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:
98,850 miles
Total Complaints:
49 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace transmission (34 reports)
  2. not sure (8 reports)
  3. replace ECM and/or transmission (6 reports)
  4. replace clutch and transmission (1 reports)
2002 Toyota RAV4 transmission problems

transmission problem

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2002 Toyota RAV4 Owner Comments (Page 1 of 3)

problem #49

Mar 092017

RAV4 Limited 4 cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 130,000 miles


I didn't use my Rav4 much until around 2010 when I got rid of my other car and it became my sole transportation. I've replaced the transmission and clutch twice and have had countless other problems like the differential and engine problems. Now it makes a weird noise on start up. I thought toyotas would last longer but I am going to get rid of it soon.

- Jj K., Los Alamitos, US

problem #48

Dec 182015


  • Automatic transmission
  • 160,000 miles

After the class action suit filed against Toyota regarding the harsh shifts stemming from their faulty ECM units in Rav4, years 2001, 2002 and 2003, I received a recall letter from Toyota--a bit too late. By this time, my ECM had already caused issues (harsh shift) and I had the unit replaced / repaired on May 15, 2010 at Toyota for $1,174.13. Curiously, the Toyota dealer denied that they had seen this problem in other Ravs and that my Rav's issue was just a fluke (cough, bull**, cough). Not long afterward, I received the recall letter from Toyota (which oddly, is not dated). A few phone calls and weeks later, Toyota sent me a check to reimburse this cost. At the time, my Rav4 had 103,912 miles on it.

At some point in 2015, my engine light came on. I had two separate mechanics try to figure out why but the only diagnostic codes that came up was my catalytic converter. Not being an emergency, I didn't do anything about it. This happened a few times with each occasion showing a diagnostic code of the catalytic converter.

Fast forward to December 2015: My Rav started with the same issue--harsh shifts and bucking. I called the Toyota dealer where I had the ECM unit replaced back in 2010 and they basically said, "Tough luck" since I now had 160, 000 miles on the Rav--10,000 miles over the extended coverage from Toyota of 150,000 miles due to the class action suit. Shortly afterward, on December 18, 2015, about 37 miles from home, the car started to make a horrible noise and I ended up having to pay $200 to have it towed home. My mechanic found that the transmission completely failed and was not salvageable. I called my Toyota dealer and again heard "tough luck" but, I was advised to call Toyota Motor Sales USA where the original recall letter was generated. I called them and was told that they may pay for a new transmission "if their Toyota dealer felt that the transmission failed due to another ECM issue." And, "the transmission would have to be new and they would only cover up to $2,500." New transmissions cost roughly $4,000 on up. Both of my mechanics thought this was laughable as there would be no way to tell why the transmission failed and I would have wasted another tow fee and time on a problem that will most likely keep recurring, should I get the transmission replaced. I was also told that since I didn't have my car regularly serviced at a Toyota dealership, Toyota would take that into consideration, meaning that whether I maintained the vehicle or not (which I did) was questionable.

I am a single mom on a tight budget so this is a HUGE financial deal to me. My family has always bought Toyotas. My last car was a Toyota Celica and before that I owned a Toyota truck. I have an expectation that with the proper maintenance, my Rav should have lasted without major costly issues until at least 250,000 miles. To me, a Toyota being too costly to fix at 160,000 miles was something I had never considered, until now. After careful consideration, hearing what Toyota would only offer and consulting with my mechanics, I sold the car for a measly $500 for parts.

I am now in a position where I have to buy a new car, many years earlier than I had anticipated. Given this, and given Toyota's response to my recent complaint, I will NEVER buy another Toyota and will spread the word to all those looking for a car.

- Kathryn Q., Sacramento, CA, US

problem #47

Oct 222013

RAV4 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 64,001 miles

Transmission problem, the car does'nt shift on the 4th gear

- Guy B., Trois-Rivières, QC, Canada

problem #46

Feb 162015


  • Automatic transmission
  • 144,000 miles


Purchased the 2002 Toyota RAV4 for $6000 from a 'reputable' mechanic. His nephew owned it. Mechanic did all the work on it while it was owned by nephew. Nephew owned it for 2 years. I purchased it in May 2014. February 2015 the transmission went out.

