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.


pretty bad
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
99,711 miles
Total Complaints:
69 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace engine control module (29 reports)
  2. not sure (16 reports)
  3. replace ECU (9 reports)
  4. replace emc/rebuild tranny (4 reports)
  5. replace ecm computer (3 reports)
  6. repair ecu $ 500.00 + shipping (2 reports)
2002 Toyota RAV4 engine problems

engine problem

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2002 Toyota RAV4 Owner Comments (Page 2 of 4)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #49

Jan 302010

RAV4 4x4

  • Automatic transmission
  • 155,000 miles


The check engine light was on, (error code 750) and shifting was late, then sudden, like holding the clutch in too long, then popping it out suddenly, in the automatic transmission. The dealer wanted $5,250+ to fix it, or I could just do the ECM and hope the tranny would be fixed. I'd had the ECM reprogrammed 3 years ago, according to the records. Sales said they would give me $2000 for the car as is. All the new Toyotas are too long and too low to the ground to be useful to me, and that was just not enough money. Bluebook is about $7k. A local foreign car shop offered to fix just the ECM for $1700, including re-diagnosing the check engine light. The closest place to rebuild the ECM is 3 hours away, and they don't have any in stock. I called my dealer in CA who told me to disconnect the negative battery terminal cable for 10 minutes, then reconnect it. If the lights and horn still work, take it for a test drive. So far, so good. Shifting is fine. Wish my local dealer had told me that. The foreign auto mechanic says it may not last. At least, it is not doing more damage.

Update from Apr 3, 2010: Resetting the ECM by unplugging it- disconnecting the battery- worked for a couple of days, then it was worse than ever. I quit driving it, rode my bicycle everywhere, thinking about what to do. Found Dave in Winona, MN, who would rebuild the ECM for $65, with a lifetime guarantee. I googled the part to find out how to remove it, took out the 7 screws (need a 10mm socket wrench), sent it in for ~ $10 including insurance. Dave sent it back right away. THe car is drivable now, but still is late into shifting around 20 mph. Cheap cure may be Lucas Transmission Oil/Fluid, but the RAV4 transmission can't be overfilled without causing damage. Have to disconnect the rubber tube and run the car for maybe 30 seconds, so transmission fluid spills out, then put in the Lucas. So I'm not a mechanic. Thought it would be easier to siphon it out, but couldn't get a maybe 1/2" tube to go down around the corner of the tube the dipstick for the transmission is in, so can't siphon it.

This website has unreliable data. I first posted this on March 9, 2010, and the date on it has been changed. I copied out the complaints when I posted this, and have an email saying I posted this first complaint on March 9. Clicking on the link in that email brought me to my complaint on this website, with the number of the complaint as 39, and the date as Jan. 10, 2010.

Update from Apr 6, 2010: Put in Lucas transmission fluid, not making the fluid level any more than it was this way. I put down a beach towel under the car so I could get underneath to get to the transmission pan plug. I took out the pan plug with a 10 mm hexagonal allen wrench, caught the fluid in a bottle, put the plug back in, took out the transmission fluid dip stick, poured the lucas into the tube- works faster if you start the car every now and again for a few seconds and move it a few feet. Then poured the original transmission fluid into the lucas bottle so I would know how much NOT to put pack in. Put the rest of the fluid back in. Everything works fine now. Whew! Dave and Lucas, cost $85 total, would have been $5,000 + with the dealer. Thank You God.

It would have been better to remove the transmission fluid pan screws with a 10mm socket wrench, and clean the pan, and put in new fluid. I wasn't ready to have car problems, and wasn't sure that the gasket would still be good, and didn't have new fluid there, and didn't have the car jacked up or in the air, so didn't do that.

- , Austin, TX, USA

problem #48

Feb 192010

RAV4 L 3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 102,400 miles

purchased used from car lot, had problem less than 3 weeks after purchase.

- , Castle Rock, CO, USA

problem #47

Feb 022010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 104,000 miles

My car was surging and I took it to 3 mechanics and they all said it was something with the transmission but they couldn't work on it. When engine light went on I was told to take it to a transmission place and they had it for several days testing and discovered that the computer needed to be replaced. I am wondering if this is another case of Toyota ignoring a problem with the computers.

- , Austin, TX, USA

problem #46

Jan 032010

RAV4 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 99,419 miles


Well Our Rav4 has cost us money on this transmission issue. I have some mechanical experience and looked into the transmission and solenoids. The bad shifting problem Will not damage your Transmission so do not have it rebuilt. The slipping is the torque converter and not the internal clutch packs. It locks in 2nd or 3rd and try’s for 1st which is the hard hit or bang you get. Have the computer changed first and go from there. The shops will tell you more but hold out for the NEW computer replacement it may have a better chip set. This is our first and last Toyota. As one said in the reports here, Toyota and a notice sent out in 2006 as to this problem. It not only happens to the Rav4 but other Toyota’s too. I hope the company pays for this one way or another. It’s sad that someone has to die before changes are made. But that is the system created by the big boys. I’m sad to here that so may people had to pay Thousands of dollars to get on the road again. I hope the people or the big boys take Toyota to court for having our safety and well-being jeopardized.


