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 4 of 4)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #9

May 132008

RAV4 L 2.0L 4

  • Automatic transmission
  • 106,500 miles


Car started shifting erratically and whole car would shutter when I tried to accelerate from a standstill. Then for awhile everything would work just fine. As it got worse and shifting became more erratic, I took it in to Crown Toyota and they checked everything with their diagnostic check for $69 and they said everything looked fine and they could find nothing wrong. Did this twice and the second time had the fluid changed as they thought that might be the problem for $164. Neither time could they find anything wrong. Three days after the fluid was changed, it started to seem like it was slipping when starting from a standstill or it had no acceleration like the emergency brake was on. Then the check engine light came on. So I thought that was good in that maybe they would find something this time. Sure enough when I took it in, they said the code showed that the engine control module needed to be replaced for about $1150, but they would not know if the transmission had been damaged due to the faulty ecm until after they replaced it and tested the transmission again. So that is currently where I am at in deciding whether or not to replace the ecm and trying to get the dealership or Toyota to help with the cost since I have seen so many others having the same problems on this site. I am think of trading it but how much can it be worth to anyone with problems such as this!!

- , Cerro Gordo, IL, USA

problem #8

Jun 012005


  • Automatic transmission
  • 56,000 miles

In 2005, my RAV4 was due for its first emission inspection. It would not pass because the "Check Engine" light was on. The emissions inspection shop recommended that I take it back to the dealership since anything wrong should be under warranty. I took it back in and was told that the ECM needed to be reset and that this would cost $80. I regretfully paid the money and picked up my car to have the emissions reinspected. It did not pass emissions again. They said that I had to drive for at least 300 miles for the computer to reset, so I drove, and drove. Once again, it failed.

I took it back to the dealership at which point he said that I needed a new catalytic converter. This would be covered under my warranty. They supposedly replaced my catalytic converter and I finally passed my emission inspection.

I began disputing the previous charge for resetting the ECM when the catalytic converter had to be replaced. The dealership said that it needed both repairs. I asked him to fax over the information that lead him to believe that the ECM needed to be reset. Surprisingly enough, the bottom of the information he sent said that this should be a covered repair and I demanded my money back at that time. It took several more demands before my money was returned, but it was returned.

My husband said that the catalytic convereter was never replaced, but since I could now pass emissions and buy a tag, I didn't go borrowing problems.

I received notification of an ECM problem in the mail during the summer of 2007. We took the car to another dealership. I was quite surprised to find that the ECM problem I had been erroneously charged for in 2005 was not reported on the VIN. Further yet, the repair that was being proposed with the recall would cause the vehicle to "drive rough". The rough drive could be repaired by flushing the system, but this expense was not covered by Toyota. We left at that point and decided to wait since the car was driving fine at this time.

- , Senoia, GA, USA

problem #7

Apr 082008

RAV4 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 97,891 miles

My wife and I purchased a 2002 Rav4 new at Penn Toyota in Greenvale, NY and it now has 97,981 miles on it. 2 weeks ago it started jerking/jumping when trying to upshift and we brought it in for service at Penn Toyota.

Once there the service center advised us to have the transmission fluids flushed and refilled, which we did. They also stated that they would do an update to the ECM, which they also did. While driving the vehicle home (after the repairs), the car was jumping/jerking worse than when we brought it in.

My wife and I did some research, found this site, are finding that there are more than several of the same type of complaints about this particular problem and Toyota itself has extended the warranty on this product to 96 months or 80,000 miles. We fall out of that range, but there is obviously a problem with this product (which is why Toyota put out the notice) and we would like it fixed as "in warranty".

We immediately brought it back where it was re-evaluated and we were now told that the ECM would have to be replaced at a cost of $1589.00.

After this, my wife and I brought the vehicle into an Aamco dealer who told us that it "definitely" wasn't an ECM issue and I should have the Transmission rebuild at a cost of $2500 (give or take).

At this point we are getting a third opinion, but I have also emailed Jim Lentz (President of Toyota USA) to resolve this issue through corporate.

Our only solution to this problem is to have everyone email Mr. Lentz and tell him of our combined complaints. We must take this to the next level and when that fails, we should take it to the next level. These failures are not our fault but rather Toyota's.

Please email Mr. Lentz at Together we might have a chance to reach a real resolution.