Through much research and digging found a recall on it. Toyota stated they fixed it in 2006. Further investigation showed that 2001 - 2003 RAV4's are a pieces of junk. Apparently this car was taken in from the previous owner to have the 'shifting issues' looked at in March 2012. Said nephew owned it at that time. No one can tell me the mechanic and the nephew didn't know there was going to be problems with the transmission. February 16, 2015 the car just stopped in the middle of the road. Had towed to my mechanic, we will call him Chad. Chad said it was the transmission and he could take the tranny out and send it out to his transmission guy. Gave me an estimate for $ 3800. I was sick. Called the previous owner, he 'oh, I'm sorry'. FU!

Fast forward to today, April 27, 2015. The car has been at the mechanics all for 2 1/2 months. Transmission has been rebuilt. Had to reprogram the ECM. I gone through 3 ECM's and the transmission is still slipping between 2nd & 3rd gears. Chad and the tranny guy tells me it is the computer. Computer company says it is the tranny. So my car just sits at my mechanics shop. It can run but if I run it I risk ruining the transmission and it not being covered under warranty. WTF!

Up until this point I have forked out $4100 for the repairs. (Doesn't include the loan I had to take out for the car). Today I am going to take the car in and demand it gets fixed by this next weekend and if it doesn't I'm afraid I'm going to have to take them to small claims court to get my money back so I can have it repaired properly. The two people I am doing business with are small business owners and I don't want to take them to court but they are pretty much forcing my hand. Sick about this situation.

- Mary E., Ripon, WI, US

problem #45

Jun 122004


  • Automatic transmission
  • 37,000 miles

I just found out that Toyota Motor Sales USA is having a recall on 2001, 2002 and 2003 Toyota RAV4 SUV’s for transmission problems. I have tried for years to get Toyota to fix my transmission. However, Toyota has totally ignored me. I had to pay for a used transmission out of my pocket because Toyota told me that they do not manufacture any defective automobiles. I just sent the below letter to the Toyota Motor Sales USA asking that they reimburse me for the cost of the bad transmission and the labor costs and I received a letter this week stating that they are not going to do anything about reimbursing me anything. They are totally ignoring their own recall notice at my expense.

I am writing this email to inform you that I have been trying for the last several years to get Toyota to do something about my defective RAV4 SUV.

When I first purchased my 2002 RAV4 new from the Bert Wolfe Toyota Dealership in Charleston, West Virginia, I have had nothing but trouble with the Rav4. The first month that I owned the Rav4 SUV I almost wrecked because the drive belt was chewed up and of course this affected my steering capability and I almost went over an embankment. Ever since I purchased my 2002 RAV4 SUV I have felt that there were several things wrong with the new 2002 Rav4 because sometimes when I would try to speed up or to attempt to get on an Interstate my transmission would not shift. If it would shift then it would make a grinding noise and make my Rav4 SUV shake. A lot of times, I would have to just pull off of the road because I could not go anywhere and if I had not gotten off the road then I would have caused a wreck or maybe killed someone.

I finally called the Manager of the Bert Wolfe Dealership where I purchased my Rav4 SUV and told him that I wanted to have a meeting with him and with the service manager and anyone else at the dealership that could shed some light on why they had sold me a lemon. A meeting was scheduled and when I went to the meeting, the Manager of the Dealership was there, the Service Manager, some other management people and I was told that a representative from Toyota would be there via teleconference call. I told the people at the meeting all of the problems that I was having with my new 2002 Rav4 SUV and I asked them if they could take back my defective Rav4 and replace it with one that was dependable and trustworthy. The Toyota lady on the teleconferencing call spoke up and said that she felt that what I had told the group at the meeting was misleading and that she felt that what I had said was false. (In other words she was calling me a liar). She also, went as far as to say that Toyota only makes perfect vehicles with no defects and therefore since I had purchased my Rav4 SUV then I was going to be stuck with it Toyota is not going to take it back or fix it.

