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 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
87,512 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 miscellaneous problems

miscellaneous problem

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2002 Toyota RAV4 Owner Comments

problem #19

Dec 012015


  • 115,000 miles


The ECM which controls the transmission failed.

- Green Bay, WI, USA

problem #18

Jun 012015


  • 75,000 miles
This car is a very dangerous death trap and lemon because the transmission doesn't work properly even though my used Rav4 only has 75K miles on it. What a black eye on Toyota and the NHTSA for not recalling this mess of a car! this is a travesty...we bought a Toyota for $8200 because we thought Toyota was a good with only 75K miles but 13 yrs old it is a total dangerous lemon....why won't you force Toyota to do a mandatory recall before people are killed in this death trap? not right, please act....

- Seaside, CA, USA

problem #17

Sep 042015


  • 159,945 miles
This vehicle does not shift its gear. It runs only in first gear. There are no reverse either. It is hard to control in road.

- Wayne, NJ, USA

problem #16

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 #15

May 082015


  • 123,850 miles
The car recently starts hesitate and suddenly slow down sometimes when I push the gas gear from stop (not always). The mechanic said the transmission may need to be checked. From the internet, I learned that this particular car is known to have the transmission defect (Rav4 2001-2003 with automatic transmission).

- Worcester, MA, USA

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problem #14

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 #13

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 #12

Aug 012011


  • 121,000 miles
Toyota 2002 Rav4, automatic transmission problem when switching into first / second gear, car will hiccup, and or not accelerate as expected. Aamco transmission specialists confirmed defective ECM module failure, and require a full transmission rebuilt. Toyota apparanty knows about this problem, and has issued service advisory, but no recall. Problem can resurface any anytime, very high potential for accidents as car will fail to accelerate or just stall when entering intersections and or freeways.

- Leesburg, VA, USA

problem #11

Jun 212011


  • 100,000 miles
While on an onramp, going into thick, fast traffic on the highway (95) our Rav4 had what I guess is called a "harsh shift" and stalled in newton, MA. We think this is due to a faulty ECM or transmission (we already had the ECM replaced once, in pasadena, ca at the end of 2008, and it was like pulling teeth to get Toyota to do it!) I can't believe the vehicle is experiencing the same problem, again!! someone could have been seriously injured! a quick search of the message boards ( has 3 pages of complaints regarding this issue!) and a lovely New York times article written on July 13, 2010 by christopher jensen about Toyota extending the warranty on the obviously faulty ECM's tells me this is a problem that needs to be addressed, sooner rather than later.

- Plainville, MA, USA

problem #10

May 242011


  • 158,250 miles
The ECM failed and caused damaged to the transmission (2nd gear specially). On the highway, the vehicle had decreased power; gears were slipping and the car were jerk from gear to gear. Toyota apparently was aware of the malfunction because they extended their warranty to 10 years/150K miles. Because of my mileage, I am not covered. If they knew there was a fault, why didn't they do recall and fix the problem?

- Richmond, VA, USA

problem #9

May 122010

(reported on)


  • miles


S10 appropriate handling re Toyota vehicles sudden unintended acceleration fwd fm owner of a 2002 Rav4, 2002 corolla and a 2007 Toyota prius the consumer was informed that none of the 2002 vehicles were included in the recall. The consumer stated her other two vehicles, which are much newer were not recalled either and could potentially accelerate and cause injury or death. The consumer also addressed questions in her complaint. Updated 05/24/10

- Brewster, NY, USA

problem #8

Mar 252010


  • 85,000 miles
My 2002 Toyota Rav4 had TC002-06 performed on it in January 2007. The recall was to address issues with the ECM and transmission shifting issues. My vehicle is out of warranty and has 85,000. I contacted Toyota and they informed me that a logic update was performed to resolve this issue. From what I have read online, the ECM should have been replaced and not updated. I also found that the ECM carries an 80,000 mile warranty. The problem I am having is now the transmission has failed and I was informed that the problem was due to the ECM not being replaced. All major service work on this vehicle has been performed at a Toyota dealership. The independent service agent has informed me that the transmission needs to be rebuilt and the ECM replaced at a total cost of over $4200. I contacted a Toyota dealership and a rough estiamte for this repair is $5000-$6000. When I contacted Toyota and asked about this tsb, they informed me that it is simply a manual addendum and nothing else. They refuse to help with this issue at all. It is serious because the vehicle begin to fail and would not accerlerate when I was trying to drive onto a major road from being stopped at a red light. I have researched this issue on the internet and I have found that many people have had this same issue around the same mileage with this model year vehicle. Please help!

