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 / 3
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
96,373 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 electrical problems

electrical problem

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2003 Toyota RAV4 Owner Comments (Page 1 of 2)

problem #39

Jun 152016


  • 143,000 miles


Harsh shifting, jumping from gear-to-gear, sluggish acceleration and transmission/electronic control module failure. Called Toyota regarding the extended warrenty. They refused to honor the extended warranty despite not providing notice to the correct address.

- South River, NJ, USA

problem #38

Aug 242016


  • 82,000 miles
I was driving my 2003 Toyota Rav4 and attempted to merge into another lane when I experienced a very hard shift from the transmission causing the vehicle to stall with a reving engine noise and avoided being rear ended by a truck. I purchased my Rav4 brand new in 2003 to accomodate my disability needs and only have 82,000 miles.I checked with my mechanic today and he looked up the Toyota recall on these Rav4 transmission failures and not once did Toyota inform me about the recall. How is disabled individual on fixed income to afford $3000 for a transmission on a well maintained Toyota with only 82,000 miles. I wish Toyota would show some empathy to accommodate an individual whose sole purpose of a brand new Rav4 would fulfill his daily physical challenges in life and now left with a Toyota with 82,000 miles in need of a transmission. This Rav4 is no longer safe to be driven given its nature of safety concerns.

- Elk Grove, CA, USA

problem #37

Apr 052016


  • 103,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Rav4. While driving approximately 30 mph, the accelerator pedal was depressed and the vehicle jerked. As a result, the vehicle became stuck in second and third gear. The failure recurred intermittently. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic where the failure was undetermined; however, the technician discovered that the computer damaged the transmission. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 103,000.

- Davenport, IA, USA

problem #36

Sep 292015


  • 112,790 miles


Electric control module (ECM) is bad, causing harsh shifting, failure to accelerate correctly, and RPM's to jump. This is a known problem with this model and should have been recalled. This vehicle only has 112,000 miles on it. The part is $800+ or $1100 from dealer.

- Sioux Falls, SD, USA

problem #35

Sep 012014


  • 162,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Rav4. While driving at various speeds, the vehicle would suddenly stop accelerating. The vehicle was taken to the dealer who diagnosed that the ECM unit was faulty and needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was not notified. The failure mileage was 162,000.

- Rodchester Hills, MI, USA

problem #34

Feb 172015


  • 134,600 miles
Bought car used and didn't notice the shift problem til later.shifts hard from 2 to 3rd gear. Many people have issue with this mostly being the ECM going bad then destroying the transmission. Both are expensive fixes and both are dangerous leading to accidents.

- Springboro, OH, USA

problem #33

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 #32

Nov 052014

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 99,300 miles
Last week, on the freeway entrance the car would not accelerate, then "bucked" and "raced". I nearly got rear-ended by the car behind me - a frightening experience. Then, driving city streets - to the mechanic - the same experience - stalled then raced ahead. After replacing the transmission fluid and filter ($400), the problem continues and the mechanic advised replacing the ECM ($928.46 plus labor). This is a serious financial strain on me. I take my car in for service every 5K miles and it is way below the extended warranty mileage of 150K, however, it is now 11 years old. I never, ever, received any recall notice from Toyota! I strongly believe that Toyota should reimburse me for these repairs since they have been and are well aware of the safety issue the failed ECM causes.

- Menlo Park, CA, USA

problem #31

May 202014


  • 92,400 miles
Harsh shifting; automatic shifting erratic; lurching, especially when starting from stop. Local garage says transmission is shot and requires replacement ($3100).

- Stratham, NH, USA

problem #30

Sep 162014


  • 119,600 miles
This letter is in reference to an issue, namely, harsh shift condition, on our 2003 Toyota Rav4, the vehicle presently shows approximately 119, 600 miles. According to Toyota warranty policy bulletin no. Pol 10-03, dated 07/09/10, page 1, Toyota has received reports that certain 2001 through 2003 model year Rav4 vehicles equipped with an automatic transaxle may exhibit a harsh shift condition if this condition occurs, the check engine light may illuminate and/or the vehicle may begin to shift harshly. This warranty is being offered for 10 years or 150,000 miles please verify VIN applicability for this csp by performing a VIN inquiry before completing the repair. On page 2 we checked the applicable VIN ranges and observed that our vehicle was included in this customer support program (csp).our respectful request is that Toyota honor the warranty enhancement for our Rav4. Based on a telephone call to Toyota motor sales customer experience center in torrance ca, the company rep. Said Toyota would not honor the extended warranty. I believe that the part (ECM) was defective and should be replaced under extended warranty because the vehicle is under 150,00 miles but just over the ten year limit. Thank you.

