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:
5 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
4 / 0
Average Mileage:
86,137 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 #31

Jan 082017


  • 134,000 miles


I was driving my Rav4 down my road when I suddenly lost control of the accelerator with my foot on the brake not touching the gas pedal at all my vehicle continued speeding up. I had my emergency brake locked which slowed me down but couldn't stop me. I placed the vehicle in neutral and the car came to a stop but the rpms went up to 9000rpm's immediately so I turned the car off in hopes something would reset. When I turned the car back on the problem continued until I was able to stop in my driveway. Both my kids were in the car and I nearly crashed into an intersection which is why I am reporting this. I have always liked and maintained my car otherwise.

- Gilmanton, NH, USA

problem #30

Dec 082015


  • 150,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Rav4. The contact stated that while driving at 55 mph and depressing the brake pedal, the vehicle accelerated independently. The failure recurred numerous times. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 150,000.

- San Francisco, CA, USA

problem #29

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 #28

Aug 062003

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 22,000 miles


I purchased my 2002 Toyota Rav4 SUV in August of 2002. Ever since I bought the Rav4 something has been wrong with it. The first 3-months that I had the Rav4 the drive belt was chewed up and almost caused me to wreck. The transmission started making funny noises like a grinding sound and the transmission would not shift. Sometimes I would just have to pull off of the road because the Rav4 transmission would not shift. I called and talked with the dealership and they said that nothing was wrong with my Rav4. I finally just parked it because my wife would not drive it and I would not drive it. Toyota would not fix my vehicle nor would the dealership. My brother-in-law said that he would try to find a used transmission and put it in my new Rav4 SUV. The used transmission was purchased at a car parts and salvage place for $1,700 and my brother-in-law put the used transmission into my new Toyota Rav4 SUV. I have contacted Toyota motor corporation several times and they said that they are not going to do anything about paying me for the used transmission that I had to purchase. Can you see if Toyota will listen to you about my complaint? than K you.

- Elkview , WV, USA

problem #27

Sep 152014

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 167,200 miles
My wife was driving to a doctor's appointment and, while on the "on ramp" to the interstate, the car would not shift from 2nd to third gear (it's an automatic trans). With the engine revving she looked down to check to assure it was in drive about the time it lurched into 3rd, then soon lurched into 4th. Coming home she shifted between drive and neutral to try to maintain a safe speed, save the transmission and engine, while allowing her to get home. The dealership quoted $989 to replace the ECM (computer), but couldn't assure the transmission wouldn't later need to be replaced. Toyota corporate was not helpful. I had records from the previous car owner that Toyota issued an extended warranty to replace the ECM for 10 years or 150,000 miles as a result of a class action suit, "if they felt it was warranted." I also had documentation that the ECM was "reprogrammed" at 72K miles. My contention was the ECM should've been replaced, not reprogrammed, but was told that the reprogramming was done to correct a different problem. I asked if I could speak to someone else at corporate and was told everyone would give me the same response since it is their company position. The internet is full of owners who replaced the transmission first, only to find the ECM caused the newer transmission to fail also, or owners who replaced the ECM only to find that the transmission also needed replacement. It is obvious that Toyota is aware of the problem. I believe they have failed to adequately protect owners by creating a recall to allow owners to get this fixed prior to scary and potentially dangerous shifting problems. The internet is also full of people who claim to want to enter another class action suit, but I am hoping Toyota appreciates their customers enough that law suits wouldn't be required to get them to do the right thing. But, I'm losing hope.

