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 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
110,719 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 transmission problems

transmission problem

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2003 Toyota RAV4 Owner Comments (Page 2 of 6)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #86

Jun 072010


  • 74,450 miles


Car jerks, harsh shifting, stays stuck in gear, will not go back into first gear. Have done oil change, transmission fluid flush, left and right 02 sensors, still shifting harsh conditions, feels very unsafe.

- Hollywood, FL, USA

problem #85

Jun 182010


  • 101,456 miles
Transmission problem on a 2003 Rav4 4 wheel drive. It started at 100,456 miles. Never had problem with the car before. It started to occur once in a while in first gear, then the engine light came on, got it check. Came up code PO755. Now is occurring more often. Light goes off and after a couple of day goes on again. Took it to Toyota. They said it needs a remanufacture transmission and they need to change the ECM. Cost 5,995 they told me I'm better off trading the car.

- Orlando, FL, USA

problem #84

Jun 192010


  • 110,000 miles
No warning when transmission slipped from stopped to first. Would jerk then be fine. Drove approximately 50 miles while this was happening with hazard lights on. Took to a local transmission shop & was quoted $3,200 for a new transmission. No mention of the ECM being the cause or needing repaired. Will have to trade in. Failure 110,000.

- White Oak, PA, USA

problem #83

Jun 162010


  • 131,000 miles


Car suddenly started having shifting problem, hesitates from a start, very jerky, then difficulty shifting into second gear.

- Xenia, OH, USA

problem #82

May 072010


  • 65,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Rav4. While driving at speeds of 25 mph, the vehicle would not accelerate. The contact continued to depress the accelerator pedal and after twenty seconds of the vehicle maintaining 25 mph, it accelerated. The dealer advised the connection from the engine block to the body exhibited a broken electrical ground connection. The vehicle was repaired at no cost to the contact. The failure persisted. The dealer then advised the transmission would need to be replaced. The vehicle was taken to an independent repair facility where the transmission was rebuilt. The manufacturer would not provide any assistance. The failure mileage was 65,000 and the current mileage 68,000. Updated 10/27/10.

- San Jose, CA, USA

problem #81

May 312010


  • 105,000 miles
Rav4 transmission slips, jerks and slams into gear. Very unsettling and unsafe. No "check" light. Took it to the dealer and they gave a lame excuse about my husband driving it and confusing the computer. Symptoms never stopped so I took it to a trusted independent shop and am having to pay $4000 for repairs. Toyota should be held accountable, especially since they know about the problem and even issued a tsb on it. Unfortunately, that only covers up to 80K miles. Please lean on them to make this right!

- Flowery Branch, GA, USA

problem #80

May 242010


  • 85,200 miles


My Toyota Rav4 2003 has 85,200 miles and transmission is giving me a lot of problems. It's jerking the first and second speed and when I took the car to the dealer(findlay Toyota) they told me there is no warranty so I have to spend $1,600 buying a new computer and if the problem persist I will have to spend money fixing the transmission. There is a bulletin from Toyota about this fails(Rav4 2001-2003) but was sent to dealers and no to owners.

- Henderson, NV, USA

problem #79

May 142010

RAV4 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 101,000 miles
My 2003 Rav4, suddenly began having intermittent transmission problems - the transmission sticks in first gear then bangs into second; jerking sporadically - not moving, then lunging forward. It is dangerous. My mechanic said that it was a common problem with my Toyota and that the transmission would have to be replaced along with the computer that controls it. $3,500. My car has just over 100,000 miles. It is "young. I looked online and it turns out that the New York times did an article in August 2009. Toyota knew about this since 2006. The article mentioned something about a "bulletin" that said they would repair the problem up to 80,000 miles and 8 years. I was never notified and now my car is under the years and over the miles. At I found a lot of others that have been through this. Most of the mileage is over 80,000. I called Toyota and they told me that because of my mileage...they can't help me. But, it was their defect. It should have been recalled. Why wasn't I notified earlier so it could be replaced" they told me that there isn't a recall. Is that because no one died because of it yet" updated IVOQ 10/01/10 the consumer was informed the transmission along with the ECM needed to be replaced. Updated IVOQ 10/08/10.

