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:
121,861 miles
Total Complaints:
21 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. new transmission and new ecm (16 reports)
  2. not sure (5 reports)
2003 Toyota RAV4 transmission problems

transmission problem

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2003 Toyota RAV4 Owner Comments (Page 1 of 2)

problem #21

Apr 012017

RAV4 Sport 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 101,600 miles


The transmission shop would not quote me a price except to say it would be pricey. Internet research shows the replacement of the ECM around $3,000. This vehicle is a 2003 model purchased in 2002 with low miles of 101,600. The vehicle has been maintained well and is in good condition other than the ECM. She still runs well except for periodic jerking, especially when she is cold.

- , Toledo, OH, US

problem #20

Mar 172017

RAV4 Limited 2

  • Automatic transmission
  • 119,000 miles

It will cost over $1400 to fix. I called Toyota, they basically told me to go F___ myself!!! They said they extended the warranty once and they won't do it again.

- , Los Angeles, CA, US

problem #19

Apr 152016

RAV4 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles

A faulty ECM led to the automatic transmission missing shifts, loss of power, and wrong gear changes. The mechanics didn't identify the problem quickly enough. We eventually had the ECM replaced, but the transmission will no longer shift into 4th. It will cost $4,200 for a rebuilt transmission. Now we're selling the car with the faulty tranny.

- , Stateline, NV, USA

problem #18

Jun 152016


  • Automatic transmission
  • 143,000 miles


I love the toyota rav4 until it gave out on me. I brought my car to the mechanic and they informed me there was an issue with the ECM and Transmission. They said they seen this before and to contact toyota because it will be a costly fix. After 3 days of back and fourth between the different departments, I eventually contacted Toyota corporate. They refused any assistant and claim the extended warrenty was no longer valid even though I never got my notice.They were very unhelpful and told me I was out of luck. I felt betrayed after driving a toyota for over a decade.

- , South River, NJ, USA

problem #17

Aug 122016


  • Automatic transmission
  • 143,000 miles

I trusted Toyota more then any other Car , so i wasn t afraid buying it even with high miles . Now i am very disapinted i can t believe . the worse thing is i m planning to ship it to AFRICA for myself . still deadn t call Toyota yet . based on what i read the O3 is on recall

- , Newark, DE, USA

problem #16

Jun 022016

RAV4 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 103,148 miles

Bought a certified used Rav 2003 from Toyota Dealer in my area- expecting it to be very much like the 2003 Camry (bought new) that I also have--- with 90 000 km. Camry is sooooooo smooth nick named "Whisper". Girl friend had a 60's Corolla- it rusted to death and we actually managed to drive it to the scrap yard- believe me 600 000 MILES on the odo- Both are what we should have and what Toyota would be famous for- digressing- no

Paid for the RAV drove it off the lot and the transmission clunked away every time it went into a higher gear. RAV idled at 1000 rpm when starting or when stopping for a light- then 10 to 15 seconds went down to 500- then would die - right at the intersections- First day--- did this three times. Then climbing hills- 3rd auto gear- and the engine would quit- first day did this twice.

Phoned the dealer , they say bring it back- phone me later needs a different transmission $6K to fix and replace em module--a car that was certified, on their lot , driven once to go back home- and they want another $6K??? - Agreed to $3K cause the body everything else is spotless

Month later it was ready- drove it off the lot and it was worse. Stopped three times at busy intersections, slip into neutral to keep rev's up and the clunks shake the car, stop for a toll and get out the car ( dropped the change) and thank god in park- engine runs to 3000 plus rpm with me outside the car, 15 minutes later in a line of cars all too close to each other but moving well at 60K and the engine just quits

Drove the car twice here- picking it up after the sale and picking it up after new em and tranny replacement and it does exactly the same thing and almost kills me

We are in the middle of dealing with this at the moment- dealer seems cooperative so far-says will give me my money back. What an unfortunate bad expereince for a company that prides itself on engineering excellence- image - brand new and it still is bad.

- , Hornby Island, BC, Canada

problem #15

Jun 242016

RAV4 2.0L 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 115,100 miles


My only complaint in six Toyota vehicles, all with 100K miles, but very costly.

