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:
6 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
2 / 0
Average Mileage:
106,019 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 transmission problems

transmission problem

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2002 Toyota RAV4 Owner Comments (Page 10 of 13)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #74

Apr 222009


  • 51,000 miles


Transmission failed on my 2002 Toyota rav 4 fwd autotransmission with less than 52000 miles. No engine lights ever appeared to alert me of problem. First sign was while driving 65mph on interstate 80 heading to erie, pa from youngstown, oh. Car taken in to nearest transmission shop, aamco where it was determined that clutches were completely damaged/burnt and needed to be completely rebuilt at a cost of $3000. Now being told that the ECM needs to be replaced because of voltage problems and gears still missing with rebuilt trans. Replacement ECM covered under Toyota's tsb TC002-06 if under 8 years/80,000 but local Toyota dealership stating that current part number is the replacement part. I contacted my Toyota dealership back home who did a reprogramming recall but did not replace ECM. Reprogramming / recoding / flashing ECM was not the procedure to resolve on above tsb and I believe the dealership back home simply relabeled ECM with new part number since they confirmed that it was not replaced with new ECM. A new ECM would have prevented the transmission failure from happening. Aamco dealership fighting to get me an ECM covered under the TC002-06 tsb. Vehicle has been in shop for almost 3 weeks and no end in sight. Cannot take vehicle back home even with rebuilt trans because it is not roadworthy without ECM and testing. Need to rent vehicle to get myself back home until contacted by aamco regarding resolution.

- Campbell, OH, USA

problem #73

Apr 232009


  • 94,750 miles
Transmission began slipping while accelerating from stop. There were hard shifts when changing from 1st to 2nd and to 3rd gears. The next morning, there seemed to be no problem. This is unsafe since one can not depend upon the transmission / engine control module when pulling out into traffic.

- Raleigh, NC, USA

problem #72

Apr 232009


  • 128,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Rav4. On April 22, 2009, the driver attempted to shift into drive; however, it failed to engage until it reached 3000 rpms. In addition, when the brakes were engaged the vehicle stalled; although, the failure occurred intermittently. A mechanic stated that the transmission needed to be replaced. The contact is aware of the safety risk. The failure mileage was 128,000.

- Landcastle, OH, USA

problem #71

Feb 012009


  • miles


Auto transmission problem, where the car shudders and shifts very abruptly and often shifts very late posing very dangerous to drive. This problem came on instantaneously without any forewarning, so as I started researching it, the problem appears to be an ECU malfunction where the computer doesn't send the right commands to the transmission for when to shift properly. This can be very dangerous and it is very upsetting that Toyota didn't at least inform Rav4 owners of this issue. I could have replaced the ECU and which is an easy repair costing only about $1200 or there is also a shop online that fixes the ECU for $400 but now I have to fix the ECU and replace a transmission thanks to Toyota's negligence now the repair bill is in the $4000-$6000 price range. Many independent mechanics aren't aware of the issue and have replaced the transmission without knowing that the ECU is at fault and ended up replacing the transmission again and again until finally pinpointing the problem and replacing the ECU also. The same nearly happened to me when I took it to both of my mechanics and they didn't foresee the ECU to be at fault and wanted to replace only the transmission. We've owned the car since day 1 and it has been meticulously maintained it's sad to have this happen to it without any warning.

- Palo Alto, CA, USA

problem #70

Apr 132009


  • 102,000 miles
The computer was telling the transmission to shift to the wrong gears and caused the transmission to break down. :the car was towed to the mechanic and a new computer was installed, in addition to having to have the transmission rebuilt.

- East Islip, NY, USA

problem #69

Apr 112009


  • 47,309 miles
Toyota Rav4 started slamming into gear. While driving I would have my foot down on accelerator and the vehicle wouldn't go into gear and when it finally did it would lurch forward while slamming in gear. I was told by my maintenance mechanic that there was a tbs on this very problem however when I took it to the dealership they told me 1st. "someone already replace it (which wasn't the case then 2. "it must have been caught at the factory". there are over 200 complaints regarding the very problem and Toyota's irresponsible response to the problem. I have now been told that they will "start with replacing the grounding wires" and "go from there". I have an extended warranty that expires in July 2009. This is a safety issue and I feel that Toyota (based on all the complaints found) will continue to nickel and dime me with non-warranty charges and then when the real problem is addressed for the power train my vehicle will be out of warranty. I am the original owner and my vehicle only has 47,315 miles on it. The reference number for the tsb in this case is TC002-06 from 3-06/ the dealerships I spoke to were unaware of the tbs until I brought in a copy of it. The codes for this problem don't even show up. It is my understanding that NHTSA is looking for people who have had this problem to establish a need for an investigation. Please consider me as one of those people. I truly feel this problem is not only a costly one but a extreme safety concern as you never know when this problem will happen.

