienced problems shifting. All of the gears were affected whether the vehicle was accelerating or slowing down. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer where the contact was informed that the electronic control unit and the transmission needed to be replaced. The failure mileage was 101,830. The current mileage was approximately 105,000.

- Dundy, OR, USA

problem #40

Jun 132010


  • 95,000 miles
I have a 2002 Toyota rav 4 and am experiencing transmission problems. I understand that there are numerous Toyota customers with the same problem. I also understand that Toyota will do nothing to fix the problem and that writing you would be my best bet. The problem is caused by a faulty ECM (engine control module) and costs about $1200 to replace. Driving the vehicle as is also hurts the transmission which can lead to an additional $4000 to fix. Please let me know what or if anything can be done. Thanks. [xxx] information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Old Forge, PA, USA

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problem #39

Jun 082010


  • 47,680 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Rav4. While driving 30 mph up a hill, the vehicle lost power. The vehicle will be taken to the dealer for a diagnostic test. Report 1006100118 was filed with the manufacturer; however, they will not offer any assistance with the repairs since warranty has expired. The failure and the current mileages were 47,680.

- Henderson , NV, USA

problem #38

Jun 042010


  • 96,000 miles


Transmission slipping and slamming into gear. Vehicle shudders like it was going to stop running, then RPM's jumped up to about 4,000 and slammo! slams into gear. Almost got hit by a large truck behind me. Check engine light doesn't come on. Took it to dealership and they say without error codes they cannot diagnose the problem. Had a recall on ECM a couple of yrs. Ago. Had it done(re-flashed) at dealership. No help from Toyota.

- Attleboro, MA, USA

problem #37

Apr 222010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 61,500 miles
I purchase my vehicle a 2002 Rav4, automatic, new. The vehicle has been well maintained. Approximately in March of 2010 my vehicle starting jerking, I look at my gas gauge and thought I must be lower on gas then the gauge is showing. I got gas and the problem stopped. About 2 weeks later the same problem. I got gas and the situation stopped. Sporadically, in the 2 week time frame my vehicle seemed to lose power. I did take my car into my mechanic and he had the car and did test drives with no problems. Again, in April the problem arose again and the car when to my mechanic and again they could find no problem. On April 22, 2010 upon leaving work I started my vehicle and there was a horrible jerking, shaking and at times seemed to have no power I finally was able to make it home (1 mile away) with the tires barely rolling down the road. Immediately, the next day I took it to my mechanic and as we were doing a test drive the vehicle began the jerking, shaking and lost power, the car was not operable any longer. The diagnosis: Transmission burnt and new ECM (my third in this vehicle). The vehicles engine check light never came on or any other sensors in the vehicle. When the ECM was tested it did not display any codes or problems with the vehicle. I contacted the dealership and explained the situation and was advised I needed to bring it in for them to look at it. I explained to them it does not run and not going anywhere and would these (I would have had the vehicle towed with an expense of anywhere from $250 to $300, a hours drive away) expenses be covered. Response "warranty expired 60 days ago." After many days of an agonizing decision, I advised my mechanic to go ahead and fix the car at the tune of $3500, replacing the ECM and transmission. The vehicle is still being repaired and I will have it back next week.

- Bullhead City, AZ, USA

problem #36

May 092010


  • 95,000 miles
The automatic transmission was shifting very hard from gear to gear and had problems starting in first gear from a stop. It looks like it is very common on 2001-2004 Rav4's per complaints online. A service bulletin was put out by Toyota in March of 2006 about the problem. The dealer is recommending replacement of the ECU. The bulletin proves Toyota knew about the defective ECU. Many people are being forced to buy a transmission also after the faulty ECU destroys theirs. This is a safety issue, such as driving onto a freeway and the transmission stalling when merging with traffic.

- Baraboo, WI, USA

problem #35

Apr 232010


  • 141,000 miles
My 2002 Toyota Rav4's transmission is starting to fail to operate correctly. After coming to a complete stop, the car will not accelerate for several seconds even though I am pressing very hard on the accelerator. It just slowly moves during those seconds. This is very frightening when I attempt to merge with traffic after making a right turn. Sometime it feels like the turn will not complete before on coming traffic approaches. My mechanic has told me that I need a new transmission that will cost $3500.

- Sudbury, MA, USA

problem #34

Apr 112010


  • 79,000 miles


2002 Toyota Rav4: ECM computer problem causes the transmission to burn out. The ECM has a design blunder which causes it to lose its ability to control the solenoids. The transmission is damaged quite suddenly.

- Frisco, Tx 75035, TX, USA

problem #33

Mar 012010

RAV4 4WD 8-cyl

  • 73,000 miles
Have a 2002 Toyota Rav4 with a transmission problem related to the ECM. The vehicles transmission hesitates, makes noises, does not shift correctly. There is a Toyota tech. Service bull. (tc-002-06) issued in 2006. Toyota never notified owners of this problem and therefore owners have driven past warranty time frames. (which is my case by 1 month) as there is only 73000 miles on the vehicle. Toyota should of contacted owners once they knew there was a problem.

