Does RAV4 Have Transmission Problems?

Yes, unfortunately, RAV4 have various transmission issues. The most common problems are related to gear slipping and vehicle jerking. But you might also find problems like transmission noise and leaking. Some can be solved by changing the fluid level but others require professional help.

So you are thinking about buying a RAV4 and browsing through the Internet to find out whether it’s worth your money or not. Well, there are a lot of factors but if you need to know about its transmission issues then this is the article for you.

But is it the case with all the years? No, absolutely not. We also guide you on what years to avoid. But let’s get started now. 

There are several reasons for transmission issues in any car and following are some of the most common RAV4 transmission problems. 

Vehicle Jerking

Vehicle jerking means if the car is not moving smoothly or consistently. If the car keeps juddering or stuttering then it means that the internal components of your car are not working properly. This is a problem that is prevalent in both the automatic and manual transmission system. Following are some of the common reasons and solutions for vehicle jerking. 

Reason 1: Clogged Transmission Fuel Filter

Transmission fluid filter looks out for any contaminant in the lubricant and protects the transmission by filtering out any dirt or debris. Now, if the transmission fluid filter is clogged then the fuel will not pass through properly and then the overall fluid rate will be lower. This means there will be vehicle jerking. 


Following are some of the symptoms of a clogged transmission fuel filter

  1. Leaking
  2. Burning Smell
  3. Noisy Neutral
  4. Problem in Gear Shifting

Solution 1: Replace the Transmission Fuel Filter

Following are the steps for unclogging the transmission fuel filter on the RAV4

Step 1: Remove the splash guard from the bottom by removing the connecting bolts and body clips.

Step 2: Next you have to drain the transmission fluid out.

Step 3: After that, you have to remove the transmission pan and gasket.

Step 4: You can see the transmission fuel filter now, so remove it.

Step 5: Now connect the new filter along with the new O-rings.

Step 6: Now, connect the transmission pan and gasket but make sure to clean it properly

Step 7: Finally connect back the splash guard

Gear Slipping Problem 

Another common transmission issue from the RAV4 is Gear Slipping. It means struggling to shift between gears or stay in gears while driving. The main reason for gear slipping is worn out gears and the gears get worn out when the transmission fluid is unclean. 

Gear Shifting

Reason 1: Worn Out Gears

Due to normal use for a long period of time, the gears get worn out and when it happens the gear won’t link properly, and will be out of sync. This means that the gear will keep slipping. 

Solution 1: Replace Gears

You cannot risk your system by keeping worn out gears. So the only solution here is to replace the gears and look for ways to avoid gear wearing out. If you are looking for a guideline on how to replace the gears then follow this 2003 Toyota Rav4 2.4L AWD Fifth Gear Replacement & Gearbox Oil Change

But here is the thing, you still need to find a way to ensure that your gears don’t get worn out frequently. To ensure that you need to keep transmission fluid clean. If the transmission fluid is dirty it will get darker in color and you need to replace it. 

Unpleasant Transmission Noise

Alright, so the unexpected grinding type noise is also another problem of RAV4. Whether it is during acceleration or shifting from FWD to 4WD or just going in reverse. This problem stays.

Following are some of the reasons for unpleasant transmission noise in Toyota RAV4.

Reason 1: Low Transmission Fluid 

Transmission fluid acts as a lubricant between the transmission’s internal components. Whenever there is not enough transmission fluid, the transmission components come in contact with high friction. The grinding noise is because of this friction.  


Following are some of the symptoms of low transmission fluid 

  1. Slipping Gear
  2. Slow Gear Engagement
  3. Poor Acceleration 

Before you head over to solving transmission fluid issues, check for any leaks. Sometimes, it could be that you are adding the required transmission fluid capacity but it is still never enough. It could be a leak in the system and you need to fix it. 

Solution 1: Maintain Transmission Fluid Capacity

For a Toyota RAV4, the transmission oil capacity is 3.4 qt for Manual 4WD and 3.5 qt for Automatic Transmission. 

Maintain this level while pouring the transmission fluid and use a dipstick to check if the fluid level is within the range. 

Reason 2: Worn Out Wheel Bearing

Wheel bearing in your RAV4 is prone to massive abuse from the forces encountered during turning or driving on the road. If the wheel bearing gets damaged then it will lead to clunking type noises. Now, if you have any doubt that the wheel bearing is worn out then look for the symptoms and then fix it as soon as possible as it can lead to even severe problems. 