- Huntersville, NC, USA

problem #26

Jun 132014

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 74,123 miles
Several times during the week of June 2, 2014, my check engine light went on and off periodically. I had my mechanic check the codes, but she found nothing wrong. On June 13, 2014 I was driving N. on highway 101 near redwood city, ca. It was about 6P.M. in good weather; I was in stop-and-go commute traffic. I had slowed to a stop in the far left lane, of 5 lanes, due to slow traffic. When traffic began to move again, I accelerated and the transmission seemed to be "slipping"; I revved the engine, but there was no power going to the wheels. There were many cars behind me blowing their horns. Then the car began to "clank" and "chug" and it sounded like the transmission was grinding. I turned on my emergency flasher lights and pulled very slowly over to the shoulder across 5 lanes of traffic! I had several near accidents, but I made it to the shoulder! the car would only go very slowly, but the loud noises stopped, so I pulled off the freeway at the nearest exit (which was very close). I would have stayed on the shoulder if the car was still "clanking" from the transmission area, but the noise had subsided. I felt that there was a serious mechanical (transmission) problem with my car. I called my daughter and asked her to drive to my location. I was going to call for a tow truck when she arrived. She arrived in about 45 minutes. I restarted the car and put it into "drive" and accelerated gently. The car sounder perfectly normal, and accelerated at a normal speed with plenty of power. We decided to try to slowly drive the car home if it continued to drive normally. We got home fine, but just as I was pulling into my parking lot, the car made loud noises again and lurched a few times as I pulled in the driveway. I had the car towed to the nearest Toyota dealer the next day. That's when I began to discover all the problems rav 4's had had with class action's&ECM failures.

- Santa Clara, CA, USA

problem #25

Apr 192014


  • 84,000 miles


The contact owns a 2002 Toyota rav 4. the contact stated the vehicle suddendly accelerated independently and immediately the check engine light illuminated. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic. The technician made the contact aware of an unknown manufacturer recall related to the transmission. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The VIN was not available. The failure mileage was 84,000 and the current mileage was 84,329.

- West Orange, NJ, USA

problem #24

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 #23

Sep 212013


  • 163,340 miles
Today my Toyota Rav4 2002 began to have automatic transmission shifting issues. It has an excessive jerk when shifted from park to reverse, it is slow to shift from 1 to 2, and it jerks like I was rear ended when shifting to the next gear. I contacted my local Toyota dealer and was told there are no outstanding recalls on my car, the ECM software was updated before I purchased it used. I asked if they had any issues with the transmission on this model and year and I was told "no". they recommended I bring it in for a diagnostic check for $104 just to check it out. Afterwards I thought I would check the net. I found numerous threads regarding the 2001-3 ECM/transmission issue. It appears a number of owners have submitted complaints to NHTSA. Please add me. They are ignoring this issue and pretending they do not know anything about it.

- Fredonia, NY, USA

problem #22

Sep 142013

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 129,714 miles
Original owner of 2002 Toyota Rav4 AWD. Was driving home from a friend's house and stopped off near my home for an errand. Left the store, (car was running, family inside) and proceed to drive towards my house. The engine was running but the car was barely moving. The tach was at 4,000 and I was barely going 5 mph. Suddenly and without warning the car raced forward at a high rate of speed. I slammed on the brakes to avoid a rear-end collision. After it was safe to move, I stepped on the gas again and the car sluggishly moved at about 5mph again. The whole ride home (less than 5 minutes) the car was either slow or fast without much pressure on the accelerator. Upon arriving at home and trying to parallel park the car, I noticed that the transmission was sluggish and made loud noise when shifted into reverse. This wasn't normal and it troubled me. I looked up online the symptoms and saw the tsb and the class action lawsuit against Toyota. I never received any information on this. This is my first time hearing about this. Ok 10 years/150,000 miles from 1st drive. Here's my problem - I bought the car in 11/2001 - I am over the years and under the mileage, so I don't qualify" the class action lawsuit was settled in Jan/Feb 2012. Tell me what happens to the people who purchased their car before Jan/fen 2002 - are the out of luck" I am no longer driving this car till this is fixed and safe. Please NHTSA - make it a mandatory recall - over 250,000 SUV's are affected. Make it right - make it safe!!

- East Meadow, NY, USA

problem #21

Sep 082013

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 109,000 miles


I just got a Toyota rav 4 2002 auto and when driving with family the vehicle started to run sluggish, jerks when pressing gas, starts slow real slow after coming to a stop and this situation almost got us into an accident in us 81 near front royal Virginia. Additionally the check engine light came on. After taking vehicle to a mechanic it shows a code P0755 and reading about the problem is not a solenoid but it is ECM or ECU malfunction that the Toyota rav 2001-2003 are presenting which makes the car show a ghost code not a transmission code but rather a defective computer malfunction that cannot be repaired but replaced. Toyota knows about this problem and I do not see Toyota assumed responsibility and had passed the cost to vehicles owners and not a general recall to be fixed at manufacture expenses. Please research and make this issue a immediate recall because it had caused accidents due to the malfunction.