- Scottsdale, AZ, USA

problem #68

Oct 272007


  • 151,000 miles


Car shuttered and stopped rolling in an intersection, then abruptly went into gear again with a lurch. Transmission shop replaced valve assembly. Problem returned and car was returned to shop. New valve assembly installed, problem came back. Returned to shop, transmission removed, replaced, 3 times. Seals replaced. Same problem.ECM was suspect. Car was taken to local Toyota dealer, was told ECM was fine, ECM was re-programmed and we were charged $275. Problem continued. Long story short-ECM was replaced, programmed, and paid another $1200. Works fine. Toyota owes me big time. They know of this problem, and ignore. I have owned 5 Toyota in my life, and have an fj cruiser as well. Will not consider Toyota in the future unless they admit the problem, and assist in repairs.

- Midlothian, VA, USA

problem #67

Oct 192007


  • 110,000 miles
I have a Toyota Rav4 2002-in May 2006 I went to military training school, I got back Oct 2006 while driving my engine failed on the hwy. I took it to Toyota and they told me it was 420 miles over the warranty and it was not covered. I did all my required upkeep and maintenance and to my surprise it had oil sludge. He claims its from sitting but alot of vehicles sit and do not have problems especially military members that are deployed. I had to pay $3989 for a used engine. After researching and finding out 2001 -03 Camry and Lexus had the same problems and were recalled. I fought got and attorney and still no recall. I hope to have a civil lawsuit with Toyota because of this but it never happened. March 2007 my transmission went out while on the hwy. I was driving and notice it kept jerking. Then it would hesitate getting into gear and reverse. I took it to a Toyota dealer and they told me my transmission is going out and it would cost $4980. Ok let me break down the existing problems up until this point. The drivers door electric locking system went out it was repaired 4 times, the check engine light never goes off said its a electrical problem. The alarms comes on and will not go off even when door key or key pad is indicated. So I had to unhook. Yesterday March 31st I was done with the rav 4. I have notice that more than 35 % of owners have this problems and Toyota refuses to recall.

- Wichita, KS, USA

problem #66

Mar 202009


  • 94,000 miles
I took my 2002 Rav4 in for the recall two months later I have spent $380 at elmhurst Toyota for flushing the transmission and cleaning the fuel injection system. $2,700 for a rebuilt transmission and I am still experiencing the same problem. Car will not shift and gears. I call the Toyota customer service and spoke to them about the issue and all I received was an apology. I agree with all of you Toyota should upgrade this recall from placing a bandage on the festering ECM problem and just replace the ECM. This problem happen 60 days to the date after taking my Rav4 in for the check engine light recall. Mary a. brown Chicago,

- Chicago, IL, USA

problem #65

Mar 042009


  • 86,200 miles
The car was running fine until one day when it started "bucking" and I experienced a significant loss of power accelerating. This occurred when I was making a left turn with oncoming traffic and resulted in the other car being forced to stop to let me pass. From a stop, car felt like it was starting in second or third gear instead of first gear. Very dangerous! limped to local shop and car was diagnosed with bad solenoid in transmission. This was replaced, drove three miles home and the same problem occurred the next day. Same code appeared during diagnosis and this indicated that the main computer (ECM) was defective. This will cost $1200 to replace. Potential replacement of transmission may be needed as well at a cost of $3500. After a search on the internet I found that this problem had been experienced by hundreds of other rav owners. My car has 86K miles and was just over the 80K mile window for the manufacturer to pay for repairs. Toyota has known about this problem since 2006, according to tsb issued. The car has been regularly serviced at the Toyota dealership.

- Santa Barbara, CA, USA

problem #64

Mar 152009


  • 127,700 miles


Driving my Rav4 South on hamilton road, a busy thruway, while stopped at a light to turn left my tranny slips and hesitates so bad that as I pulled into the intersection in the way of oncoming cars my car couldn't get through the intersection safely. Fortunately no crashes. Maybe next time.

