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 1 of 6)

problem #104

Mar 052016


  • 136,639 miles


I bought my friends 2002 Toyota rav 4 and from the time I bought it back in March have been having problems with the the transmission. When I go to pull out into traffic it has no power and pulls out toooo slow and bucks! I have to wait till there is no traffic to safely pull out! I read where there was a recall on this problem and it was extended to 10 years or 150,000 miles. The vehicle had 136,000 miles on it! I think this was happening to her before she sold it to me and she was going to trade it in but decided to sell it private! don't know if she ever got the recall letter or not but I'm sure she would have had it repaired if she did. Anyway I am on a limited income and can't afford the part it says it needs and think that since Toyota had a mileage of up to 150,000 they should have to fix it! I did pay 700 dollars to have 2 of the solenoids replaced but that didn't fix the problem! the vehicle has been well taken care of as far as changing the oil and upkeep but am really upset! I actually bought the car for my son to take his driving test in but he can't even drive it with this happening! my concern is I think Toyota should have to fix all recalls if it is under the milage and they knew there was a problem! any help would be appreciated! thank-you

- Waynesboro, PA, USA

problem #103

Nov 012015


  • 71,890 miles
Car went into neutral while negotiating an intersection on several occations. Has bucked stalled pulling into traffic, and failed to shift while passing, im told its a know problem with ECU, but Toyota cut a deal and did not have to notify owners! bought this car new now there telling me 6000 to 9000$

- Ft Myers, FL, USA

problem #102

Sep 012015


  • 174,519 miles
I purchased the rav in 2007 with less than 50,000 miles. Soon after the purchase the check engine light would come on and off. When I took the vehicle multiple times to be serviced the engine light would not be on and the dealer service department did not check for codes because dealer policy is if engine light was not on, codes would not be check. This vehicle was subject to a 2007 recall on ECU and the ECU was reset per recall instructions per the Toyota dealership. Since that time I have had to replace multiple components with the most recent repair of $3,600 for a rebuilt transmission. I believe that if computer would have been checked back in 2007 these repairs (replacement of multiple solenoid, oxygen sensors and valve switch) would not have not taken, including the recent failure and replaced of the transmission and I would not be in this situation now. Per multiple Toyota service department staff, I was told this model has a history of ECU problems causing transmission failures. Resetting the ECU only masked or put a band aide on this transmission problem.

- Framingham, MA, USA

problem #101

Sep 142015


  • 125,000 miles


My 2002 Toyota rav 4 is an automatic transmission and it doesn't shift easily. I always thought it was because it was a 4 cylinder, but recently it has gotten a lot worse. What it's doing now is a magnification of what it has been doing for a long time, struggling to shift from the lower gear to a higher gear. I called my dealership where I bought the car new in 2002 and they said that my car has a 'warranty enhancement' notice on it, and that it needs a new ECU, but that I was supposed to have done this within 10 years from my purchase date. A New York times article from July 13, 2010 addresses this issue and Toyota's warranty extension, and pointed out that Toyota notified dealerships. However, it appears that you have to be a customer of your dealership to have to have found out about the ECU, and I am not because I don't live near the dealership. The service department told me that I fall outside the 10 year warranty and would have to pay $1200-1600 to replace the ECU. Toyota motor Corp told me the same thing when I called. It seems patently unfair that Toyota would only inform me that my car has a problem that needs to be fixed by them if I'm a customer of their service station at my dealership! I'm just guessing that if they call it a 'warranty enhancement' instead of a recall, they're not obligated to notify people who don't frequent their service stations. Because of the shifting problem my car seems very unsafe. I have had to park it. When I save enough money for another car, you can bet it won't be a Toyota!

- Scituate, MA, USA

problem #100

Sep 012014

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 112,000 miles
When traveling the transmission is slamming into gear. In 2012 there was a class action law suit. The law suit was won and rav 4 owners whom filed were reimbursed for cost of fixing. Toyota also agree to extend warranty on transmission. Toyota failed to inform owners of Toyota rav 4 of this problem. I have not owned this rav 4 for long but feel it should have been recalled. Please advise if we can extend class action law suit or add this to the recall list as it should have been. Thank you