Following are the symptoms of worn out wheel bearing on RAV4

  1. Wheel Wobble
  2. Braking Issues
  3. Uneven Tire Wear
  4. Steering Wheel Vibration

Solution 2: Replace the Wheel Bearing 

The easy solution here is to replace the wheel bearing. You can consult a professional for this and it will cost you around $250 – $400 with labor cost being $195-$250 and the parts costing $50-$140.

Reason 3: Worn Clutch/Flywheel

Worn out clutch or flywheel is another problem that causes unpleasant transmission noise.


Following are the symptoms of worn out clutch/flywheel

  1. Difficulty in Gear Shifting
  2. Poor Acceleration
  3. Slipping Clutch

Solution 3: Replace Clutch

The solution is to replace the clutch. This process is a bit complex and takes over 12 hours to complete. Consult a professional for this. It should cost you around $1560-$1850 in total with labor cost being $850 – $1250 and parts expected to be within $580. The expense should give a hint on the complexity of this work. 

But if you want to go for it yourself, follow this Restoring The Rav – Ep. 1 – Clutch Replacement

Leaking Transmission Fluid

Another reported transmission problem is leaking transmission fluid. Normally it happens whenever there is an overflow of the transmission fluid i.e there is more transmission fluid in your car than the holding capacity or there is an increase of pressure in the system leading to leakages. 

Following are some of the reasons for the transmission fluid leaks in Toyota RAV4

Reason 1: Overflow of Transmission Fluid

If the transmission fluid is poured more than the capacity then it will flow over and cause leaking. So make sure to maintain the capacity.


Following are some of the symptoms of the overflow of transmission fluid.

  1. Transmission Fluid becoming foamy
  2. Trouble Shifting Gears
  3. Engine Overheating
  4. Whirring or Grinding Noises

Solution 1: Maintain Transmission Fluid Capacity

You have to maintain the transmission fluid capacity as discussed above and check it with a dipstick as you are done pouring. 

Reason 2: Damaged Transmission Pan or Gasket

Mainly due to prolonged use both the transmission pan and gasket get worn out and the result is a transmission fluid leak.

Another reason is changing the transmission fluid. Even though it’s a harmless process itself but if not properly handled, the gasket can get slightly damaged while installing back. 


Following are some of the symptoms of a damaged transmission pan or gasket

  1. Transmission Slipping 
  2. Low Transmission Fluid

Solution 2: Replace the Transmission Pan or Gasket

All you have to do is just replace the transmission pan or gasket. Following are the steps of replacing the transmission gasket on a RAV4. 

Step 1: Find the transmission pan and remove the shield in front of it by using a screwdriver and a wrench

Step 2: Now, remove the braces near the side bolt to grab the pan and gasket.

Step 3: Grab a 10mm Allen and connect it to the drain plug. Drain out the remaining transmission fluid.

Step 4: Remove the 10 mm bolts and bring out the gasket and pan.

Step 5: Now, clean the surrounding of where the new gasket is going to be. Make sure that the O-rings are properly connected.

Step 6: Now connect the new gasket and pan. Connect back the braces by tightening the pan bolts.

Step 7: Finally, connect back all the bolts and then put back the shields. 

Step 8: Pop your hood and pour the transmission fluid. Use your dipstick to check the fluid level and look for leaks.

Reason 3: Leaking Torque Converter

The torque converter is what transfers the transmission fluid throughout the transmission system. It comes with a needle bearing that helps to transmit the fluid. But just like the transmission pan or gasket it gets damaged due to prolonged use or the bearing becomes loose. The result is a transmission fluid leak.


Following are some of the symptoms of a leaking torque converter.

  1. Acceleration loss
  2. Gear slipping
  3. Transmission Overheating
  4. Transmission Fluid Contamination

Solution 3: Replace the Torque Converter 

If you are into DIY work, follow this 2014 rav4 4wd torque converter or transmission replacement.

But, you should consult a professional for this. It will cost you about $600-$1000 to replace the torque converter. Around $140 -$250 for the parts and $350-$500 for the labor cost. 

Reason 4: Damaged Internal Seal

The main task of the internal seal is to keep the transmission fluid pressurized within it. Now, again the internal seal gets worn out through using it for a long time. With the damaged internal seal, the transmission fluid doesn’t stay within the container and leaks out.