- Gahanna, OH, USA

problem #63

Feb 042009


  • 114,000 miles
Hard shifting from 1st gear to 2nd gear of 2002 Toyota rav 4 automatic transmission after 100,000 miles on odometer.

- Hanover, MD, USA

problem #62

Mar 072008


  • 96,000 miles
2002 Rav4: Failed transmission due to defective ECM which Toyota put out a technical service bulletin on but didn't recall. I was not notified of the service bulletin, so the problem was not prevented in time.

- Patchogue, NY, USA

problem #61

Feb 152009


  • 78,000 miles
In 2007 a recall 601 was issued by Toyota for engine control modules in Rav4S. I took my 2002 in & they recalibrated the module. I was told at the time it somehow affected the gear shift. 18 mos. Later, Feb. 2009, my transmission suddenly started slipping & jumping in & out of gear. I've owned Toyota for 30 years & this was most unusual. I took the car to S.F. Toyota. They had a very hard time pinpointing the problem because it was sporadic. First they said solenoid, then they finally said replace the whole transmission for $4800. And that it was not connected to the engine control module. If it were, it would be covered by warranty, otherwise, not. I don't feel a transmission should suddenly go out after 78,000 with no warning. Especially on a Toyota. I almost had a very bad accident when my car slipped out of gear on the highway & wouldn't reengage. I think it's defective because there are numerous complaints on line for this year & model with the exact same problem. And I think Toyota is ignoring the problem.

- San Francisco, CA, USA

problem #60

Jan 312009


  • 67,696 miles
My car started to rev without any forward gain in distance when I depressed the accelerator. I took it into the Toyota dealership and was told the transmission fluids just needed to be flushed, but that there was no metal in it. Two days later I took my car back in for the same revving and bucking problem. The team manager checked the transmission out again and. Reassured me that all was fine and asked me to ride with him to prove it. The car did not buck. I was given a story about how the computer resets when the car is worked on, and that it was set for a more aggressive driver. Today, I barely made it home from the mountains. My rav crawled over the pass and kept jerking from 30-60 rpms with noise but no acceleration gain. I cannot count on the car to take me to work until it is fixed properly.

- Boulder, CO, USA

problem #59

Jan 022009


  • 111,000 miles
Harsh shift.

- Kent, WA, USA

problem #58

Nov 012008


  • 123,000 miles
Harsh shifting/slipping in automatic transaxle. No special events leading up to failure; just started in about 123,000 miles. Problem now occurs every time I drive the vehicle. Only an obd II scan has been performed on the vehicle.

- Doniphan, MO, USA

problem #57

Dec 082008


  • 94,000 miles
Started car 2 weeks ago (December 8th) drove for 10 minutes at slow speed under 30 mph. Car started bucking and having trouble shifting. Was almost rare ended due to lack of acceleration. RPM would increase but car would struggle shifting and accelerating. Brought to transmission specialist. They thoroughly checked transmission and couldn't find a problem. Drained fluid and replaced filter. Cost $170. Three days later started bucking again. Trouble shifting. Brought to different mechanic who states needs new transmission. Requesting rebuilt from Toyota. Cost over $2000, car only has 94,000 miles on engine. Toyota says that if it is over 60,000 miles it is not under warranty.

- Dedham, MA, USA

problem #56

Dec 012008


  • 40,300 miles
I brought my rav brand new in 200. Have had no problem with it up until a few days ago. It was running just fine but the next day I noticed that it would jerk when I shifted in/out of reverse. Not only that but it had trouble accelerating and would jerk from 1st to 2nd gear. Read multiple complaints on this issue via and found that I am not alone in this problem....this is unacceptable.. I have a four year old and I am scared of driving anywhere because im scared of pulling out in traffic for the fear that the car wont move and I may get hit.....this need to be addressed....

- Irvington, NJ, USA

problem #55

Nov 232008


  • 118,000 miles
2002 Toyota Rav4 transmission started jerking and could not pick up speed on highway. Almost got into a major accident with my daughter (20 month old) on board. I looked online and there are numerous complaints of this make and model having major transmission problems. Toyota need to fix this major safety problem and not stick the consumer with the bill (average fix $3,000 dollars fix per vehicle at best worth$7,000).

- Liverpool, NY, USA

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