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RECALL - 2001-2003 Rav4 ECU and transmission


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Hi all - anyone with a Rav4 from 2001-2003 ever experienced problems with gears changing at random? This is a problem with the computer (ECU or ECM) that is sending the wrong message to the transmission and it changes into the wrong gear without warning. This is known as 'harsh shift' problem: http://www.rav4repair.com/documents/TSB0156.pdf

If you have this problem, or had it, it is really important that you report it to the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development ASAP:


They investigate products that have safety issues and will inform the ACCC if a recall is necessary. A recall will not happen unless there are reports of the product failure and safety concerns through the Department of Infrastructure.

I am looking at the possibility of starting a class action for a recall because this is a factory fault that is putting Rav4 drivers in danger. It is well documented and well understood by Toyota.

These are the most common symptoms:

  • Erratic Shifting.
  • Transmission slips in any gear, but mostly from second to third gear.
  • Starting in 3rd gear and shifting erratically or not shifting at all.
  • Hesitation when engaging in any of the gears.
  • Rattling noise coming from the front area when the engine is running.
  • The feeling of applying the brakes by it self in occasions.
  • False solenoid codes; P0750, P0753, P0755, P0758 and/or P1760.
  • The codes above not always show (DTC codes). Sometimes it fails with no codes at all or no check engine light.
  • Engages hard in reverse with a "bump" or takes time to engage.
  • Symptoms are intermittent. Sometimes symptoms only show up when warm or when cold and sometimes symptoms do not show at all.
  • One day it runs OK. All the symptoms magically disappear, but the next day, all or some of those symptoms are back.
  • In many cases, fuel economy or gas mileage is lower than normal.

This is a safety concern as the car can shift into a low gear without warning while you are driving at high speed or in heavy traffic. Because it is a gear change, break lights don't warn cars behind you that you are suddenly stopping or slowing down, putting you in a dangerous situation. I have also been stuck trying to cross traffic at an intersection and it has dropped into top gear and I cannot move across the intersection and out of the traffic.

I have been in touch with the ACCC who are looking into the matter as there was a recall by Toyota in USA: http://www.rav4repair.com/documents/warranty.pdf

If anyone is experiencing these problems or has had this fixed and you are interested in putting pressure on Toyota for a recall in Australia, please contact me. If this happens, the costs of your repairs could be reimbursed.

Toyota_warranty policy bulletin.pdf

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Toyota issued a Techincal Service Bulletin and the Warranty Policy bulletin I attached that lists the serial number of the ECU in my Rav4! All the toyota service places I have spoken to are aware of the issue too. It was also reported in the New York Times! lets see how we go.

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If you can find acknowledgement in Australia that this is an issue known by Toyota as in the US, you may have more luck.

I just read a Toyota Technical News Flash issued to Toyota service agents some years ago - it acknowledges this problem and outlines the fix - if anyone can get a copy the reference is TNF71

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  • 4 months later...

I had the same problems. After Toyota refused to acknowledge the problem, and being without my car as they 'investigated' the case for 3 weeks, I finally removed my car from the authorised dealer and took it to a local transmission specialist who fixed it for over $1,000 less.

I have been speaking with a case manager from the customer experience team, who stated after I asked "Toyota is unaware of any problems with the ECUs on 2002 Rav 4s"

This is an out and out lie. I reported the vehicle to the ACCC, and to infrastructure.com.au as an unsafe vehicle, via a vehicle complaint form. The replied and stated they will investigate. I replied with this:

"I believe that the Rav 4 defects present a clear and unassailable safety hazard, exposing the vehicle occupants to significant risk of injury. Regardless of any particular warranty period, Toyota has an obligation and duty to advise the public of the potential danger, and take appropriate action that remedy the defects. Objective reasonable consumers expect that Toyota would disclose a known safety defect such as this one. Hundreds, if not thousands of purchases and lessees of the RAV 4s have experienced problems with the defective RAV 4 ECMS and /or transmissions. Complaints filed by consumers and posted on the internet demonstrate that the defect is widespread and dangerous, and that it manifests without warning. The complaints also demonstrate Toyota’s awareness of the defect and how potentially dangerous the defective condition is.

I have reported the defect in the RAV 4s ECMs and or transmission to Toyota directly and through two authorised dealers, in Le Mans, Tottenham, and Lane, Glen Waverly. Toyota is fully aware of the defect in the RAV 4s. My case manager stated " Toyota is unaware of any problems with the 2002 Rav 4 ". Despite this Toyota has actively concealed the existence and nature of the defect at the time of purchase and thereafter. Specifically, Toyota has:

a Failed to disclose, at and after the time of purchase or lease and repair, any and all known material defects or material nonconformity of the RAV 4s, including the ECMs and/or transmissions of the Rav4s;

b. Failed to disclose, at and after the time of purchase or lease that the RAV 4s, including the ECMs and/or transmissions of the RAV4s. were not in good working order, were defective and were not fit for the intended purpose; and

c. Failed to disclose or actively concealed the fact that the RAV 4’s ECMs and or transmissions were defective, despite the fact Toyota learned of such defects through consumer complaints as early as 2003, if not before.

I believe all Toyota Rav 4s manufactured between 2001 – 2003 present a safety hazard, and immediate action is required"

Anyone else who has or had this problem, feel free to cut and paste (and remove/add necessary parts) and send it off to Toyota and infrastructure.com.au. If enough people make enough noise, we will get noticed!

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Great letter Chris, thanks for sharing for others to use/modify. Amazing that Toyota are still claiming they are "not aware" of any problem with the ECU after so many complaints and their acknowledgement of the same issue in US and UK. "Actively concealing" is more accurate. My mechanic (ex-Toyota) is amused - he had another one come in for the same problem last week!

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