- Fair Lawn, NJ, USA

problem #78

May 142010


  • 101,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Rav4. While driving at approximately 15 mph, the vehicle experienced trouble shifting from first to second gear and would abruptly jerk when doing so. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic where the contact was informed that the transmission and electronic control module (ECM) would need to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired and the failure persisted intermittently. The failure and current mileages were 101,000.

- Fair Lawn, NJ, USA

problem #77

May 172010


  • 60,000 miles
My 2003 Toyota Rav4 is slipping, bucking, and dragging: Transmission problems, just like all the rest! what more is there to say? besides the fact that I don't feel safe driving it with my 6 month old daughter in there, and I have no money to have it fixed!

- Rockford, IL, USA

problem #76

May 012010


  • 144,000 miles


Driving my rav 4 2003 when all of a sudden it had no power struggled to shift it felt like I was riding a bull. It is very scary. When you have no power and need to accelerate at a light. Please protect the people. Force Toyota to so a recall. This is a known issue. Do not wait till someone gets hurt or killed. I am now having to replace a transmission and computer.$3300. My car is in the shop so I do not have the VIN# plus when you take it to the repair shop they do not know what is wrong with it. It does not show on the computer that it is the transmission or the ECU.

- Castro Valley, CA, USA

problem #75

Apr 102010


  • 87,000 miles
Vehicle jerks, sometimes fails to accelerate or it will suddenly slow down while in motion and then suddenly surges forward. It is really a scary situation everytime it happens.

- Silver Spring, MD, USA

problem #74

May 042010


  • 91,000 miles
Driving on the highway my 2003 Toyota Rav4 transmission jerks and change gears for no reason all the time very dangerous! almost caused an accident has 91K miles not repaired yet (waiting to find more information about a recall for the problem) it is a common problem for this year Rav4.

- Elkins Park, PA, USA

problem #73

Dec 022009


  • 98,000 miles
Engine light has been on for awhile. I spent 1400 to get it fixed last year so that I can pass emission but still failed and had to get a waiver. On December of 2009, a friend of mine and I was driving and it started to lose its power and started jerking. We immediately parked the car and turned it off. We waited a little while to see if we can get help somewhere but we were in a place where we can't get any cell signal so we decided to turn the car back on and at least try to drive to a place where we can get signal. Car drove ok that day but since then had jerking or shifting problem several hours after first used in the day. I had the ECU changed this year and it cost 1500. It drives better now but now the problem starts during the first use of the car each day. It doesn't happen all the time but it is annoying and might damage my engine more than the old emu had damage it. Also the seat belt on the passenger back seat during the use for the last couple of years(it didn't have much use before 2008) had started snagging to the point that it has unraveled. We found out that the metal loop that the seat belt goes though is very sharp and had caused the seat belt to get shredded.

- Seattle, WA, USA

problem #72

Apr 172010


  • 116,911 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota Rav4. The contact stated that while driving at 5 mph, the vehicle began to hesitate and the transmission failed. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealership to have the transmission replaced. While returning to pick up the vehicle from the dealership, the dealer stated that the computer that controlled the transmission also needed to be replaced; the computer was also replaced by the dealer. The contact did not feel that the transmission should have to be replaced after seven years. The failure mileage was 116,911.

- Houston, TX, USA

problem #71

Apr 062010


  • 77,698 miles
I purchased my Toyota rav 4 2003 on October 2007 with about 58,000 miles. About 3 weeks ago my car started jerking while changing gears. I had my car parked and when I wanted to move it was making a weird noise and making a jump. At red lights or stop signs car would not move if I press the gas. Noise began to be louder and when driving in highway it was not changing gears. Car would not move at times even if it was on driving. Problems became more severe. I took it to service and was informed that I need a new computer transmission and the cost will be around $1400+tax+part and labor. I had bought an extended warranty that is not covering any costs at all. I had never had a problem with the car for the past 3 years.

