2002 Toyota RAV4 - transmission/ECM issues

Anyone have any comments/experiences with the '02 RAV4 and the issues I’ve read about the ECM and it’s affect on the transmission?

I’m seeing that it’s a known problem, Toyota will cover it 8 years/80,000 miles, but if the ECM goes, it can destroy your tranny, costing $4K-$5K to fix.

My wife’s 2003 RAV4 started to jerk and shift very roughly. I took it to AAMCO and they didn’t find anything wrong with it. But based on what I described to them, they said I should change the ECM. They have seen this problem with RAV4s before. At this point, I don’t think the problem with the transmission is mechanical since it happens once in a while. I am wondering if changing the ECM will stop the transmission from going completely. I will update this later.

You may find help at www.rav4world.com


Thanks hawre_k - I’ll await your response!

There is a good website www.rev4ecm.net with some explanations for this problem

Thanks to both you and HD72mm.

Question for you and anyone else who would like to comment - is this a definite issue? Mine has 86K and I’m debating keeping it or trading it in. If this is a rare occurance and it truly doesn’t destroy the tranny, I’ll keep it.

But if this is a real issue (and some of these sites sure makes it seem that way), then it may be wise to cut bait now before the car costs me $4K in tranny repair.

I am still looking for answers. I talked to a transmission place to replace the computer, they are quoting me around $450 for parts and $350 for labor. Toyota is charging around $1400 for the part plus labor. Has anyone been quoted such a difference in price? Thanks for the two websites. I found that rav4world.com has a lot of complaints, but no real solutions about this issue. www.rev4ecm.com does not exist.

I’m a little late to join the party but this issue just happened to me. It absolutely destroys the tranny. About three weeks ago my transmission went bad. It wasn’t a small, nagging issue that built up, it was sudden. One day it was fine and the next day my lower gears were shot. My 2001 RAV4 has 85K on it. I had to get a new transmission and Toyota will not cover anything (ECM or transmission.)

When speaking with the main corporate customer service line, I was told that Toyota has no obligation after 80K and I am responsible for the cost of all repairs. The rep that I spoke to says that this issue is not a known major problem in the 01-03 model years despite the TSB that was issued in March of 2006. I was told that this TSB was simply intended to advise technicians on how to address the issue should it arise.

When I mentioned that a quick Google search found multiple sites with people having the same issues that I am having I was told that my point was essentially invalid because they could not verify things from the internet. It did not matter that some of the posts I have found date back to 2006 (same time as the TSB notice.) The rep claims that Toyota does not show that this is a real problem.

Another interesting note to this is that the original ECM warranty was for 60K but they extended it to 80K. This was per the service rep at my local dealership. Most people that I have seen have had their ECMs go bad at about 85-90K but some have gotten lucky(?) and it didn’t go kaput until over 100K.

While I understand that I am out of warranty and I suppose it is naive to think that Toyota would take care of their customers and advise them of the potential of this happening prior to the ECM actually going bad, I am extremely disappointed with the service I have received from the company. It may not have been too upsetting if I simply had to replace the ECM but I had to purchase a transmission to replace the one that the computer ruined.

I have been informed by Toyota that this is a “black and white” and “set in stone” issue. I heard those quotes from more than one person, both on a local and corporate level. Toyota acknowledges no problems with this ECM.

This is not the first computer issue (2008 recall anyone?) and I no longer feel confident in owning this car. I am going to replace the ECM and purchase a new car. It will not be a Toyota.

Sorry to hear about this, Miesque. I’m very disappointed in Toyota.

I actually traded mine in - I had listed it private sale but did not feel comfortable selling the vehicle without disclosing this known issue (known to everyone but Toyota!).

I had called a Toyota dealership to see if they’d fix/replace the ECM, but they wouldn’t - said that the check engine light had to be on and that the computer had to point to the ECM as the issue. Otherwise, they wouldn’t do anything. I said, “So basically, you won’t do an easy fix, but will wait until my tranny is gone and then replace that at the cost of $4000?” THe guy didn’t have much to say.

I found a guy in NY who said that if I ship the ECM and $400, he’ll fix it. Other than that, I couldn’t find anyone to fix it. When I called, I had a hard time understanding the guy. I opted to note have it replaced and traded it in.

I’m now the happy owner of a 2009 Subaru Forester (got it used, believe it or not!) and I’m loving it.

Good luck to you.

I’m glad to hear that you traded it in. That was the major reason why I posted a response. I don’t want what happened to me to happen to anyone else it I can help it. Really, the more I read and hear from people the more surprised I am.

