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 1 of 5)

problem #85

Jan 012011


  • miles


Federal emissions warranty for the ECM on 2001-2003 Toyota Rav4's palm springs Toyota failed to notify or advise that this much needed repair needed to be done, however did notify and repair thousands of dollars of other repairs in the open available and allotted time frame that this ECM should have been replaced.

- Palm Springs, CA, USA

problem #84

Dec 012015


  • 115,000 miles
The ECM which controls the transmission failed.

- Green Bay, WI, USA

problem #83

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 #82

Jan 022015

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 95,000 miles


ECM malfunction.

- Saint Louis, MO, USA

problem #81

Nov 132014

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 150,000 miles
My mother had the engine control module fixed June of 2013. She had to pay for this repair herself because Toyota refused to fix it, even though they sent letters out to people saying that they would cover the cost to repair this known issue. After $1900 later, she paid for it. A year later I own this same vehicle and the same thing has gone bad. Its just out of the warranty. I almost got hit due to the car stalling when I pulled out at an intersection. This is a known problem, and it was paid for by another family member. Yet it has the same issue. Toyota needs to fix this problem. Horrible costumer service.

- Roanoke, VA, USA

problem #80

Oct 272014

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 94,000 miles
The ECM malfunction.

- Saint Louis, MO, USA

problem #79

Dec 202013

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 88,970 miles


We bought this car off my mom (who was the original owner and has taken immaculate care of it!) just two months ago! out of nowhere the car started to experience "hard shifting". because it couldn't shift like it should, it was a road hazard/safety issue! we took it into the Toyota dealership that very day. They told us it was the ECM and maybe even the transmission! the approx. Cost would be $1,100 to replace the ECM, and thousands more if it was the transmission. They said they would have it done by Tuesday (christmas eve.) I started researching the problem because it didn't make sense that this car that had such low miles would have this problem. Well, I found out this is a widespread problem with the Rav4. Toyota knows about it and has not recalled this part! there was even a lawsuit against them, but that only led to an extension of the warranty to 10 years or 150,000 miles, whichever comes first! our car only has 88,900 miles but because it is 11 years old, it won't be covered by a warranty! we are out $1,180 right at christmas time! and they did not get the car fixed until Dec. 27th! (kind of puts a damper on christmas plans when you don't have your car!):( I called Toyota in hopes that they would help us because they know this part is faulty, but I was met with an unsympathetic response! basically, "its out of warranty so it won't be covered!" Toyota needs to recall this part, and reimburse those who have already had to fix it, not only because it is their moral obligation to do so, but also because someone could be killed if they don't! please recall this part, be decent human beings, instead of being worried about your bottom line! there are more important things than money, Toyota! as mad as I am about being out the money to fix this problem (that Toyota knew about) I am glad that I am only out the money, rather than mourning the loss of a loved one.

- Pleasant Grove , UT, USA

problem #78

Sep 212013


  • 163,340 miles
Today my Toyota Rav4 2002 began to have automatic transmission shifting issues. It has an excessive jerk when shifted from park to reverse, it is slow to shift from 1 to 2, and it jerks like I was rear ended when shifting to the next gear. I contacted my local Toyota dealer and was told there are no outstanding recalls on my car, the ECM software was updated before I purchased it used. I asked if they had any issues with the transmission on this model and year and I was told "no". they recommended I bring it in for a diagnostic check for $104 just to check it out. Afterwards I thought I would check the net. I found numerous threads regarding the 2001-3 ECM/transmission issue. It appears a number of owners have submitted complaints to NHTSA. Please add me. They are ignoring this issue and pretending they do not know anything about it.

- Fredonia, NY, USA

problem #77

Sep 142013

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 129,714 miles
Original owner of 2002 Toyota Rav4 AWD. Was driving home from a friend's house and stopped off near my home for an errand. Left the store, (car was running, family inside) and proceed to drive towards my house. The engine was running but the car was barely moving. The tach was at 4,000 and I was barely going 5 mph. Suddenly and without warning the car raced forward at a high rate of speed. I slammed on the brakes to avoid a rear-end collision. After it was safe to move, I stepped on the gas again and the car sluggishly moved at about 5mph again. The whole ride home (less than 5 minutes) the car was either slow or fast without much pressure on the accelerator. Upon arriving at home and trying to parallel park the car, I noticed that the transmission was sluggish and made loud noise when shifted into reverse. This wasn't normal and it troubled me. I looked up online the symptoms and saw the tsb and the class action lawsuit against Toyota. I never received any information on this. This is my first time hearing about this. Ok 10 years/150,000 miles from 1st drive. Here's my problem - I bought the car in 11/2001 - I am over the years and under the mileage, so I don't qualify" the class action lawsuit was settled in Jan/Feb 2012. Tell me what happens to the people who purchased their car before Jan/fen 2002 - are the out of luck" I am no longer driving this car till this is fixed and safe. Please NHTSA - make it a mandatory recall - over 250,000 SUV's are affected. Make it right - make it safe!!

