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:
0 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
84,415 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 (Page 1 of 2)

problem #23

Jun 182014

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 220,380 miles


Defective engine control module (ECM). As a result of sending the wrong signal to the transmission, it got ruined and the transmission had to be rebuilt. If there was a recall on the ECM for the 2002 Toyota Rav4, I was not aware of it, or I still did not owned the vehicle.

- Allentown, PA, USA

problem #22

Sep 192012

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 100,600 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Rav4. The contact stated that the vehicle jerked abnormally while driving and would lose acceleration. The vehicle was taken to the dealer who performed a diagnostic which located the failure at the electronic control module (ECM). The manufacturer was made aware of the failure and denied any assistance with the repairs. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure and current mileage was 100,600. Updated 10/11/12

- Fairfield, CA, USA

problem #21

Apr 152011


  • miles
I have a 2002 Toyota Rav4. About a month ago it started intermittently skipping/jerking and being stuck in gear. I took it to two Toyota dealerships, the first one informed me of a factory warranty extension for the ECU for my vehicle, but because the check engine light is not on they cannot get any codes, the second dealership told me the same thing as well as the Toyota company. The warranty is for 10yrs or 100,000 miles whichever comes first. I have 70,000 miles and it will be 10yrs the 25th of this month. I have researched this problem online and have found that hundreds of people have the same problem with this vehicle. Do I have any options to have this taken care of, asap because of the 10yr warranty that will no longer cover me for this?

- Fairmont, WV, USA

problem #20

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 #19

Jun 012010

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 128,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Rav4. While driving approximately 55 mph, the contact heard a grinding sound coming from the front end of the vehicle followed by the vehicle stalling. The vehicle was towed to the contacts home and was not taken to the dealer for diagnostic testing or repairs. The contact had previously taken the vehicle to the dealer for a similar failure where the technicians replaced the flywheel. The vehicle was not repaired. The approximate failure mileage was 128,000. Updated 04/19/12 updated 04/25/12

- High Point, NC, USA

problem #18

Jun 182009


  • 172,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Rav4. The contact stated that while driving the check engine light illuminated, and she was unable to shift gears. The vehicle was taken to the dealer who stated that the failure was within the electric control unit. The vehicle was taken to a foreign garage specialist who replaced the electronic control unit. The contact received a letter from the manufacturer concerning a warranty enhancement for the ECU failure, but the manufacturer denied reimbursement since the vehicle was over the 150,000 mile warranty enhancement program. The failure mileage was 172,000. The current mileage was 188,000. Updated 03/07/11 updated 11/28/11

- Laguna Beach, CA, USA

problem #17

May 202008


  • 33,000 miles


The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Rav4. While the contact was driving approximately between 30-40 mph, the oil pressure warning light illuminated intermittently. The failure would occur at various speeds. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer for inspection. The technician was unable to locate a problem. The failure progressed over a period of time. Recently, the "service engine" warning light illuminated. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic for diagnostic testing. The technician detected an engine oil sludge and low oil pressure. Also, he recommended the engine be replaced. The contact stated that the manufacturer should be liable for the repair; however, the manufacturer refused to take financial responsibility. The vehicle was at the dealer and had not been repaired. The contact planned to have the vehicle towed to his residence. The failure mileage was approximately 33,000.

- Thorndale, PA, USA

problem #16

Aug 012009


  • 117,500 miles
2002 Toyota Rav4 started hesitating on initial acceleration and bolting when the gear caught 2nd. Was pulling out into intersection and nearly T-boned by Ford Expedition. Brought to transmission specialist. No engine light, no code. Read about potential ECM problem. Brought to Toyota and spent $1400 to replace ECM.