- Belpre, OH, USA

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problem #99

May 012003


  • 18,000 miles
I purchased the 2002 Toyota Rav4 new from the dealership. One day while I was on my way to work I almost wrecked because the drive belt got hung up on something and it chewed up my drive belt. Also, I started noticing every time that I wanted to speed up my Rav4 would hesitate and not go in gear. If it did go in gear it made a noise like a grinding type of noise. I called the Toyota dealership and they did nothing. I called the Toyota motor usa and told them about my problem and I was told that Toyota does not manufacture any defective vehicles and they refused to do anything. The I read where there had been a recall on all 2001, 2002 and 2003 Rav4 Toyota vehicles because of faulty transmissions. I then sent a letter to Toyota motor corporation usa and again they refused to do anything. The Rav4 has been parked in my garage and it has only 35,000 miles on it and everyone in my family is afraid to drive it. I thought that when a car manufacturer has a recall that the manufacturer has a responsibility to fix the defect. In my case Toyota has refused to do anything. Can you Agency ask Toyota why they have never offered to do anything for a legitimate recall which involes the problems that I am having. Thank you.

- Elkview, WV, USA

problem #98

May 082015


  • 123,850 miles


The car recently starts hesitate and suddenly slow down sometimes when I push the gas gear from stop (not always). The mechanic said the transmission may need to be checked. From the internet, I learned that this particular car is known to have the transmission defect (Rav4 2001-2003 with automatic transmission).

- Worcester, MA, USA

problem #97

Feb 162015

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 144,000 miles
Purchased the 2002 Toyota Rav4 for $6000 from a 'reputable' mechanic. His nephew owned it. Mechanic did all the work on it while it was owned by nephew. Nephew owned it for 2 years. I purchased it in May 2014. February 2015 the transmission went out. Through much research & digging found a recall on it. Toyota stated they fixed it in 2007. Further investigation show 2001 - 2003 Rav4's are a pieces of junk. This car was taken in from the previous owner to have the 'shifting issues' looked at in March 2012. Said nephew owned it at that time. Noone can tell me the mechanic & the nephew didn't know there was going to be problems with the transmission. February 16, 2015 the car stopped in the middle of the road. Had towed to my mechanic, we will call him [xxx]. [xxx] said it was the transmission, he could take the tranny out & send it to his transmission guy for repairs. Total estimate: $ 3800. Called the previous owner, he 'oh, I'm sorry'. fast forward to today, April 27, 2015. The car has been at the mechanics for 2 1/2 months. Transmission has been rebuilt. Had to reprogram the ECM. Have gone through 3 ECM's, the transmission is still slipping between 2nd & 3rd gears. [xxx] & the tranny guy tells me it is the computer. Computer company says it is the tranny. So my car just sits at my mechanics shop. It can run but if I run it I risk ruining the transmission & it not being covered under warranty. Up until this point I have forked out $4100 for the repairs. (doesn't include the loan I had to take out for the car). Today I am going to take the car in & demand it gets fixed by this weekend, if it doesn't I'm going to have to take them to small claims court to get my money back so I can have it repaired properly. The two people I am doing business with are small business owners. I don't want to take them to court but they are forcing my hand. Information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Ripon, WI, USA

problem #96

Feb 032014

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 124,111 miles
Transmission slips between gear 3 and 4.

- Collinsville, IL, USA

problem #95

Jul 042013

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 129,000 miles
My Rav4 started having issue with the transmission. I brought it to a Toyota dealer in escanaba, Michigan and they told me I needed a transmission and a brain and the cost was over $4,000. I could not afford at the time so I waited a short time before I could get a loan to repair. After it was repaired, it started acting up again and I brought it back to the dealer in escanaba and they told me it was the motor this time and I had done something. It wasn't the motor. When the transmission was installed, they broke the flywheel, bent the crankshaft and the transmission pump was welded to the transmission. The dealer repaired for free this time. Now, the transmission is leaking in two different areas. I have had months without a vehicle and lots of expenses incurred. I am very disappointed in my Rav4 and the dealership in escanaba.

- Manistique, MI, USA

problem #94

Jan 052015

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 42,900 miles


Car seemed to struggle getting to 1st gear then lurched into 4th gear. Struggled to get it driven to the dealership. Ended up being a failure of electronic control module (ECM), failed code po 755. This was covered under a warranty enhancement of a NHTSA id#10037585 known problem that expired after 10 years from purchase or 150,000 miles. I purchased the car new in 2003 from the same dealership that did the repair. Toyota corporate office would not offer any help in fixing this known malfunction problem even though my mileage was less than 43,000 miles. I feel a known safety issue should be addressed in some way by Toyota beyond their stringent time limits. 1-9-2015 cost to replace ECM...$1,435....with no guarantees it did not ruin the transmission.