This meeting happened six months after I had purchased my new Rav4 SUV. All of the other management people at the meeting sided with what the lady from Toyota had said on the teleconferencing call. I did not know what else to do. My wife would not drive the Rav4 and I was also afraid to drive the Rav4 because I did not know if the Rav4 transmission would shift the gears or not and if the drive belt would be chewed up again causing me or my wife to wreck. I had to put on three or four drive belts at my own expense. Bert Wolfe always had a cock and bull story as to why something on my new Rave 4 SUV was not working properly. If I got anything repaired then I had to pay for it myself.

I started going to Love Toyota in St. Albans, WV because the people were outstanding and very friendly and they seemed to care about me and my vehicle, not like Bert Wolfe Toyota. Bert Wolfe knows that they sold me a lemon and has chosen not help me one bit. I will never recommend for any of my friends, family or co-workers to ever purchase a Toyota vehicle because of the way that I have been treated by Toyota Motor Corporation and by Bert Wolfe Toyota Dealership.

I feel that Toyota Motor Corporation knew about the problems that were on the 2002 Rav4 SUV and tried to hide them from their customers. I am including a number of emails that I sent to a Mr. Dave Zellers Vice President of Product Quality & Service Support at the Toyota Motor Corporation in California, explaining my concerns with my 2002 RAV4 SUV. I never did hear back from Mr. Zellers because he knew that what I had said in my email was the truth and that he and Toyota were going to cover up any problems with the RAV4 SUV for 2001, 2002 & 2003. I finally just parked my 2002 Rav4 SUV in one of my garages because none in my family wanted to drive it because they were afraid that it would cause them to wreck, break down or to be stranded on some road whenever the transmission would not shift.

Finally, eight year ago, my brother-in-law which had retired (from his job) said that it was a shame that a fine looking vehicle like my 2002 RAV4 was just sitting in one of my garages collecting dust. He said that he had very little to do since he had retired and that he liked to tinker with vehicles and he wanted to know from me that if he was able to find another transmission from a later model Rav4 with a transmission that had not been damaged if I would mind him installing it in my 2002 Rav4 SUV. I told him that I wasn’t going to put very much more money into that lemon that Toyota had sold me. My brother-in-law said that he could probably find a used transmission for about $1,300.00 and that he would not charge me for any labor for doing the work. He said that he had found a another transmission at a local car part yard for wrecked vehicles and that he could get the transmission for $1,300.00, if he was to take it out of the wrecked Rav4 SUV himself. He told me that the car part dealer would only accept cash for any parts that were sold. I gave my brother-in-law $1,300.00 in cash to purchase the transmission. The transmission was purchased from Sissonville, WV Auto Parts and Salvage Company. My brother-in-law installed the used transmission into my 2002 RAV4 and my 2002 Rav4 SUV transmission shifts like it should have ever since I purchased the new 2002 Rav4 SUV.

I would like to know if Toyota will reimburse me for the cost of the used transmission ($1,300.00), some kind of payment (a couple of hundred dollars) to my brother-in-law for all of the work that he did to take out another transmission from a wrecked Rav4 SUV and install the used transmission back into my new 2002 Rav4 SUV and for all of the other things that I experienced since I bought my new 2002 Rav4 SUV. Like: replacement of 3- drive belts at a cost of $390.00, the replacement of two sets of brake pads and rotors replaced at a cost of $636.00, plus I have replaced four oxygen sensors at the cost of $720.00, I had to replace my battery twice at a cost of $180.00 and I had to have the engine throttle sub assembly replaced twice at a cost of $540.00. I want to know why I had to pay for all of the above repairs when my RAV4 has only approximately 33,000 miles on it and it was supposed to be under warranty. No one from the Dealership or Toyota has even offered to fix anything. This tells me that Toyota knew that there were defects with the 2002 Rav4 SUV’s and was covering it up. Toyota has told me that they are not and will not cover any of my out of pocket expenses that I have acquired on my 2002 Toyota RAV4. SUV. I have just found out that Toyota has issued a recall on 2001, 2002 and 2003 Toyota RAV4. SUV’s and they have excluded me from the recall. Toyota did offer an extended warranty of ten years or 150,000 miles whichever came first. This new warranty did help me because My Toyota Rav4 was purchases new in 2002 and the warranty states ten years, my Rav4 is going on 13 years old. The way that the warranty was written by Toyota (Ten years or 150,000 miles) whichever came first has eliminated me from any kind of reimbursement from Toyota.

