ANNOUNCEMENT: The Car Book 2018 is now online!

Ratings on over 1,000 new & used models going back 5 years, from the Center from Auto Safety. Learn more about The Car Book 2018 here. 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 5 of 13)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #174

Feb 232010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 97,000 miles


Week of 2/23/10 snow day driving home and my vehicle started having shifting problems with out warning. The next day the problem seemed to be un noticeable. Week of 3/1/10 on my way home from work the problem started again with out warning. This time it was severe shifting problems. I drove it to a Toyota dealership and was told I needed a new transmission. This is turning out to be a several thousand dollar problem. I did research online and found that hundreds of Toyota customers have had the same problem. I found that Toyota has known about the problem for years but only covers it if found under the warranty period if the problem presents itself. But after that Toyota place the financial burden on their customers for the known problems found between the ECM and the transmission. Mileage on day of incident is aprox 97,000 miles. It seems like Toyota's unsaid motto is lets sell vehicles with known defects, don't tell out customers, and do noting for our customers. Too many people have the same problem around the same mileage. I was told that I was buying a rock solid car because it was Toyota. With me having to bare the financial burden of a known problem tells me that Toyota does not and will not back their products.. updated IVOQ 11/12/10

- Bristol, CT, USA

problem #173

Jan 022010


  • miles
I have a 2002 Toyota Rav4. When going down hills the gears will downshift and the engine revs fast. Now during normal driving, it gets stuck in 2nd gear then will bang into 3rd. I've also noticed sometimes when I try to pull onto a highway, there is no acceleration.

- Warwick, NY, USA

problem #172

Feb 042010


  • 120,000 miles
I own a 2002 Toyota Rav4, which I bought 2.5 years ago. I recently had to have my transmission rebuilt and clutch replaced after it suddenly began slipping gears. I had no prior warning light alerting me that there was a problem occurring with my cars engine. The transmission repair shop had done extensive repair and ultimately had to keep my car for three weeks trying to determine why it still wouldn't run properly. It was finally taken to freeman Toyota in petaluma ca to have the computer "flashed". my mechanic was told the computer was dead and would need replacing for just over $1,000. I had already been quoted $3,300 for prior repairs to the transmission and clutch. Had I been alerted by an a warning that the engine was having problems, I could have avoided needing to replace the transmission and clutch. I have since learned that Toyota had a "dealer" recall for the 2002 Toyota Rav4. The freeman Toyota dealership has denied this. I am out $4,300 and am a single mom with ms.

- Santa Rosa, CA, USA

problem #171

Mar 012008


  • 90,000 miles


While driving the car would shift down a gear causing the car to suddenly reduce speed. This occurred a number of times and upon bringing it to the dealer I was told there is a service bulletin to replace the computer for the vehicle. Because the car was out of warranty (approx. 90,000 miles) the repair is not covered, however, if I had let the problem continue without repair I would need to replace the transmission completely.

- West Islip, NY, USA

problem #170

Jun 012009


  • 60,000 miles
The transmission started slipping so we decided to add some atf. That seemed to work for a day but the shifts became harder after that. At times the car would not accelerate properly and would bog down. We took the car to the dealership and they started giving us the runaround. They said the tranny needs fixing (the car was something like 500 miles out of the warranty), then they said that they will replace the computer to see if that fixes the problem. It didn't, since as we all know the original computer has already caused the transmission to break and the new one would not help. At this point I started researching the problem and found many more people with the same issue on the internet. I called Toyota to complain and they did not want to do anything even though: A) the car was just out of the warranty, B) they provided a tsb to the dealership which ignored it and did not do the update to the computer before the problem showed up, C) all maintenance work was done at the dealership. In the end we paid to get the transmission fixed out of pocket which was not cheap.

- Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

problem #169

Sep 012009


  • 31,000 miles
I own a 2002 Toyota Rav4. I've been the sole owner of this vehicle and purchased it band new in 2002 from a local honolulu Toyota dealer. In mid/late 2009, the vehicle started having transmission problems: Hard shifting in lower gears 1, 2 & 3, hard shifting when placing the vehicle in reverse, the vehicle shaking and vibrating when slowing down and sudden acceleration from the stopped position when the gas pedal is slowly pressed.. I took the vehicle in to determine the problem. An independent mechanic informed me that Toyota issued memo outlining the problems I described above possibly due to the transmission and/or the ECU (computer that controls the transmission). A Toyota servicing mechanic informed me that my 2002 Rav4 was no longer under drivetrain warranty, so repair cost are my responsibility. A quick web search of "Rav4 transmissions" shows that many other Rav4 owners suffer from similar problems, resulting in very high repair costs, anywhere from $3,000 up to $8,000. The vehicle still suffers from the above mentioned problems, but due to the high repair estimates I am unable to fix the vehicle.