- , Grand Forks, BC, Canada

problem #45

Feb 052010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 138,800 miles

I have a 2002 Toyota Rav4 with about 138,000 miles, and one Friday night after work I was at a stop light and when it was time to go I hit the gas and I barely moved, also when it did go, the RPM's raced high then kicked into gear hard. So I drove it right home and called my machanic first thing in the morning. After they worked on it for most of the day they gave a print out of the problem. Which was some code numbers and a part number that had to be replaced, the Engine Control Module. They told me if the problem persists I would have to take it to a Toyota dealer and they would have to fix it, because they have this certain tool. They also told me that I would have to drive my car for 30minutes with this problem before Toyota would even fix it (not so). I should not of drove it at all. The Engine Control Module tells the transmission to shift and if it's given a bad signal then it could ruin the transmission.

I started searching on the internet for the part number to see what to expect to pay. Because my machanic advised it would be well over $1000.00. I Googled the part number that I was given and one of the links that came up was carcomplaints .com. I was directed to complaint #100, where the person seemed to have the same problem as I did and he found a company in NY called Check Engine ETC. I also found this company on EBAY Motors.

In a nutshell, the ECM has to be taken out and sent to Check Engine ETC. and they reprogram it and send it right back.

I sent my ECM to them on a Wednesday and it was back on a Friday...and that has been about a week ago and so far so good. My car is running smooth again. :)

So big Thank you's go out to the person in Pueblo Co, who found the company in NY, and for AutoBeef, and also Thank you to Check Engine ETC....great job.

- , Cranston, RI, USA

problem #44

Oct 212009

RAV4 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 117,000 miles

Scary problem. Jumps and starts in fits. It was very sluggish upon pressing gas. I found out that the ECM problem could ruin the transmission if the module is not changed immediately and of course ECM was out of warranty. This should be a recall. Extremely Dangerous.

- , Broussard, LA, US

problem #43

Jan 222010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles


Last friday after leaving work I noticed my truck was not accelerating when I pressed the gas pedal after coming from a stop. I would have to hold it down and wait for it to get going. Then besides not wanting to accelerate, it would then alternate between jerking forward and hesitating before it actually got going. I was scared because I had to get on the highway and merge into traffic. I immediately drove to my machanic, He test drove it and also felt the hesitation and jerking. I had leave it to be diagnosed the next morning. He called and said the diagnostic test was not showing anything outside the transmission and with the actions it was most likely inside the transmission. By monday I found out a new transmission was $4,200 and used was $3K.

I bought this truck brand new and always took care of it, I was not pleased. My sis mentioned it might be under warranty and to also check the web. I saw all the posts on this site with the same problem and recommendations to REPLACE THE ECM. Go figure!? I called my toyota dealership who told me my warranty was up (5yrs/50K miles - which confused me because I read posts that it was 80k miles). of course I could not get thru to toyota headqurters because of this massive gas pedal recall. I felt very confident and told my mechanic to replace the ECM (at a cost of $1,300.00) since I immediately stopped driving it and therefore my transmission should not have been damaged. I just picked it up yesterday and it seems to be doing fine! will keep you posted! I just read a post that the ECM can be "repaired" for around $250 which I wish I had seen before but oh well. I will be pursuing this with toyota since from what i see they knew about this problem since 2006. I will be filing complaints with the BBB, the Attorney general and whoever else i can. Total cost to me: $1,300 for new ECM and $300 in car rental fees.

You MUST NOT keep driving it because then you WILL ruin your transmission!

- , Laurel, MD, US

problem #42

Jan 082010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 103,000 miles

OK, So here I am adding my Car to the List and I have only owned it for 3 days. I test drove it, took it to a local garage for checkup and all was well so I bought it. It was parked for 2 weeks before I came of vacation and its a pile of crap. The second i puled away it was in 2nd or 3rd gear , lifting my foot off I feel a clunk and it drops into first. OK... you may say, so don't drive it and get the ECM repaired or replaced. That's fine if I am in a western country. I live and work in Cambodia South East Asia. There is nobody here that can repair the ECM and Toyota want $1200 for a new one.

If there is anyone in South East Asia with a suggestion on getting it fixed I would love to hear it. Otherwise we should all just boycott Toyota.

