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:
2 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
90,147 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 electrical problems

electrical problem

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2002 Toyota RAV4 Owner Comments (Page 4 of 5)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #25

Mar 012008


  • 107,258 miles


ECM is faulty. Causing vehicle to "misshift" from 1st to 2nd gear. The misshifting causes car to stall for a few seconds till shifting is completed, causing potential rear-end or side-hit(at intersections) accidents. Have almost been hit twice. Suggested by dealership to "reflash" ecma; completed; no change. Now suggested to replace part (estimated cost of + labor) researched on internet, there are several web sites that have customers complaining to Toyota with no solution (such as and contacted Toyota and they offered no solution because a there wasn't a "special service campaign" aka recall. Advised me to seek outside help.

- Boscobel, WI, USA

problem #24

Jul 152009


  • 116,000 miles
My 2002 Toyota Rav4 has been intermittently not shifting into gear. It balks and clunks, and eventually shifts. This is a safety issue when entering traffic, because you don't know if the car will be able to accelerate to the speed of traffic or not. It is also a safety issue at stop lights, because you don't know if you will be able to make it across the intersection before the light changes or not. This started in January 2009, but was not consistent. In July, it finally created a "check engine" condition. I took the vehicle to a reputable mechanic, and he changed the transmission fluid and replaced solenoids, which the engine code suggested. I then took it to a Toyota dealer, and they replaced the ECM, at a cost of $1500. That did not solve the problem, and they say I need to replace the transmission for $3500. Toyota has known about this problem since 2006, and at that time issued a bulletin. However, I feel they should have issued a recall due to the safety issues and the cost involved.

- Rapid River, MI, USA

problem #23

May 152009


  • 59,000 miles
After 30 mins of hwy/pkwy driving, the car shut off without warning while traveling approx 45 mph. No warning lights before incident and no previous issue at all. Steering and brakes became sluggish, and we lacked basic accident avoidance measures. Had we been traveling faster and/or in denser traffic the car would have presented a major obstacle to oncoming vehicles, placing both us and other drivers etc. In danger. The dealer could not duplicate the problem and so made no repair. The car shut off again in stop-and-go traffic 2 weeks later. The dealer eventually replaced a transmission chip. The car then ran with hesitations and some delay in shifting for some weeks. Finally, at 60 mph in highway traffic the car started to jerk, fail, and buck. Again the dealer could not duplicate the problem and refused to address it. We discovered through research on line that this model Toyota Rav4 2002 has a problem with its onboard computer or ECM, for which Toyota extended its warranty. Our car is within the warranty limits both as to years and mileage. Toyota is supposed to replace the ECM in this model under this warranty. Our dealer has refused to do so and has sent us back out on the road without any security against another full engine stop in highway traffic.

- Bronx, NY, USA

problem #22

Jul 272009


  • 119,000 miles


I began noticing that my automatic 2002 rav 4 was jerking when shifting, would rev at high rpms before shifting and at times felt like it would not shift at all. Like others, I did an internet search and found that it is a problem with the ECM that many others have experienced. My car has 119K miles on it and is out of warranty so I am evaluating my options on how to deal with this problem. The car is undrivable, as it is a safety risk when the car is unable to accelerate normally in stop and go traffic. It looks like this problem will cost about a thousand to get a new ECM, and much more if the damage it has done to the transmission now requires a transmission rebuild.

- Philadelphia, PA, USA

problem #21

Jul 072009


  • 125,500 miles
2002 Toyota Rav4 - ECM/transmission failure - at 125,000 miles, driving last week, automatic transmission started bucking. Car slowed without cause in heavy traffic, and I had to pull off road in adverse conditions. Driving to dealer, then driving to transmission shop wrecked transmission. After paying $2700 to get transmission fixed, found out the transmission problem is really a ECM failure problem. Found 1000's of complaints online about this. Called Toyota customer svc., and Toyota is not recognizing as a recall problem. I am unemployed and this cost is overwhelming, and should be a recall.

