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.


pretty bad
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
97,442 miles
Total Complaints:
136 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. not sure (56 reports)
  2. rebuild the transmission, replace ECM (40 reports)
  3. replace ecm (18 reports)
  4. rebuild the transmission (12 reports)
  5. replace computer engine (6 reports)
  6. re flash computer (3 reports)
2002 Toyota RAV4 transmission problems

transmission problem

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2002 Toyota RAV4 Owner Comments (Page 7 of 7)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #16

Oct 082007

(reported on)

RAV4 LX 3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 84,000 miles


We are the original owners of a 2002 RAV4 and now are faced with maintenance cost of replacing the Auto Transmission due to hard shifting and high revving during acceleration. We have taken the RAV to Aamco for diagnostic and repair to determine what went wrong. We were informed that there was a hardware failure in the transmission; not due to driving conditions or lack of maintenance. We have always kept up on the maintenance on our vehicles and driven them with the upmost care. The transmission techs have informed us that a thrust washer failed internally causing serious damage to the transmission. After rebuilding the transmission the shifting problems still exists. The techs at Aamco disconnected the ECU from the transmission and found that the transmission runs like a brand new transmission. So it seems the ECU was the problem the entire time, which eventually destroyed the transmission. I am currently dealing with the Customer Relations Manager at my local Toyota dealership to resolve my problem. The down fall is they seem very hesitate to even try to help. I can see this is going to be a battle. I have filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau and the NHTSA. By looking at everyone�s complaints we all have the same issue. If your problem has not been resolved contact Toyota headquarters and file a complaint. They will put you in contact with your local dealership�s Customer Relations Manager.

- , Beavercreek, OH, USA

problem #15

Sep 262007

(reported on)


  • Automatic transmission
  • 76,000 miles

I am seeing on this website, many people having the same problem. had it at my mechanic who called Toyota and Toyota suggested we bring it to them could be many different problems they would check the solenoid 1st for $85 but have had many customers who have had the same problem. Has anyone got Toyota to take care of this problem? These seems to be a problem many are having should have been a recall. I too love Toyota, but from what I have been reading this problem seems to go on forever

- , Lowell, MA, USA

problem #14

Aug 232007

(reported on)


  • Automatic transmission
  • 99,000 miles

Same random harsh shift others have described. An independent shop found a bad transmission solenoid ($600), but the problem came back. The dealer got Toyota to cover half of a new computer (my half was $600), but now they're saying that was just a symptom, not the cause. I brought it with printouts of online forums describing the identical symptoms with everybody saying that the apparent solutions don't really solve anything, and they insisted on working in a vacuum. I don't know whether to cut my losses -- has anybody actually solved this problem?

- , Montara, CA, USA

problem #13

Aug 192007

(reported on)

RAV4 Limited

  • Automatic transmission
  • 50,000 miles


I've read most of these complaints, and think I'm facing the same problem. I noticed the shifting problem Thursday, drove it directly to Toyota. The next day they told me they couldn't find anything wrong, and I asked "did you drive it?"! They said later in the day it was running OK, they did the service I had also requested, and went to pick it up. I never made it around the block without the same problem, and getting worse. I went directly back and asked the guy to drive it right on the spot - he never made it off the lot. he said it could be a transmission problem but would have to wait until Monday morning (tomorrow Aug 20) to check it.

It only has 50,00 miles and has been 100% serviced by Toyota on a regular maintenance schedule. This is infuriating for such low mileage and proper service. Several months ago I went through the ECM recall, and had that done. Then a few months later had the engine light come on, took it back and they updated it again. Now this...... it seems the two issues could be related based on what I've read. I see lots of complaints, and "threats" of law suits, anger... I have to talk Toyota first thing ion the morning - can anyone update me the outcome of your problems, especially those who were going to refuse to pay for this and hold Toyota responsible, which is what I hope to do. Thanks for any information. Is there any official claim by Toyota that they take responsibility for this problem? Thanks again!

- , San Francisco, CA, USA

problem #12

Aug 152007

(reported on)


  • Automatic transmission
  • 48,000 miles

Bought the car used. Drove from the dealer to the gas station put in 85 octane gas. On the way out of the state the check engine light came on and the thing wouldn't shift. Went right back to the dealer. They reprogrammed the ECM. I have noticed that when I am short on dough and buy the cheaper gas it starts to shift really hard. Revs up over 5000 then gets the gear. Like it missed a gear. After reading the other posts, I think I will splurge on the recommended 87+ octane and try and save myself the $3000-4000 repair. Would like to know if anyone else can verify the octane correlation

- , Trinidad, CO, USA

problem #11

Jun 102007

(reported on)

RAV4 LX 3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles

Our 2002 rav4 is doing the same shifting or not shifting thing. It is getting scary for my daughter because she worries about pulling out into traffic and getting t-boned and killed because the transmission doesn't shift. It is more than in inconvenience, it is a safety issue and needs some attention from Toyota or someone that comes forward and tells us how to fix the problem instead of just keep pouring money into it and still having the problem. I have friends with older Ravs that have never complained of any such problems. What gives Now?

