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:
7 / 0
Average Mileage:
83,025 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 engine problems

engine problem

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2002 Toyota RAV4 Owner Comments

problem #20

Jun 262015


  • 33,000 miles


I was driving my Toyota and my wife was a passenger. All of a sudden, a lady ran a stop sign and swerved and hit us head-on. We could not get out of my vehicle, the doors were jammed and the vehicle was on fire. The fire dept. And police came and quickly put the fire out and pried the front doors open. None of the airbags in my vehicle deployed. I incurred severe injuries to my head, chest, neck and left arm. My Toyota was totaled and the other driver was cited for the wreck. I have been in and out of the hospital several times since the wreck happened and if my airbags would have deployed, I might not have been so severely injured. My Toyota was totaled and the other driver was cited for the wreck. I would like to know why none of the airbags deployed in my vehicle. I probably have takata airbags in my 2002 Toyota Rav4 which did not work.

- Elkview, WV, USA

problem #19

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 #18

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

problem #17

Jun 122015


  • 82,264 miles


2002 Toyota rav 4 engine control module/transmission failed on 82,264 miles, erratic driving, very dangerous to drive. Toyota is aware of this problem but not doing any thing to resolve. Spent almost $1000 to replace the ECU alone, may need complete transmission replacement.

- Orlando, FL, USA

problem #16

Jun 172011

RAV4 4-cyl

  • miles
Computer fails.

- Vega Alta, PR, USA

problem #15

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 #14

Jan 022015

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 95,000 miles


ECM malfunction.

- Saint Louis, MO, USA

problem #13

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 #12

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 #11

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 #10

Apr 282014


  • 115,800 miles


When I went on merger ramp on highway.the car not accelerate enough or transmission not shift correctly. The car behind me hit my car.

- Braintree, MA, USA

problem #9

Oct 062013

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 94,230 miles
Attempting to enter highway, car lost power, eventually kicked in, immediately brought car to dealer. They serviced fuel injection, fuel system, spark plugs. Found no problem with transmission. 4 weeks following repair, hesitation happened again, this time check engine light came on, returned to dealer and was told the transmission and ECM unit needed replacement. Going through all my previous service records, came across a service ticket dated 05/18/2012, showing a service performed on a faulty ECM unit. Toyota was aware of this problem, but never informed consumers that the faulty units could affect the transmission, and driving ability of the vehicle. I am stuck with a $5,000. Repair bill, but I also could have been involved in an accident, had I been merging onto a busier highway. There have been many complaints filed, but yet no action taken by the national highway traffic administration...will it take a loss of life, or serious injury before action is taken?

- Calverton, NY, USA

problem #8

Sep 042013

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 83,504 miles
On September 9, 2013 while driving my rav 4 to work, I experienced a strange behavior, the car suddenly stopped moving and I had to press on gas several times and it would move as if like it is choked, in a minute everything went normal as it has always been, I was a little worried but then after driving about 2 miles and stopping at a stop light, this thing happens again and when I try to push on gas it started moving a little and then there is this "thud" sound as if something was holding wheels of my rav 4 from moving and then suddenly it let the wheels run. I took the car to Toyota service center (Toyota Scion of concord) and been told that my car needs a ECM to begin with and that Toyota has a tsb out there as well "extended warranty" which in my case is expired since my car is 2002 and the warranty is 10Y/150 K miles, whichever is earlier. I am concerned as to why this discrepancy, Toyota knows or had known over a period of time that their vehicle had an issue and they cant be putting life's of buyers at risk by not doing a recall of that. Please I am requesting that some action needs to be taken on this and such continued acts of concealing information with owners / sub-owners of vehicles and that this condition leaves at lot of lives at risk besides financial loss.

- Charlotte, NC, USA

problem #7

Oct 302012

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 120,000 miles
First the engine light came on then while trying to accelerate, the car hesitates and then shifts hard and jerks the car forward. The safety issue is that the car hesitates and acceleration is affected so it is unsafe to try to get on the highway with oncoming cars behind you. I talked to Toyota about this issue but they stated my car was not covered by the recall of (harsh shift condition and/or malfunction indicator light).

- Paola, KS, USA

problem #6

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 #5

Mar 182013

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 160,000 miles
About a week ago my car began having issues shifting gears. If I pulled into a turn lane I would slow and start creating a danger for both me and other drivers. I took my car to a transmission specialist, with over 30 years of experience. He let me know that 2002 Rav4's have a recall on the computer that controls the transmission. He also said that in certain cases he knew Toyota had replaced the transmission as well. I took it to the dealership where the computer was replaced and I was told that the transmission had an extended warranty of 10 years or 150,000 miles. My car was 19 months and 10,000 miles over the extended warranty. The transmission specialist let me know that the transmission was directly damaged by the computer. When I called the manufacturer they let me know that they didn't agree with the program, thought that it should have been a recall instead of extended warranty but there was nothing they could do for me. The manufacturer representative also let me know that there are others in my same situation.

- Graton, CA, USA

problem #4

Nov 012012

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 80,000 miles
My check engine light came on in November. I had it checked out by numerous places. They all told me it was my oxygen sensor (bank 1 sensor 1), so I replaced that twice. My check engine light has still not shut off. I have been having to purchase gas daily and car is not running as well.

- Indianapolis, IN, USA

problem #3

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 #2

Nov 012012


  • 165,000 miles
Out of the blue while in rush hour traffic, my car started shaking, jerking, slamming into gear, not accelerating, and at times it felt like the brake was being applied when I stepped the gas. When I first took it to the dealership a day after this happened the first time, they could not find anything because they could not duplicate the issue during a test drive. Literally minutes after picking my car up and driving off the dealership lot, it started happening again in stop-and-go traffic. This time it was much worse and I was afraid as the person behind me almost rear-ended me. I took it back to the dealership and they tell me I either need a new ECM or a new transmission. But after researching this on the internet, it is a huge issue that is happening to a lot of 2002 Toyota Rav4 owners. And we as the owners are at the mercy of the unknown - this happens out of no where and is horribly unsafe and yet Toyota takes no responsibility.

- Lakewood, CO, USA

problem #1

Aug 072012

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 100,000 miles
We had just left a parking lot in our 2002 rav 4 and as we came up to speed the transmission began to jerk and try to shift into different gears. I all of a sudden had no power and a truck coming down the road almost hit us. As I depressed the accelerator the car revved up and all of a sudden engaged and spun out. Very scary and we were lucky!.

- Pinole, CA, USA

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