2001-2003 Toyota RAV4 has major gearbox issues

2001-2003 Toyota RAV4 has major gearbox issues

News reports are emerging from the United States that Japanese-built Toyota RAV4 models built between 2001 and 2003 are suffering from major automatic gearbox problems that are putting owners at risk, both physically and financially.

The New York Times reports that there have been more than 120 official complaints so far in the United States, all related to the failing auto gearbox of the previous-generation Toyota RAV4. And the worst part is that Toyota is aware of the problem, but is quietly trying to not do anything about it, possibly to safeguard its flagging reputation for quality.

In March 2006, Toyota sent U.S. dealers a technical service bulletin warning them that some consumers might complain about harsh shifting. It said improvements were made to the computer “manufacturing process to reduce the possibility of this condition occurring.” It then told the dealers to replace the electronic module, and if that did not work, to replace the transmission. But owners owning the vehicles were never notified about the problem.

When harsh shifting occurs, it is recommended to stop driving the vehicle and get it fixed before major transmission damage occurs. However, since the public was not told of this, some RAV4 owners went on to have repair bills of almost US$ 4000.

A U.S. Toyota spokesman now claims that this is not a safety issue, and that they fixed this problem when it occurred under warranty, but will not cover it now. However, some owners are facing this problem out of warranty, and a few say their cars shut down on the highway, almost causing major accidents.

Considering that all 2001-2005 Toyota RAV4 models were built in Japan, this problem can potentially affect owners in the UAE and other GCC countries, although they cannot expect any free repairs. Additionally, many owners of Toyota Avalon and Aurion models are having similar complaints of harsh shifting, although it is not known if the problem is related. That issue was quietly swept under the rug too.

What do you think?



  1. Hi Mash,

    i read ur article of Rav 4 gears,

    even i am feeling some thing is wrong with my Fortuner Auto gear box,

    last nite while i was driving, i noticed after 140, the car is jerking, as if the automatic is struggling to down shift between 4 and 3, but not shifting,

    i am a high RPM driver, so sensing this, i just released my leg from the pedal and came under 120, the problm was gone
    any way i am planning to sell my fortuner, after Ramadan, so till then i wllhandle it carefully,
    as i know here it is difficult to deal with the dealers.

  2. Does the Aurion have similar problem as well?????????????? coz i was planning on getting one or should i go for the Accord v6???

  3. go for Accord V6 u wud love it, I am million percent sure, The best thing of V6 accord is, it Can turn into 3 cylinders to consume less petrol, I went from dubai to Alain in 15 dhs just because of HONDA VCM technology. go for Accord, Aurion is also a nice car , why dont u get a test drive before buying

  4. yes..i confirm the harsh shifting thing..my friend has a 2002 model RAV-4 which shifts pretty harsh..in the first and second gear changes, it knocks hard..3rd and 4th gear shifts results in a jerk..however, no bad experiences such as the thing stallin on highway…it has 170+kms on Odo, so i thot age was the reason..

  5. Thanks Rhymes. i need more help. can any body else help me on which car to buy?

    Accord v6 or Aurion?????????????

  6. I have just been told that my gear box has to be changed on my 2003 rav4 at a cost of at least 500euros I`m going mad and after reading this story I`m flipping mad is there anyway I can get my toyto dealer to pay for this.

  7. The Accord for sure – Aurion (which is rebadged as Camry in China) probably has better kit, but the Accord is a far superior vehicle and I’d fully recommend it.


  8. my toyota aurion 2009 has gear box problems,what can i do here in nigeria we dont have qualifead michanic.

  9. I am having shifting problems as we speak. I cannot believe that Toyota had such a great reputation but just lost my vote. My car kept jerking today and I was a wreck since I was in very busy traffic. Toyota wants to replace computer for $1200 ad transmission $5500 for a 2003 Toyota RAV 4!!

  10. My toyota rav4 03 model jerks most times it want 2 change gear,I never knew dis was a major problem pertinent 2 d said car until when I came online 2 search where and how much I can get a complete gear box.I will be glad if someone can be of help.

  11. That is a problem of the ecm computer, not the transmission. Toyota extended their warranty specifically for that problem up to 10 year or 150,000 miles, whichever comes first.

  12. Jimmy, as you said that its 10 years warrenty or 150,000 miles not KMS. i can go to toyota and ask for it ya?. IN dubai , UAE?

  13. hi how are gs i have problem in my Rav4 2003 sport , transmission only not shifting no.4

    please some bady help my with this, before i broking the gear, many thank

    Sorry toyota iam not hapy with your product.

  14. e c u is at fault.you will find running in 1st or 2nd.the car will have no problems.but put it in drive and around 70 to80.000 miles your gearbox will brake.toyota will say afault with planatry gears and recomend change box. then when it fails they will tell you to change ecu.toyota told me ther were no faults on english cars,when i pointed out loads of probs,on american and australian models .but that ibelive to be adeliberate lie as of course these cars were all built in japan.also toyota in england are very ,rude.and dont give a s### about you if your 2nd or3rd owner. my advice sell before 70.000.because the faults built into the ecu

  15. I have the same problem with the Gearbox Rav-4, so i just want to know how much it coast…the prise as i living in london…

  16. My toyota Rav4 has been having ECU and gear box problems.It has finally damaged the gear box.like how much can fix the car.The partno for ECU is 89661-42822.Is this car among those that has the general problem?

  17. Pls I need to change my gear box and upgrade my brainbox.I’m in abuja nigeria.how much will it cost me and how long will it take 2 get here?

  18. Gooday, My Rav4 runs smoothly but I jux noticed lately that the automatic transmission dosent start on low gear so there isn’t enuf power when its on drive unlike when u engage Reverse? Wat cld b d problem? ECU or Gear Box? Pls Help, From Nigeria.

  19. My 2003 rav4 started making a hard cluncking sound under car in front. Can feel it on feet.. was on highway ..it was fine on second n then the next it wasnt.. any suggestions on what it may be? It only does it when moving.

  20. Offcourse there are qualified tech here in Nigeria, being at the right place matters.

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