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 12 of 13)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #34

Jul 102008


  • 109,000 miles


I was driving on the freeway when my transmission started slipping. I was in heavy traffic and was scared that I was going to lose my automatic transmission completely and be stuck on the road or rear-ended due to it hesitating badly between gears. It happened so quickly I was thrown off by what I should do but I did manage to make it home then I parked it until I could get it to a local repair shop.

- Houston, TX, USA

problem #33

Jul 172008

RAV4 4WD 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 78,846 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Rav4. While driving approximately 10 mph, the vehicle stalled and lost power while attempting to make a left turn. The contact applied pressure to the accelerator pedal numerous times before the vehicle gained power. In addition, the gears shifted roughly and the automatic transmission was jerking and vibrating. There were no warning lights illuminated on the instrument panel. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer and they stated that the failure was related to the engine control module. The vehicle repair was covered by the manufacturer warranty. The contact was concerned of the safety risk involved. The failure and current mileages were 78,846. Updated 09/24/08. Updated 09/26/08.

- Morrisville, NC, USA

problem #32

Jul 042008


  • 128,950 miles
1. driving the car, as normal, I came to a red light. When I began accelerating and the car went to shift gears it had trouble from 1st to 2nd gear. It quickly got progressively worse from 1st to 2nd and from 2nd to 3rd. When I finally made it home I decided to try and find a mechanic right away. When driving it I felt the car had shut off 1st gear and started right into 2nd gear shifting to 3rd ok but then wouldn't shift into 4th gear. Then after not finding a mechanic open on July 4th I was driving home and 1st gear was back but having a real hard time changing into 2nd and 3rd but smooth in 4th gear. I've researched this problem and found a website this website shows many others with the same problem and for many on this site the faulty computer has destroyed their transmissions and forced them to not only get a new transmission but a new ECM as well. This faulty ECM is a manufacturers defect and should be replaced with no cost to the consumer. As for the people that also have a bad transmission due to the ECM, like myself, I believe Toyota should replace that at no cost as well. Again, this is a manufacturer defect with the ECM that causes transmission damage and should not be a consumer issue. Toyota even did a recall on the 2001-2003 Rav4 because of the ECM and they would reprogram the ECM to try and solve the issue. Unfortunately for myself and many others this did not solve the problem and still have to get a new ECM.

- West Caldwell, NJ, USA

problem #31

Jun 232008


  • 53,965 miles


In the past few years the check engine light kept coming on and my local dealer would fix something that was supposed to be causing the problem twice. The 3rd time Toyota had a recall on the computer and reprogrammed the ECU. Now the 4th time the car would not go when pushing the pedal or it would stop in traffic with the hopes of not getting into a wreck. Barely made it back to the dealer who said it had a bad main computer failure and the "shift solenoid B" was bad. All this with only 83K miles. This seems somewhat very low to be having this kind of a problem. I contacted Toyota, gave them the info and they investigated and said it was way out of warranty so the case is "closed". the total cost of repair was to be $4998 but with the dealer giving me a "one time good will 50% split and a senior citizens discount", it had a final price of $3,725.63.

- Baton Rouge, LA, USA

problem #30

Feb 032008


  • 65,000 miles
Transmission failure transmission was rebuilt for the 3rd time and not completed and was never fixed.

- Hoffman Estates, IL, USA

problem #29

Jun 142008


  • 95,100 miles
I was driving my Rav4 one day and it started to jump and went into a 'wrong gear start.' It would start in about 3rd gear and jump into gear when it would finally catch up. I took it to a mechanic and they said it was the transmission. Sure enough, I had metal in my pan and a bad planetary gear and my entire transmission had to be rebuilt. $3,300 later, the problem persisted. I took it back to my transmission specialist and they said that it was a problem with the computer, the ECM to be exact. I had taken my car in for a recall that had happened with this exact part of the computer brain and they did a re-flash for free, which was supposed to fix it. Now that it is causing more problems, Toyota refuses to fix it for free, I guess they felt they did their part by doing the 're-flash' which didn't do jack. I bought this car because it was a Toyota and I am so disappointed. The transmission going out that early was very possibly due to this defect. If they further refuse to fix the problem, I am taking them to court. There are many complaints of this happening on this model. Be aware!

- Ventura, CA, USA

problem #28

Jun 202008


  • 96,332 miles


My car started shifting hard on 6-20-2008 on my way home from work. I took it to the dealer on 6-24-08 and was told I need a new transmission, $3,542 so I came home got online to see what it might cost else where. And I came across a site for complaint for this particular vehicle, so I checked it out. I found 56 complaints that were just like mine. I printed out this information and called an 800 Toyota number. They said the ECM had been recalled. So I took the car back to the dealer today and they adjusted the ECM. Car has same problem, actually runs a little rougher, anyway I asked the service manager if he had any other people with this problem and he indicated that this was not news to him. He then suggested I have both transmission and ECM replaced $5,000. So now I am complaining to anyone and everyone. Toyota knowingly sells these cars with problems and expects us (the consumer) to suck it up and that's just plain wrong!

- Cincinnati, OH, USA

problem #27

Jun 202008


  • 95,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Rav4. While driving approximately 5 mph, the vehicle hesitated and became difficult to shift into first gear. The vehicle jerked and the engine light illuminated on the instrument panel. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer. The technician stated that the failures were related to the computer failure, which also caused the transmission to fail. The computer and transmission are currently being replaced at the cost of $4,600. The VIN was unknown. The current and failure mileages were 95,000.

