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 6 of 6)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #4

Jul 182008


  • 46,000 miles


2002 rav 4 automatic transmission ECM/transmission issue!!: the problems started with the check engine light turning on and off about 4 months ago. We got a recall notice from Toyota to have the ECM reprogrammed and went to fulfill the recall. The light then came on again about a month later. We were told that it could be a gas cap issue, so we made sure we tightened the gas cap and that turned the light off for about a month but then it came back on again. It wasn't until recently that we had the first signs of a shifting problem. All in the same day, the transmission began to make noises and shift rough between 1st and 2nd gears (its an auto trans)..once we got the car going forward, we worked our way back home, and that was it for the car. I found the website of and have found several other customers with the same issue. The 2002 Toyota Rav4 recall for the ECM (electronic control module ----the brain---)is leading to the problem of the transmission shifting issue that the Toyota dealership is not addressing. We hope that by filing the complaint, and bringing this website to you, you can bring this to corporate Toyota's attention to have them fix the problem. Please look into this and other customers complaints on the website referenced regarding this issue. My 2002 rav 4 was bought new and only has 46K miles in it to have such a grand problem. I believe Toyota is aware of this issue but does not want to completely fix the ECM issue. (they only re-flash it when possibly the car needs a "new" one). Please help!

- Chicago, IL, USA

problem #3

Jun 202008


  • 93,215 miles
I started having issues with my car on 6-20-2008. I was driving my car & noticed that when I would accelerate it wasn't accelerating properly. Then I noticed that as the car was shifting into 2nd gear it would stall & then suddenly shift really hard into 3rd gear. Sometimes as I would accelerate the car would start shaking & then shift hard into 1st gear. This made me very nervous because I was unable to keep up with the flow of traffic & feared that the problem would create an accident. The problem seemed to happen intermittently, but it was happening more often than not. We looked at the transmission fluid thinking it might be something wrong with the transmission due to the way it was shifting. We checked the fluid & filled the fluid. My husband drove it a little & it didn't act up for him. So I thought the problem was fixed. Well then I started driving it again & it continued to shift hard & not accelerate properly. I had my uncle look at it & he thought it sounded like the transmission was not engaging. So I finally took it to a Toyota dealership to have them look at it. Of course ($84 later) they couldn't get the problem to occur. I went to pick the car up the next day & they said they found a bulletin on 2001-2003 Toyota Rav4's that if there was a hard shifting that the ECM needed replacing. $1500 later the car is fixed. Of course Toyota does not cover the cost of the problem because it was only a bulletin & supposedly did not cause a safety issue & come to find out my manufacturers warranty is past & my extended warranty doesn't cover it either even though it's a major part that keeps the car running & functioning properly. I am extremely dissatisfied with the Toyota service & their ways of handling problems that are not the consumers fault but Toyota's manufacturing fault.

- Santa Rosa, CA, USA

problem #2

Jun 162008


  • miles
Car not shifting into gear (slipping) and then banging and jerking into gear at first told by the dealer that I needed a new transmission. Later after I saw the technical service bulletin and with many calls to Toyota corporate they performed further test and determined that it was the ECM they are replacing it but only paying for half of the cost current mileage 89,000 they are saying it is out of warranty by 9,000 miles even though it was reprogrammed last year (April 07) at 72,000 miles I have noticed many complaints on the 2002 rav 4 and truly believe they should be forced to do a recall and pay the total amount.

- Santa Clarita, CA, USA

problem #1

Mar 282008


  • 118,000 miles
Ces light came on. Trans started slipping. Took to dealer. Diagnosed known ECM problem. Performed Toyota recommended ECM update, but said trans would have to be rebuilt due to damaged already caused. Had trans rebuilt. Developed same slipping problem. Said it would ruin trans again unless ECM was replaced. This is a Toyota problem that they need to fix.

- Norwalk, OH, USA

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