- Falls Church, VA, USA

problem #20

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 #19

Aug 012012


  • 88,000 miles
On starting, the car the battery light came on and stayed on. A month or so later I noticed a clunking in the transmission as the automatic went to a higher gear. This problem still remains.

- Valrico, FL, USA

problem #18

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 #17

Aug 302012


  • 88,000 miles
Dangerous transmission problems occurred in this car. The car would stall before going into second gear. Once it occurred as I was in an intersection. There are low miles on this so there should not be a need for repair or replacement at this time.

- Evergreen Park, IL, USA

problem #16

Dec 012005

RAV4 6-cyl

  • 60,000 miles
2002 Toyota Rav4 - while driving on the freeway, my car may automatically go from 60 to 40 mpr in matter of seconds. Or my car will get stuck on 60mpr & violently jerk. Twice have I taken it in for an ECM recall. My engine light has been on ever since 60,000 miles and now it's at 150,000. The extended warranty has been issued but my car is over the limit (154,000 miles). This extended warranty should have been issued "years ago" now it's too late. My car has had problems ever since my check engine light has turned on at 60K.

- Norwalk, CA, USA

problem #15

Sep 302010


  • 90,400 miles
My wife was driving our rav 4 with my son aboard. The car began experiencing trouble accelerating, car would hesitate, then all of a sudden it would lurch forward. It was totally unsafe to drive at that point. I have learned that this is due to a faulty ECM which has caused this vehicle to be extremely unsafe. II took the car to my mechanic and sure enough the car showed the P0755 obd II code which indicates that the issue is with the ECM. F left unattended, the transmission will require replacement at a cost of $4000 - $5000. I talked to Toyota about it and they said a repair was covered under a customer support warranty extension program (*case # 1010011845). However, now I talk to fitzgerald Toyota in gaithersburg (judith) and they indicate that they haven't even heard of this program.

- Bethesda, MD, USA

problem #14

Sep 242010

RAV4 6-cyl

  • 123,000 miles
2002 Rav4 electronic control module malfunctions and causes vehicles not to be able to shift gears. My car wouldn't accelerate past 20 mph in a heavy traffic area. Toyota has not reached out to Rav4 owners to notify them of this problem.

- Ellsworth , ME, USA

problem #13

May 082009


  • 110,029 miles
For a long time the check engine light kept turning on in my 2002 Rav4. I went to a dealer immediately. He said that this only happened because I didn't screw the gas cap tightly enough. He manually turned off the light and I went on my way. The light kept coming on and I kept going back to the dealership who said they couldn't find anything wrong with the car. Then suddenly, in may of 2009, the car started jerking and shaking while I drove. At times it would stall almost to a stop and nothing I did, even applying the gas did much more than rev the engine. I ended up having to fork over more than $3K to get it fixed, but that wasn't the end of it. My check engine light up again. I took it to a different shop, as I had moved across the country at the time. They ended up having to replace my 02 sensors, all 4 of them. That cost me another $500. I only found out later from a friend that Toyota had sent out a recall on the ECU and transmissions for vehicles with less than 80K miles on it. Mine was already over 100K and did not help me one bit. Needless to say, I no longer have any confidence in this company. My family bought Toyota for years. I recently got a note explaining that they would pay for my repairs... now I'm scrambling to find the receipts and hope they will honor their promise. They cannot undo the potential danger their mistakes could have cost me and my passengers. There is not one note of apology in the recall either. I felt the need to file a complaint despite the recall because Toyota should be made to fully reimburse their customers who have had to go through not only the headache of dealing with the mechanical problems, but also because of the other people and families this negligence may have physically hurt, or god forbid, killed. The fear and danger of driving this road hazard is also motivation enough to make sure as many complaints are heard and addressed.

- Los Angeles, CA, USA

problem #12

Apr 272010


  • 87,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Rav4. While attempting to accelerate from a stopped position, the contact noticed that the vehicle would hesitate to gain speed and would suddenly jerk forward when driving over 30 mph. The vehicle had not been inspected at the time of the complaint. The current and failure mileages were approximately 87,000.

- Cheasepeake, VA, USA

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