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
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
117,698 miles
Total Complaints:
5 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace motor with a used one (2 reports)
  2. engine had to be rebuilt (1 reports)
  3. not sure (1 reports)
  4. solution? remanufactured engine from jasper engines.. (1 reports)
2002 Toyota RAV4 engine problems

engine problem

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2002 Toyota RAV4 Owner Comments

problem #5

Nov 012011

RAV4 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles


Started with the engine light, took it in to have it checked out. Codes came up as P0430,P0420, P1760. Parked it in garage until we could fix it. The next short ride in it, the oil light came on, scheduled an appointment with auto mechanic and attempted to bring her in when the engine seized up, leaving me 9 miles from town. Had it towed to the nearest Toyota dealer, one hour away. Was told 6000. for repair, or they would buy it for 1000. The code P1760, is a recalled item that reins the transmission (ECM) on Rav4's 2001-2003 and there is a lawsuit between Mulligan VS Toyota. The Toyota dealer would not tell me what caused it without spending money to get it fixed. I am not sure what the next step will be, but this has left me without a vehicle and some expensive decisions.

- , Wallace, MI, USA

problem #4

Mar 252010

RAV4 L 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 97,000 miles

Well let's start off with my wife and I bought this Toyota to avoid situations such as this!

I have a slightly different story to tell here. Up until I saw some of these postings I thought that this was a result of Sea Foam. Here was my planned review that I was going to post about Sea Foam as much as possible: I purchased this for my wife's 2002 Toyota Rav4 with 97,000 miles and used in the gas tank as suggested under the directions and it did seem to help the vehicles performance. My wife even noticed a driving improvement.

So I thought I'd try it in some of the other ways it recommends. Under the direction on the bottle they also recommend that you can add it to the crankcase (oil) to: "-Free Sticky Lifters & Rings -Cleans Dirty Parts -Remove Moisture -Increases RPM's Vacuum and Compression -Cleans PCV Valve Systems"

My wife's car was not having any of these issues other than possibly dirty internal parts but, I figured at almost 100,000 miles the motor could use some cleaning too. I added 1/2 a pint as the directions said and was going to run it for about 50 miles before a planned oil change. I added it and was on my way to pick up my wife in her car and in 2.5 miles from our home (where I added the Sea Foam) the motor on my wife's car SEIZED! For those who are not familiar, this is NOT GOOD! A seized motor basically made the motor on my wife's car into a mediocre boat anchor. I did not purchase this product to create a boat anchor! I bought it to clean the internals of a perfectly fine motor and make it a little better. I will let those that read this decide if the $9 bottle of Sea Foam I purchased and added to my motor less than 5 miles before it seized caused the motor to seize. However, I will let you know that a used motor for my wife's car and installation is going to cost me over $3,000!

Now with a $3,000+ motor swap that I have to buy, I can't also afford to pay my mechanic to tear apart the old motor to see what happened. Otherwise, I would be far more direct in my review. However, have you heard of anyone that got less than 100,000 miles out of a Toyota motor? Well now you have, I'm very sad to say!

They claim their product is GUARANTEED. "YOUR MONEY"S WORTH OR YOUR MONEY BACK." I will ask you if $9 back is a suitable guarantee for what I'm spending? There are no warnings of any kind that this could happen! Please consider this YOUR warning!

Put it in your gas tank. DO NOT PUT IT IN YOUR CRANKCASE!

In retrospect I'm sure Sea Foam didn't help the situation but it's likely a Toyota issue. We purchased this because it's a Toyota. I've owned 7 Toyotas ('85 Celica, '87 Corolla FX16, '95 Tercel, '97 & '98 4Runner, '99 Avalon, and '02 Rav4) and I'm sad to say that this is likely my last! They used to be such a prideful brand but this is inexcusable! I've never had any kind of repair close to the cost that it's going to cost me for this motor let alone on a car with under 100K miles. I could have purchased virtually any other car from any other maker and not had this kind of expense short of 100,000 miles.

- , Cumming, GA, US

problem #3

Oct 222009

RAV4 L 2.4L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 138,488 miles

I have a 2002 RAV4 L that for the most part I never had any real problems. A few years ago my check engine light came on, went off, and came on again, so I took it to the dealership. They said the programing for my module had to be updated and they took care of it. The check engine light stayed off for about a year and then while making a trip from Californina to Mississippi, it came on again, but this time stayed on. Upon my return I took it back to the shop, where they now replaced my catalytic converter, thankfully it was still under Federal Warrenty or that would have been a $600 repair.

A couple of years later and being in the military, I received orders to Italy. During Oct 2008 my wife was driving in Croatia when the RAV just died. She told me everything seemed fine when suddenly the oil light came on and 5 seconds later the engine just quit. I took a trip to where my family was with the car and we had it towed to a Toyota Dealership in Rijeka. Without really taking anything apart in the engine comartment, except the air cleaner box, we were informed that the engine was dead and needed to be replaced. They also told us they wouldn't be able to re-build the engine and to replace it with a new one would cost 60,000 Kuna ( about $12,000 at the time). After I picked my jaw off the floor, my wife and I decided to tow the RAV back to Italy because I would be able to get part to have the engine rebuilt through the Aviano Auto Hobby Shop.

The Auto Hobby Shop ordrerd the parts for me, cost about $2000 and the Italian Shop that did the rebuild was another $3000. The mechanic told me the engine had sludge in it, even though I did regular oil changes. I have now learned that Toyota has been having an issue with their engines and this problem, but they refuse to do anything about it. Because of this problem, I had to replace my crankshaft, two of my piston lifters and a piston. I am now back in the USA and haven't had any other major engine problems, but I have experienced the "Toyoto Transmission Problem", but thats another complaint for the transmission section.

- , Lakeland, GA, USA

problem #2

Jun 092009

RAV4 L 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 163,000 miles

I've owned this car since it had 7 miles on it and it did leave me stranded one other time but for a different problem(belt) I was driving down a country road in GA on the way back from doing a job(I'm a road warrior) and the oil light came on. I was 3 hours from home when the light came on and then 45 miles from home the engine seized. 5k later got a reman. Jasper engine. Runs good. Like it did before. I couldn't afford a car payment and almost everything works the way it should on this one, so I chose the reman. I really like my car and it drives like a go cart, but costs too much in the long run. I regularly get the oil changed and all scheduled maintenance, so it wasn't caused by negligence. The oil pump went out and took the engine with it.

- , Louisville, GA, USA

problem #1

Jun 152009

RAV4 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

This just happened 2 days ago. The engine seized up while driving on I-88 - about 70 mph.

I had no problems with this car. It was just now due for an oil change. The oil level was good ... not "full" but between the low & full marks on the dip-stick. I see comments about metal shavings in the oil. How common is this?

I expect a replacement engine will cost about $5000 or more.

- , Endwell, NY, USA

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