- , Phnom Penh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

problem #41

Dec 162009

(reported on)


  • Automatic transmission
  • 69,111 miles

In April of 2007 I purchased a 2002 RAV4 from a dealership. In early June I received a recall notice from Toyota (not the dealership) about a recall and gave a campaign number I should mention at ANY Toyota service center to have it addressed,at no charge to me.It concerned reprogramming the ECM.Apparently the recall affected approx. 220,000 4cyl. 2001-2003 Rav4 and Highlanders.The campaign # is 6621J2 and I Googled that number with RECALL and found a PDF from a dealership in CA that outlined the details. Perhaps this can help someone with a claim.


problem #40

Jan 212007

RAV4 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 71,000 miles

I would like to share my story re:my 2002 Rav4 having ECM/transmission problems. Starting in January of 2007 I received the TSB that recalled the ECM and that it should be "reflashed". So I took my Rav4 to Gene Messer Toyota in Lubbock, TX to get the TSB work done. They reprogrammed my ECM and I went on my way.

Then in September of 2008 I returned to the dealership to have new brake pads installed. They informed me that my ECM needed "calibrating" and I should also service my transmission d/t fluid appearing dirty. I told them they had already recalibrated the ECM and they told me no they hadn't. So after going back and forth a few times and letting them know I had a receipt for the last time they reflashed it, they went ahead and reflashed it a second time (both times no charge, of course). And I had the brakes and transmission serviced, also.

Then in January of 2009 the idle started to act funny. The dealership thought my transmission was "slipping" and recommended recalibrating the ECM AGAIN. So they recalibrated it for the third time (fortunately at no cost).

Then finally the transmission started slipping and shifting poorly. From a stop, it was like starting in 2nd gear and then the car would shake for a while then catch gear and go. Fortunately, all this happened at 6 o'clock in the morning on my way to work and I was able to drive all the way to the opposite side of town without stopping until I reached the dealership. This was in February of 2009.

This time the dealership told me my ECM needed replacing and it would cost $1116.29 for a new one. AND if the ECM didn't fix the problem I would need a new transmission. So they put a new ECM on. I never got to drive the car, they just called me and told me the ECM didn't help and my transmission needed replacing. I asked if there were any options and they said to trade my car in and buy a new car from them. That wasn't an option for me, especially having only 10 payments left on my loan. So I told them to fix my car as I had no choice. The repair bill came up to $5552.16.

Since I always had all my work done at the dealership, I decided to start making some calls. I started by callling Toyota Corporate Service (1-800-331-4331). I told them my story and filed a complaint. They gave me the name and phone number of the Service Manager at Gene Messer Toyota here in Lubbock, TX. So I called the Svs Mgr and told him my story. He agreed to meet with me and the Cust. Svs. Rep at the dealership.

I told them that I believed they should give me the ECM and the transmission for free since it was a recalled (TSB) problem. Also, that I always had my Rav4 serviced at the dealership and it was the "right thing" to do as a respectable business. I then went on to say I would settle for the dealer to only pay for the transmission since it was THEIR ECM that tore up MY perfectly good transmission. If the ECM had not been recalled and I had not had it recallibrated as they suggested (3 times!), my transmission would still be intact. So the Svs Mgr said he would talk to his boss. I suggested that all three of us have a meeting on speaker-phone (since the Svs Mgr's boss wasn't here in Lubbock) so I could state my case to his boss (and they could pick the time most convenient for them). The Svs Mgr said he thought that would be a good idea and he would set up the meeting. So, the next day they asked me to come to the dealership. The Svs Mgr told me he talked to his boss (without letting me know he already met with him) and that Toyota didn't "set aside" money for situations like this. So I paid my bill and left the dealership feeling like I was asking for a "hand-out" or "charity" when in reality I just wanted the dealership or Toyota to do the respectable thing for their customers. THEIR ECM tore up MY transmisson!

So after borrowing money from my mom and selling my motorcycle I paid off my bill to Toyota!

Back to top

- , Ransom Canyon, TX, USA

problem #39

Aug 082006

RAV4 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles


A friend of mine has a 2001 rav4 automatic. He experienced the same problem and I mentioned to him about and he sent his ecm in also for repair, and its working good. Dealer charged about $1400.00 for this kind of repair where you can get the same thing done in lot less money and still get lifetime warranty.

- , Grand Prairie, TX, US

problem #38

Oct 152009

RAV4 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 125,000 miles


125,000 miles on my 2002 Toyota Rav4 and the ECM is toast, which is an apparent problem with EVERY OTHER SINGLE RAV4 OWNER IN AMERICA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


- , Deerfield, KS, USA

problem #37

Oct 172009

RAV4 L 1.4L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 55,300 miles

I really think that Toyota should be paying to replace the ecm control. My wife almost crashed her 2002 toyota rav 4 with only 55000 miles on it because the esc went bad. It cost me 1,800.00 to fix. If any person is suing toyota I will join you.