- , Richton Park, IL, US

problem #14

Mar 112016


  • Automatic transmission
  • 149,361 miles

From what I've read while researching, the ecm/transmission failure for my vehicle is due to faulty manufacturing. I would think this issue would come under RECALL status. Why doesn't it? Other than this issue this is a great vehicle. It sucks that I am going to have to pay out of pocket for something that is crap straight from manufacturer..That's it, that's my rant.

- , Inverness, FL, USA

problem #13

Oct 282015

RAV4 L4-122 2.0L Dohc

  • Automatic transmission
  • 83,559 miles

My 2003 Rav 4 module and transmission failed at 83559 miles, which is low for a Toyota. Toyota Motor Corp lost a class action law suit, and agreed to be responsible for replacement of transmission and module replacement of the 2001 to 2003 model year rav's 4 that failed within 150,000 mile usage or 10 year use.

My car had only 83,559 miles at the time of failure due to the faulty original module that caused this transmission problem.

In November 2006 Toyota issued a technical bulletin # 1046 with reference to 2001-2003 Toyota Rav4 transmission: u14OF, U241E. Subject:2-3 blind up/harsh 2-3 PO755, Burnt (C2, Clutch, Harsh rev. Engagement, wrong gear starts....saying that the faulty PCM in the Toyoa Rav4's can cause the transmission problem that my car experienced..........(I have a copy of the document for reference, if necessary)

The problem with the Transmission in my RAV4 with only 83559 miles was due to durability; and that Toyota sold the car with a faulty module, did not replace it when they admitted to the problem and needs to be responsible for any and all costs incurred.

Additionally there is a safety issue with failure of this product.

- , Los Alamitos, CA, USA

problem #12

Mar 012015

RAV4 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 140,056 miles


- , Haiku, HI, USA

problem #11

Mar 302015


  • Automatic transmission
  • 123,645 miles


Why not be forth coming when you service your car at Toyota dealership and just fix the ECM before it becomes a problem. Instead we hide it from the consumer and when it becomes a problem, you miss the warranty by one month.

- , Spencerport, NY, USA

problem #10

Feb 092015


  • Automatic transmission
  • 119,000 miles

I noticed a noise in my 2003 Toyota RAV4 engine a few months ago, I took it to a mechanic and he told me that the engine timing was off. He re-timed it for me and replaced the timing chain, which cost me $700 in total. A couple of weeks later, while my husband was driving, the engine completely seized up! Thankfully, my husband was able to safely coast off of the highway and out of danger. I had the car towed to the mechanic again and it turns out the reason that the engine timing had been off and then seized was because of the KNOWN issue with the ECM. There was a class action lawsuit filed against Toyota because of the "hard shift condition" which leads to failure of the ECM. I had no knowledge of this issue, I was never advised of a recall or anything of that nature.

I am furious! I purchased a Toyota specifically because I wanted a great engine that would last me forever. This engine has 119,000 miles on it! That's a baby for a Toyota engine! I would love to file a claim with the class action, but the deadline was 12/31/2014.I am hoping there is SOMETHING that can be done, I can't afford to get it repaired, it won't be paid off for a few more months, and the trade-in value is probably basically nothing, given that it is inoperable. I can't afford to get a different car until this heap of junk is paid off.

I really loved this car before this issue arose, but I will probably never buy a Toyota again after this!

- , Newport, OR, USA

problem #9

Sep 302014


  • Automatic transmission
  • 146,196 miles

Apparently there was a recall on the power train computer system (ECM) for my 2003 Toyota RAV4 in 2010 that I never received notice of. I am today (10/3/14) reading that Toyota was forced to extend the warrant on the ECM and Transmission to 10 years or 150,000 miles, whichever comes first, due to these problems. I had no knowledge of the problems and no transmission issues until 9/30/14. I immediately took it in for service and was told my transmission was shot and needed replaced along with my ECM which was getting Error P0755. The bill for a new transmission which is the only way I could get a warranty was $5000. I was not told by the mechanic about any bulletins on this problem. I decided to trade it in but it has no trade-in value as it is inoperable and blue book on my make and model is apparently only $3600. To make matters worse, although my car has less than the 150,000 miles on the extended warranty, I bought in in Dec 2002 so it exceeds the warranty time-frame. This is ludicrous and extremely unfair. I had to pay $98 just to get the diagnosis.

1) Toyota inspected my Transmission in 2007 and reported no problems.

