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:
96,703 miles
Total Complaints:
3 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. change upgraded ecu and fix transmission (3 reports)
2003 Toyota RAV4 drivetrain problems

drivetrain problem

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2003 Toyota RAV4 Owner Comments

problem #3

Aug 242016

RAV4 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 82,109 miles


I am a Disabled 48 year old male who find the 2003 Toyota RAV 4 as the most easiest accessible vehicle to ENTER and EXIT given my Physical disability. I PURCHASED the mentioned RAV 4 BRAND NEW from FLORIN ROAD TOYOTA in Sacramento California in 2003; which by the way is now OWNED and OPERATED as ELK GROVE TOYOTA at the ELK GROVE Auto MALL in ELK GROVE California by the SAME OWNERS

Given the fact that I am DISABLED and do not commute daily for work; PROVES why I ONLY HAVE 82,000 MILES on my 2003 TOYOTA RAV 4. As I was merging on to a left lane on my way to the pharmacy to pick up my medications today (Aug-24-2016); my vehicle made a sudden HARD SHIFT followed by high Reving engine noise and almost stalled; LUCKILY the truck behind me swerved away AVOIDING REAR ENDING.ME.It is very SAD that TOYOTA NOT ONCE SENT ME any NOTIFICATION about this EXISTING FAULTY POWER TRAIN DEFECT. I called my mechanictoday and he was kind enough to inform me about this Hard Shifts in the 2003 Toyota RAV 4 due to ECM failures and eventually COSTLY TRANSMISSION REPLACEMENT. I DO NOT HAVE the RESOURCES to HAVE a TRANSMISSION replaced given my fixed DISABILITY INCOME. I think TOYOTA should be a LITTLE SYMPATHETIC towards owners who are physically challenged and with a very LOW MILEAGE TOYOTA at 82,000 MILES with a FAILED TRANSMISSION and out of a TRANSPORTATION. .

- , Elk Grove, CA, USA

problem #2

May 052016

RAV4 L 2.0vvti

  • Automatic transmission
  • 108,000 miles

Received the "extended warranty" letter 6 yrs. ago and kept it. Realized I had it but because I have such low millage, it didn't happen until 3 yrs. after the warranty expired. Used to LOVE Toyota. Now I'm disappointed in them. Think they should stand behind a known problem for the life of the vehicle. I worry that I'll have trouble again as the cheaper way to go (half the price) was to have the old ECM repaired and not replaced with a new model that doesn't have the problem. I like to take care of my cars and drive them forever. Doesn't look like that will happen with this one. Maybe I'll try Subaru next time...

- , Coeur Dalene, ID, USA

problem #1

Mar 302009

RAV4 4WD 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

RAV 4 Jerking shift hard shift like a slipping clutch just after 90K maintenance c.100k miles. Dealer says needs "upgraded" ECU($1000) to solve the problem. If not the transmission will need to be replaced ($2500-3000). As original owner since 2003 why were we not told that this problem exists? Toyota knew about the problem and issued a Technical Bulletin to service center but NOT a recall. I called Toyota corp and they took my info and VIN etc.and said they would contact my maint. dealer. I said i wanted Toyota pay for the unit and I would pay the dealer to install. They called me back the next day saying they talked to the dealer and could not find my 2005 Toyota Corolla???? What? After getting a lecture on how my RAV 4 was so far out of warranty and they had no control over recalls and they dont have parts and go to the dealer...I said i don't consider this a warranty problem I consider this a Toyota problem. She said "Well Toyota is not going to help you". I can't believe she said that. I said I would consider that when I buy my next car. (I have 3 Toyota's now). Thank you good bye. I contacted the dealer service supv and he was willing to give me a discount. Being between a rock and a hard place I said go ahead and order. He checked the VIN and could only come up with the same part no. I had already. I asked about the upgrade that was recommended and he couldn't find one. Now I am back to square one. Why was the UPGRADE suggested? Now it is just the ORIGINAL one failed..what is up here? Do I look for a replacement? Do I look for and upgrade? Class action?

- , Ogden, UT, USA

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