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 7 of 13)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #134

Oct 152009


  • 39,000 miles


2002 Toyota Rav4 shifting erratically and slipping while driving. Began last month with only 39K miles on car. Brought to dealer and they replaced ECM under warranty but refused to also replace transmission which had been damaged due to faulty ECM. (see tsb number:00206 NHTSA number:10019667). Dealer returned vehicle. But transmission began to slip worse and worse each day right after. It was now extremely unsafe to drive. Within 1 week the car would not accelerate over 20mph. Multiple times we almost had accidents while pulling into traffic. Car returned to dealer for $300K+ repair of transmission. This is a known problem since at least 2006 and Toyota has failed to notify any customers. Hundreds have complained of the problem but many unsafe cars remain on the road today as a result. See:

- West Hollywood, CA, USA

problem #133

Aug 252009


  • 56,000 miles
Re: 2002 Toyota Rav4 - at approximately 56,000 miles, this vehicle's transmission began erratic behavior, I.e, stalling in traffic, hesitating and unpredictable shifting. Safety was a main concern as the vehicle was stalling during merging with fast-moving traffic. Transmission failure was diagnosed by a technician and a factory rebuilt transmission was installed to correct the failure. The ECM was replaced as well.

- El Dorado, AR, USA

problem #132

Nov 142009


  • 83,172 miles
No warning whatsoever before failure as we tried to pull onto a 4 lane highway and car would not accelerate, made loud noises, jerked and seemed like it would just stop dead in its tracks. Happened every time it had to shift from 1st to 2nd gear - at stop lights, driving thru town, etc. Toyota is now at dealer trying to see what problem could be.

- Iron Mountain, MI, USA

problem #131

Nov 092009


  • 91,842 miles


My vehicle began to have trouble the night before the incident. Traveling on the freeway I noticed rough shifting, a chug between 2nd and 3rd gear. I dismissed it until the next morning driving to work. That morning, loud clunk when I shifted to reverse, then in 1st gear there was slipping before it finally engaged. On the way to work the car would lurch ahead then stall in 1st 2nd and 3rd gear. Barely made it to parking at work. After work, on the day of the incident I ventured on the roads again trying to make my way to Toyota repair. I nearly stalled in the middle of at least 3 intersections and cars backed up behind me. I was leery about getting into the left hand turn lane. Finally off the road, the car crept into the repair shop. The dealer service center replaced the trans ECU (description below): 89661-42812 computer, engine con they returned the old part to me with this part number: 89661-42810 this old part was identified as being defective and a service bulletin was sent out to service centers, but not to consumers. I believe the old part is a safety hazard and could lead to more serious incidents than mine. Why aren't these defective parts being recalled?

- Van Nuys, CA, USA

problem #130

Sep 202009


  • 100,102 miles
My 2002 Toyota Rav4 has 100,102 miles on it and started to have transmission problems, I.e. slowing down while driving posted speed, not moving after red light turns green and the vehicle seems to jump while just driving down the road. We called a reliable transmission repair place who informed us that "Toyota Rav4S are notorious for this dangerous situation and it's not the transmission it's the computer. Take it to the dealership." We took it to our local Toyota dealer who replaced part number 89661-42822 computer, engine on September 28, 2009. This repair cost us$1,504. My vehicle seemed fine for a week and then intermittently started doing the same thing. I brought it back to the dealer (A-1 Toyota in amity Connecticut) on October 19, 2009 and left it overnight because it seems to happen first thing, on a cool engine and it didn't do it for them. They told us to keep a record of it, and when it starts to happen on a more frequent basis - when they can experience the problem, bring it back. I feel I'm driving an unsafe vehicle and that Toyota needs to recognize this dangerous, common problem with their vehicles.

- Monroe, CT, USA

problem #129

Nov 062009


  • 121,000 miles
Without warning, the transmission on my Rav4 started shifting erratically and then it stopped altogether in the middle of heavy traffic! I almost had a serious accident. As it was all there was a minor ding.

- Cheshire, CT, USA

problem #128

Sep 152009


  • 131,000 miles


In mid September I started to notice my car really having trouble picking up speed especially when starting off after a complete stop. Over the next few weeks the problem became much worse. The car would hesitate to change gears and when it did it would jerk really hard (it sounded like the bottom of the car was going to fall out). I felt like I was going to wreck several times because it would not pick up to speed and then all of a sudden it would jerk upto like 40mph. The problem happened consistently getting worse and worse everyday until I took it in for service. I took it in to have it looked at and the service man told me that the transmission needed to be rebuilt and that my car's computer needed to be replaced. After looking online I discovered that many other Rav4 owners are experiencing the same issues. I just wonder how much Toyota cares about their customers because they have been aware of the problem and have not told the consumer about it nor have they made a recall on the computers to help with the repairs. I ended up having to rebuild my transmission and replace my computer which ended up costing $5,000.

