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.


hardly worth mentioning
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
98,606 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

problem #4

Mar 262008

RAV4 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 96,172 miles


Vehicle would hesitate from a stop creating a potential hazard. Independent garage told us that it was a transmission issue. Transmission was covered under our extended warranty so we took vehicle to Toyota dealer. They advised us that issue was ECM (electronic control module) issue and not covered by the extended warranty. When I asked if Toyota would cover I was advised that they would not as this issue was not subject to any recall" they did however have a technical bulletin that addressed the transmission hesitation to the faulty ECM" I replaced the ECM ($1612) and it appears that it corrected the problem. My research has shown that this problem is very common to the 2002 Rav4 model only in the Toyota family of SUVS. Is this a design defect?

- Westerville, OH, USA

problem #3

Sep 042007

RAV4 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 114,000 miles
Automatic transmission damaged because the ECM Toyota installed in 2002 rav 4 had programming logic issues.

- Chicopee, MA, USA

problem #2

Nov 052007

RAV4 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 88,250 miles
Faulty engine control module. It has failed and caused transmission to fail as well. After $4K replacement transmission is shot again. Transmission misses gears and has stalled in the middle of intersection. Nothing was done to correct. Dealership is stating to replace transmission first then come back to fix computer. For other complaints of similar nature see:

- Issaquah, WA, USA

problem #1

Sep 172007

RAV4 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 96,000 miles
Hard shift prob from 2/3rd gear with Toyota 2002 Rav4 took car to dealer on 9-17-2007. Recall for emission problem caused the engine light to come on. I described problem to the dealer and asked them to look at this problem. Dealer said any other problems should show on computer. Picked car up asked about shift prob. They said nothing came up on the computer diagnostic ( I later learned that they test drove the car and could not duplicate problem) and it sounded like it could be a transmission problem. They said to make an appointment to have the transmission looked at. I asked for cost and they said they had no idea it would depend on how long it took to find problem. I took car to transmission shop. They hooked car up to computer and said internal transmission failure and need transmission rebuilt. I had this repar done at cost of $2,639.81. Called me after transmission was rebuilt there is a problem. They researched database and found that there was a bulletin put out by Toyota on March 3, 2006. Powertrain control module that causes a shift problem in 2001-2003 Toyota Rav4's. it explains the diagnostic and repair for this problem in detail and states that the ECM may need to be replaced. I am informed that in order for my transmission to work need to have ECM replaced. Toyota knew about this problem when I took my car to them they could have fixed the problem then and saved me $2,639.81. I paid dealer to have the ECM replaced for $1003.81. Part to me for a wholesale price. The car is now finally running fine. I was told that they do not search for bulletins on cars that are in for service. They said there are just too many of them for them to keep up with. I saw time it took for the tech to look up the bulletin on laptop info came up immediately. My research shows that other 2002 Rav4's have same problem. I have failed ECM that was removed from car.

- Franklin, OH, USA

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