I hope that you will intervene into this for me and try and get Toyota to reimburse me for the above expenditures that I have had to pay for out of my own pocket. I cannot get anywhere with the Toyota Motor Corporation. Thank you.

Please Advise.

___________________. Jerry F. Queen

- Jerry Q., Elkview, WV, US

problem #44

May 012013

RAV4 Limited

  • Automatic transmission
  • 77,671 miles

I am the sole owner of the 2002 rav4 limited edition, very low kilometers (125,000 km) living in Quebec, Canada Paid very expensive when the Canadian $ was at the lowest 0.62$/ + extremely high sale taxes . I loved the car till....................... In May of 2013 the car starts to scared me , while driving on highway it make this noise of having a bad acceleration than sometimes do not want to go forward, A few days later took it to a garage near my house they did the computer test and the P0750 came out. they told me to take it to the transmission garage to repair , the transmission people told me the transmission had to be changed it cost around $3 500 and up not sure of the price. They call Toyota Canada if there is any recall for that car? Toyota said NO recall.

I can not afford to pay that, so left the car in my driveway since. and now it is not working battery is dead..

Last week,I call Toyota Canada, and told them my problem and that I saw on the internet Toyota extended warranty, they said it is only in The U.S.A. not in Canada, they are not the same companies, but they all made in Japan, same year the difference would be one in Mileage the other one is in kilometers as far as I know. When one country is extended warranty other countries should have the same right.

It is my 3rd Toyota, I doubt if I will buy another Toyota again!!!! not even Lexus!!!!

- ngors, Québec, QC, Canada

problem #43

Mar 282012

RAV4 4

  • Automatic transmission
  • 110,234 miles


I've had my RAV4 for 8 yrs now and never had any serious issues with it. I received a letter in 2007 from Toyota informing me of issues with the transmission and check engine light. At the time I didn't have any issues to report. I later had a check engine light come on and I took it to Toyota and my issue was with ECM. They fixed the issue at no cost to me since it was still under forward a few years ahead and now I'm having issues with my transmission...I'm driving and it feels like I'm jumping forward.

I took it back to Toyota and the warranty has EXPIRED. It was only good for 10yrs or up to 150,000 miles. The customer service lady at Toyota types in my Vin number and tells me I'm over by a few months...apparently they go by the date of first use. My car was first used 11/12/01 and my 10yrs had passed. How depressing. I left the Toyota dealership and go to another transmission shop just to get an estimate (since dealerships have been known to be more expense then regular shops).

The other shop checks it out and tells me that repairs will cost $2578.96 (WTH)..I'm so pissed and to the point of trading my truck in as is and getting a different car. I have enjoyed having my RAV4 and had no complaints until now but I will not be buying another Toyota just because of this nonsense.

- De H., Racine, WI, US

problem #42

Apr 012012

RAV4 4 cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 100,215 miles

When odometer hit 100k miles 5th gear failed. Apparently the only fix is to completely replace the transmission. I expected more from Toyota.

- Susan H., Boise, ID, US

problem #41

Aug 252009


  • Automatic transmission
  • 126,749 miles

I was very disappointed in replacing a transmission for a vehicle that was well-maintained. There will be a sequel to this incident.

