NHTSA is investigating the Toyota RAV4, including the 2016 model shown

Toyota RAV4 vehicles from model years 2013 to 2018 are under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration because of concerns that the 12-volt battery could cause a fire. The total number of vehicles that could be involved is more than 1.8 million, according to the agency. NHTSA has not released information on related crashes or injuries. 

NHTSA takes such action when it receives a significant number of safety-related complaints and/or related data. An investigation can precede a recall, but it doesn’t mean a recall will definitely occur.

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NHTSA’s Office of Defect Investigations received 11 complaints about a non-crash-related fire in the left side of the engine compartment of the fourth-generation RAV4. The agency reports that a majority of these events occurred while the RAV4 was being driven, with four fires occurring when the vehicle was parked and the ignition off. 

NHTSA cites that “improper battery installation or prior front end collision repair was a factor” in the additional reports that the agency has received. It states that “the overall number of vehicle fire allegations with the battery as the area of origin is larger than its peer population.”

Consumer Reports contacted Toyota to ask about the NHTSA action. A company spokesman replied, “Toyota is aware that NHTSA has opened this investigation, and we are cooperating with the agency.”

While the investigation is underway, there are two key takeaways for all drivers:

  • If you experience a safety-related problem, report it to NHTSA. It may seem like a random, anecdotal problem, but there could also be a trend of similar incidents.
  • Cars are increasingly complex, with key sensitivities related to battery installation. Unless you are knowledgeable in the proper way to install a battery in your vehicle and can get the exact replacement size, it is best to have a professional do the installation. Most battery retailers, from local auto parts stores to dealerships, will do this free of charge.  

The Details

Vehicles being investigated: 2013 to 2018 Toyota RAV4s

The problem: A 12-volt battery terminal can cause an electrical short on the battery hold-down frame, which may result in the sudden loss of electrical power, vehicle stalling, and/or a fire originating in the engine compartment.

NHTSA action number: PE21005

Check to see whether your vehicle has an open recall: NHTSA’s website will tell you whether your vehicle has any open recalls that need to be addressed.

If you plug your car’s 17-digit vehicle identification number (VIN) into NHTSA’s website and a recall doesn’t appear, it means your vehicle doesn’t currently have any open recalls. Because automakers issue recalls often, and for many older vehicles, we recommend checking back regularly to see whether your vehicle has had a recall issued.

Stay informed about recalls that might affect your vehicle by using our Car Recall Tracker. Create a free account now to become a CR member.

2016 Toyota RAV4 engine compartment, showing the battery at the front driver's side corner.
2016 Toyota RAV4 engine compartment, showing the battery at the front driver's-side corner.