- Bolingbrook, IL, USA

problem #7

Feb 282010


  • 63,000 miles
I drive a 2002 Toyota Rav4 with 63K I bought it used 4 years ago with warranty I now have problems shifting from 1 to 2 gear took it to Toyota dealer to have a diagnose, I had previosly took my car to a transmission specialist I was told to take to the dealer were it was purchased because the ECM had to be replaced/reset anyway I did a research and found that there was a extended warranty on the ECM for 96 months or 80K which ever comes first my extended warranty expired because warranty starts from original owner(date first use) to replace the ECM is going to cost me $1300 I think I shouldn't have to pay this amount due to Toyota Rav4 ECM problem back in 2006 I should still be eligible for ECM warranty since I purchased my car in Feb. 2006. I hope the next step is not replacing the transmission. I am not satisfied with Toyota cars or there services.

- Kenosha, WI, USA

problem #6

Mar 182010


  • 111,000 miles
My 2002 Toyota Rav4 automatic is having serious transmission problems. It intermittently does not find the second gear, and when it does, lurches forward if the accelerator is applied. This is very dangerous, because prior to it slipping out of gear, it starts out slow, and you must apply the accelerator more than usual to get moving. It has also lost the gear while at high speeds, a potential nightmare for someone that doesn't know how to react properly. After researching my issue, (and having the transmission flushed and filters replaced) I feel like I have no recourse. Toyota initiated a recall to re-flash the control module in 2007, which I had done. They never informed me that there was an actual error in the performance of the module, just something about it eliminate a problem of the check engine light coming on around 60K. My module tests out fine today, yet it apparently ruined my transmission, and now I have learned some individuals have replaced the control module, and some the entire transmission, only to be revisited by the same problems. My car currently has 111,000 miles on it, and the repairs will cost more than the value of the auto. How can I sell this vehicle with a clear conscience knowing all of this? please consider this for recall, Toyota withheld information from its customers when initiating this recall in 2007 (the flash reset), and caused many of us danger and great expense as a result. Thank you very much, brenda king

- Saint Paul, MN, USA

problem #5

Mar 202010


  • 88,000 miles
Harsh shifting from 1st - 3rd gear in automatic transmission

- Springfield, OH, USA

problem #4

Aug 042008


  • 50,300 miles
My Toyota Rav4 2002, has only 50,000 miles on it. Needs a new transmission. This has to be a defect !!! Toyota refuses to recall, even though it's a huge problem.

- Santa Monica, CA, USA

problem #3

Mar 252008


  • 116,000 miles
My car started acting up in March 2008. I had my transmission rebuilt in April and got the car back still acting up! I am trying to go by the dealership who sold it to me and get their mechanic to look at it and he is too busy when it is messing up. It only does it sometimes now but it seems to get more frequent. The tsb I read mentioned the ECM and the transmission going bad so is that my next costly expense?

- Monroe, LA, USA

problem #2

Apr 042002

RAV4 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
2002 Toyota Rav4. The luggage cover has a rubber stop on each side to hold it up in order for the hooks that are install on the back of the seats to be used. In cold and hot weather, the rubber stops do not hold the cover up. In April 2002, the cover came down and hit me on the bridge of my nose so hard that I was almost knocked out. It was dark and freezing cold. I could have been killed, robber or attacked. If I had a child in my arms, I would have dropped it. Toyota deems that there is no problem with the shield. I am proof that there is and asked them to place a recall on it but they refuse.

- Pelham, AL, USA

problem #1

Jan 252003


  • 31,000 miles
A "baffle" is installed into the oil filler cap beginning with the 2002 Toyota's. while driving the "baffle" broke causing the timing chain and consequently the engine to fail.

- Boothbay Harbor, ME, USA

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