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:
127,218 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.

2003 Toyota RAV4 brakes problems

brakes problem

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2003 Toyota RAV4 Owner Comments

problem #6

Dec 262014


  • 108,000 miles


Experiencing abnormal behavior when shifting gears (auto trans). Transmission was shifting oddly - harsh shift condition. It was not a frequent problem and no engine light and I took it to the local mechanic and he connected to his computer and could not find any error codes. The problem happens every time I move from a stop. Found out that Toyota put out a technical service bulletin in early 2006 after defects started surfacing stating to replace the car's computer ECM/ECU and possibly the transmission.. the company did not inform owners about this defect which is now surfacing and did not recall due to cost of replacing the ECU and transmission it destroys. The defective ECU burns up the clutch and other parts in the transmission

- San Jose, CA, USA

problem #5

May 052013

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 188,400 miles
On or about May 5, 2013 I noticed my car started to hard shift, though I was driving as usual. The problem happens off and on and is most noticeable when waiting at a stop sign, red light or drive thru at a restaurant. The shift jolt is most noticeable when needing to accelerate or shifting into drive--it doesn't happen when I go into reverse. The shift jolt sometimes is accompanied by a thud noise. On May 7, 2013 I contacted Toyota headquarters and discuss this with a customer service representative at 1-800-331-4331. She transferred me to a rude and cantankerous woman who seemed to have heard the story before. She stated I need to go to a dealership and get a diagnostic, which costs $100 in my area. She then stated that if any of the following codes appear: Codes:  P0750, P0753, P0755, P0758 or P0760 that I would need to replace ECM module first, if still problem the faulty module could've messed up the transmission. She conceded that Toyota issued a bulletin to the dealerships and apparently it is a widespread problem. At some point I received a Toyota internal case number. She said there was nothing she could do for me as I am not under warranty. I have 188,000+ miles on my car and apparently if it is not under 150,000 mile warranty. I take very good care of my car and it is not my fault the problem did not appear within a randomly selected mileage they chose. Toyota admitted they knew of the problem and they are liable for any manufacturer's defect of the ECM/transmission. I request your assistance in getting my car repaired for free as it is Toyota's faulty/defective part that is now causing my car problems. The consumer stated after getting the repairs done, Toyota refused to reimburse her for the repairs. They wouldn't even consider partial payment. Even though, a customer service representative initially told her she would need to get the repairs done and ten Toyota would reimburse her. Updated 12/16/13

- Washington, DC, USA

problem #4

Jul 182011


  • 174,900 miles
My car has a problem well known by manufacturers, as, harsh shift of automatictransaxles, or (ECM)code P0755.Toyota sent service bulletins to dealers but I was never notified>now I have to repair my car at a cost of over $6000.Toyota headquarters in California has refused to honour my repair, even though they honoured for California.reason being am out of warranty by the miles, which I have 175000, but im still in warranty by the years of 10 years.

- Mebane, NC, USA

problem #3

Mar 192003


  • 116,000 miles


Transmission unresponsive at times. Hard shifting in reverse. Hesitates at 1st gear...

- Columbia , MD, USA

problem #2

Mar 012010


  • 95,000 miles
My problem is with my 2003 Toyota rav 4. recently I was driving and the vehicle started to have some problems. First, the vehicle would not accelerate as I would be entering traffic, for example, on highways. A number of times it would start accelerating and then slow down or lose acceleration, this caused many anxious moments as often a car/truck would be coming up behind me. I would try to accelerate and step on the gas and the car would not really move until all of a sudden the gears would shift and the car would jump forward and suddenly start moving. This was scary on a number of occasions, especially when I had my son in the car. Also, the car would automatically shift gears, or drop gears while driving. I would be in traffic and we would be moving along when suddenly the car would jump into gear and literally jump forward sometimes propelling the car forward a little. Also while driving, both local roads and on highways the car would drop gears and suddenly slow down and then shift back into gear. The car has 95000 miles on it. We were told by a mechanic (who is not fixing the car) that Toyota had advised that there is a problem with a computer-the ECM- in the rav 4, that will cause the car to jump and shift gears and possibly ruin the transmission. We have recently been informed by Toyota that the ECM needs to be replaced and that the transmission in damaged and also needs to be replaced.

- Levittown, NY, USA

problem #1

Nov 272008


  • 81,008 miles
Toyota Rav4 2003, two weeks ago I notice a shifting problem with the car, more so from a stop and go motion. I took the car to transmission expert, he said the transmission oil filter needs changing. A day later I noticed the same problem, took the car back. They told me they could not duplicate the problem. A week later I noticed the same problem, I took it back. Now they told me the Toyota Rav4 have a known issue with the computer, that may at this point contributed to problem with the transmission, and if I wanted to fix the problem, I need to replaced the transmission and computer, which can run to thousand of dollars, I don't have that kind of money at this time. My question is if Toyota know this to be an issue why not recall the cars and fix the problem? I have gone to and read many other car owners with the same problems. Those owners paid alot money up front to try to get the problem fix, unfortunately, their cars had high mileage, and out warranty. Something needs to be done, I am for whatever actions needs to be taken against Toyota to fix the problem. Daniel

- Hempsteadf, NY, USA

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