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

Find something helpful? Spread the word.
Get notified about new defects, investigations, recalls & lawsuits for the 2002 Toyota RAV4:

Unsubscribe any time. We don't sell/share your email.

2002 Toyota RAV4 Owner Comments (Page 5 of 6)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #24

Oct 052009


  • 105,132 miles


Problem with my Toyota Rav4's electronically controlled transmission. The computer was recalled in 2007 for reprogramming. Now it has failed, and the transmission potentially along with it. Toyota claims no responsibility for it, even though it was recalled and I had the reprogramming done, because I am not under warranty. Scary to be driving and have the car shift automatically down to first gear and not shift back. I'm a single mother driving two small children around - seriously scary.

- Alexandria, VA, USA

problem #23

Oct 012009


  • 84,000 miles
All of the sudden, my transmission started acting funny. The gears shifted really hard and it started slipping. I almost had an accident because the slipping kept me in an intersection for too long. It appears the problem is not uncommon: I called you yesterday, and was told to call Toyota. Indeed, they sent me to a dealer who told me that I needed to spend $1546 to replace a computer in charge of the transmission. Once that was replaced, they could tell me if the transmission has other problems. A google search suggests this is a common problem that was recognized previously. Please hurry with this investigation, as someone may get killed if you go too slow. These computers need to be recalled and replaced. I am respectfully asking you to do your job, and keep americans safe by recalling these cars for repair of this transmission problem.

- Potomac, MD, USA

problem #22

Oct 012002


  • 86,937 miles
Toyota Rav4 my transmission slips and jerks. I was just at a light, and it didn't work properly. I almost got hit. I am now scared to drive it.

- Potomac, MD, USA

problem #21

Sep 152009


  • 115,000 miles


I have a 2002 Toyota Rav4 with transmission/ECM problems. My issue is that there was a technical service bulletin sent out to all of Toyota service departments it is as follows: Technical service bulletin is: TC002-06, revised March 3, 2006: "some 2001 " 2003 model year Rav4 vehicles equipped with an automatic transaxle may exhibit a harsh shift condition and/or M.I.L. ?on" with dtc P0750, P0753, P0755, P0758, and/or P1760 stored. Improvements have been made to the engine control module (ECM) (sae term: Powertrain control module/PCM) manufacturing process to reduce the possibility of this condition occurring. Use the following procedure to repair the vehicle" it goes on to say replace the ECM/ECU and possibly the transmission. My complaint is that Toyota did not notify any consumer about this issue and now that many of us are just now having a problem with this and after researching it learning that we are not alone and it is happening with many of the same model car- mainly the 2002. I have contacted Toyota Corp. As well as the dealership where my car was purchased. I was told the cost to repair my car would be a costly $9,000. This is something that Toyota intentionally kept from consumers to avoid costly repairs to themselves. Had I been notified I would have had the ECU/ECM replace in 2006 while my car was still under warranty. There are 121 complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This just started with my car 3 weeks ago I was almost hit by another car because my car would not switch into gear once I reached about 20 mph and again at about 40 mph...the engine revved to about 6000 RPM's and just sat there if it were in neutral. I am very worried about the safety of driving this car. Toyota needs to own up to this problem and issue a recall. I am very upset and feel I was not dealt a fair hand with this car - Toyota would only repair this problem based on a customers specific complaint under 80K miles.

- Jefferson, GA, USA

problem #20

Jul 012009


  • 104,000 miles
Around the 1st of July my Toyota rav 4 starting jerking and refused to go into second gear. The rav 4 has had all of the regular required maintenance and showed absolutely no signs of failure. The transmission and the ECM were going out. I had my 16 year old grandson in the car when this happened. I did not realized that Toyota has been aware of this problem for around 3 years until I started doing some research. This is definitely a safety hazard and should have been addressed by the Toyota company immediately. I am just now learning that there are several hundred Toyota customers that have filed complaints concerning the same issue but of course the Toyota company will not remedy the situation. If my grandson and I had been on a busy highway I do feel the outcome would have been much more devastating.

- Afton, TN, USA

Search for these popular complaint phrases...

problem #19

Jan 142006


  • 67,313 miles
I had a Toyota RV4 2002, that was giving me transmission problems, the car star shaking in the middle of the freeway in various occasion, that really scared me, and my child, I had to paid $3462.52 dollars to have the transmission replaced, but that didn't fix the problem, and Toyota replaced the ECM, another 1, 200 dollars. I'm very unhappy because later I found out, that Toyota knew of this problem, but they didn't not notified the customer, I'm a single mother, and for me that was a lot of money to paid with my credit cards...