- Parker, CO, USA

problem #20

Jun 162009


  • 183,000 miles
The Toyota Rav4 (year 2002) indiscriminately speeds up and maxes out the rpms (6000) for not reason. I was going 65 and all of a sudden the rpms went up to 6000 from 3000 and the car sped up to 85 and then went into neutral with me touching any gears or any pedals. Luckily I was allowing enough distance between me and the other vehicles to safely get it pulled off to the side. There would have been no way to control the vehicle to keep it from crashing into someone directly in front of me and both sides and the rear had vehicles in them. The ECM, transmission and vss (variable speed sensor) were replaced and the problem still occurs. Toyota disavows any knowledge of these types of issues; however, there are hundreds of thousands of complaints for the same issues and millions of dollars being spent to solve them and it's not being solved. There are lives at stake here. Toyota should be held accountable for these problems. The models effected are the Toyota Rav4's from 1999 to 2009. And it appears that it's still an issue and still being pushed under the rug so to speak. Action or lives....that's what it all boils down to now. Incident date is most current. Numerous past dates.

- Tolleson, AZ, USA

problem #19

May 012009


  • 108,000 miles


Toyota rav 4 2002. A month ago, my car started jerking and bucking and stalling mid intersection. I immediately took it to my local Toyota dealer for servicing. The service dept. Could not determine the problem so they changed transmission fluid (charge almost $200) and sent me on my way with notice that if the engine light came on I should return. Two weeks later, I was driving on the highway approaching a double merge driving 60 mph when my car suddenly downshifted into first gear causing me to lurch and lose control of vehicle while one tractor trailer truck was merging to my right and another directly behind me causing truck behind me to lay on brakes and veer off the road...I managed to get myself off the accident occurred but the threat to my life was serious. I did investigation on line and found that there was a service bulletin issued to all dealers in 2006. I was never informed of defect therefore was endangering myself and my family every time I drove the car without any knowledge. I took the car to a different local Toyota dealer and paid $150 for diagnostic: Faulty ECM (see Quoted a cost of replacement at ($1,200) that might solve the problem but they would not know condition of transmission until after they replaced the ECM. I was uncomfortable with this answer and felt I might have better service with original dealer so I paid for car to be towed ($100) and rented a car. Original dealer determined ECM needs replacement no guarantee that transmission would be okay. I asked that dealer speak on my behalf to Toyota to see if they were willing to share some of the responsibility and cost of replacement of faulty ECM. Toyota refused. After being without family's only car for 2 weeks, paying for rental (over $200) the ECM was replaced ($1,000) car seemed to be okay for one week. 4 days ago engine light came on again. Returning to yet another dealer tomorrow. Do you value my safety?

- Yarmouth, ME, USA

problem #18

May 102009

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 84,000 miles
At 84,000 miles the car started surging for no reason, stalling while moving on the highway, and stalling while approaching intersections. Happened two to three times daily, causing a number near miss accidents, rear ends. Took it to the dealer who replaced the computer. This was very dangerous and easily could have caused an accident. The consumer stated he experienced sudden acceleration. Updated 07/26/10.

- West Orange, NJ, USA

problem #17

May 052009

RAV4 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 109,000 miles
2002 Toyota Rav4 has defective ECU which has in turn fried wife noticed problems when the shifting automatic transmission on a merge and was almost run over by a semi-truck. We then took the vehicle to the dealer who told us the engine light was not on so they could not diagnose and advised us to drain the transmission fluid. 2 weeks later, my wife was on the highway and the transmission spontaneously shifted into low gear causing her to swerve off road. We have been told that we need to replace the ECU and transmission at $5,000. I have gone online and read that Toyota has been aware of this problem for over 2 years and will not issue recall as not enough people have complained...this is a safety issue my wife was almost killed!!! please address with Toyota!! updated 03/22/10.

- Yarmouth, ME, 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

Oct 272007


  • 151,000 miles


Car shuttered and stopped rolling in an intersection, then abruptly went into gear again with a lurch. Transmission shop replaced valve assembly. Problem returned and car was returned to shop. New valve assembly installed, problem came back. Returned to shop, transmission removed, replaced, 3 times. Seals replaced. Same problem.ECM was suspect. Car was taken to local Toyota dealer, was told ECM was fine, ECM was re-programmed and we were charged $275. Problem continued. Long story short-ECM was replaced, programmed, and paid another $1200. Works fine. Toyota owes me big time. They know of this problem, and ignore. I have owned 5 Toyota in my life, and have an fj cruiser as well. Will not consider Toyota in the future unless they admit the problem, and assist in repairs.