I too will be trading mine in because I wouldn’t with good conscience be able to sell this car privately.

Have fun with your new Subaru!

I could have written this post almost verbatim.

My problems started in July, 2006. The codes were saying it was the transmission. I knew I was out of warranty and so my husband and I have just been dealing with this situation ever since . . . thinking it was the transmission. Periodically changing the transmission fluid seemed to help for short periods of time. Now this past week, the problem is so bad that the car will not shift out of 3rd gear, past 45 mph (not good on I-95). We have now been told that the ECM needs to be replaced at a cost of $1500, but that it would have been covered under the ECM warranty before 6 years or 80,000 miles. Guess what . . . in July, 2006, I had less than 80,000 miles and 6 years and the ECM would have been replaced for free under the warranty. Now I have approx. 110,000 and now that Toyota has told me that all along my problem hasn’t been the transmission, but the ECM, they won’t do anything about it except charge me $1500.

This experience has been so upsetting. I bought this vehicle based on the reviews it received in 2002. It was rated the #1 small SUV at the time and I was completely in love with it. Now, I wish I had gone with my second choice . . . the Honda CRV (being a loyal Honda owner prior to this Toyota).

I would love to trade this car in, but with these problems, what kind of trade-in would I get? I also have a toddler and a baby on the way. I can’t afford a new car!

So disappointed.

klowen - sorry to hear!

If you buy another car (new or used), most dealerships (as long as they’re not Toyota) will not know about this issue - that is my opinion…it may not be accurate. So trade it in and let them worry about it.

Dealerships do just fine after low-balling your trade, then jacking up the price and selling it at a nice profit. So I had no problem letting them deal with my RAV4. If they do their homework as they claim to do, they’ll find the issue and then it’s up to them to fix it.

If the car is really not running well, see if you can find a shop to repair it, even if it’s not the full $1500 fix.

Good luck! And congrats on the growing family!

Sorry SubaruDave for not replying sooner. I met a transmission expert and he suggested that I change the ECM right a way. He said that if you catch the problem and don’t drive on it, changing the ECM fixes the problem 99.9% of the time. I changed the ECM myself and I have been lucky so far, the problem is gone, but the car is a little sluggish. I am not suggesting that everyone who has this problem to change their ECM. If the transmission has a mechanical failure, changing the ECM does not fix the problem. I hope this helps, good luck.

Do not mention any problems during trade in process. Realize most new car or even newer used cars(except older ones) will likely auction your vehicle off simply due to age of over 7years and over 100k especially.

If $1500 really fixes it it is significantly better than a new car payment.

The symptoms listed for a faulty ECM have been (hawke k) …“RAV4 started to jerk and shift very roughly.” (misque): “…transmission went bad…It was sudden. One day it was fine. The next day, …the lower gears were shot. I had to get a new transmission. My 2001 RAV4 has 85,000 miles.”
(klowen924): "…problem started in 2006 (80,000 miles) …Now (100,000 miles), will not shift out of 3rd gear past 45 mph.
These are the only symptoms I found from all your posts. To convey your problems, you need to be more specific, especially, when communicating with someone who can provide any remedy.
Snail mail (maybe, email) can produce results where other forms of communications don’t. You need to send mail to the U.S. National Department of Transportation; Toyota America Customer Center; Toyota CEO/President (Japan). You could do a joint complaint, if you can figure out a way to manage private connections with each other.

2002 Rav4 bought new and kept up with all the maintenance. One day last fall all of a sudden started bucking and jumping, etc. 80,000 something miles. Pulled over immediately to check the fluid it was fine. Took it to the local car repair place and for $100 dollars he let me know I needed a new tranny. Duh. Looked up tranny problems online and found a lot of info. Called local Toyota dealer and they offered a free diagnostic. The manager agreed with me that I was facing the value of the car with a new tranny and brain. They replaced the brain for $1700, flushed the tranny fluid (it was burnt) and told me to drive it like a racehorse to train the new brain. I live in the city. Tranny still slips but my car is still running. I feel lucky after all the stories I read. I’ll never buy another Toyota.

I remember back in 2005 a friend who has a 2001 Rav 4 just like mine told me about the TSB and how around 40,000 miles the engine light will come on and I need to immediately take it to a Toyota Dealership and have them recalibrate the ECU. Well about two weeks later the Engine light came on and I took it to Toyota and gave them the TSB on it. It was still under warranty so I didn’t have to pay for it. I’ve never had any problems with the tranny so was this 2005 issue the same as this issue that I was just alerted to about the ECM and how it can damage the tranny? I am hearing that the ECU is the same as the ECM. I now have 80,000 miles and I still don’t seem to have any tranny problems. Do I need to get the ECM replaced or was the recalibration enough? This is all very confusing.