2) Why wasnt i notified of the recall

3) There should not be a time limit on issues like this caused by a faulty factory installed part

End of rant but not end of story!!!!

- , Chula Vista, CA, USA

problem #8

May 302012

RAV4 Not Sure 4 Cycl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 128,000 miles

How can a company like Toyota produce and then cover something like this up! I have heard great things about the Rav4 so bought one for my family... huge mistake. More women drive these cars than anyone else- so this is more important than my car because my family is in this car the most! We have kept all the service up on the car only to have this happen. For us and the average person, paying $4k- $5k for a transmission and service on a car thats worth $10k isn't fair, fun or affordable. I talked with deal and they asked me to drive car in for repair.. they should have said to park it and tow it in. I am waiting for response from Toyota but don't think we are going to get help here. If we don't get help, I don't know what to do but if we get out of this and Toyota doesn't come to the table- my family will never buy another Toyota.

- , Charlotte, NC, USA

problem #7

Jun 192009

RAV4 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 143,957 miles

At the time of the issue I approached both dealership and was offered no financial assistance. In fact the service manager was not even aware of this particular problem. Next I called Toyota Canada with the hope of getting some form of financial compensation. The attitude from the Toyota rep was essentially, "too bad, so sad".

- , Belleville, ON, canada

problem #6

Oct 112012


  • Automatic transmission
  • 113,000 miles

I owned a 4Runner before my 2003 Rav4. My 4Runner was the best, but when I finally had to give it up, I traded it in for my 2003 Rav4, thinking that another Toyota was my best choice. OMG what a mistake that was. I have never been truly happy with this vehicle. On October 11, 2012 my Rav4 started pulling, not shifting and almost coming to a complete stop while I was driving home from work in heavy traffic. I thought for sure I was going to cause an accident. I made it home, finally, when I got home, me and my wife were on our way to the transmission garage near our home,and the engine light went on. We barely made it to the garage without causing an accident. The mechanic serviced our transmission for $403.00. Buying us some time till we could afford a transmission, well it bought us 20 miles and it started doing the same thing. We took it back finding out we needed to replace the transmission. Well thank God for good friends, because they lent us the money, so far $3000.00. So 2 weeks later we got our Rav4 back. We drove off happy as hell when, ya, a quarter of a mile from the garage, it was doing the same thing! Our poor mechanic was at a loss. The next day we found out our computer had burned out, and needed to be replaced and he had to order it, today is November 14, 2012 and we are still waiting for our Rav4. Its not our mechanics fault, if we would have known about all these problems other people were having, we could have had the problem fixed from the start. I am very disappointed with Toyota. They should take responsibility for their vehicles. We still do not know our total amount of our bill, but its climbing. Please people don't buy a Rav4. This is my first complaint, my second is the smoking from my Rav4. Please follow our complaints...

- , Peralta, NM, USA

problem #5

Dec 152010

RAV4 2.0L V4

  • Automatic transmission
  • 84,450 miles

HELP!!! I see a lot of people complaining for ECM and transmission for Rav 4 01-03 !! tell me what should I do to get it fix from Toyota since is a manufacturing problem

- , Mineola, NY, USA

problem #4

Aug 022010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 160,000 miles

Toyota needs to place a RECALL on all RAV4's. This is a serious safety issue. They are not willing to take ownership of a DEFECT

- , Concord, CA, USA

problem #3

Nov 112009

RAV4 L 2.2L 4

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

trans went out and the transmission shop still can't get it to run

- , Merrillville, IN, US

problem #2

Feb 052010

RAV4 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 139,000 miles

My car was jerking by on my way to work. I called the transmission shop and took it in. The transmission was messed up so bad that some of the parts they couldn't even get apart. Took them a while to find another transmission and get it back to me. I had it 1 day and had to take it back. My check engine light came on.

Come to find out that the ECM (Engine Control Module) tore up the transmission. They couldnt find a used one and a new one was going to be 950.00. We did finaly find a place in Florida that rebuilds them for 450.00. I already paid 2740.60 for the transmission. I am currently waiting for my car to be finished it has been a month and a half. This has been a big pain in the ASS.....Toyota dealer ship said they are no recalls on this year model. Go figure.

- , 120 Fairview St, Marshall, USA

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