- Clearwater, FL, USA

problem #93

Nov 072004


  • 37,000 miles
Re: 2002 Rav4 SUV transmission ECM/atm repairs. Dear sir: I am sending you this letter to explain what my situation is. I just found out that Toyota motor sales usa is having a recall on 2001, 2002 and 2003 Toyota Rav4 SUV?S for transmission problems. I have tried for years to get Toyota to fix my transmission. However, Toyota has totally ignored me. I had to pay for a used transmission out of my pocket because Toyota told me that they do not manufacture any defective automobiles. I just sent the below letter to the Toyota motor sales usa asking that they reimburse me for the cost of the bad transmission and the labor costs and I received a letter this week stating that they are not going to do anything about reimbursing me anything. They are totally ignoring their own recall notice at my expense. When I first purchased my 2002 Rav4 new from the bert wolfe Toyota dealership in charleston, West Virginia, I have had nothing but trouble with the Rav4. The first month that I owned the Rav4 SUV I almost wrecked because the drive belt was chewed up and of course this affected my steering capability and I almost went over an embankment. Ever since I purchased my 2002 Rav4 SUV I have felt that there were several things wrong with the new 2002 Rav4 because sometimes when I would try to speed up or to attempt to get on an interstate my transmission would not shift. If it would shift then it would make a grinding noise and make my Rav4 SUV. Shake. A lot of times, I would have to just pull off of the road because I could not go anywhere and if I had not gotten off the road then I would have caused a wreck or maybe killed someone.

- Elkview, WV, USA

problem #92

Jun 012010

RAV4 4-cyl

  • miles
My daughter purchased a used 2002 Rav4 as her first car in 2010. It had engine and transmission problems within months of purchasing. She also had transmission issues where it would not go into gear or it would act sluggish while driving on the California freeways. It was very dangerous, especially for a young driver. We learned of the class action suit for this issue and got on board with it. Unfortunately we lost, as we knew we would, since Toyota does not want to stand behind its warranties or technical service bulletins. We paid for a transmission replacement so she could safely drive this vehicle and the tsb clearly states that any prior out-of-pocket repairs related to this issue would be reimbursed. Even though we eventually had the ECM and transmission replaced at their expense, she was to be reimbursed for the prior work done but was not. We will never purchase another Toyota product. Too many recalls and issues. And they do. Not. Honor. Their. Agreements. I know we aren't the only ones....there are legions of dissatisfied consumers. Something this dangerous should be addressed. Never had these problems with Ford or Pontiac vehicles.

- Meadville, PA, USA

problem #91

Aug 062003

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 22,000 miles
I purchased my 2002 Toyota Rav4 SUV in August of 2002. Ever since I bought the Rav4 something has been wrong with it. The first 3-months that I had the Rav4 the drive belt was chewed up and almost caused me to wreck. The transmission started making funny noises like a grinding sound and the transmission would not shift. Sometimes I would just have to pull off of the road because the Rav4 transmission would not shift. I called and talked with the dealership and they said that nothing was wrong with my Rav4. I finally just parked it because my wife would not drive it and I would not drive it. Toyota would not fix my vehicle nor would the dealership. My brother-in-law said that he would try to find a used transmission and put it in my new Rav4 SUV. The used transmission was purchased at a car parts and salvage place for $1,700 and my brother-in-law put the used transmission into my new Toyota Rav4 SUV. I have contacted Toyota motor corporation several times and they said that they are not going to do anything about paying me for the used transmission that I had to purchase. Can you see if Toyota will listen to you about my complaint? than K you.

- Elkview , WV, USA

problem #90

Sep 152014

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 167,200 miles
My wife was driving to a doctor's appointment and, while on the "on ramp" to the interstate, the car would not shift from 2nd to third gear (it's an automatic trans). With the engine revving she looked down to check to assure it was in drive about the time it lurched into 3rd, then soon lurched into 4th. Coming home she shifted between drive and neutral to try to maintain a safe speed, save the transmission and engine, while allowing her to get home. The dealership quoted $989 to replace the ECM (computer), but couldn't assure the transmission wouldn't later need to be replaced. Toyota corporate was not helpful. I had records from the previous car owner that Toyota issued an extended warranty to replace the ECM for 10 years or 150,000 miles as a result of a class action suit, "if they felt it was warranted." I also had documentation that the ECM was "reprogrammed" at 72K miles. My contention was the ECM should've been replaced, not reprogrammed, but was told that the reprogramming was done to correct a different problem. I asked if I could speak to someone else at corporate and was told everyone would give me the same response since it is their company position. The internet is full of owners who replaced the transmission first, only to find the ECM caused the newer transmission to fail also, or owners who replaced the ECM only to find that the transmission also needed replacement. It is obvious that Toyota is aware of the problem. I believe they have failed to adequately protect owners by creating a recall to allow owners to get this fixed prior to scary and potentially dangerous shifting problems. The internet is also full of people who claim to want to enter another class action suit, but I am hoping Toyota appreciates their customers enough that law suits wouldn't be required to get them to do the right thing. But, I'm losing hope.