- Jay Palmer

- , Deer Park, NY, USA

problem #6

Apr 022008


  • Automatic transmission
  • 88,000 miles


Took the car in last month to have the ECU reprogrammed as directed by Toyota's little mailer, now this month being told the ECU is totally shot and must be replaced. Of course the vehicle is 8,000 miles out of warranty! Never had issues with this car. Explained to Service Dept. that the ECU seemed to be working fine until they serviced it. They explained that one thing has nothing to do with the other. For $1000, this had better work -

- , Gastonia, NC, US

problem #5

Mar 122008

RAV4 Limited 3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 108 miles

I posted a complaint back in Jul/Aug 07 regarding Miller Toyota putting in a new transmission then finding that I needed a new ECM. Now 7 mths later, after the check engine light comes on again, a different dealership is saying that I need another ECM. I'm schedule to take it back to Miller for them to look at it on Monday, 17 March. I believe that they are trying to get out of paying for this ECM because they thought I had paid too much when they replaced the transmission so they "gave" me the ECM. They were trying to cover their butts when they didn't charge me for the ECM because they didn't follow the bulletin back in Jul where it says to check the ECM first prior to replacing the transmission. Instead they replaced the transmission then replaced the ECM. I believe that I have a faulty ECM again.....this will be the 4th time I believe that I've had problems with the ECM.

- , Warreton, VA, USA

problem #4

Dec 012007


  • Automatic transmission
  • 84,000 miles

Add me to the list. Took the Rav4 in for the recall to have ECM updated. Came away with a car that can't shift, that can't find the right gear. It's shaking when accelerating out of a stop, very unsafe to drive. Luckily, I found this site along with the Rav4 forum before taking back in to fix. After reading the horror stories, my wife and I are weighing our options. It's sounding like replacing the ECM will hopefully fix the problem, but I haven't seen many of the earlier people who complained come back to update the site with what their ultimate fix was. We'll be going back to the dealer in the next few days. This is a major bummer and reasons like these are why we bought a Toyota. Issues like this aren't suppose to happen to Toyota's. These fixes aren't cheap. When I am done with fixing this car, I will be sending complaints to as many organizations as I can find.

- , Lincoln, CA, USA

problem #3

May 092007


  • Automatic transmission
  • 101,000 miles


Check Engine light kept coming on my 2002 RAV4 L. I brought it to different mechanics (at different dealerships) & received different answers - problem was the catalytic converter (2 places), the transmission, the ECM. I finally left the car at a local Toyota dealership and they claimed they spoke w/ their engineers & were advised to replace the ECM first and see if that would correct the problem - and if not, to then replace the transmission (yikes!). I specifically asked the different dealerships if this was a problem common in these vehicles and I was told NO. I paid $1600 for the work in May 2007. Never mind that I had to take MetroNorth into work for about a week, costing me $250 (travel 140 miles round trip a day). I now received the Special Service notice and am told they will not pay for the replacement of the ECM - when their own engineers advised me to replace it. Said it is not the same problem!!! ??? Sounds like it to me.

- , Fishkill, NY, USA

problem #2

Jun 082007

RAV4 LX 3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 84,000 miles

Do not replace your tranny! I ended up spending $4000 dollars to fix damages caused by the ECU, including replacement of the ECU. Have the ECU replaced as soon as possible to ensure your tranny does not get damaged. I had a thrust washer snap and work its way through the transmission. After all repairs the issue was still there. Aamco worked with their corporate office engineers and figured out a way to test the ECU. The ECU was putting out the wrong voltages which destroyed the tranny. The ECU tells the transmission when to shift depending on what RPM's are being registered to the ECU. My local Toyota dealer tried to work with Toyota Headquarters, but Toyota is denying all responsibility and do not plan on starting any kind of recall, even though this is becoming a growing issue. I tried to tell the dealer from the beginning the ECU was the problem, but they said the ECU would not cause these problems. I tried dealing with a factory rep for some kind of compensation with no resolve. I have tried every avenue for filing a complaint, but as you can predict nothing has ever happened except a big denial from Toyota. Since having my ECU replaced my car runs like a champ, after speaking with the service manager at my local Toyota other vehicles have been serviced for the same problem. Guess what they did to fix the problem; they replaced the ECU. I hope this helps. Make sure you call Toyota Headquarters and file a complaint. We need to file a class action law suit, anyone interested.

- , Beavercreek, OH, USA

problem #1

Jul 302007

(reported on)

RAV4 L 3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 11,400 miles

I originally brought in my car to the local dealership , because I got a recall notice in the mail from Toyota about the ECM<(engine control module) to make a long story short, after they touched the ECM, my car was not working correctly. When I stepped on the gas pedal the car would go forward, but it was shaking and felt like it was going to stall out. especially going in an upward hill . The dealership said I needed a new transmission. After getting the rebuilt transmission in my car, I still had the same problem!

Another dealership said that the air flow sensor was bad (P1150) traced solenoid B SL2 circuit failure to faulty. They also replaced the ECM at no charge and only charged for labor.

Do you think the ECM unit and this transmission problem was related? I sure think so. I've reported this to the dealership and they gave me very poor customer service. I am awaiting a response from toyota corporate and also B. A. R. (bureau of auto repair)

I will never buy another toyota ever again!

- , Paradise, CA, USA

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