- Westfield, NJ, USA

problem #29

Dec 192013


  • 95,500 miles


ECM fail. Heading North on highway 53 and made a turn to go South on highway 53 car seem to apply brakes and gears was hunting which gear to go in all the time I giving it gas to get out of the way of on coming cars, , made it home, next day drove car and as I made a right turn same thing again went back home and call Toyota dealer they said it sound like the tranmission was failing, got on the internet and found that the ECM had fail on the car, I call Toyota and they said it would cost $1400 and that Toyota would not pay or discount any of it even they had know about the fail of the unit since the beginning, I pull the ECM unit myself sent it to be repair got it back and reinstall it and car would not crank had it tow to Toyota dealer and they said a wire had to be replace, after picking the car up it run good but front power door locks does not work and the security system does not work, I can live without those 2 system for now since I don:T want to put any more money into the car right now. I think Toyota should have replace this since they knew it was going to fail at some time with the 2003 Rav4 but no they would not do anything about it, no help form them. No more Toyota for me or my family, I am going back to a Honda for sure. Total cost to me was $833.05 not counting without the car for 2 weeks.

- Adairsville, GA, USA

problem #28

Sep 032013

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 70,000 miles
Basically Toyota will not honor the replacement of my ECM because I notified them 10 after their "extension" had expired. I did not receive any notifications regarding this issue. I spent a week from mechanic to mechanic, getting estimates. Finally someone told me about the recall and suggested I reach out to Toyota. They refused to make an exception because the delivery date to the original owner was 8/31/2003. They even had the previous owner on their database. My daughter pleaded with the assistant to the CEO and she refused to even review this again with him. I was very disappointed with this decision and need guidance as to what is legal. The defective computer was installed by them and sold to the consumer with this problem. Shouldn't they be responsible regardless of the timeframe they set on their own? it is absurd to have them admit it was part of the diagnostic codes that were their fault, but since I called a week later, they got off scott free. Please let me know what my options are.

- Miami, FL, USA

problem #27

Jul 052013

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 107,617 miles
Often (and unpredictably), vehicle does not accelerate from stop. It creeps forward as tack jumps, then with a loud "clunk" it jerks into 2nd (or 3rd) gear and suddenly leaps forward. Check engine light goes on and off. Took vehicle to Toyota dealer more than once and told "no problem found." When this issue was finally demonstrated, the Toyota dealership reported that solenoid B is faulty and entire transmission needs to be replaced starting at $4600. Now I read that many owners of 2001-3 Rav4S have exact problem caused by a faulty emc that should have been replaced when Toyota originally admitted the problem in 2006. Instead the damage to my vehicle has progressed to a repair 4 times that amount. I have found no reasonable repair rate so far.

- Fairfield, CA, USA

problem #26

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 #25

Jul 152012

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 98,000 miles
The clips securing the electrical console on the driver's door gave way and fell into the door, for no apparent reason. Now the console is loose and keeps riding up from it's position. I'm concerned this is going to cause an electrical shortage or will get wet when door or window is opened during rain, snow etc. I had someone look at it at a nearby Toyota dealer and was told the whole electrical console on the driver's door needs to be replaced because it's one way to just replace the clips. The cost of the part alone was quoted as $514, with labor extra. If this was caused by negligence on my part I wouldn't mind, however I did nothing to it. I just heard a noise and something fell into the door, then saw what had happened. I feel this should be a recall so Toyota absorbs the cost, not me. The vehicle had less than 98,000 miles on it when it happened and it has been well cared for. Please let me know what, if anything, can be done for me. Thank you for your time and consideration.

- Bloomington, MN, USA

problem #24

May 022012


  • 99,000 miles
I own a 2003 Toyota Rav4. My car was running in good working order, with just over 99,000 miles on it. On May 2nd 2012, I experienced issues with the car's transmission and ECM. The car would rev when I pressed on the gas, but it would not move. Also, when shifting gears, the car would slow to a brake and then there was be a bump or grinding in the gears before the car would proceed to move. This would put me in danger of a rear end collision because my car would suddenly brake without me pressing on the brakes to signal the driver behind me that I was going to slow down. I have learned that Toyota is aware of this issue with many of its Rav4's (2001-2003). Is there any help on Toyota's part to correct this issue that they know of without passing along the cost to the innocent customer? thank you for your time. Updated 06/22/2012

- Somerville, MA, USA

problem #23

Feb 102012

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 102,000 miles
Original owner of 2003 Rav4. The vehicle was parked. When notified by college security that car had erupted into flames. Car was totally consumed by fire and was wrecked at junkyard. The car had never been crashed, had all maintenance up to date and was in perfect shape.

- Aguada, PR, USA

problem #22

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 #21

Jul 012011

RAV4 4-cyl

  • 212,000 miles
Hi about my 2003 Toyota Rav4, its seems to stall and shutting off the engine while driving. For exaple it happen more then 5 time on me this month7/1/2011, and almost getting bump in rear end. I took it to Toyota dealer, and paying $100 for what they could find anything wrong. This model should be recall or accident will happen.

- Stockton, CA, USA

problem #20

Jun 192009

RAV4 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 73,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Rav4. While driving approximately 30 mph he engaged the accelerator pedal and it took a few seconds before the vehicle would accelerate. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer who advised him that the transmission needed to be replaced and that the ECM card needed reprogramming. The failure started in June 2009. The vehicle was not repaired and the vehicle was not drivable. The failure and current mileages were 73,000. Updated 2/28/11 updated 03/07/11

- Marietta, GA, USA

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