P.S. After I listed this complaint, I saw a link to file a complaint with the NHTSA. I'm doing so and wish all who know of the similar problem will do so as well before someone is actually hurt trying to pull into traffic and is killed. PLEASE make them aware and perhaps Toyota will listen to that. Thanks

- , Dawsonville, GA, USA

problem #10

Jun 162007

(reported on)

RAV4 Limited 3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 67,000 miles


Car started shifting roughly a few wks. ago... took it into Toyota and they told me it was a recall problem, and the computer needed to be fixed. Got my car back.. worked wonderfully, then over night, started having problems again. Took it back there, and they replaced the entire computer (free), but said they were still having problems, and most likely it was due to metal being run through the transmission... it would cost about $4300.00 to fix. !!!!! My brother (very car savy) located on the other side of the country said it sounds pretty fishy... why would it work great for 2 weeks if I had a transmission problem?? He thinks it may be an issue with the sensor. ????? Let's hope so. I sure as hell can't afford $4300.00!!!

- , Denver, CO, USA

problem #9

Jul 062007

(reported on)

RAV4 L 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 103,900 miles

This Rav4 has been trouble free and had no major mechanical problems for 5 years. The only thing that was replaced was a serpentine belt. At around 103,000 the transmission started skipping first gear. I took it to AAMCO and they said it's something internal. Then I took it to another transmission specialist and went on a road test. The mechanic had a OBII scanner hooked up and said that it was skipping first gear. He then told me the transmission had to be rebuilt. Then after he unhooked the scan tool, the check engine light came on. He hooked it back up and a P0755 code came up (Solenoid error). The solenoid was r&r for $378.00. This didn't fix the problem either. Upon driving that day the trans. did a 2-3 shift bang. It almost seemed like the trans. dropped. The light came on again and the same error has come up. I went back to the garage and the mechanic told me it's def. something internal. He then gave me an article in a trans. publication that's titled "When in doubt, reset" So he told me to go to Toyota and have them reprogram the ECU. He said that can be done before or after the trans. is rebuilt. He gave me 3 options- 1.)Have them rebuild for $2500-3500, 2.)get a remanufactured trans from toyota with a 12mon/12k war., 3.) Get a remanu trans from some accutech company with a 3yr/75k war. for $3500. -- the last option seems best but i have to wait approx 2-3 weeks. This seems to be a widespread problem b/c it's in the August 2006 of the Transmission Digest. Toyota needs to do something about this, right now.

- , Penn, PA, USA

problem #8

Jul 272007

(reported on)

RAV4 Limited 3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 99,576 miles

I took my car in to have an oil change. When I picked it up, it wasn't shifting properly. I took it to my Toyota dealership for a diagnostic check. They told me I needed a new transmission for $3600. Three days later they had "good news and bad news".... the good news was that the transmission was in; the bad news was that the ECM was gone and needed to be replaced. I can't believe with Toyota's reputation for reliable vehicles that a 99K mileage car that has had 95% of its scheduled maintenance completed has to have a new transmission. The service dpt told me that the ECM is what caused my transmission problem. I've had the ECM replaced under warranty in 2005 then had the same recalled in 2007 and now I have to replace it again. I love my RAV but this is utterly ridiculous for a Toyota. I don't think my transmission went bad on its own... I think the ECM is what caused it and the technician pretty much said as such.

- , Warreton, VA, USA

problem #7

Apr 192007

(reported on)


  • Automatic transmission
  • 52,000 miles

Having shifting problems and not sure where the car is going to go when I shift from reverse to drive. It once did not shift and stayed in reverse. Problems with delay and gears automatically changing. Just took the car to the dealer and had a hissy fit at the service desk. Also, made a copy of all these complaints for them to see. Told them I wasn't going to pay for a new transmission. Car only has 50k miles. Threatened a lawsuit if Toyota doesn't fix for free and recall all 2002 RAV4s.

- , Glenview, IL, USA

problem #6

Apr 142007

(reported on)


  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles


This has been one of the worst experiences of my life. Everything started with a delay in shifting until the RAV4 lost the reverse gear. I took it to the Toyota dealer who asked for $4100 to replace the transmission. Then got a second opinion from AAMCO who charged $3900 to rebuid the transmission. A week after the problem was 'fixed' I started experiencing the same delays in shifting, this time, however, the check engine light had come up. I took the truck back to AMMCO who in turn contacted the dealer. Apparently, the faulty logic in the ECM might have caused the issue in the first place. The dealer replaced it at no cost. The transmission problem seemed to go away until a day later it started to shift hard again... In summary, after paying $3900 and going thru so much aggravation I still have the issue.

