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:
93,120 miles
Total Complaints:
19 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. i need to pay $5000 for 2003 rav 4 problem (7 reports)
  2. not sure (7 reports)
  3. replace transmission (5 reports)
2003 Toyota RAV4 transmission problems

transmission problem

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2003 Toyota RAV4 Owner Comments

problem #19

Feb 152017


  • Automatic transmission
  • 105,123 miles


After the transmission was rebuilt it continued to have problems. Then Toyota replaced the ECM unit 1358.19. drove it two day and it started the same damn sh*t as before. Oh yea I called Toyota to help with the cost but they said no the recall was for 10 years or 150,000 miles. My vehicle is 14 years old with 106,000 original miles on it. So with Toyota your f*cked if you have a low mileage driven vehicle.

- , Tazewell, US

problem #18

Jul 012016

RAV4 4 WD 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 74,500 miles

Being told that the problem was an oxygen sensor, I had two of them replaced, along with the spark plugs . That apparently wasn't the only problem. I have had three diagnostics run, and can't afford another. I was told that when the ECM is faulty, the diagnostic codes are all screwed up. Still not sure if it's only the ECM, but almost got rear-ended by the nitwit following too closely, when the transmission slipped and the car stopped. Not the engine that.killed, the transmission just froze. I read the comments from owners of other Rav 4's, and apparently Toyota knew about this problem for years, and extended the warranty a couple years ago. They would cover it for 10 years or 80,000 miles, whichever comes first. My car only has 74,597 miles on it, but is 13 years old. This is total BS! I'm on Social Security and absolutely cannot afford any more repairs. I will not be buying another Toyota in the future, and will be buying a bus pass.SO. DISGUSTING!

- , Lacrosse, WI, USA

problem #17

Aug 152016

RAV4 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 56,495 miles

the transmission problem is from the factory but Toyota will not help because they say the car is to old. if it is to old why don't they sell you the car with a throw away clause. the car only has 56000 miles and the transmission is not working right. they will not have to worry about me buying another Toyota again in my lifetime or anyone else that I am in contact with because I will tell them what a piece of sh*t they really are.

- , Rochester, IN, USA

problem #16

Jul 212015

RAV4 2.0L V4

  • Automatic transmission
  • 67,088 miles


On July 21, 2015, I had to go to the store. When I came to a stop sign or red light and started to pull off I notice my 2003 Toyota Rav4 started jerking and had loss performance. I tried accelerating the pedal all the way to the floor to see if it would pick up speed and it wouldn't. My vehicle was moving so slow I thought I was going to get hit! So finally, the jerking stopped and my vehicle begin to pick up speed.

I was able to go on to the store and purchase what I need. So, I got back in my vehicle and started it up and I went to pull off and my vehicle started jerking again like it did when I first started out! So, my vehicle was jerking and moving slow and then the jerking stopped and my vehicle begin to pick up speed. I drove my vehicle on home because it was late and the Toyota Dealership was already closed!

On July 22, 2015, I took my vehicle to Loving Lincoln-Mercury and told the Service Manager(Woody) that my vehicle was jerking and had loss performance! This is where I purchased my 2003 Toyota Rav4 new! Mr. Woody did this test on my vehicle and said the ECM was the problem! Then Mr. Woody told me that the Toyota had a Customer Support Program where they were replacing the malfunction ECM on the Rav4 but I would have to take my vehicle to Loving Toyota Scion!

So, I drove my car to Loving Toyota Scion July 22, 2015 and told Gabe the guy who makes appointment, what my vehicle was doing. Gabe told me that I would need a appointment so they could do a test on my vehicle to see what the problem was. I informed Gabe that I just had a test done at Loving Lincoln-Mercury and Mr Woody said it was the ECM! So Gabe drove my car and said he didn't know what the problem was making it jerk! Gabe told me that they would have to do the test at Loving Toyota Scion so he set me up a appointment! I talked to Jeremy Thomas the Service Manager on July 23, 2015 and told him the problems I was experiencing with my Rav4 and told him Mr Woody with Loving Lincoln-Mercury did the test and said it was the ECM and that the Toyota had a Customer Support Program to fix the ECM if my vehicle was in that program! Jeremy Thomas looked up my vin number and said that my vehicle was in that program but the program stated the first 10 years or 150,000.00 miles whichever came first! Jeremy Thomas told me that my miles was correct but my 10 years expired in 2013! So, I told Jeremy Thomas that I did not receive a letter from Toyota informing me that my Rav4 had a malfunction ECM and that it would be replaced free! So Jeremy Thomas told me to call the Toyota Customer Experience Center and tell them the problems that I was having with my RAV4!