I have just been told that I need a new transmission in my 2002 Rav4. Have 110,000 miles on it. It started to slip & jerk about a month ago - took it to the Toytota garage & they suggested a transmission flush. They did bring up the ECM but said it was probably not that as the engine light was not on. We changed the transmission fluid, which made the problem worse. Took it to an independent transmission shop & they say to replace the transmission at a cost of $3000 - $5000. $3000 for a used transmission with 80K miles on it, not sure I want to do that & risk replacing it again in 20K miles. I am a single, mid 50’s person & can’t afford a $5000 repair bill. Not sure what to do at this point, but I am filing complaints with wherever I can find to. Isn’t there some way we could all ban together & file a class action lawsuit?

I am one more victim of Toyota?s greed and lack of care for the safety of their car owners.

It is extremely unsafe to drive your 2001, 2002, 2003 Rav4 with these acceleration and transmission issues (and you will ruin your transmission).

I have had the same problems as many other 2001, 2002, 2003 Rav4 owners. Mine is a 2001 and at 92,000 miles my car would struggle to accelerate from a stop ? then all of a sudden it would connect in the wrong gear and speed ahead (like someone had stomped on the gas pedal). Also, shifting was very harsh when shifting from park to reverse. These problems were intermittent and you never knew when it would happen.

My garage (not a Toyota dealership, as I don?t trust them) put my car on the computer and no codes came up showing a problem. They flushed the transmission and told me to drive it. After driving for 2-3 miles it began to change gears erratically and had the same lack of acceleration problems. I drove it a few more days and while turning onto a 4-lane highway my car was struggling to accelerate and all of a sudden it was if someone stomped on the gas pedal. ? I immediately took it back to the garage and left it there. I did not have a spare vehicle to drive ? but was too afraid to drive mine. This is a very serious safety issue, especially when pulling out onto a highway or interstate.

The next step was to have the transmission rebuilt ($$$$). I searched the internet and read about others with the same issues. Many had spent thousands of dollars rebuilding or replacing their transmissions and were still having the same problems.

A few people mentioned that they had success with CHECK ENGINE, ETC. fixing the ECM (it tells the transmission what to do). That made sense to me that if something is wrong with the ECM ? then fixing the transmission is a waste of time and money. I was very hesitant and apprehensive about using a company I knew nothing about and that was located in another state. But, it was easier to come up with a few hundred dollars and try Check Engine, Etc. than a few thousand on a rebuilt transmission that would probably have the same issues.

I called Check Engine, Etc. and spoke with Sergei about the problem. He said if I had not driven my car too much (less than 500 miles) then my transmission would probably be okay. I had driven less than 100 miles. I sent the ECM to him in New York from South Carolina via USPS Express Mail. If they receive it by 12 noon ? they can usually fix the part and send it back out the same day via USPS Express Mail. In a couple of days I had the ECM back in my car and have had no problems with the acceleration or shifting and it now glides into reverse from park with no clunking or jerking. Bless you Sergei and Check Engine, Etc.! You saved me thousands of dollars (that I didn?t have) and many headaches. Thanks also to those that mentioned Check Engine, Etc. in their online comments.

Sergei?s web link and contact information:
Check Engine, Etc.
2731 Stillwell Ave
Brooklyn, NY, 11224
Phone: 718-449-1734
E-mail: chkengine@yahoo.com

I called Toyota and filed a complaint - but they refused to do anything because of the 80,000 warranty (but the probably doesn?t usually start until after 80,000 miles). I also filed a complaint with the NHTSA and with the Better Business Bureau. We all need to bombard Toyota, NHTSA and the BBB with complaints.

Our Rav is 03 w/120K, began trouble with 1st and 2nd. Was on a trip, went to shop, he said trans would probably eventually give trouble but if I took it easy I could make it home. Drove home fine but on a local shopping trip it would not shift to 4th. Took to my mechanic who was an Ex-Toyota mechanic. he said it was probably the ecm. Dealer confirmed but said it was past milage. Mechanic found this was a problem with these cars and requested a free ecm. The dist. mang. refused. I tried corp. but they held like a rock. I’m replacing ecm for $1,400. and holding breath on trans… Too bad all these writers can’t write Toyota en-mass.