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.


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
3 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
105,729 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 drivetrain problems

drivetrain problem

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2003 Toyota RAV4 Owner Comments (Page 5 of 5)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #7

Aug 272009


  • 108,100 miles


Toyota 2003 Rav4- car started bucking when accelerating after traffic light. Did not accelerate evenly into traffic. Had to pull over and let cars pass. Onboard computer (ECM) had failed and was not communicating with the transmission. Toyota had not informed consumers of this known defect.

- Scotch Plains, NJ, USA

problem #6

Sep 092009


  • 92,000 miles
I have a 2003 Toyota rav 4 that began shifting hard in the lower gears and the transmission was skipping. I took my vehicle to the shop that I normally use and was told that I would need to take it to the dealership since there was a bulletin out about a possible computer problem. A month before the problem, my car was serviced at my normal shop and a transmission flush was performed. I picked my car up from the shop and took it to the Toyota dealership in duluth, ga the following morning for a diagnostic test. Within 2 hours the dealership called me and told me that I would need a transmission flush but no computer problems were found. I was told various other recommendations that needed to be done as well, such as changing the belt, 90K service, and a few bulb replacements. I told the dealership that I had the transmission flushed a month prior and they said that the wrong fluid was probably used since I did not have it done at a dealer. I opted for only the transmission flush and bulb replacement at this time. A couple hours later, the dealership called me back and told me that I did need to have the computer replaced and possibly a new transmission. I was told that there was a bulletin out concerning the computer but I am over the warranty and the cost would be $1,286. I have done some research on the internet and found several other people that have had the same problem. Had I known about the bulletin, I could have had the computer replaced while still under warranty.

- Duluth, GA, USA

problem #5

May 312009


  • 92,792 miles
I have a 2003 Rav4 brought new at 0 miles with 92,000 miles never a problem or check engine light until May 31 09 on my way home from work the transmission did not want to engage properly. The car was taken to the dealers tech the next morning. They have always serviced this car they informed me that I needed a remanufactured $3122.24 trans and a $1145.89 ECU.I was never told that there was a problem with the ECU in this model or that a tsb had been issued. They was never a issue with the car before that one day yet these repairs are what I'm told I would have to pay for an issue that Toyota as it turns out is well aware of to the point of making and upgrade for the ECU but are not recalling. This is a safety is your trans just goes in traffic.

- Glassboro, NJ, USA

problem #4

Apr 222004


  • 100 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Rav4. The contact has experienced multiple failures with the vehicle ever since it was purchased. While driving at any speed, the transmission stalls and prevents the vehicle from accelerating. The computer was removed from the vehicle and sent to the manufacturer to be serviced. The vehicle is currently being repaired at the cost of $400. The contact is in the process of notifying the manufacturer. The VIN was unavailable. The failure mileage was 100 and current mileage was 111,000.

- Island Lake, IL, USA

problem #3

Apr 162008


  • 50,000 miles
For a few months now the problem has progressively gotten worse. It is a constant issue. When in park or stopped the car idles high. When driving the car (automatic transmission) the shift of gears is not smooth, it is jumpy and jerky. Also when switching to drive, reverse etc, its not a smooth transition. I feel like the transmission is not safe and could fail while im driving. My passengers often tell me I am a crazy driver as of late, because the car is jerking them around, although I haven't changed my way of driving. I have done some research online and feel that this is a common problem among 2003 Toyota Rav4's.

- Seattle, WA, USA

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problem #2

Apr 182008


  • 70,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Rav4. Whenever the vehicle is at a complete stop, it lost power. If the air conditioning were to be on, the vehicle would not lose power. While driving when the vehicle changed gears there wasn't a smooth transition and the vehicle would jerk. He took the vehicle to aamco transmission and the mechanic stated that the vehicle has a worn clutch. Also, the second and third gears failed. The contact was informed that the cause for the transmission failure was due to a faulty power train control module. The dealer stated that there was no recall; therefore, they were not liable for the repairs. The dealer also stated that the vehicle would have to have less than 80,000 miles for the warranty to be in effect. The current mileage was 106,000 and failure mileage was 70,000.

- Ruffin, NC, USA

problem #1

Mar 012008


  • 89,000 miles
I have a 2003 Toyota Rav4- seems to be exact same problem everyone else is having--no problems until early this year 2008, transmission was skipping gear 2 to 3, took to mechanic then to transmission specialist, where the same procedure occurred. Computer chip replaced, few days later, same problem occurred. Transmission replaced at 89,000 miles, 3400 dollars total. Otherwise, the car is great. No accident, just too much hassle, money, and several stressful, scary rides home.

- Swansea, MA, USA

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