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
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
136,333 miles
Total Complaints:
3 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace ecm (3 reports)
2003 Toyota RAV4 electrical problems

electrical problem

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2003 Toyota RAV4 Owner Comments

problem #3

May 012017


  • Automatic transmission
  • 146,000 miles


Toyota knew of this problem and sent out letters in 2010 saying that they will stand good for the ECM, electronic control module for 10 years or 150,000 miles. When I experienced problems the service department said Toyota's agreement expired in 2013. Now, I have to pay $2,000 for a new ECM or drive it stopping and sputtering. I was aware that the 2002 Toyota Rav4's had these problems but when I looked online and in Consumer Reports they reported the problem was taken care of or I wouldn't have bought a 2003. Toyota should have to stand behind these faulty parts. I bought a Toyota because they are supposed to be made better and run longer. I am going to buy a Ford next time.

- , Loogootee, IN, US

problem #2

Feb 262016


  • Automatic transmission
  • 165,000 miles

It wasn't until some weeks after my repair service tried to fix the dangerous buckling and heaving sifting with one rebuilt transmission -- then a second -- that he later found the information about this model and problem, which should NOT have ever happened. I might add I had to pay for two weeks car rental service, in addition to repair shop costs. After the second transmission was in, I decided to give it a try and at first, it only jerked once in a while. Then, it almost got me run over. He also told me about this extended warranty for this particular problem. I have not yet called a dealer -- closest one 100 miles -- b/c I want a clearer picture of what fixing this, at least at a dealership, would entail. WOULD it be covered and fixed without cost to me? If, as I understand, there is class action suit going, would joining that -- and I'd like to, it cost me a LOT -- would that affect dealer fixing it? One last question -- a friend did some research, found and wrote down instructions for a fix that might be done locally, cost as yet unknown. I don't know where to begin and I'm feeling fearful. Where I live is mountainous and local traffic that stops and goes, I've had to put on hazard lights, pull over and wait until the coast is clear. I need some help, please. Thank you.

- , Hayesville, NC, USA

problem #1

Jan 092010

RAV4 4 Cyclinder

  • Automatic transmission
  • 98,000 miles

I recently purchased a used 2003 4-cylinder automatic Rav4 with 97,000 miles on it, literally 3 weeks ago. I did a lot of research on Rav 4 and this particular car prior to buying it. It was a single owner car that always got regularly scheduled maintenance and had never been in an accident. Without warning, after having driven for over an hour the car started hesitating when starting out from a light, then revving up to 5-6000 rpm before lurching forward and shifting into second gear and then again into third gear. The engine light never came on. After checking the level of my transmission fluid and the color, and assessing its ability to adjust from the park position into drive and reverse, it appears not to be the far. After reading everything posted about the ECM and talking to the service manager at my local Toyota dealership, he is in agreement that this is indeed my ECM going bad. Since I just bought the car 3 weeks ago I called the used car dealership I bought it from, and while I did truly buy the car as-is, they are attempting to get me the part at a dealer's rate and give me a car off their lot to drive while I fix it, but it is still going to cost between $1000-1500. :( For those who don't know there is an article about this very problem in the New York Times from August 26, 2009 called "Rav4 owners fume over Toyota's Handling of transmission glitch" and it gives the number to call to voice your complaint to Toyota customer service which is (800) 331-4331. I have called an put my name in but Toyota still refuses to recall the ECM or take responsibility to fix it as of my conversation today. If there is a class action lawsuit under way, please contact me to join in the fight. This malfunction is not only costly but dangerous because it truly happens without warning and makes you lose control of the car! Jennifer email:

- , Greenville, NC, US

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