- Woodbridge, VA, USA

problem #127

Oct 102009


  • 96,000 miles
Approximately 3 weeks ago I began noticing hesitation, jerking, and slipping coming from what I thought was the transmission. When the problem continued, I took it to a local big ten tires to see what they thought. They thought it was a defective engine mount. That did not remedy the problem. I realized then it was a transmission problem. I took it to the dealer that sold me the vehicle, and they confirmed that it was a transmission problem, but they told me to live with it because it was intermittent! they did not tell me it was the same problem that at least hundreds if not thousands of 2001-2003 rav 4 owners are having as we speak, namely, a defective engine control module (see New York times article dated 8/26/09). The defectively designed ECM is sending the wrong messages to the transmission. This causes the transmission to malfunction. This presents two problems: Over time it destroys the transmission and more importantly, it is a safety hazard. On two occasions I pulled out in traffic and the transmission suddenly (without warning) refused to shift from first to second. This hesitation almost caused other vehicles to hit me. It finally "jerked" into gear and I was able to avoid the collisions. Had it not done so, I could have been seriously injured. It is an absolute disgrace that Toyota has known about this problem since at least as early as 2006 when it issued a tsb to it dealers pertaining to this exact problem. I am going to be honest. I also think it is a travesty that Toyota has not been forced to make a recall. To conclude that this is not a safety issue is flat out wrong. Just because it does not occur on the "open highway" is, with all due respect, ludicrous. I can be just as seriously injured if my car is hit by someone going 40 mph because I can't get out of their way. No parts have been replaced. Please do the right thing and make Toyota fix this problem do not let this become another pinto gas tank case. Thank you.

- Niceville, FL, USA

problem #126

Mar 062008


  • 80,000 miles
Same transmission problem as everyone else. Transmission started to slip, stopped driving immediately and told the computer needed to be replace. Furious at the fact that this is not a recall. There is no maintenance which as the owner I failed to do. This is a safety issue and I have sold my Toyota with complete dissatisfaction at Toyota's lack of response to this. If I did not stop driving immediately I'm told I would have ruined the transmission and it would have cost $4,00 instead of the $1,600. Slipping gears while driving is a safety hazard. Does someone need to get hurt before Toyota does something?

- West Islip, NY, USA

problem #125

Oct 272007


  • 75,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Rav4. When driving she experiences gear slippage in the transmission. This causes the vehicle to bounce and stall. The computer chip was replaced, but the failure has not been remedied. The failure mileage 75,000. The vehicle identification number was unavailable.

- Austin, TX, USA

problem #124

Sep 252009


  • 87,280 miles


There were no events leading up to failure. My transmission on my 2002 Toyota Rav4 started slipping and pulling out of the blue. It had 87,280 miles and had been regularly serviced and inspected. It failed to accelerate at intersections and on take off, making driving very dangerous. I took it in and was told by the repair shop the engine control module was defective and had caused the transmission to fail, leaving me driving with only 3rd gear. It is believed that the Toyota was aware of the defective engine control module. My husband and I had to spend $3715.30 to repair the transmission and replace the defective ECM. This is a clear and present danger as there is no warning. Failure could happen at any time and any place causing bodily harm to the driver, passengers, and other vehicles and occupants on the road. I feel a recall is needed and reimbursement of all repair costs should be made to victims of this negligence.

- Christiansburg, VA, USA

problem #123

Oct 192009


  • 769,000 miles
2002 Toyota Rav4. Car stalled on highway, barely made it up hills. Drove two hours from home to a recruiting event. Transmission shift solenoid needed to be replaced. Car has 76,600 miles on it. Slow shifting and sudden complete malfunction led to safety issues/serious potential for accidents.