- , Tewksbury, MA, USA

problem #36

Oct 162009


  • Automatic transmission
  • 81,000 miles

Today while driving my Rav 4 the car would not accelerate and when it did, it jerked the car. It did this all the way home where it is parked until I find out where to get $1100 to fix it.

- , Hartford, CT, USA

problem #35

Oct 012009

RAV4 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 59,878 miles

Our transmission began hard shifting overnight, I took it in the next day, our transmission specialist took it to Toyota dealership who reflashed it and the problem came back the next day. So I took it back to the trans. shop where we had to have it rebuilt for $3000. And our trans. specialist said the Faulty ECM was the cause for the transmission failure. So, we need to begin a class action lawsuit against Toyota for their faulty ECM that is causing us 2001-2003 rav 4 owners to have to rebuild our transmissions prematurely. This should be a recall product and is a serious safety issue that needs to be addressed. Please let me know if you feel the same and any suggestions as to have we should proceed. I am ready to start contacting attorneys. This is ridiculous. We should be getting at least 150k miles before having transmission problems. This a joke. We should be getting at least 150k miles before having transmission problems. And, I don't even know if this will solve the problem as Toyota won't replace the Engine Control Module since it's not giving a code and they are saying that it is OK. Toyota needs to pay for their faulty emc and should pay for a new transmission, as it is directly related to the bad emc.

Feel free to contact me anyone has any questions.

I am thinking of selling it before this problem happens again

Very disgruntled 2002 Rav 4 owner


- , Lake Balboa, CA, USA

problem #34

Sep 242009


  • Automatic transmission
  • 136,000 miles

2002 - no problem until beginning of September 09 when engine started hesitating, check engine light came on. Took to two repair shops was told need a catalytic converter, but was not an emergency to have fixed. Two weeks later the car stalled and would not start. The error message was that the car was immobilized. After three tows to different shops, the car ended up at the dealership. They said I needed an EMC and that they see this all the time in the Rav 4 2001 and 2002 models. $1700 later we will see if this fixes it.

- , Plainville, MA, USA

problem #33

Aug 312009


  • Automatic transmission
  • 81,000 miles

I just wanted to add to the list of complaints about this car. My transmission also started to slip, called the dealership and had it towed there just for them to tell me they wouldn't help with the cost of fixing it because it was over 81,000 miles. Apparently the dealership is aware of this problem with the electronic control module being bad and causing the transmission to go bad but will only replace the ECM if the car is under 80,000 miles. Needless to say I had to tow it again back to my own garage and my boyfriend found a place on the internet in Tennessee that rebuilt the ECM, we had to ship it there and have it shipped back. The garage is going to flush the tranny fluid and put the ECM back in and hopefully the car will run okay. They said tranny ran hot and some damage done but should be okay for a while. Trading it in while the trading is still good. Ill never buy another Toyota again. Very disappointed in them. Bummer cause I loved my rav4.

- , Herkimer, NY, USA

problem #32

Aug 122009

RAV4 L 1.8L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 83,000 miles

Transmission started to jerk on the interstate. Had big rig honking at me because my RAV4 would not change into gear. Problem: ECU. I call TOYOTA--Claim they have never heard of this problem. Took it to Toyota in Mission Hills,CA--COST $1,800 to repair. and if problem does not go away Transmission will have to be repaired.-COST $4,000.00-My opinion:Toyota developed a way to generate more revenue for their company. You dont buy a car within 5 years, Its ok...You'll be back...Will never buy Toyota again.

- , San Fernando, CA, US

problem #31

Aug 152009

RAV4 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 115,000 miles

I just want to add my complaint to the mounting number of people having problems with their 2001-2003 RAV4. I have the exact same symptoms and unfortunately my son was 11 hours away from home when the symptoms began. I had just taken the car in for servicing prior to his roadtrip for a sefety check and minor maintenance, so I am particularly angry that I was not even alerted to this potential problem. I hope more people find this site and register their complaint with Toyota and the Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) - Possibly a class action suit will evolve if nothing is done about this potential safety hazard.

- , San Carlos, CA, USA

problem #30

Sep 012008

RAV4 Limited

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles

Just like all the other complaints about this make/model, I too have ECM problems. Dealership suggested all the same solutions but ACT like they never heard about this problem before, keep telling me to resolve the issue with contacting Toyota directly.

Contacted Toyota and no luck there, just an apology. I told them that if I get into an accident, because driving my "mis-shifting" car is a TOTAL safety hazard, that the least they could do would be to send my family condolence flowers because they're too cheap to fix their vehicles. I am going to write BBB then research govt. orgs. to find help to solve this ongoing problem.

- , Boscobel, WI, USA

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