- St. Louis, MO, USA

problem #26

Jun 192008


  • 107,000 miles
2002 Toyota rav 4 - transmission problem - aamco service rep states computer problem and total trans rebuild costing about $4000. I have contacted Toyota dealer and making arrangements to have the vehicle towed to dealer.

- Barnegat , NJ, USA

problem #25

Jun 022008


  • 118,000 miles
Sluggish transmission when accelerating into 1st and 2nd gear and trouble shifting from 1st to 2nd.

- Newton Hamilton, PA, USA

problem #24

Jun 012008


  • 70,000 miles


Transmission failure. The ECM is defective and the transmission doesn't shift. Occasionally it shift by itself, hesitation in shifting. There are quite a few Rav4 owners with the same problem

- Fairfax Station, VA, USA

problem #23

Apr 202008

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 96,000 miles
Written in early may to My wife and I purchased a 2002 Rav4 new at penn Toyota in greenvale, NY and it now has 97,981 miles on it. In late April 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 drive the vehicle home (after the repairs), the car was jumping/jerking worse than when we brought it in. We immediately brought it back where it was re-evaluated and we were now told that ECM would have to be replaced at a cost of $1589. My wife and I did some research and 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 extended the original warranty) and we would like fixed as "in warranty". there is no reason for a car that has been well maintained to have a failure of this kind before 100,000 miles. Update (6/9/08): Penn Toyota has replaced the ECM as a "good will" gesture but we still are having the problem with jerking/jumping between 2nd and 3rd gears as well as when going in reverse. They have said that we could replace the faulty ECM probably caused an issue with the transmission and we should replace the transmission and harness as well. They stated that they would be unable to cover this as a "good will" gesture but it would cost an estimated $3800 for me and my wife.

- Deer Park, NY, USA

problem #22

Jun 062008

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 116,111 miles
2002 Toyota rav 4 - transmission jerking severely. My automatic transmission jerks when first accelerating as well as while driving. From what I understand this is an ongoing problem with then vehicle.

- Lufkin, TX, USA

problem #21

Jun 012008

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 87,641 miles
I own a 2002 Toyota rav 4. the vehicle has been running great. One day 1st & 2nd gear began to slip. The car will accelerate then just stop until 1st gear catches abruptly jolt. The transmission is automatic. The car has just over 87,000 miles. After researching I saw there were several vehicles with the same exact problem. Toyota did put out an alert stating that there are computer problems but those forms were not sent to the owners only to the service centers. Now I have to take my vehicle in have solenoids changed and possibly the engine computer. These are the problems listed in the alert sent out. If Toyota knows 2002 rav 4's are having these issues why have there been no recalls. I also must say that it is unjust that we as consumers have to spend thousands of dollars on parts and labor for what it seems to be manufacturer defects. I've added a link where one can view several other complaints on the same defect. Thank you for your time.

- Scarsdale, NY, USA

problem #20

May 152008


  • 115,800 miles
My 2002 Toyota rav 4 started having shifting problems. It's out of warranty. I took it to an independent transmission specialist. Why take it to a dealer, right? he rebuilt the transmission to the tune of $2500. He took it for a test drive and it still wouldn't shift. He talked to a service technician at Toyota and was told that Toyota knows about an issue with the ECM having bad computer code and that's what was tearing up transmissions. But since my car is out of warranty and I took it to an independent transmission place, Toyota will not even listen to my complaint.

- Overland, MO, USA

problem #19

Jun 042008

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 87,135 miles
I own a 2002 Toyota Rav4, there was a recall and I had the ECM recalibrated. I understand this controls the transmission. Now I have ECM and transmission failure to the tune of $4900. I have goggled this problem and note there are a number of other consumers who have had the exact same problem - the car stutters almost to a stall in traffic, check engine light comes on and the Toyota dealership dx as ECM failure/transmission failure, not preventable by consumer. Other complaints of the same nature at

- Dacula, GA, USA

problem #18

Apr 302008

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 105,000 miles
I recently had to replace the transmission on my car because the car was shifting erratically. After the transmission was replaced I still had the problem and was told that there was a technical bulletin from Toyota TC002-6 which said that a faulty engine control module (ECM) will cause harsh shifting. Toyota did not communicate this problem to me back in March 2006. If Toyota would have communicated this defect, I could have had the ECM checked and probably saved my transmission.

- Hartsdale, NY, USA

problem #17

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 #16

May 012008

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 92,000 miles
My Toyota rav iv was recalled to have the ECM reprogrammed. I took it to Toyota to have it reprogrammed, the problems where fixed for a couple of days but then they came back. The car does not respond for a while when shifting from first to second gear, then it jumps making a loud noise and restarts running in 2nd gear. The engine light came on. This is very dangerous, specially when there are cars behind, I almost was hit by cars going behind me at least twice. I took it to aamco, and they said the transmission is ok, it is just a computer problem. Toyota should fix the entire problem with the ECM. A lot of people have replaced their transmission just for the problem to reoccur, others have had to replace the computer at their own cost. This seems to be a very common problem for this model owners, there are many blogs regarding this problem:

- Berryville, VA, USA

problem #15

May 302008

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 90,000 miles
Near accident due to erratic shifting problem of Rav4 2002. Apparently related to the ECM. The vehicle has a very sluggish start from a standstill as if the emergency brake is on. Attempting to turn across oncoming traffic and vehicle would not move and almost hit by oncoming traffic. Vehicle also shifts erratically when driving. Very dangerous to drive. Toyota does not appear to be aware of this very serious and dangerous problem that should be recalled before someone is injured.

- Boulder, CO, USA

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