The 2013-2018 RAV4 is being investigated for a potential battery defect that can cause the SUV to lose all of its electrical power and, in some cases, start an engine compartment fire.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is particularly concerned with what they like to call thermal incidents. Otherwise known as fires. NHTSA has received 11 complaints that led to fires, with 7 of those incidents happening while the vehicle was moving. In some cases, the vehicle started out before bursting into flames.
Why the Battery Shorts Out ∞
There appears to be an electrical short when the positive terminal of the 12-volt battery comes in contact with the battery's hold-down frame. That short is capable of shutting down the whole car's electrical system.
The RAV4 is a very popular SUV and the investigation covers 1.9 million vehicles. You might be thinking 11 fires doesn't sound that bad, but the agency is quick to point out that
the overall number of vehicle fire allegations with the battery as the area of origin is larger than in other similar vehicles.
And there's not much consistency. One owner said they
noticed sparks and glowing embers dropping to the ground from inside the left front wheel area while returning from pre-paying for gas. Another said they were
driving on the interstate entrance ramp when the battery died but then I was able to start it back and drove just a short distance when the hood started smoking.
Both cases sound terrifying.
Who's to Blame? ∞
NHTSA believes some of the complained about vehicles had previously been repaired after a front-end collision, so they're also investigating whether improper battery installation or shoddy collision repair could be to blame for this issue.
Meanwhile, a class-action lawsuit believes
Toyota has concealed the alleged battery problems for years which has caused the RAV4s to diminish in value.