So, I called and talked to a young lady there and told her the problems I was having and she had me in the system but had my address wrong! So, the young lady corrected everything and she gave me a case number! Then she transferred me to another man and the man told me that the program was over because it was 10 years or 150,000.00 miles! I told him that I did not receive a letter and he told me maybe I moved! I informed him that I had been staying at the same address for 30 years! I asked to speak to his supervisor and he told me that his supervisor was unavailable! So the man told me his supervisor was name Henry and he would call me back later that day or the next business day! Henry called me July 24,2015 and I informed him about the problems I was experiencing with my Rav4 and told him that I did not receive a letter from Toyota stating that the ECM was being replaced! So, Henry went on to tell me that the program that I was talking about had expired with my years not my miles!

So, I asked Henry why I didn't receive a letter from Toyota and he told me he would check to see if a letter was mailed out! Henry said I need to have a test done to see if it was my ECM because it might not be that! I told him that I had the test done at Loving Lincoln-Mercury where I purchase my Rav4 new and the Service Manager told me that it was the ECM! Henry told me I need to have the test done at a Toyota Dealer! So, July 29,2015 I had the test done at Loving Toyota Scion and was told the ECM and Transmission needed to be replaced! Loving Toyota Scion told me it would cost $5,551.60 plus tax because the Customer Program had expired for me! I told them that I didn't receive the letter to get the ECM replaced! So, July 30,2015 I talked to Henry at the Toyota Customer Assistance Center and told him that the test came out to be the same as Loving Lincoln-Mercury had told me that it was the ECM! I told Henry how much it would cost to replace the ECM and Transmission! Henry told me that the program expired for me in 2013 and there wasn't any other programs to fix my vehicle! I told him since I never received a letter that I would pursue my case higher than him! I had to pay $83.95 for the same test that I had July 22, 2015!

I'm only receiving Social Security Benefits so therefore I'm on a fixed income and I don't have the funds to fix my vehicle! I will pursue my case as far as I can even if I have to go through free Legal Aid Counsels to help me! I feel like if there was a letter mailed out about the malfunction ECM being replaced, I would have received the letter because like I stated early I have been at the same address for 30 years!!!!!!!

- , Lufkin, TX, US

problem #15

Sep 302014

RAV4 Limited

  • Automatic transmission
  • 163,567 miles

My Car transmission system is awful. Transmitting from one gear to another has to give you a heart break or shock because of the sound it creates as if the car is having a hit from behind.

I changed the system barely 9 months ago and the problem is back now. I am confused and do not know where to start the repair.

I need some help that will enable me to put it to order with a minimal cost of repair or replacement.

Thank you.

- , Port Hacourt, Rivers, Nigeria

problem #14

Dec 232013

RAV4 Limited

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles

The car had no power so I had it check. First it needed a tune-up, (according to one mechanic) then it needed an oil change, so I got an oil change. Still the car is sluggish. Then it need a new transmission, so I paid 3,000. Then it needed an external radiator because the one that came from the car manufacture was too small. It cost another 300. Today it still jerks forward. I feel like junking it. I was so blind believing Toyota would call or contact their customer when theirs a problems with their product, I need a good, reliable car. Now what do I do

- , Bronx, NY, US

problem #13

Jun 212014


  • Automatic transmission
  • 113,000 miles


Having this common problem with my RAV4 and I'm beyond the warranty extension (low milage drivers are screwed). I hope to find a cheap way to repair the ECM. Super bummed that I received no notice that this was a problem, I would have proactively fixed it.

- , Boulder, CO, USA

problem #12

Apr 222011

RAV4 3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles

When I put my car into reverse, the car jerks and practically lifts itself off before going into reverse. Also, while driving, the car jerks intermittently. This has been a serious source of concern to me.

- , Jos, Plateau, Nigeria

problem #11

Jul 042011


  • Automatic transmission
  • 150,000 miles

I am another 2003 Toyota Rav 4 casualty. I am sick that I trusted this company and would never in my life invest in another Toyota or let someone I care about invest in a Toyota. It is so disgusting that Toyota knew of this issue with these Rav4' s and did not care enough about its customers to take care of them. I believe people are under the false impression that by investing in a Toyota you are safe from having to ever make repairs that are going to cost you half the value of the vehicle. I would like to know if there has been any type of Class Action Lawsuits filed in Florida.

- , Wesley Chapel, FL, USA

problem #10

Jul 162010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 84,000 miles

I am an owner of a 2003 Rav4. I purchased the car used, in 2008 at which time the car at 58K miles. Today the car as 84.4K miles on it. I have NEVER had any problems with my car. It runs perfect. And I chose a Toyota because of their longstanding reputation with long-lasting transmissions/engines. I just graduated college and have 2 more years left to pay on my vehicle.