Following are some of the symptoms of a damaged internal seal

  1. Increased vibration
  2. Gear Slipping
  3. Low Acceleration

Solution 4: Replace the Internal Seal

The solution is to get the internal seal replaced. This is relatively complicated and that’s why we suggest consulting a professional for this. It should cost you around $200-250 with labor costs ranging from $180-$200 and $20-$50 for parts. 

Toyota RAV4 Years To Avoid

These are some of the Toyota RAV4 years that you need to avoid because of the number of complaints it received. 

2000 Toyota RAV4

Particularly a problem with the second generation RAV4 with automatic transaxle transmission, the RAV4 was subjected to harsh gear change or gear snatching into place.

As a solution, the manufacturers recommended all affected vehicles to get the ECU replaced and a new system programmed into the RAV4.

2002 Toyota RAV4

The 2002 Toyota RAV4 has been the most complained about the model with over 500 complaints. Among these, around 369 were related to transmission. Most of its transmission problems were problems in gear shifting, random jerking motion, and overall transmission failure. 

2007 Toyota RAV4

2007 was a year full of RAV4 problems. There were problems related to the rear tie rod, malfunctioning airbags, excessive oil consumption, and of course, the seat heater wiring was also not working. Due to the sheer number of complaints, it is better to avoid the 2007 Toyota RAV4. 

2008 Toyota RAV4

Now just like the 2007 RAV4, the 2008 version was ripe with problems. It has received a lot of complaints related to the suspension, seat belt, airbag, and accelerator pedal. 2008 is also a year you want to avoid. 

2019 Toyota RAV4

This is a model that has been plagued by one problem after another. Most of the customer complaints were regarding transmission and even Car Complaints has rated it as the worst year of RAV4. 

Notably, most of the transmission related issues were lurching at slower speeds, inability to shift gears, and brake issues.

In fact, when it comes to brakes, drivers have even reported accelerating after hitting the brakes. So, this is probably one of the models that you need to avoid. 

Toyota RAV4 Recalls 

Over the years, Toyota RAV4 has been subject to a lot of recalls. Although, most have been due to non-transmission related issues and here we have collected some of the major ones over the years.

Some of the most common Toyota RAV4 problems were

  1. Corroded Rear Suspension Arm
  2. Malfunctioning Accelerator Pedal
  3. Improper Seat Heater Electric Wiring
  4. Melting Power Window Switches
  5. Miscalculating Airbag deployment
  6. Non-functioning Windshield Wipers
  7. Failing Fuel Pump
  8. Leaking Engine Coolant

These problems were more prevalent in Toyota RAV4 2007,2008,2009, 2010,2011 and 2019.

Despite the common transmission related problems, there has not been any recall particularly for transmission. 


Should I Drive With a Toyota RAV4 Transmission Problem?

No, you should not drive with a Toyota RAV4 Transmission Problem. The transmission system helps to transmit the power from the engine to the wheels. But with a faulty transmission, you are a risk of everything from not starting entirely to failing to shift gears. It can potentially lead to accidents and that’s why you need to get your RAV4 fixed as soon as possible.

Does the 2018 RAV4 have Transmission Problems?

Yes, unfortunately even 2018 has occasional transmission problems but it’s rare compared to other years like 2019. Most of its transmission issues are related to the inability to control speed properly and accelerate even after hitting the brakes. 

How Long Should RAV4 Last?

Around 10 years or 150,000 miles if everything is maintained properly. The longevity of the RAV4 depends on the road condition and the driving skill of the operator. It can also exceed 15 years through proper care. But, 10 years is the limit generally agreed upon by the manufacturers. 

What Kind of Transmission Fluid Does The RAV4 Take?

Normally 75W-90 is the agreed-upon range but definitely go through your user manual to check if any other viscosity model has been mentioned. 75W-90 is an example of multigrade oil with two viscosities and therefore an ideal choice. 


Now, you know the answer to the question does RAV4 have transmission problems? But hopefully, you can diagnose and get them solved as soon as possible. Now make sure to keep in mind what years to avoid and keep an eye out for the symptoms.

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William Baldwin

This Is William Baldwin, The Founder & Managing Editor of this website. Me and my team share automotive tips, tricks, and news

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Talha Atta

Talha Atta, a Mechanical Engineer and experienced technical content writer and editor at with a passion for the automotive industry.