- San Jose , CA, USA

problem #18

Jul 012009


  • 143,700 miles


My 2002 Toyota Rav4 is having a hard time shifting and sometimes it almost doesn't want to move with an A/C on... but when I turn off the A/C it runs fine... living in Arizona we need as much A/C as we get... and Toyota won't make any recall about this issue. Hope you guys will be able to help us regarding this issue.

- Glendale, AZ, USA

problem #17

Jun 262009


  • 100,000 miles
Several years ago, Toyota became aware of an issue with their engine control module that were used in 2001/2002 Rav4 vehicles. A quick search of the internet uncovers hundreds of people now experiencing the ramifications. Toyota issued a technical service bulletin to their dealerships while these cars were still young; however, failed in any way to make their loyal customers aware. The faulty engine control module generally lasts until consumers are just out of warranty, thus Toyota refuses to take any responsibility at all. In my case (and as documented by many others), my bad ECM caused my car to jerk violently when trying to accelerate. It was also hazardous that often the car would not be able to pick up any speed at all and then when it did, it would once again jerk and accelerate all at once. In essence, the failure of the ECM causes the transmission to die. My Rav4 finally died on June 26, 2009. The cost to replace the ECM and the transmission will be about $3700; however, many folks out on the consumer complaint websites have paid up to $5000. This safety issue is huge, as Toyota knew about it long ago and with the huge cost of the repair, I'm certain that many people will drive their cars far too long with this defect.

- Indianapolis, IN, USA

problem #16

Apr 172009


  • 84,000 miles
There exists a documented history of ECM failure in the 2002 Toyota Rav4 vehicles that is causing shifting problems in the transmission. This defected part needs to be recalled as needing replacement (not just "reprogramming" as Toyota has tried to do). When I began experiencing these problems with my 2002 Toyota Rav4 on April 17, 2009, I was in the middle of traffic and no matter how hard I pressed on the accelerator, my car would not go. It eventually very slowly began to accelerate but every time I had to stop at a light or stop sign, it would barely go again. I was terrified that I was going to get hit every time I had to cross over a street with oncoming traffic. This is a dangerous situation...someone is going to get in a serious accident one of these days because there is no warning when this begins to happen - the car just won't go at takeoff. Many of us who own the 2002 Rav4 have wasted hundreds of dollars on misdiagnosis of this problem...I had the transmission fluid flushed, I had a top engine cleaning to remove buildup in the throttle, I was even told at the dealership that my car mat was getting in the way of the accelerator and that was adding to the problem. Only after none of this fixed the problem did they come back and finally say that the ECM needed to be replaced or the transmission would be ruined. This repair is going to cost me $1300 because the warranty ran out at 80,000 miles and my vehicle is at 84,000 miles. I am going to fix this car so that I can trade it in (the dealership even suggested that I trade it- they must know how serious this is). I can't take the risk that this vehicle will be safe to drive even after the ECM is replaced because I've read that the new ECM may not communicate correctly with the old transmission. This is a devastating loss for those of us who bought our vehicles based in large part on the Toyota reputation for reliability.

- Charlotte, NC, USA

problem #15

Apr 102009


  • 95,000 miles
My Toyota Rav4 2002 seems to have a transmission problem. I have noticed 2-3 times a difficulty in shifting from reverse to 1st gear. However, on the day of this incident, I was driving in traffic at about 20 mph. I tried to accelerate to keep up with traffic and my car would not- it started to shutter. I have read online that many others have this problem and it is a defect with Toyota Rav4S made in that year. I do not want to have to pay to have this fixed, and that was a dangerous situation to be in when I am in traffic.