- Stittville, NY, USA

problem #32

Mar 022010


  • 87,000 miles
I own a Toyota Rav4 has been known by Toyota that this model has had problems with its ECU.....which makes the car shift at the wrong revs\times, at times at traffic lights or merging into highways the car completely looses power, sometimes at traffic lights it completely stalls leaving you completely vulnerable to other sometimes to revs to over 4000 revs and then suddenly engages into gear, which results in unintended acceleration. This might cause serious problems especially in congested traffic. I took the car to the Toyota dealer in acton, MA they told me I had to pay 4500 dollars to fix their own design flaw, which popestrous. There are soo many blogs that complain about this, type "Rav4 transmission problem" on google. You are bound to find thousands of blogs complaining about this. I'd like to think that this government does indeed take care of its people\ looking out for them and fighting for them in battles they can not win alone. All I ask for is for Toyota to be held responsible for their own flaws. They have put millions of people in serious risk, this is not something that should be overlooked, especially after discovery of their faulty acceleration pedals. This is what you get for trying to cut cost and then making the consumers pay for this mistake. Its high time Toyota came clean about their shady designs. Everyone and I mean everyone should boycott Toyota products until they once again become the trustworthy and reliable company it once was -do not buy the coffin car.

- Lowell, MA, USA

problem #31

Jan 012002


  • 100 miles
Transmission sticks from 1st to 2nd. Has done it since I bought it new in 2002. Took to dealer way back then they told me I had "special transmission fluid and I would have to pay to get it fixed". I never had it fixed and it still sticks. Takes about 1/4 mile to shift. Purchased from kissimmee Toyota which is now Toyota of orlando(?) adding complaint for engine seize.

- Louisville, GA, USA

problem #30

Feb 152010


  • 52,200 miles
Very suddenly my transmission felt like it would not shift from 1st to 2nd gear. It would free spin, then force into gear. Toyota replaced ECM, apparently the problem referred to in a 2006 tsb. Unknown if my transmission was damaged.

- Salt Lake City, UT, USA

problem #29

Jan 162010


  • 86,000 miles
My 2002 Toyota Rav4 transmission is jerking at low speeds. It seemed that the automatic transmission was not working properly. The jerks would be particularly strong when going up or downhill. After releasing the brake pedal during a complete stop, the car does not roll forward normally either.

- San Jose, CA, USA

problem #28

Nov 212009


  • 91,000 miles
Car jerks; hesitates; does not go into gear properly; revs loudly but starts like it's being moved off in third gear. Told it's the computer that is bad but if it does not get fixed after replacement of the computer, it could be the transmission. I am ordering a replacement computer but cannot afford to do it via the dealer because the initial cost is $1300. Problem is similar to many listed on various websites - spoke to Toyota 800-number: They can only take the complaint and give a reference number but nobody will contact me. No suggestion of a recall despite hundreds of complaints about cars with exact problems. I'm frustrated because there is no consideration of a discount being offered, knowing that so many cars have had this exact problem. I feel the cars should be recalled and Toyota should offer a good-faith discount, even if it's not the full amount being refunded because cars are over the 80,000 mile threshold, for such safety concerns as this.

- Sunrise, FL, USA

problem #27

Oct 102009


  • 159,000 miles
This complaint is regarding the 2002 Toyota Rav4 about a year ago I noticed that the vehicle was stopping and having problems changing shifts. I researched and found a lot of people saying that it was the computer of the engine which was messing up my transmission. I went ahead and paid around $2000 to have the computer changed. The dealership told me that the old computer which was put at the factory had damaged my transmission. It ran well for a while but a couple of weeks back I was turning left and the vehicle unexpectedly stopped I was scared out of my mind because there were cars coming at a high speed I pushed the gas about 3 times for it to jerk into gear. A lot of other incidents like that have happened with this vehicle where the engine just wont react and place me in dangerous situation. Now its even worst where it is really staining itself to at least get to 40mph I'm going to once again have to take it to a shop to get fixed or maybe trade it in all together, because it's a danger to me and my family.

- Pasadena, TX, USA

problem #26

Oct 302009


  • 99,935 miles
In 2004 we purchased a 2002 Rav4 Toyota after checking with consumer reports. The car has not turned over 100,000 miles and the transmission and the computer went out. The charge for replacing both was $3708. Research shows that the computer/transmission problem for 2001 to 2003 Toyota is growing. We are retired living on social security and did not have this kind of money for this problem. There should have been a recall or some type of adjustment by Toyota for the computer/transmission problems.

- Bartlett, TN, USA

problem #25

Oct 012009


  • 59,897 miles
Our ECM, engine control module, is faulty and has been sending our transmission the wrong signals and telling the transmission to shift at the wrong intervals. This caused our transmission to hard shift and mis-shift between 1 and 2, and 2 and 3. as a result, my wife and I almost got into a accident because our SUV would not move until it finally went into gear.

- Van Nuys , CA, USA

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