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 6 of 6)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #6

Jun 012008


  • 103,000 miles


My 2003 Toyota rav-4 with 103,000 miles on it is having severe transmission problems. The car will not shift from 1st to 2nd without lunging, clunking, and hesitating to the point where it hardly moves. Just had the 90,000 mile tune up done and the dealer could not id the problem. After getting the car home it is undrivable-we did not think we would make it to the auto repair shop. They tell me it is a transmission problem-very expensive to fix. I have read that many others are having this same problem. It is dangerous and a clear manuf. Defect that needs to be fixed. My car is now sitting in the shop with no hope of a solution.

- Gaylord, MI, USA

problem #5

May 172008


  • 86,600 miles
I have a 2003 Toyota Rav4, at 86600 miles it appeared my transmission was slipping, when I would pull out in front of anyone it was stall and slip while going into 1st and 2nd gear. (automatic transmission), the dealership (Toyota) said it was internal in the transmission so I took it to a transmission place, they said they could not find anything wrong with it. After review the complaints on the internet it seems that this is happening with Toyota's 2001 thru 2003 and it is the ECM that goes bad and if you drive your car it will tare up the transmission. I went back to Toyota and showed them the bulletin put out by Toyota and after some back and forth with them they installed me a new ECM, this was just 2 days ago, they are not sure if this will fix the problem or not, but I believe Toyota should recall these vehicles before someone get killed, this is a real expense to the car owners.

- Weaver, AL, USA

problem #4

Jun 262007

RAV4 4WD 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 107,000 miles
My Toyota Rav4 wd, 2003, transmission failed in a major intersection and again traveling up a hill.

- Stowe, VT, USA

problem #3

Feb 062007

RAV4 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 93,000 miles


The following are the events leading up to the failure of my '03 Toyota Rav4: - current mileage: 93K miles - after coming to a full stop at a street light I started to accelerate and noticed my car started to stall. I figured my foot may have slipped off the gas pedal and didn't think much of it. - later that week the stalling worsened and my car would then start to shutter uncontrollably. - this led me to take notice that the stalling/shuttering occurred after my car was warmed up and I had driven about 20 mins. - I brought my car to the Toyota dealership where I purchased this car. - diagnostics tests were performed and I was told my transmission was the cause of the stalling/shuttering. - the technician recommended to replace the entire transmission because "Toyota" recommends to do so instead of finding out what the true cause is. - they proceeded to tell me it would cost me $4,000 to replace which has led me to this point in posting this complaint. - I am not pleased with the service options I was given and was under the impression that Toyota is a dependable car. I've only had this car for 3 years and am very disappointed.

- Kent, WA, USA

problem #2

Sep 202005

RAV4 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 85,000 miles
My wife's 2003 Toyota Rav4 has 85000 miles. Several weeks ago it started shifting poorly and eventually would not move easily from rest. We took it to the dealer and were told that the transmission was bad. We could not believe this and took it to a local cottman transmission shop for repair. After 2 weeks and the replacement of many internal parts, mechanical and electrical, we paid $4000 for our car and drove it away. Within 100 miles the same symptoms returned. We had it towed to the cottman transmission shop and were told that the engine control module was defective and they wanted another $1100 to replace it. Whether cottman transmission is being honest or not remains to be seen but we feel that Toyota should have some responsibility in this matter. So far Toyota usa has been unhelpful or unresponsive. I discovered a tsb (TC002-06) that discusses the engine control module. The tsb states that it is part of the emission control system and that replacement will be covered by warranty up until 96 months or 80000 miles. Leaves us out but others may be interested.

- Dover, PA, USA

problem #1

Oct 272003

(reported on)


  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
While coasting down a hill driver began to depress the brakes and there was no brake pressure. Also, driver had difficulty with the vehicle down shifting at anytime.

- Waymart, PA, USA

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