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:
103,800 miles
Total Complaints:
54 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace transmission and computer (17 reports)
  2. not sure (13 reports)
  3. replace ecm only! (11 reports)
  4. replace the computer system (8 reports)
  5. problem repaired at no cost to me (3 reports)
  6. recall (2 reports)
2003 Toyota RAV4 transmission problems

transmission problem

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2003 Toyota RAV4 Owner Comments (Page 1 of 3)

problem #54

Feb 182016

RAV4 LE 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 128,586 miles


purchased my 2003 Toyota Rav4 in 2015, not knowing about the transmission issues. The extended warranty has already expired. In late 2015, I began to experience the problems of harsh shifting, and loss of power. I knew about the recall of ECM on the web and I brought my car to the dealer and got the ECM changed. I am therefore seeking legal redress for the repair of my car and the reimbursement.

- xboxodx, Fort Collins, CO, US

problem #53

Aug 152016

RAV4 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 56,495 miles

car sucks, transmission shifts up and down at all times

- stevethomas, Rochester, IN, US

problem #52

Feb 142016

RAV4 2.0L 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 147,125 miles


My daughter purchased a 2003 Rav4 in 2005, it became mine in 2014 when she leased her "MINI". While I was driving the Rav4 February 2016 it started shifting rather harsh, then was sluggish, then almost stopped. I was in traffic and it was terrifying. I felt I was in danger driving the RAV4 the way it was acting. I pulled over, had my son meet me, and we took it directly to my mechanic. The mechanic came to the conclusion that it was a transmission issue. (Very Costly) I happen to check online to see if anyone else had had issues like this. I was SHOCKED how many complaints there were about 2003 Rav4 WITH THE SAME ISSUE!!! Further more I WAS SHOCKED THAT TOYOTA had not fixed every Rav4 they screwed up, just merely issued an extended warranty. Toyota you brag how safe your cars are, yet you let us drive our Rav4 knowing we have faulty ECM that will lead to transmission problems. Toyota obviously the issues are still happening years and miles later. You are Toyota - you back your product - you care about your customers - DON'T LET ME DOWN!!!

- dolores1, Schererville, IN, US

problem #51

Aug 032015

RAV4 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles


sold by dealer who knew of problem with vehicle and did not mention any problems for recall.bought vehicle as used.

- Ralph B., Clare, MI, US

problem #50

May 152015

RAV4 2.0L Inline 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 116,000 miles

Harsh shifting, jumping from gear-to-gear, sluggish acceleration and ultimately transmission failure

- Raquel G., Lawton, MI, US

problem #49

Jun 012015

RAV4 2.0L 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 117,000 miles

Transmission does not shift and gears are missing. I just bought this car for close to 7k and now have to spend another 4k on a new transmission. Toyota issued a recall for this transmission failure but does not include my vehicle because the ECM unit was replaced in 2012. Obviously the transmission was already damaged before the ECM was replaced. The cheap ECM replacement was a bandaid, applied so Toyota could relieve their responsibility for making a dangerous and malfunctioning vehicle.

- Lindsey A., Driggs, ID, US

problem #48

Mar 212015


  • Automatic transmission
  • 96,700 miles


Yet another owner who has had the dreaded ECM/Transmission problem. It began shifting rough into 2nd and 3rd and then would rev before shifting. I took it to a Toyota dealership with the extended warranty letter I'd received to see if they would do the right thing and fix it even though I was past the 10 year window. They of course would not and quoted me $1,600 to replace the ECM and if that didn't work $3,200 to replace the transmission.

In doing my research years before I knew there were sellers on eBay who you could send the ECM to and they would basically reprogram or put in a new one to fix the problem. One of those sellers is located in Van Nuys so I went to them to see if that would fix it. So far it is back to normal with the occasional delay in shifting. Cost me $250. If the problem comes back then the transmission will need to be replaced. Debating now whether its worth it or to just be done with Toyota for good and get another car.

Really disappointed that Toyota knows this is a major problem for so many owners and yet they refuse to issue a recall on it for anyone who still owns the vehicle. But its good to know that Toyota will be a brand to avoid in the future as you can't rely on them to correct their mistakes unless it's a cheap fix.

- coquette1929, Los Angeles, CA, US

problem #47

Feb 042015

RAV4 LX 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 91,967 miles

My 2003 RAV4 has been an outstanding car until the ECM went out. I have driven Toyota's for around 27 years and after this experience I will never buy another Toyota. I discovered after I took my car in to be fixed that this sort of issue happens with 2001-2003 RAV4's with the transmission/ECM. After doing some online research, I found that Toyota did not let any of their customers know of this issue nor issue a recall.