- East Meadow, NY, USA

problem #76

Jun 242013

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 119,765 miles
While driving on hwy I85 at 70mph my Toyota Rav4 suddenly locked up and caused vehicle to skid off the road. Thankfully, no one was injured, but car was towed to mechanic and estimated that the transmission transfer case may be cause...since then I have learned that Toyota had a recall on their ECM for rav 4 cars 2001-2003 that resulted in transmission shifting problems yet I was never notified because my VIN number was N/a indicating that my car would not experience any of the transmission shifting problems commonly associated with this recall. Unfortunately, the transmission shifting and lock-up problems that I am having is directly related to the computer faulty design of Toyota's ECM and yet they are not taking any moral or financial responsibility for my repairs. I'm filing this complaint because there has to be other Toyota owners that were not informed about the ECM recall such as myself that also like me, could be driving along the road in a well maintained car and suddenly skid out of control perhaps next time causing a fatality that could be avoided! proper notification regardless of VIN numbers so consumers can have cars inspected specifically for recall issues would have been the right thing to do and potentially offset the car repair issues I currently face.

- Raleigh, NC, USA

problem #75

Mar 202013

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 52,231 miles


Trans began to race, while car was moving slowly. Shifting became slow and loud. Acted like it was stuck in the low gears and was having difficulty shifting from 1 to 2 to 3, etc. The trans was laboring to make the necessary shift from the low to the higher gears have not driven car since that date except for analysis, etc.. to date, the various experts (joke) ( Toyota included ) say I need either the ECM, trans., or both the current price for repair is $6,775 + tax ( this was a special price that was quoted by a Toyota dealer ) I have dealt with the car dealer, Toyota(Corp) sales managers, etc and, to a person, received their sympathy, but, no support whatsoever. How is it possible for this Corp. To continue to refuse to correct an obvious fraud ( they new abt this problem since day one ) and continue to refuse to provide corrective steps" I bought this auto in Aug of 2011 with 47,00 miles on it. I drove it for 4,400 miles when the trans. Failed. Now, having learned about the prob. With this model, how is it possible that this auto was sold without any of the problems ever being disclosed at the time of the sale ? as a matter of fact, it was stated that "this car will last me a lifetime, given its low mileage and pristine condition " I have learned that Toyota issued a directive in 2001( ") that extended the warranty to 10years or 150,000mls, , whichever comes first. I then found out that I was not entitled to any assistance as I was outside the 10 year period. How is it they can use this logic when they have acknowledged that a problem exists and one that will not go away or correct itself regardless of time or mileage? knowing the inherent problems with the auto, the manufacturer should be held accountable and correct all problems without any exclusions or fine print items.

- Phila, PA, USA

problem #74

Apr 012009

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 84,000 miles
In 2009, 2010, and 2011 my 2002 Toyota Rav4 exhibited sharp, rough shifting into and out of gear, often when on the freeway. The vehicle also had a check engine light that repeatedly came on. I was initially advised by a non-Toyota repair shop that the issue was with the transmission and it had to be replaced. However, upon taking the car to a Toyota dealership they stated the problem was with the ECM. In 2009 they re-programmed the ECM, in 2010 they re-programmed the ECM and in 2011 (after the extended warranty was issued by Toyota Corp) they replaced the ECM. They never did any service on the transmission. Now in April 2013 just 17months after they replaced the ECM it happens again and they tell me I need a new transmission and I have to pay for it because it's out of the extended warranty. Since the ECM was throwing the transmission in & out of gear for 3 years, isn't it obvious that the transmission was damaged by the ECM? it was even mentioned in the service bulletins that the ECM was possibly causing damage to the transmission and the dealerships may also have to replace the transmission at the same time the ECM was replaced. Yet because they chose not to repair or replace the transmission on my car in 2011 while it was under warranty, I now have to pay for what should have been done in the first place. Toyota has been aware of this problem since 2006 yet they never issued a recall or notified owners until a class action lawsuit was filed. Toyota needs to satisfy their customers by issuing a recall and admitting that both the ECM and transmission need to be replaced on any 2001-2003 Rav4 that experiences rough shifting, or shifting in & out of gear, or codes that reflect a problem with the ECM or transmission. This is dangerous for drivers and Toyota is negligent in preventing injuries and deaths due to a known defect.