- Ridgewood , NY, USA

problem #70

Sep 022008

RAV4 4WD 8-cyl

  • 80,300 miles
In September 2008, my Rav4 suddenly began having shifting problems. I pulled out of a shopping center and in the middle of street the car would not accelerate. It was a very frightening experience as other vehicles ware approaching and as I pressed on the gas peddle nothing happened. The car just idled high then it jolted into gear. I took it to aamco the next day. After further investigation by aamco, they provided me with the tsb TC002-06 issued by Toyota. Aamco advised me that the transmission needed to be replaced before they could determine if it was in fact the computer system that caused the transmission failure, which it did need a new ECM computer as per TC002-06. Also in Feb 2009 I needed to replace the ECM coolant temp sensor. My Rav4 at the time had 80,300 miles on it and the slone Toyota that I purchased it from would not honor the 80/8 warranty. They did however give me 50/50 goodwill assistance (if you can even call it that since it still cost over $900 for the computers.) the new transmission cost $3,750 due to the malfunctioned computer. Now in April 2010, 18 months and 16,000 miles later, I am going through this all over again. I was driving on the pa turnpike and all of a sudden my vehicle would not go over 60 mph and then it went to 40 mph. I could not get it accelerate. I had 3 children in the car and was very scary for us as other vehicles were quickly approaching behind us and I could not get the vehicle to drive. The location were I was driving did not have anywhere for me to pull over. Again the car jolted into gear and the check engine light came on. Once again my car is at the aamco. At this time we are unsure if the computer failed again or if there is an issue with the new transmission I had installed. Regardless I need another transmission. I would like to know how Toyota claimed in 2006 steps were taken to prevent this from happening again. Once I receive a diagnosis for this latest incident I will post a complaint.

- Collingdale, PA, USA

problem #69

Apr 062010


  • 132,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Toyota rav 4. the contact was driving approximately 25 mph when the accelerator pedal was engaged without a power response. The vehicle began to accelerate normally after a few moments; however, when the gear was shifted into another gear position the vehicle surged forward. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic which stated that the transmission required replacement. The contact had concern of the safety issue. The failure mileage was 132,000.

- Laurel, MD, USA

problem #68

Jul 131997


  • 12,894 miles
On Oct. 5, 2002, I bought a brand new 2003 Toyota Rav4 from star Toyota of bayside Inc. As of this writing, the automobiles mileage is only 15, 782 miles. On July 13, 2009 (8 months ago), I had taken my 2003 Toyota Rav4 for service in regards to the lighting on the instrument panel check engine. Additionally, I stated that prior to the engine light turning on, I had noticed that the car would stall as I hit the gas pedal after a red light, and that it would surge with force once it accelerated; it felt like a rear-ended collision. The vehicle only had 12,894 miles when the SUV was taken in for a diagnostic test. I was charged $664.87 for a sensor and a V-ripped belt. Last week, on Mar. 24, 2010 at 15,757 miles, the service engine light came back on. This problem recurred for the 2nd time in just 8 months of prior work rendered, and after only 2,863 miles. While researching the internet in regards to check engine light on 2003 Toyota Rav4, I stumbled upon hundreds of consumers complaints for the exact problems. I have been having trouble with harsh symptoms before the engine light and, unsafe and harsh driving conditions. As I continued my research efforts, I immediately linked into a few Toyota tsbs concerning a defected ECM/PCM replacement procedure to the failing components as transmission control module & power train control module w/the diagnostic trouble codes. I have serviced the vehicle throughout the years, and never informed of any of the numerous Toyota tsbs. It's dishonest, and lacks integrity not to formally inform the loyal consumers of the defection and the safety issues & transmission failure. In written format, I am justifiably and legitimately requesting proper and honest ramification to this unsuccessful attempts to fix the manufacturer's defection in workmanship of my 2003 Rav4. The purchase of a new auto was to assure myself peace of mind of safety & quality. A letter will be mail out tomorrow to Toyota customer service.

- New York, NY, USA

problem #67

Mar 192003


  • 116,000 miles
Transmission unresponsive at times. Hard shifting in reverse. Hesitates at 1st gear...

- Columbia , MD, USA

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