- Framingham, MA, USA

problem #14

Apr 112009


  • 47,309 miles


Toyota Rav4 started slamming into gear. While driving I would have my foot down on accelerator and the vehicle wouldn't go into gear and when it finally did it would lurch forward while slamming in gear. I was told by my maintenance mechanic that there was a tbs on this very problem however when I took it to the dealership they told me 1st. "someone already replace it (which wasn't the case then 2. "it must have been caught at the factory". there are over 200 complaints regarding the very problem and Toyota's irresponsible response to the problem. I have now been told that they will "start with replacing the grounding wires" and "go from there". I have an extended warranty that expires in July 2009. This is a safety issue and I feel that Toyota (based on all the complaints found) will continue to nickel and dime me with non-warranty charges and then when the real problem is addressed for the power train my vehicle will be out of warranty. I am the original owner and my vehicle only has 47,315 miles on it. The reference number for the tsb in this case is TC002-06 from 3-06/ the dealerships I spoke to were unaware of the tbs until I brought in a copy of it. The codes for this problem don't even show up. It is my understanding that NHTSA is looking for people who have had this problem to establish a need for an investigation. Please consider me as one of those people. I truly feel this problem is not only a costly one but a extreme safety concern as you never know when this problem will happen.

- Scottsdale, AZ, USA

problem #13

Apr 012009


  • 126,605 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Rav4. The contact noticed that the transmission would repeatedly slip out of gear without warning. He took the vehicle to the dealer and they stated that the on-board computer needed to be replaced because it was defective. They further stated that the failure was common with his year, make, and model vehicle. Immediately after the repair, the failure resurfaced and the engine warning indicator illuminated on the instrument panel. He took the vehicle back to the dealer and they stated that they would have to replace the transmission because the on-board computer mechanically failed. As a result, the transmission failed and would cost $4,000 to replace. The vehicle has not been repaired. The manufacturer did not assist. The failure and current mileages were 126,605. Updated 6/8/09 updated 06/11/09.

- Tucson, AZ, USA

problem #12

Mar 152009


  • miles
Toyota rav 4 4X4 has gear changing problems in first and second. I thought it was a solenoid then something with the transmission. Did obd diagnostic check which showed solenoid but it was the computer or ECM. We replaced it with three used computers which evidently had same defect and in process of driving under these conditions the trans was ruined. You must stop driving car get brand new ECM computer of the new series because the serial number has changed three times until Toyota fixed it finally. I had to repair trans, purchase a new computer all of which cost me $5,000. Toyota never issued a public bulletin, the bulletin was only issued to car dealers while the general public was kept in the dark.

- Brooklyn , NY, USA

problem #11

Dec 132008


  • 68,000 miles
Driving down the highway going 65 miles per hour and the engine just stopped, completely shut down. 2002 Toyota rav 4.

- Cary, NC, USA

problem #10

Nov 302008


  • 87,000 miles
My 2002 Rav4 transmission went bad (shifting improperly) over 100 complaints on line about same problem. There are no recall or extended warranties from Toyota.

- Junction City, OR, USA

problem #9

Oct 102008


  • 90,000 miles
Car had very sluggish acceleration onto highway after ECU failed and transmission is slow to get into gear. Had to pull over to shoulder as the vehicle could not get up to interstate speed.

- Lake Mary, FL, USA

problem #8

Sep 162008


  • 71,500 miles
2002 Toyota Rav4 transmission - transmission is not working properly in shifting. Rough shifting from 2/3 gear. Had to find information on federal 8year/80K mile mandated free reprogramming to try to fix this. But reading accounts this may not work and even then the transmission may be damaged already. There should be a recall regardless of miles driven as this is a constant problem on this year/model. Thank goodness I was low mileage but this problem occurs regardless of mileage. This is a Toyota defect in the transmission.

- Boston, MA, USA

problem #7

Aug 242008


  • 93,000 miles
The 2002 Toyota Rav4 has a faulty ECM and has caused the transmission to go out. I almost had an accident the other day. Toyota is aware of the problem but did not do a recall. Here is a list of the same problem owners had:

- Burnsville, MN, USA

problem #6

Aug 072008


  • 97,900 miles
Toyota Rav4 2002, 98367 miles, taken to Toyota dealer for recall on ECM reprogram, after done the recall by Toyota dealer, transmission shifting very erratically. Took car back to dealer and they said that transmission needs to be replaced. Also it is dangerous to drive due to loss of transmission.

- Tulsa, OK, USA

problem #5

Aug 022008


  • 65,000 miles
I own a Toyota 2002 Rav4. It is experiencing major problems with the transmission. It jerks and hesitates and is extremely dangerous to drive as you never know if it is going to proceed forward or not. Pulling out in an intersection is dangerous.

- Colorado Springs, CO, USA

Read the next 4 complaints »

Search for these popular complaint phrases...

Not what you are looking for?