- Midlothian, VA, USA

problem #14

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 #13

Dec 012008


  • 40,300 miles
I brought my rav brand new in 200. Have had no problem with it up until a few days ago. It was running just fine but the next day I noticed that it would jerk when I shifted in/out of reverse. Not only that but it had trouble accelerating and would jerk from 1st to 2nd gear. Read multiple complaints on this issue via and found that I am not alone in this problem....this is unacceptable.. I have a four year old and I am scared of driving anywhere because im scared of pulling out in traffic for the fear that the car wont move and I may get hit.....this need to be addressed....

- Irvington, NJ, USA

problem #12

Oct 092008


  • 97,000 miles
Suddenly, my car starting shifting very roughly into reverse. It happens every time I put the car into reverse. I was told the ECM needed to be replaced because it was defective. This is the same ECM that had a factory recall issued that I had serviced last year.

- Redondo Beach, CA, USA

problem #11

Sep 052008


  • 81,000 miles
Car began having shifting problems. I was told by a shop that the ECM is a known problem. It is a safety hazard since it often fails in intersections.

- Riverside, CA, USA

problem #10

Aug 292008


  • 52,000 miles
I brought my rav brand new in 2002. Have had no problem with it up until a few a year ago when the engine light came on intermittent. Every time I was going to take the vehicle into get checked it would go out. When I arrived at my present duty station I was deployed almost immediately. Within two months of my deployment my wife told me that car was having a hard time moving and could hear the transmission slipping. She then took the vehicle to the mechanic and they told her that the transmission was broke and needed to be repaired. Only 52000 miles on the vehicle. The mechanic also told my wife that there could be a tsb out on the vehicle pertaining to the electronic control module, part that tells the transmission to shift gears, "ECM"and there was several that pertained the problem and what needed to be replaced. Being in italy she contacted the states rep for Toyota and was told that they couldn't locate our car because we bought it from a licensed dealer "american spec vehicle" from germany. She then contact the Agency that is authorized to sell "american spec cars" and was informed that the vehicle fell under the warranty and that they "american Toyota" should pay for it based on an american tsb. Called Toyota again and nothing. When I came home, we took the vehicle to local dealership and because it was an american tsb they would consider the replacement. In the mean time they assured us that the vehicle was safe to drive and being our only vehicle my wife was forced to drive it. Toyota "rome" oked the replacement of the ECM, the actual fault of the vehicle but has refused to replace the transmission the result of the faulty part. Now the transmission is completely shot and looking on line thousands of american consumers are paying thousands of dollars out to replace a product that is the result of Toyota's engineering flaws. I personally feel that they are responsible the transmission and the replacement. Further investigation is requested.

- Apo, AE, USA

problem #9

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 #8

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 #7

Jun 232008


  • 53,965 miles
In the past few years the check engine light kept coming on and my local dealer would fix something that was supposed to be causing the problem twice. The 3rd time Toyota had a recall on the computer and reprogrammed the ECU. Now the 4th time the car would not go when pushing the pedal or it would stop in traffic with the hopes of not getting into a wreck. Barely made it back to the dealer who said it had a bad main computer failure and the "shift solenoid B" was bad. All this with only 83K miles. This seems somewhat very low to be having this kind of a problem. I contacted Toyota, gave them the info and they investigated and said it was way out of warranty so the case is "closed". the total cost of repair was to be $4998 but with the dealer giving me a "one time good will 50% split and a senior citizens discount", it had a final price of $3,725.63.

- Baton Rouge, LA, USA

problem #6

Jun 202008


  • 95,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Rav4. While driving approximately 5 mph, the vehicle hesitated and became difficult to shift into first gear. The vehicle jerked and the engine light illuminated on the instrument panel. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer. The technician stated that the failures were related to the computer failure, which also caused the transmission to fail. The computer and transmission are currently being replaced at the cost of $4,600. The VIN was unknown. The current and failure mileages were 95,000.

- St. Louis, MO, USA

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