In looking at everyone's comments here, I noticed a common theme across the board... I wonder if we could all escalate this problem thru the proper channels as it is not fair that we have to go thru this bad experience and on top of it, pay for what appears to be a manufacturer's defect. Any thoughts?

- , Somerset, NJ, USA

problem #5

Mar 312007

(reported on)


  • Automatic transmission
  • 122,000 miles

I was reading about the problems everyone was having about the hard shifting here on autobeef. Then I received a RECALL letter in the mail about my reprogramming of the ECU. I am also having a shifting problem. This happened after I had my transmission fluid flushed. The station I had done it done in put in the wrong fluid. I couldn't leave the station it was so bad. They brought it back in and changed it with the right fluid 2 more times. But I still had the same problem . Not as bad as before. Now I contacted Toyota about this recall. They took in my car reprogrammed the ecu. It was fine for about 2 days. The 3rd day the shifting was back . The thing is it only happens once in a while. Some days it doesn't happen at all. The day I took it back to Toyota. I took the tech for a ride. It did not shift hard at all. The car went through all gears fine. He told me he would look up this problem. He told me possible the ECU was bad. I told him you guys just reprogrammed it. I guess it did not work . So now I had to replaced it $1,333.00 later. I can't believe if Toyota recalls the ECU for reprogramming and it does not work. Why should I have to buy a new one. I kept the old one for safe keeping. P. S to all. The hard shifting was like the car wanted to go in what ever gear it wanted. Like went I pulled out of my driveway it went to 2nd gear a banged back to 1st gear and banged back to 2nd again. This also happened in traffic on the highway. Best of luck to all with this problem. John in PA.

- , Perkiomenville, PA, USA

problem #4

Mar 192007

(reported on)


  • Automatic transmission
  • 98,000 miles

My 2002 Rav-4 (98,000 miles) started having shifting problems when the gears were automatically changing---just occasionally--one afternoon. We took it to the dealer to be checked, for safety's sake. After a couple of days, we were questioned about the transmission fluid. We had the papers where Firestone put in the kind listed in the car's manual. Then we were told it was one of the five solenoids. Four days later, we were told it had to have a $3500 new transmission. After the transmission was in, the service consultant started having problems getting the car from park to reverse (I never had this problem). He called and said it was a computer problem and would cost another $1000.

I truly believe it was a computer problem from the beginning, but after not having my car for 11 (ELEVEN) days, I had no alternative but to pay for its "release" from this nightmare. $4,500.00. This is unbelievable.

I have probably sold more Toyotas than any salesman. I have owned 5 (Camrys and Celica), my husband owns them, my sons own them. Many of our family and friends have bought Toyotas after our recommendation. I feel that I have been treated poorly by this experience.

- , Rex, GA, USA

problem #3

Feb 272007

(reported on)


  • Automatic transmission
  • 95,000 miles

I just recently brought my car to have my oil changed. After a few weeks the transmission starts skipping and not able to shift up. Either shady mechanics unplugged a sensor(happened to me before twice!) or the sensor is in fact faulty after so many miles. I usually check all my connections after any repair a mechanic has done; usually a repair thats beyond my skill or tool inventory. Unfornutately, there aren't many helpful links to solutions on Toyota's website.

- , Austin, TX, US

problem #2

Mar 022007

(reported on)


  • Automatic transmission
  • 99,780 miles

Took the car to the local Toyota dealer to have them check out the car was shifting hard. Just had the 90,000 mile check up done. They told me it was the ECU that was bad and that it would be $1,400. I told them I was going to get a second opinion. Took it to AMACO Transmission. Found out that the error code that had been displayed was for the plugs in the transmission not the ECU unit. When they went to replace the plugs, found out there were lots of metal shavings in the pan and that the transmission fluid was burnt. Glad I got a second opinion since changing the ECU would not have solved my problem. Estimate to fix is $2,800. The people at AMACO said they had never heard of a Toyota with transmission problems. I will not take my car back to the dealer to be serviced ever again.

- , Everett, WA, USA

problem #1

Mar 172006

(reported on)


  • 67,000 miles

I took the car the the dealer (toyota capitol) service department, first they told me that it was the transmission and charged me $3452.54 to fix the problem, but the next day the car had the same problem, I took the car back and then they told me that it was the computer engine this time... their service was awful and unprofessional.

- , San Jose, CA, USA

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