Two days ago however, I was driving home from work and when starting up from the stop light it felt sluggish, and jerked into gear until it finally got going. Once it was going it was fine. It did this only two other times on different trips this same day. I stopped at a local shop in town and told them about the problem. They took it for a test drive and it had not acted up for them. They did suggest that jerky shifts could mean a tranny flush, and since it has 84.4K miles, I thought this sounded reasonable. So then I came home and researched the problem and found so many similar complaints. I'm afraid that I am just at the beginning of an ECM/tranny problem. I really hope not. I am going to try the transmission flush, but if I still notice problems I'm either going to go ahead with the new ECM resolution or I might even trade it in, and get it off my hands.

I recently just read a post by Brett W. stating that on July15, 2010 Toyota decided that they would pay for the problems that the 2001-2004 Rav4s are having. So now I am hopeful and waiting to hear back from him. When I get any info, I will be sure to post to all the Rav4 owners out there!


- , Ebensburg, PA, USA

problem #9

Jun 152010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 101,000 miles


I have my car for 3 years and i still have 2 more years of payment. this is my first finance car. It cost me so much to get the loan approved and when i finally got it approved i had a really high interest because of not enough credit history (19.99%) ridiculous. Oh well i always wanted a Toyota and i went for it. Now with 101,000 mile all of a sudden I'm having transmission problems...i went to Toyota and they told me they have to change the ecm and put a re manufacture transmission. the cost $5600. the technician told i'm better off trading it the car. I felt like a big rock fell on top of me. After paying so much money for a car that i never had any problems, they tell me just to trade it in. I felt so bad i didn't know what to do. i was desperate. I still owe 8,000 on the car. I tried applying for a new car...DENIED don't make enough money, i don't have a co-signor. I been with Toyota for 3 years never pay late, making monthly payment of 396 a month for them to tell me a don't qualified. they really don't want to help...

I went to amcco they told me they don't need to change the ECM they need to rebuild the transmission and change all the soft parts and it will cost me 1,995 including labor. that sounded more affordable. So i went outside to wait for the mechanic to bring my car out. And he told me (it was a Spanish guy) YOU DON'T NEED TO REBUILD THE TRANSMISSION GIVE ME A CALL AND HE GAVE ME HIS CAR. I CALLED HIM AND HE TOLD ME HE CAN PUT A USE ECM FOR 300 OR A NEW ONE FOR 600 AND THAT SHOULD SOLVE THE PROBLEM. SO APROX 900 TO FIX IT PUTTING A USED ECM BUT IF I DECIDED TO USE A USED COMPUTER HE CAN ONLY GUARANTEE FOR A MONTH SO I GUESS IS BETTER TO GO WITH A NEW ONE. So after all this i still dot know what to do. It sounds like changing the computer should solve the problem because the ecm tells the transmission what to do.

Any advise. other option trade it the car and get into a lease agreement with Toyota. i haven't try that yet.

- , Orlando, FL, USA

problem #8

Oct 012009


  • Automatic transmission
  • 59,000 miles

I'm the owner of a 2003 Toyota RAV4, and around Oct 09' my check engine light went on and the car shifted hard and made a loud thump. This was a sudden change so I had my car serviced by Hudson Toyota in Jersey City, NJ and they told me that it was the ECM and because I was under warranty they would replace it for free..boy was I relieved but that was short lived a few days later my check engine light went back on and the car continued to shift hard. I called Hudson Toyota and they made a new appointment for me at no charge since it was the same problem. This time they told me I would have to replace the transmission and "blamed me" for not changing the transmission fluid (even when under my records was "now" due for a transmission flush). I was stunned since my car is not new but only has 59,000 miles I had another car and drove it way over 180,000 miles and never had a problem like this. "THEY BLAMED ME" and never once told me that Toyota had sent out a Technical Service Bulletin on 03/03/06 regarding this problem. I have since called Corporate and I'm waiting for a response if I don't hear from them soon I am going to the MEDIA and adding more fuel to Toyota's list of problems that they need to fix!!! Please people don't just read these posts, if you have a problem with your car complain, complain, complain be heard!!! Call corporate 800 331-4331, Put your complaint in with, call National Highway Traffic Safety Admin Auto Safety/ODI at 202 493-2631 and get in touch with the media. "As individual fingers we can easily be broken, but all together we make a mighty fist" Lets make Toyota responsible before more lives are lost in their hands.