- Honolulu, HI, USA

problem #168

Jan 142010


  • 61,000 miles


I am the owner of a 2002 Toyota rav-4 with 60,000 miles and have a transmission issue. I read online that this has been a recurring issue with 2001-2003 Toyota rav-4S and that Toyota has known about it since 2006, yet they continue to sell them. My issue started in January of this year, when I noticed that the vehicle stalled going from 1st to 2nd shift. Then all of a sudden it jerked and moved forward, sometimes doing this several times continuously until reaching about 35 miles/hr. It was hard going up hill and at times felt unsafe with vehicles traveling very close behind me. I brought it to the Toyota dealership and they told me that it was the ECM sensor that went. They also mentioned that they had seen this issue with many other rav-4S and Toyota issued no recall. So this was fixed and within a couple of days my car was bad again. I contacted Toyota, and they charged me again to look at it and them told me that the transmission went due to this sensor issue and I needed a new one. Also that although it was Toyota's problem, they would not cover it. They wanted to charge over $6000 and when calling other transmission specialists they wanted anywhere from 3000-5000. This is a huge issue for not just myself but I'm sure many other consumers who are left feeling unsafe driving these vehicles and without the cash to fix it. I haven't driven it in weeks, since the last time I drove it I was pulling out onto a busy street and I had plenty of time to make it onto the road but in the middle of my turn my car felt as if it would stall and took a while before it got into 2nd gear to drive off. In the meantime a car that was driving at about 30-40miles/hr was coming at me and I barely made it onto the rode and drove off in time. Had the car been any closer, and he was pretty far initially, he may have hit me. I don't feel safe driving this vehicle and have read of others failing on the freeway. This is not right. I hope that an accident or even death doesn't result.

- Lowell, MA, USA

problem #167

Jan 302010


  • 89,600 miles
2002 Rav4 faulty ECM damaged my transmission. I bought this car for my daughter for college and it ran fine for 3 years until now. The car started jerking (pulling) when accelerating the car. I did my research on the internet and found out about the problem with the ECM. I found hundreds of complaints from other Rav4 with the same problem. I decided to call Toyota and opened a case number. A week later I called them back and they told me that the warranty no longer cover this. I also found out that Toyota never notified customers about this problem reported on bulletin TC002-06 dated 3/3/06. I received a recall for "check engine light" but never received a recall to replace the ECM. I took the car to the dealer and they said I have to replace both the ECM and the transmission and it will cost me about $3000, which I think this could have been prevented if Toyota would have replaced the ECM earlier.

- Orlando, FL, USA

problem #166

Apr 152009


  • 125,000 miles
Normal driving conditions. At every stop light, in drive, car would rev up as if in neutral, then slam into gear. Dealership replaced ECM at cost of $1200 to me.

- Waterford, MI, USA

problem #165

Oct 152009


  • 141,000 miles
I have a 2002 Toyota rav 4 that is having acceleration shifting problems. Reading online it is from a faulty ECU in the car which is causing the car to shift at improper times which is ruining the transmission. The problem comes and goes- when I bring it to Toyota they claim nothing is wrong with the car. Also looking on line there are many more people that have the same type of issue with their rav 4's as well.

- Annandale, NJ, USA

problem #164

Feb 022010


  • 12,000 miles


Pulling away from a stop, the transmission acted like it was slipping and would not speed up. I drove the vehicle 1 mile home, with similar slip/shift issues. In addition, when I shifted between drive and reverse in my driveway, the transmission has a hard clunk. I had the ECM refurbished at my own expense, and the problem appears to be mostly gone. I am still concerned about slightly erratic shifting between second and third, and am concerned that the transmission may have been damaged. If this problem would have occurred at highway speeds, which I drive routinely, there would be a safety issue at the 75mph speeds that are normal on I15.

- Pocatello, ID, USA

problem #163

Jul 012009


  • 79,000 miles
An investigation should be conducted into the transmission slippage problem of the Toyota Rav4 2002 and later models. Mine Rav4 had a problem with this issue and I reported to Toyota company about the issue, but no recall has taken. I had done some research and found out that many owners of this type of vehicles have had the same problem. As I have experienced, the slippage can create a very dangerous situation while traveling on the road. I strongly recommend the NHTSA to look into this problem as well.

- Springfield, VA, USA

problem #162

Dec 012009


  • 91,304 miles
Have a 2002 Toyota Rav4 that had transmission failure in late November/early December 2009. Odometer at 91,304 miles. In traffic, car started bucking (lurching) forward without pressure on the gas pedal. Took car for repair where it needed to have new computer installed and valve body transmission component replaced at cost of approximately $2000.