- Broussard, LA, USA

problem #15

Jan 132008


  • 56,000 miles
In 2003 we bought a brand new 2002 Toyota Rav4. In 2007, the engine seized up at 56,000 miles. We took it to Toyota and they told us it would cost $7,000 because they needed to replace the engine. After gathering all our maintenance history and much deliberation Toyota agreed to replace the engine but we had to pay for the labor ($2500); we agreed. After they did the work, we heard a soft constant beating sound coming from the engine. When we took it back, we were told that sound was normal when a new engine is installed and it will go away -- it didn't. 18 months and 10,000 miles later, the engine died again. Baffled at how two separate engines can die we took it to our personal mechanic. He explained to us that the engine was never replaced, but rebuilt. We took it back to the dealership and they refused to help us. So did Toyota Corp. They have a settlement for defective engines for the same generation engines (1997-2002) for almost every model. Except the Rav4. What makes it worse was I was told I was getting a new engine. At the same time my personal mechanic had found me a used engine (12,000 mi) for 2300 including installation. Had I knew they were going to rebuild it, I would have went with that option. So they screwed me out of 2500, a car, and a chance at actually fixing the car.

- Fords, NJ, USA

problem #14

Feb 212010


  • 104,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Rav4. The contact was driving approximately between 35-45 mph on normal road conditions, proceeding to a traffic stop signal. The engine reved excessively high. The transmission exhibited a harsh shift as a result of an unexpected acceleration. The driver was able to continue in operation with caution. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer for diagnostic testing. The failure was contributed to the engine control module (ECM). The vehicle vehicle has not been repaired at this time. The failure mileage was 104,000. Updated 11/16/10.

- Riva, MD, USA

problem #13

Nov 012009


  • 82,170 miles


I have a 2002 Toyota rav 4 with 82K miles on it. At the beginning of November, 2009, I was driving my vehicle and it began to jerk violently when I accelerated between 1st and 2nd gears. I had difficulty maintaining control and avoided an accident. Subsequently, I took the car to the dealer and learned that I had a common problem for 2002 rav 4's -- a faulty engine control module. I researched the problem and learned that many people have also had this problem in 2001 and 2002 rav 4's. Toyota is not taking responsibility for this problem. This should be a recall item.

- Colchester, VT, USA

problem #12

Oct 312009


  • miles
I have a Toyota Rav4 2002. I am now experiencing a nightmare. A few weeks ago, my car started shifting gears, shaking, and the engine light went on. I brought it to hyannis Toyota. The csr told me it was a defective computer. The car was under warranty and they would replace it. Approx. 3 weeks later, my car started with the same problem. Shaking, moving into a different gear and the engine light went on. I brought it back to hyannis Toyota and was told, "this is not the same problem." You need a new coil. It will cost you $250. Also, I had to rent a car. Of course at my own expense. Now, I do not know how to deal with this company. If the computer was defective, and was replaced. Why am I still experiencing the same problems?

- Centerville, MA, USA

problem #11

Sep 012008


  • 80,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Toyota rav 4. while accelerating from an idle position, the vehicle began hesitating and stalled. The vehicle also hesistated 30 to 45 seconds when shifting into second gear and engaging the accelerator to it's full capacity. The dealer flushed out the transmission fluid and replaced it; however, the failure recurred. The mechanic later stated that the electronic control module (ECM) was defective. The manufacturer will not assume the repair costs; however, the contact stated that since there is a defect the repair should be free. The failure mileage was 80,000 and the current mileage was 96,000.

- Brentwood, TN, USA

problem #10

Apr 012008


  • miles
Check engine light kept coming on; I would carry it to Toyota dealership and they would re-set. This happened more than twice. Finally, what I thought and was told that the transmission blew, but found out later that is just sounded and reacted as if the transmission was gone. But was the engine control module which had failed. Of course the warranty was off and after contacting Toyota I get no assistance. This is some of the information I found out: ) that Toyota hq has been aware for at least a few (2,3?) years that there was a defect in the design of the ECM installed in 2001/2002 Toyota Rav4?S > > 2) that the defect causes problems with transmission or gear-changing mechanism > > 3) that the resulting transmission or gear-changing problems are not due to "normal wear and tear" of the vehicles. They are caused directly by the defect in the ECM. > > 4) that the resulting transmission or gear-changing problems have caused Toyota Rav4 owners to spend significant amounts of money. (a casual read of owner complaints suggests many of them have spent anywhere between $3000 and $5000). > > 5) that Toyota has failed to compensate owners for costs of fixing the problems caused by a defect they were aware of. I have had to replace a transmission and a engine in this car.