- Sherry D., Nanuet, NY, US

problem #40

Aug 012011

RAV4 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

This has been an on going problem with my rav4 as many of you have probably had. The latest after replacing the transmission is that I found that toyota has issued a csp, cutomer support program. The are replacing the ecm engine control module or replacing the ecm and the automatic transaxle. Your vin # is what can get you approved for the repair. Don't get too excited. There are a range of vin #'s for the years 2001-2003 and mine is in the sequence. However, it was not including in the program because certain vehicles have the updated ecm and are not eligible. Even though my vehicle has the harsh shift, bucked like a wild bull, downshifted to the point of almost throwing me through the windshield and of course the check engine light coming on and giving the codes mentioned. I can't get my vehicle repair under this csp. Csp to me means Cheat Some People!!!!

- Genet W., Tucker, GA, US

problem #39

Oct 182010

RAV4 LX 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 93,125 miles


This has been an on going broblem with my rav4 as many of you have probably had. The lastest after replacing the transmission is that I found that toyota has issued a csp, cutomer support program. The are replacing the ecm engine control module or replacing the ecm and the automatic transaxle. Your vin # is what can get you approved for the repair. Don't get to excited. There are a range of vin #'s for the years 2001-2003 and mine is in the sequence. However, it was not including in the program because certain vehicles have the updated ecm and are not eligible. Even though my vehicle has the harsh shift, bucked like a wild bull, downshifted to the point of almost throwing me through the windshield and of course the check engine light coming on and giving the codes mentioned. I can't get my vehicle repair under this csp. Csp to me means Cheat Some People!!!!

I hope that someone else will have the vin # that gets theirs repaired. This is my 5th and probably my last Toyota. Owner range 1985-2009, 1973 corolla, 1981 corolla, 1992 xtracab pickup 2wd, 2002 camry le, 2002 rav4. The End

- Eddie M., Rocky Mount, NC, US

problem #38

Nov 262010

RAV4 4 cylinder

  • Automatic transmission
  • 85,000 miles

Bought the Rav4 thinking I had made a wise investment. I bought it used with 30000 miles and currently have 85000. Made the last payment in November thinking that I would be note free for 5 more years. Well low and behold if the thing did not die on me with major transmission issues. About 5000 to fix. I thought it was just my luck but research has shown that this is a prevalent problem with that year Rav4. Toyota should be held accountable for this issue. I like others that I have read about, am a single working mother with many financial obligations. This has caused me much stress and financial hardship. I will never buy another Toyota product as they can not be trusted.

- Jean M., Mobile, AL, US

problem #37

Aug 102010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 48,760 miles



problem #36

May 062010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles

Rav4 Transmission Problem:

The ECM causes the Transmission to go bad. Replace or Rebuild the ECM. If your Transmission has not been damaged to badly by the ECM you should be good to go, if it has caused to much damage, then it will need to be replaced NEW or Used. The Problem with the Used Transmission is that you might be buying another problem. I just came across a Better fix, Use a 2002 -2004 Camry transmission (Transmission Numbers are the same U241E, only difference is you have to replace the Front Bell Housing & the Rear Case cover), I installed a 2004 Camry Transmission into my 2002 Rav4 about a week ago & its working fine. Any questions, feel free to give me a call at (813) 663-9399 Jay Fleshman at Performance Auto Collision & A/C, Inc. in Tampa Florida

- performance21, Tampa, FL, US

problem #35

Apr 082010

RAV4 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 124,000 miles

The cost of repair is half the worth of the car itself. I chose a Toyota "thinking" I would get the most band for my buck and chose to pay the higher price of a Toyota upfront. Now...not so much. HONDA is next!

- Victoria C., Stratford, CT, US

problem #34

Apr 142010


  • Manual transmission
  • 100,000 miles

Gear shift will not stay in 5th gear. We must replace the manual transmission AGAIN. We had an identical problem 2 years ago and had to replace the transmission then too.