- Rocky Point, NY, USA

problem #122

Oct 072009


  • 132,000 miles
Transmission problems with 2002 Rav4: The "checking" engine light on my car was on a week ago, then the next day, I put my car to koons Toyota at tysons, Virginia for checking the problem, also I requested 120,000 mile service. After service was completed by koons, I found that my car has the harsh shifting occurs, meaning that, at the low gear, when stepped on the gas pedal. My car hesitates to shift into the second gear. After push further on the gas pedal, my car jumped harshly into the second gear, rather than smooth driving as prior to the service. The next day, I brought my car back to koons to report the "harsh shifting" problem, they test drove my car and agreed that there is some jerking occurs at low gear. They recommended me to continuously drive the car, hoping that the car will adjust itself to the new software programming that they used. I continued drive for a week while carefully listen to my car: The "hard shifting" problem still exist. Then last night, the "check engine" light was on again. I immediately brought my car to koons dealer at tysons to correct the problem. After checking it again, koons told me that the problem caused by the "engine control module" (E.C.M.) and recommended me that first to replace the E.C.M., and if that doesn't solve the hard shifting problem, second is to replace the transmission next. I think this problem definitely not cause by me, rather by koons and Toyota manufacturer. Now I do not know what to do. Thank you for listening. Daniel bui

- Reston, VA, USA

problem #121

Oct 012009


  • 150,000 miles
Apparently with all the chatter about Toyota Rav4S there is clearly an issue with the transmissions. Mine as well has started to slip and buck in and out of 2nd gear. An investigation is definitely warranted and should lead to a recall by Toyota.

- Warrenton, VA, USA

problem #120

Aug 132009


  • 82,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Rav4. While driving between 45-50 mph the transmission exhibited gear shifting failure. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer for inspection. The technician concluded that the transmission had slipped gears, therefore the vehicle was repaired. After the repair the failure resurfaced. The vehicle was taken back to the dealer and repaired. However none of the repairs have remedied the failures. The failure mileage was 82,000. The current mileage was 83,000.

- Nashville, TN, USA

problem #119

Oct 272008


  • 86,936 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Toyota Rav4. While the contact was attempting to accelerate she noticed that the vehicle suddenly lunged forward. The dealer stated that the transmission computer needed to be replaced. There were no prior warnings, the current and failure mileages were 86936.

- Tampa, FL, USA

problem #118

Aug 102009


  • 110,000 miles
Transmission/ECM failure. Transmission would "flare" while accelerating. When shifting while accelerating, transmission would not engage and power was not transmitted to wheels. Engine would rev up for 5-10 seconds until transmission would violently engage in next gear. This was particularly dangerous while attempting to cross or merge with traffic, as the vehicle had no ability to accelerate during the event. Symptoms quickly became very regular/repeatable. Vehicle was repaired and the problem was identified as a faulty ECM module and damaged transmission.

- Ames, IA, USA

problem #117

Sep 252009


  • 91,000 miles
In the middle of a trip, after stopping, the transmission started jerking when switching gears. Since then it has been an intermittent problem. Sometimes it downshifts for no reason, sometimes it doesn't fully engage into first gear. Sometimes it works fine. Sometimes it has trouble accelerating going uphill, it will downshift and rev to redline and won't shift to the next gear. I took it to the dealer, and they said that they couldn't find anything wrong, that it worked for them. But then they also offered to replace my transmission.

- Tigard, OR, USA

problem #116

Oct 102009


  • 110,000 miles
I have a 2002 Rav4 all wheel drive automatic, and the transmission started acting up at 98,000 miles. The car would shudder at stops, sometimes lunging forward. I would hold up traffic as it continued shuddering until it would finally go into second. Sometimes on the freeway it would slip out of gear and shudder as well. I would have to reduce speed until it would go into second. Sometimes at intersections I would crawl across the street as I hoped that it would go into second before the light turned red! I took it into Toyota oxnard ca. At 110,000 miles. The service manager told me that this model "is notorious for transmission problems." I then said, "and you sold me this car knowing this?!" I purchased the used car from the same lot in April 2004. So the car was looked at, and the diagnosis was that it needed a new transmission. No mention of the computer problem. I was quoted $3800 to fix it. I took it to another transmission shop for a second opinion, as I could not afford $3800 to fix it. I was told that if I "baby" it that it may last awhile longer. At 203,000 miles it gave out. The car would no longer go into 2nd gear. I took it back to the transmission shop where I was told that the computer was also an issue, and he suggested to replace both. It is now fixed...$4800 later. I am currently unemployed and had to use all of my student loan money to pay for my car.

- Ventura, CA, USA

problem #115

Oct 062009


  • 125,000 miles
The transmission started slipping and there was a lack of acceleration after coming to a complete stop. Once the car would finally accelerate, it would bang into gear. The transmission issue is a know problem with the 2002 Toyota Rav4's and Toyota is refusing to do anything about it if the car has over 80,000 miles on it.

- Haverhill, MA, USA

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