- Huntersville, NC, USA

problem #89

May 082014


  • 216,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Rav4. The contact indicated that the vehicle failed to shift to reverse. The contact had to make several attempts and was able to change gears. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer who diagnosed that the ECM and the transmission needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 216,000.

- Crystal Beach, TX, USA

problem #88

Oct 012013

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 112,000 miles
Going from a very slow speed or from stop it has a hard time getting out of first and or second. I will jerk or shift very harshly. Sometimes it feels like I've been rearended. As it's picking up speed in the 15-25 mph range it will start to slow on it's own when I'm still giving it gas. It feels like there's a rubberband in the transmission stretching and as it gets tight it's slowing down then it will just release and then comes the harsh or violent shift. If I can catch it at the right time and let off the gas, that will most of the time negate the harshness. It is probably not safe to be driving it but I do not have a choice at this point. Toyota told me it may need a new chip at about $900 and if that doesn't work, it will need a new transmission!! I'll just be as careful as I can and not pull out in front of traffic.

- Pascagoula, MS, USA

problem #87

Jul 122004

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 2,800 miles
I purchased a 2002 Toyota Rav4. SUV. And within the first six months of owning it, my drive belt broke and almost caused me to wreck and hit three other vehicles. I had my new car towed back to the dealership where I had purchased the vehicle and they told me that the drive belt was not covered under my warranty.a few months later I noticed that my transmission was making a weird grinding sound and was hard to shift. Sometimes the car would not shift and it would come to a complete stop and this almost caused me to wreck via hitting other vehicles or other vehicles hitting me. I took it to my dealership and told them that they had sold me a lemon and I wanted to know if they would give me another Rav4, that is dependable. They told me no. I let the rav 4 sit in my garage for two years and my brother-in-law said that if he could find a used transmission from a wrecked vehicle then he would install it in my rav 4. he found a transmission and I had to pay in cash $1,300 for the transmission and I gave him $400 to install the transmission. Recently I found out that Toyota has recalled 2001, 2002 and 2003 Toyota Rav4 SUV's for transmission problems. I contacted the Toyota sales usa about their recalls of my vehicle and they told me that they were not going to do anything for me. I feel that Toyota should reimburse me for the cost of buying a used transmission and for paying to have the transmission put in my rav4suv. Please advise.

- Elkview, WV, USA

problem #86

Jul 022003

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 3,000 miles
I purchased my Toyota Rav4 in August, 2002. Eleven months later while driving by the state capital I was going to make a left hand turn and when I did, I almost hit three parked cars because the main drive belt had broken. This drive belt controls about everything to do with steering, air conditioning and etc. I had to have my car towed back to the dealership where I had purchased the vehicle. I had to pay for the labor and new belt because I was told by the dealership that my warranty did not cover this. Then I started having problems with the Rav4 transmission. It started to make a growling sounds and would not shift gears correctly. Some times I had to completely stop, because the transmission was not working. This almost caused other cars to hit me or me to hit other cars. I made several attempts to get the dealership to fix my transmission and they would not.I called Toyota motors Corp. Usa and tried to explain my problems with the Toyota people. They totally blew me off and they have done nothing to fix my transmission problems. I quit driving the Rav4 for three years because it was untrustworthy and Toyota would not fix the transmission. My brother-in-law said that he could probably find a used transmission from a vehicle parts place and that he would install it for me at no charge. I ended up paying $1200 for a used transmission that was from a wrecked 2005 Toyota Rav4. After the transmission was put in I have had no problem with the used transmission. I understand that there is a lawsuit against Toyota over transmission problems in their 2001, 2002 and 2003 Rav4 SUV's. I feel that Toyota should reimburse me for the out of pocket expenses that I have incurred.

- Elkview, WV, USA

problem #85

Jul 012014

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 166,000 miles
Transmission partially and also completely slips in reverse. ECM and transmission replaced for same issue in 2010. Contacted Toyota - customer service refused to acknowledge problem despite being given information on their class action settlement that was granted final approval on January 6, 2012. I feel this is a public safety issue if the manufacturer (Toyota) is not following their agreement (milligan V. Toyota motor sales U.S.a., Inc.). we were never notified by Toyota of the issue.

- Sanford, NC, USA

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