- , Staten Island, NY, USA

problem #7

Aug 082009


  • Automatic transmission
  • 87,000 miles

The morning of August 8th, i was ready to go to connecticut. I began to put the car in reverse and I felt a heavy jerk. So i tried again and the jerk persisted. I began to drive and next thing you know the car starts jerking between 10-20 miles per hour. After 30 miles per hour the car would be smooth sailing. The problem is very serious and can lead someone to rear end you as the car really slows down to jerk itself. I'm very upset to see this problem and to see that Toyota did not send any information about this problem to any of its customers. I have two toyotas and am seriously considering selling both for Hondas.

- , Piscataway, NJ, USA

problem #6

Jul 232009

RAV4 4x4 V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 86,000 miles

I am having the same problems like the rest of you. I had taken my Rav4 for service at the dealer in July 7, 2007 and was not told about the ECM news bulletin which Toyota had put in. I never got anything in the mail either. I really never had any problems with the Rav4 until 8 days ago. I took it to my mechanic and he told me that the engine light came on and he checked it and it was ok. He did not charge me but told me to come back if the problem reoccurred. The car started jerking again while driving. I took it back to the Mechanic first again and was told that I should take to the dealer to check the problem out. I then took it to the dealer which is Millennium Toyota today and was told that the ECM needs to be replaced and that would cost me around $1800 which they give me a 10% off and it would be $1600 and if the problem still persists the transmission would have to be replaced too. My husband lost his job a few months ago and then he had a massive heart attack last month and now I have this car problem which is going to cost me more than $5000. I would like to complain to Better Business Bureau of why we have to pay for the transmission and the ECM. This is absurd. I don't have this kind of money to spend. Anyone who reads this, please help and let me know what needs to be done.

- , Valley Stream, NY, USA

problem #5

Jun 282009

RAV4 2.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 69,500 miles

I thought I had a good truck but this problem is very serious I have to put it in the shop and see what the problem is hope there is a recall on this I don't have the money to have this fixed I'm still paying on the truck can anyone help with this one .

- , Harrisburg, PA, USA

problem #4

Mar 112009


  • Automatic transmission
  • 127,000 miles

From what I've read of others' complaints, I've had the exact same problems. This is dangerous because when the car hesitates to shift gears, it slows and the cars behind me come close to rear-ending me. Toyota put out what they called a service bulletin to avoid doing an expensive recall of both the 2002 and 2003 RAV4 models. The problem does not start with the transmission, but actually with the computer and this is Toyota's FAULT ! THEY SHOULD FIX OUR CARS FOR NOTHING BECAUSE THEY KNEW ABOUT THE DEFECT AND DID NOT NOTIFY THE OWNERS. The " service bulletin " was sent to the dealerships, who just keep telling people they have to pay for their own repairs. From what I can gather, the problems crop up after the cars are driven, usually just after the warranties expire ! I drive many miles to do therapy with kids with autism, they are depending on me, and I can't afford to get stuck somewhere when my car fails me; and I can't afford to spend thousands of dollars to repair the car either. I bought this car because it was recommended by the Consumer Reports Car review -- I wonder what they would say now if they knew about both the 2002 and 2003 models' problems. I plan to send a print out of this site to them and the dealership. I am glad to have found this site and thank you for allowing me to vent my frustration.

- , Lancaster, PA, USA

problem #3

Sep 242008


  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

It is very incovinient for me, since I have 2 daughters that ride with me all the time and its very dangerous because every time I make a turn and try to press the gas it takes a while to go, and every time I'm in a red light and try to go when green light changes it takes a while to start, I can't even travel to California anymore and I have to spend on renting a car every time I want to go to California, that problem may cause a very bad accident. I also talk to one of the representative in Toyota dealership and he said the problem is not a recall and that they never heard of that problem for Toyotas. My mechanic print all the recalls and problems that this cars have and I show them the form where it says and stated the same problem and it is stating that there is a warranty coverage on 80,000 miles or 96 months which ever happens first, and the representative wasn't nice and helpfull at all, I feel I was ignore by them, he just said there is nothing he could do for me and that it is not a recall. My mechanic cannot find what's the problem but I was told by him that the problem may cost me up to $5000 or more to replace the transmission. I think Toyota has to cover all the costs, I hope that they add this as a recall soon!!!!!

- , Las Vegas, NV, USA

problem #2

Oct 302008

RAV4 Sport 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 101,000 miles

i have a 2003 rav4. it won't go up hills. the transmission is jerking, then is makes a loud popping sound. toyota services told me it was probably the transmission and the computer. they already flushed the transmission. cost me 225.00 dollars, but that didn't work, so guess whats next.i'm really upset about this. i'm disabled and no income coming in. don't know what to do.

- , Wilkesboro, NC, USA

problem #1

Oct 192008


  • Automatic transmission
  • 95,000 miles


- , West Covina, CA, USA

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