We do not drive our vehicles hard and maintain them. As far as we're concerned, there is a design flaw in the manual transmission of 2002 Toyota RAV 4 which causes premature wear and failure of 5th gear.

- Greg L., Paradise, Newfoundland, Canada

problem #33

May 012008


  • Manual transmission
  • 75,000 miles

Gear shift kept popping out of 5th gear. Had to replace transmission.

- Greg L., Paradise, Newfoundland, Canada

problem #32

Apr 022010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 128,000 miles

Original owner on the car - have put a lot of miles on it but have kept up with maintenance for the most part. Out of nowhere began having problems with the transmission, went from being sluggish on the start on day 1, to experiencing a hard shift between 2-3 gears on day 2 and engine light comes on. Immediately took to repair shop and was informed there is a bulletin out on this type of issue on the 2002 models as reported elsewhere on this thread. Looking at repair from $2400-$3400 to make it "drivable" and could still be looking at additional costs to replace a bad computer that probably is the culprit for the hard shift to begin with. Timing couldn't be worse, but I just can't bring myself to spend upwards to 90% of the blue book to get it back into working condition. Hoping I can find a used Honda for around $5K to get me through until I can save up for another car. I will be steering clear of Toyota's going forward.

- richarddc, Austin, TX, US

problem #31

Mar 182010

RAV4 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 96,000 miles

We have been strong believers in Honda products for many, MANY years. The time came to replace our 1990 Honda Civic with over 250,000 miles on it. We saved our money for over five years so when the time came to buy a car, we could pay cash. We decided on a small SUV and the Honda CR-V was our first thought. Our longtime mechanic, who has worked on Hondas for over 30 years and only works on Hondas and Toyotas in his shop, said the only Toyota he would recommend over a Honda was the RAV4 over the CR-V. He didn't want to say that because he is such a Honda guy, but he is also an honest man. We found a one owner 2002 with only 58,000 miles on it locally. It was in like new condition, so after having a pre-purchase inspection done on it, we bought it. We drove it for 38,000 miles over sixteen months with no problems what so ever. It did FANTASTIC in the snow, especially over the brutal winter of 2009 - 2010. We were VERY satisfied with the vehicle. Then all of a sudden, without warning, the automatic transmission started acting up one night. I stopped at a grocery store and did some shopping for about an hour. When I headed home, the car acted fine until after a couple miles when it got warmed up. Then the transmission started having trouble shifting correctly again. The next morning, my wife took it to work (she travels a lot for her job) and before 11am, she had it at the shop because of the transmission having trouble again. When we got the word that the clutches in the transmission were burned and the trans needed replaced, we were shocked. The vehicle was never abused while we owned it. We didn't tow anything with it (it never had a tow bar on it). As far as we can tell, the original owners babied the vehicle. They only averaged a little over 8,000 miles a year on it! We were really shocked at the price for a new transmission. To replace the transmission with a rebuilt unit with a 3 year 50,000 mile warranty was $4200. That is nearly half what the vehicle is worth. On top of that, we would have had to go into debt to fix it, as we just didn't have that kind of cash laying around, especially in this economy. We have decided to sell the vehicle "as is" and get what we can out of it. Just cut our losses and move on. In the end, we drove the vehicle 38,000 miles over sixteen months. Stay tuned to hear the rest of the story.

- khanraj, Lincoln, NE, US

problem #30

May 062009

RAV4 EX 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 58,000 miles

Owning a rav4 is the worst nightmare i ever have with only 58,000 miles so low miles having this transmission problems. i talked to 5 mechanics and told me about the transmission it will run me about $4500 to $5500 to replace it so for that kind of money my car will sit there for ever. I only pay for this car $18000 how much can i get for this car the way it is somebody offer me $3500 hundred for that reason truthfully i do not know what to do so I'm hoping one day toyota will pickup on this problems and will fix it.if i will ever buy another toyota again i don't think so.

- Armando M., Freeport, NY, US

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