- Tonawanda, NY, USA

problem #161

Nov 152009


  • 110,000 miles
Problems with shifting was doing it several times a week - jerked real hard when shifting & was slipping - was initially told it was the transmission and/or the ECM now they tell me the problem is supposedly the ECM. I have been without car now for several months. Initially as I was told the transmission needed to be replaced & I don't have that kind of money. Found another mechanic & have had several opinions. My mechanic has sent the ECM to a place in Texas that can rebuild the ECM for about half the cost of a new one however now, they can't get parts for the last month to repair the ECM because of the recalls. This should also be a recall as there are over 200 complaints on my year, make & model for the same problems that I have experienced on just one website. I am so frustrated - where can I go to get help from Toyota"?? can you please look into the ECM & transmission on the 2002 Toyota Rav4" thank you for any help you can give.

- Stevens Point, WI, USA

problem #160

Jun 212009


  • 120,000 miles
A normal driving day for our 2002 Toyota Rav4, maybe 30 miles of errands. The car was running fine in the morning but we were barely able to limp it home by that same afternoon. Our mechanic said that the transmission was shot, which I found hard to believe, since the car was asymptomatic that morning. The transmission specialist said that he has seen this problem many time before and knew exactly what the issue was. The computer that controls the automatic transmission (part # 89661-42820) can malfunction without warning and in the process destroy the transmission. He had received tsb# TC002-06 from Toyota detailing the issue, and has rebuilt several transmission for the same reason. We were strongly advised to replace the ECM, a $1300 part, or our new transmission would last for about 30-50 miles before coming apart again. After rebuilding the 2nd and 3rd clutches and replacing the ECM, our bill came to about $3500. I reported all of this to Toyota and after several weeks time and much negotiation, they offered me a $1500 customer retention incentive, good if I buy a new or certified used Toyota in the next 2 years. The entire process has been documented with Toyota national headquarters under file #0906113635.

- Bayside, WI, USA

problem #159

Oct 242009


  • 86,000 miles
I bought a 2002 Toyota Rav4 in Nov 2001. Sometime in Nov 2009, I was driving on I-25 southbound when suddenly the Toyota down shifted gears and slowed down from about 65 mphto 45 mph. As I pressed on the gas pedal, it began to upshift and gain speed. The transmission was beginning to act up at lower speeds about once a week at times more often. The Toyota had about 86,000 miles. After doing a google search for 2002 Toyota Rav4 transmission problems, I discovered this problem began about 35,000 miles on some Toyota. I called the Toyota dealer service department and they were aware of the problem but reported that Toyota would not own up to it. Google search reports reported that the problem was reported to NHTSA and suggested others to report the problem. One reported that his wife was almost killed by the highway instant speed reduction.

- Highlands Ranch, CO, USA

problem #158

Dec 012007


  • 74,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Rav4. He stated that he took the vehicle to the dealer for the catalytic converter to be repaired in December of 2008 and while driving 45 mph, the transmission failed. A local mechanic replaced the transmission but he continued to receive the failure code for the transmission. The dealer confirmed that the computer ECM failed and was causing the transmission to down shift and fail. The dealer replaced the computer ECM and the transmission failure code was corrected. The total repair cost was $4,400. He contacted the manufacturer and they would not offer any assistance. The failure mileage was 74,000 and the current mileage was 117,000.

- Knightdale, NC, USA

problem #157

Jan 302010


  • 54,000 miles
Toyota issued a secret bulletin on 3/3/2006 (TC006-02), but failed to notify owners of 2001-2003 Rav4 vehicles regarding their hard shifting, ECM problems, and transmission failures. Despite my reporting this problem within warranty period at 54,000 miles in 2006, and again in 2007, Toyota claimed unable to duplicate problem. They are now charging me 1/2 the cost of a new transmission at approximately $2,000 including the cost of flushing the old one and diagnosing the problem.

- Saint Paul, MN, USA

problem #156

Feb 012010


  • 79,951 miles
Purchased 2002 Toyota Rav4 new from Toyota dealer in October 2001. Experienced hard shifting several years ago when traveling uphill and a highway speeds. Told that the car was shifting fine. Now the engine control module needs to be replaced and possibly the complete transmission. Toyota issued a tsb in 2008 but I was never informed. This is a very dangerous situation since the car can stop at any time.

- Sherman Oaks, CA, USA

problem #155

Jan 102009


  • 80,000 miles
Transmission shift erratically causing the car to buck. 2002 Toyota Rav4.

- Boulder, CO, USA

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