- North Las Vegas, NV, USA

problem #73

Dec 062012


  • 140,002 miles
This past summer the 2002 rav 4 started giving indications that something might not be right. The car had always gotten its required mileage maintenance which was also due at the time. So those things were done. However, over the last three weeks the following started: --the engine light came on, then off; --there was hesitation when accelerating/ a harsh jerk and shift when changing gears --the vehicle would sometimes slip back into neutral and stall while driving three independent Toyota-certified technicians diagnosed that there is a problem with the transmission, so we took it to darcars Toyota where the car was purchased. The technician there confirmed the diagnosis but said we needed to contact the warranty enhancement department. After placing me on hold for about 5 minutes, she told me that the car had exceeded the time for the warranty by about 3 months and therefore nothing could be done. Is Toyota willing to jeopardize the long-term customer loyalty and more importantly, the safety of their customers, just because the car chose to display its problems 3 months later?

- Silver Spring, MD, USA

problem #72

Aug 012012


  • 88,000 miles
On starting, the car the battery light came on and stayed on. A month or so later I noticed a clunking in the transmission as the automatic went to a higher gear. This problem still remains.

- Valrico, FL, USA

problem #71

Oct 242012

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 125,000 miles
I was driving my 2002 Toyota Rav4 down the interstate when the check engine light came on at the same time that the RPM's of the vehicle began escalating far beyond where they normally would. After testing the vehicle at different speeds, I determined that the car would not shift from fourth to fifth gear. Took it to my local mechanic, who determined that there is nothing wrong with my transmission. What's wrong is that the electronic control module (ECM) that controls the transmission had failed. He contacted a local Toyota dealer to see if he could source the part and discovered that it was a known failure and we needed to take the car to the dealership. We did so, where we were told because we purchased the car new in may of 2002 (ten years, five months ago) that they were refusing to repair the car's ECM as it fell outside of their 'adjusted' warranty period. I contacted Toyota's corporate customer assistance, where I was told that yes, Toyota knows that the part is going to fail. They extended the warranty to cover more of the cars that would be affected. However, since I purchased my car five months longer than their arbitrary ten year coverage period regardless of the fact that the mileage of the car falls far below the listed coverage that they are not going to do anything to repair my vehicle. Not only that, but the dealership quoted $1400 for the ECM repair and another $4800 for the transmission - saying that the transmission had to be replaced, even though they hadn't inspected it (I asked!!) and I had already had an independent mechanic check it out and said that it was fine. I do not understand how it is okay for Toyota to sell millions of people cars with known safety defects and say that they are not responsible for the repair - knowing that if the repair isn't made, that people will be killed driving these cars.

- Dallas, TX, USA

problem #70

Sep 212011

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 133,000 miles
Harsh shifting and jerking, particularily 1st & 2nd gear slow to accelerate launching and bucking hard engagement when put in reverse revs up from 2 to 3 - 4 rpms.

- Marietta, GA, USA

problem #69

Aug 012011


  • 121,000 miles
Toyota 2002 Rav4, automatic transmission problem when switching into first / second gear, car will hiccup, and or not accelerate as expected. Aamco transmission specialists confirmed defective ECM module failure, and require a full transmission rebuilt. Toyota apparanty knows about this problem, and has issued service advisory, but no recall. Problem can resurface any anytime, very high potential for accidents as car will fail to accelerate or just stall when entering intersections and or freeways.

- Leesburg, VA, USA

problem #68

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 #67

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 #66

Oct 262010

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 114,000 miles
Auto: 2002 Toyota Rav4 issue: ECU or ECM complaint: Toyota refuses to repair any transmission damages associated with the faulty computer part. Description: When pressing the gas while accelerating from a complete stop, the transmission will not shift properly. Jerky movements in the lowest gears and reverse; sluggish when pedal fully pressed. Current resolve: Toyota will replace the ECM, though the part will take 2-3 weeks due to high demands. Toyota will not repair any other transmission damages associated with the faulty part.

- Los Angeles, CA, USA

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