Finally, a disgruntled customer took them to court resulting in reimbursement for the problem, if your car was 10 years old or 150,000 miles, whichever came first. My car is now 12 years old so I am completely screwed and very unhappy.

- bigunsmitty, Tucson, AZ, US

problem #46

Nov 052014

RAV4 L 2.0L Liters

  • Automatic transmission
  • 125,345 miles

My 2003 Toyota Rav4 was having a difficult shifting then it showed a code-- po755 transmission shift solenoid, but I found out it has a recall on the ECU that is f***ed up. They need to fix my Rav4 it only has 125xxx miles on it

- Gari R., Hayward, CA, US

problem #45

Apr 262014

RAV4 Limited 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 124,000 miles

In 2009 there was a class action lawsuit initiated against Toyota for installing faulty ECM components into new RAV4's built between 2001 and 2003. The settlement required Toyota to extend the warranty on these vehiles from 8 yrs/60k miles to 10 yrs/150k miles.

April 2013 with 94000 miles, my RAV4 started to 'hard shift' between first and second gear. I called Toyota after discovering the information on the internet about the lawsuit and was informed that my 10 year warranty was up 26 days ago.

Toyota has offered NO HELP. They have lost a loyal customer and my faith in their brand. I would not recommend or buy another Toyota product. They don't stand behind what they build.


- Bobby P., Erwin, TN, US

problem #44

Aug 052014


  • Automatic transmission
  • 110,000 miles


At this time, we are looking at starting with the cheapest fix. Replacing the ECM. The CHEAPEST fix starts at $1500+. If that doesn't work, then the next step is a transmission replacement for $5000. I had considered Toyota's to be 200,000 mile cars when proper maintenance was used. I just broke 100,000 and looking at repairs that exceed the value of the car.

- Mike T., Wichita, KS, US

problem #43

Jun 172014

RAV4 1az-Fe

  • Automatic transmission
  • 2,999 miles

I have a 2003 Toyota rav4 . The gear keeps jumping to gear to gear , going up hill there's sometimes no power Nd then its slippery . What I would like to know is what do I need to get replaced or what part do I need to buy asap .

Please and thank you .

- Yvonne C., Henderson, Auckland, New Zealand

problem #42

Sep 092010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 54,854 miles

I love my Toyota RAV4 2003. I bought it from St Croix, because St Thomas did not have a dealer back then. Well, I received a letter from Toyota stateside main office , around 2010, (not sure about that date) saying to bring my car in to the local dealer for them to fix the "harsh shift, and specific malfunction light "ON". Well, I do have a harsh shift, so I called my local St Thomas dealer (I think they came here in 2005) and asked to set up appointment. I told them I bought my car from the St Croix, Toyota. She said, When was your car here last? I said it was June 2005, for a oxygen sensor heater circuit bank, 1 sensor 2 & bank 2, sensor 2 replaced. Also in Jan 2005 oxygen sens short to ground & thread in manifold worn re-thread manifold. She said that since I didn't have the car there at least one year ago they WILL NOT give me an appointment.

I called St Croix Toyota and told them this information. They were shocked that St Thomas Toyota refused to even look at my car.

Is this how Toyota dealers treat their customers?? Is that a nationwide policy???

I'll never go back to Ford, cause when I had one, it took the dealer here on the island 3 months to fix it!

- Margaret J., St Thomas, V.I, US

problem #41

Sep 302013


  • Automatic transmission
  • 139,000 miles

In 2009 there was a class action lawsuit initiated against Toyota for installing faulty ECM components into new RAV4's built between 2001 and 2003. The settlement required Toyota to extend the warranty on these vehiles from 8 yrs/60k miles to 10 yrs/150k miles.

This week, my RAV4 started to 'hard shift' between first and second gear. The check engine light came on. I called Toyota after discovering the information on the internet about the lawsuit and was informed that my 10 year warranty was up 45 days ago.

Toyota has offered NO HELP. They have lost a loyal customer and my faith in their brand. I would not recommend or buy another Toyota product. They don't stand behind what they build.

- Ann K., Flemington, NJ, US

problem #40

Aug 162012


  • Automatic transmission
  • 140,000 miles

I received notice of a class action law suit against Toyota for the 2003 Rav4 transmission / ECM problems. Coincidentally, about a week after receiving this notice, my car started exhibiting exactly these types of problems (bucking forward when changing gears, starting off very slow with no acceleration-- felt like it was starting in third gear almost, etc.).

I took my car into the local Toyota (Capital Toyota in Chattanooga), where I received the worst auto service of my life. I went in, and after explaining the issues & showing them the class action paperwork (which also described the warranty program), they told me that this wasn't valid & "just some lawyers trying to make money." They didn't even look at my car the first time.

I went home, and I did some online research in which I found the actual Toyota sponsored warranty program online. I also made sure to call the Toyota customer hotline which verified that my VIN number was covered under this warranty program.

