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:
2 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
89,854 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 engine problems

engine problem

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2003 Toyota RAV4 Owner Comments (Page 2 of 2)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #5

Jul 152009


  • 30,000 miles


Driving on highway and had a runaway gas pedal acceleration of Toyota Rav4. The failure happened once and after braking and working with the cruise control lever, I was able to get it slowed down. I went from 70 mph to 87 mph in a split second as a result of the acceleration problem. I have called the local dealer and the dealer that we bought the Toyota from and they are not offering concern or a solution. One dealer suggested we call the national headquarters of Toyota, but after doing so, I had no way to leave a message. It was all preprogrammed to deal only with Toyota's that were on the recall list. We don't feel real safe with our family car and felt the need to let someone know. We also want to let others beware of the problem with the 2003 model of Toyota Rav4. We now have a car that we do not trust is safe and nobody will do anything about it.

- Battle Creek, MI, USA

problem #4

Sep 092009


  • 125,000 miles
The first thing I noticed was a hard shift into reverse. Like a lurch. About 2 days later I noticed the shift from 2nd to 3rd was taking longer than it should. On about the 4th day, at a light when stopped, I hit the gas and didn't move. There was a notable hesitation and I nearly was rearended. Finally on about the 5th day, I had the pedal to the floor and was crawling along the road basically. We turned around and parked it, and it has sat ever since, for about 6 months now. We can't afford to fix it and we only half own it.

- Lansford, PA, USA

problem #3

Nov 122006

RAV4 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota rav-4. while driving at 20 mph, the vehicle began to accelerate on its own. The consumer was able to remove the floor mat thinking that was the problem, but the vehicle continued to accelerate. The consumers wife went up hill and the vehicle stopped accelerating. The consumer stated he drove up the same hill about an hour later, and the vehicle accelerated on its own. 3/12/2010 update updated 06/28/10

- Pottsville, PA, USA

problem #2

Sep 232009


  • 73,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Rav4. While driving in reverse, the vehicle began to hesitate. The contact lightly engaged the brake pedal and the vehicle continued to hesitate. The contact also applied pressure to the brake pedal and the vehicle accelerated in reverse at a higher speed. The failure caused the contact to crash into a vehicle, a tree, and a pole which also caused the passenger side window to shatter. The shattered glass was lodged in the contact's nose and he was taken to the emergency room. The contact cannot confirm if the floor mats caused the failure to occur. The vehicle has not been inspected to determine if it was destroyed. The current and failure mileage were 73,000. Updated 03/07/11 updated 11/17/11

- Mt. Prospect , IL, USA

problem #1

Oct 092003

RAV4 4WD 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 404 miles
2003 Toyota Rav4, 5sp, 4WD. Throttle body whine between 2700 and 3000 RPM. The noise is so annoying that you either need to turn the stereo up loud or wear ear plugs. Toyota states there is no fix for this problem.

- Coweta, OK, USA

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