- Jacksonville, FL, USA

problem #9

Oct 062008


  • 91,850 miles
I bought a Toyota Rav4 2002 at the dealer "Toyota of alahambra" and I been having a problem to many times with the computer engine light come on. When I take the car to the dealer they told me that nothing was wrong. They turned off the light and said and said that everything was ok, this happened three times. Recently I had problems again with the computer engine and they charged $1,200 dollars to fix it and they told me that was my fault that I was taking off in 2nd gear but I never use the 2nd gear. What I know this cars had problems with the engine computer. The name of the dealer is "Toyota-Scion of glendale" 1260 S. brand blvd. Glendale, California 91204. As I know we have 170 complaints about this Rav4 Toyota cars. Fortunately I have not any problem with death, or fire, or crash, but I am worry about this computer problems, when I am driving the car I am not comfortable driving any more, can you tell me that can I do about. Thank you very much for your attention.

- Los Angeles, CA, USA

problem #8

Sep 092008


  • 88,000 miles
Our Rav4 began to have problems shifting, and the check engine light was on. Took to local dealer. First visit resulted in tune-up items. Dealership treated it as an engine-related problem. Check engine came back on again the same afternoon. On second visit, dealership kept car overnight to drive it while it was cold. We were told that we had a bad catalytic converter, and that this would have to be replaced before any further diagnosis could occur. The cc was only three years old, already having been replaced under warranty. They had already reprogrammed the ECM. Per a Toyota service campaign. After the cc replacement, car is still not shifting properly, and is getting worse. Dealership advised us that we need an ECM replacement, at a cost of $1300. After the fact, we found Toyota tsb TC002-06, which describes the exact issues our Rav4 is having. Toyota admits in the tsb that the ECM of the '01 through '03 Rav4's can cause the harsh shifting that we are seeing, and that Toyota made changes to the "manufacturing process to reduce the possibility of this condition occurring". the recommendation is the replacement of the ECM. It cannot be reprogrammed to eliminate this problem. The result of this ECM failure is that the car is no longer drivable, as the transmission does not shift properly at all, and it constantly looses tension on its clutch pack, resulting in loss of power to the road. The condition gets worse over a short time. In only two weeks, the car will not stay in any single gear when driving. A search of this issue on the internet found many other people having the same problem. Often, the ECM failure causes physical transmission failure. The dealership will not stand behind their faulty diagnosis, nor will they make Toyota honor the warranty, which is 80,000 miles or 8 years. We are under the years, but over by 8,000 miles. How can this not be treated as a safety issue" is it not serious enough when your car slips out of gear in traffic unexpectedly"

- Jacksonville, FL, USA

problem #7

Aug 072008


  • 97,900 miles
Toyota Rav4 2002, 98367 miles, taken to Toyota dealer for recall on ECM reprogram, after done the recall by Toyota dealer, transmission shifting very erratically. Took car back to dealer and they said that transmission needs to be replaced. Also it is dangerous to drive due to loss of transmission.

- Tulsa, OK, USA

problem #6

Feb 112008

RAV4 4WD 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 58,500 miles
Car tries to stalls.

- Waldorf, MD, USA

problem #5

Dec 102007

RAV4 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 97,300 miles
My 2002 Rav4 has been diagnosed as having engine oil sludge and needs total replacement. Oil changes have been performed between 3,000 - 4,000 miles.

- Milford, OH, USA

problem #4

Nov 052007

RAV4 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 88,250 miles
Faulty engine control module. It has failed and caused transmission to fail as well. After $4K replacement transmission is shot again. Transmission misses gears and has stalled in the middle of intersection. Nothing was done to correct. Dealership is stating to replace transmission first then come back to fix computer. For other complaints of similar nature see:

- Issaquah, WA, USA

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