I went in again (which, by the way was very difficult to do with a full time job, seeing as Capital Toyota is only open M-F during business hours, with very very reduced hours on Saturday 9am-noon or so). After providing Toyota WITH THEIR OWN WARRANTY MATERIALS & arguing with them for about 30 minutes about fixing my car (which had the correct check engine code and symptoms of this ECM / Transmission issue), they finally agreed to fix my car for free. However, if I hadn't totally documented this problem and given them their own documentation, I would have been forced to pay over $1100 for a new ECM.

In addition to the hostile and very unprofessional attitude, Toyota REFUSED to give me a loaner or rental car for this issue. Their rationale (according to the warranty program) was that the repairs should only take 2 hours to complete. Obviously, if this was the case, I would have no problem with waiting at the dealership. However, they had to order the new ECM part, which takes about a week to come in. I felt actually unsafe while driving this vehicle. There were 2 instances during this time when I was almost "t-boned" because my car would not accelerate when turning left across traffic. I explained all of this to Toyota, but still, no loaner car. Apparently they don't care too much about their customer's safety...

Prior to moving to Chattanooga, I had always used the Knoxville Toyota, and they were always very helpful and professional with issues like this. NOT SO with Capital Toyota in Chattanooga. This whole situation was absolutely ridiculous & handled so poorly.

- emnoggz, Chattanooga, TN, US

problem #39

Feb 012013


  • Automatic transmission
  • 87,000 miles

I just took my 2003 Toyota RAV4 to the dealer because of an issue with the engine light and a harsh shift condition. Last night I was informed by the dealer of a bulletin #0156-10 that was advising the public of an issue with the electronic control module and a harsh shift condition. My car was diagnosed with both problems, unfortunately because of my ignorance of not knowing about this bulletin I just missed the deadline.

The bulletin said that Toyota extended the warranty up to 10 years or 150,000 miles, my car was purchased on 11/2002 and has 87,000 miles, just missed the deadline for 2 months. I made several calls to the Toyota Headquarters but they had denied my warranty claim. This policy had left me very upset and I'm facing a bill that could total $8,500.00 or more.

Very ironic that my car has both issues from the bulletin and I'm not covered, perhaps Toyota should look into this issue and reconsider to extend the warranty, clearly is showing that more cars are coming up with these issues.

I have lost trust in the Toyota Family.

- Tania R., Newark, DE, US

problem #38

Jun 252012


  • Automatic transmission
  • 118,294 miles

I'm a huge Toyota fan, have driven them for decades, and have loved my RAV4 until now. I started experiencing a random jerky shift problem, always in the lower gears, usually early on after starting out on the road. It's very scary. I looked up the problem and found myself here. Thank goodness, I learned of the extended warranty, called Toyota USA to verify, and was directed to go to my nearest Toyota dealership. Diagnostic and repair - replaced the ECU assembly - all cost was handled by Toyota. I was freaked out the day it was repaired by the battery light flashing on a couple times and the car feeling like it was losing power. Drove back to the dealer the next day and was told it was simply calibrating. Took a 700 mile trip the next day and all was well. I thought. I am still experiencing the shift issue, so will go back to the shop this week. Will keep you posted! I will not buy another RAV I'll tell you that. When I paid $23,000+ 10 years ago, I expected it to go forever. High expectation I know .....

- Lisa B., Berea, OH, US

problem #37

Dec 302011

RAV4 Limited 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 124,192 miles

I have loved my car, up until now. Transmission all of a sudden started slipping and I do not know what to do. I had a severe car accident in 2010 and my Toyota is the only good thing that came out of that. Was there a recall on my car?

- Jeannie F., West Point, MS, US

problem #36

Apr 122011


  • Automatic transmission
  • 128,000 miles

Thanks to the people who posted here. You help my potential car repair of $3,000 cost me literally nothing! I had delays in shifting and sluggish starting and jerking when excellerating. All were inconsistent and I could find zero pattern. I was trying to decide if the repair bill was worth it, since I love my car -- when I read a post here to contact my dealership. As I read off my VIN number and they told me I was covered, I felt as if I won the lottery!!! $3,000 dollars of repairs plus a rental all for free. Now my car works great again.


- Liz H., Aurora, IL, US

problem #35

Jul 062011

RAV4 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 93,206 miles

my transmission started to jerk and parked my RAV4 and searched in google for reasons and found your amazing website where i discovered that most ofr 2003 RAV4 had the same transmission issues which was caused by defective ECM,and this problem was covered by the extended warranty of toyota. so, i got an appointment with toyota dealer ,the finally changed the ECM with no cost.

i was very lucky that the transmission was not affected.

- Mohammed G., Montreal, Quebec, canada

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