Toyota RAV4 Problems: 12 Known Issues (Explained)

The Toyota RAV4, a compact SUV that has been in production since 1994, smoothly combines SUV capabilities with compact car characteristics.

The RAV4 has gone through a total of five models since its introduction in the United States in 1995, offering expanded cargo space, a 4WD option, and remarkable fuel efficiency and maneuverability.

Despite its long track record of popularity, in this article, we’ll address any possible problems owners have encountered with their RAV4.

Powertrain & Transmission Problems

On, RAV4 owners have reported over 130,000 powertrain-related problems, making it the third most common problem they have listed.

The problems include automatic transmission issues, transmission solenoid issues, and transmission noise issues, amongst others.

Rav4 back logo

Let’s break them down.

Automatic Transmission Issues

There were over 1000 reports concerning the Toyota RAV4’s automatic transmission. Many of the owners reported their vehicles jerked/hesitated while they were trying to accelerate.

There may be numerous reasons why your car won’t accelerate at high speed.

Some owners who took their vehicles in for diagnosis confirmed that this was a problem with the transmission and the ECM unit.

We also found that this problem was most common with 2001-2003 RAV4 models.

Check the most common problems across Toyota SUVs here.

Gear Slipping Issues

Many RAV4 owners have also lodged several complaints regarding the transmission slipping gears without warning.

This has been met with various lawsuits, which have now forced the manufacturer to acknowledge the issue.

Toyota has also expanded the warranty on this problem to 10 years/150,000 miles.

Solenoid Issues

Another commonly reported transmission problem with the RAV4 is its solenoid.

Some RAV4 owners have complained about a check engine light coming on randomly while driving. That is coupled with the vehicle stalling intermittently.

Our research showed that this problem is often a result of a faulty solenoid that is due for immediate replacement.

Unpleasant Noise

Scores of RAV4 owners have also complained about an unpleasant grinding noise that sometimes emerges during acceleration or deceleration.

Some others reported that this happens right after the vehicle is placed in reverse or when switching from FWD to 4WD.

This problem has been reported in new as well as older RAV4 models.

Causes and Solutions

Below are causes and solutions for some of the powertrain and transmission issues listed above.

Issue Causes Solutions
Faulty Needle Roller Bearings Wear and tear of needle bearings Regular inspection and replacement of faulty needle bearings.
  Grinding noises from gears in the torque converter  
Low or Contaminated Transmission Fluid Insufficient transmission fluid Regularly check and maintain appropriate transmission fluid levels.
  Contaminated transmission fluid Drain and replace transmission fluid at recommended intervals. Ensure cleanliness during refills.
  Overheating transmission due to low fluid  
Clogged Transmission Fluid Filter Accumulation of debris in the filter Regularly replace or clean the transmission fluid filter.
  Hindered fluid flow leading to transmission issues  
  Potential transmission failure

Related: Toyota RAV4 In Snow & Winter Driving? (Explained)

Rav4 back

Engine Problems has identified this as the top complaint by owners of the RAV4.

Let’s have a quick look at some of the most common engine-related problems.

Excessive Oil Consumption

Owners of the Toyota RAV4 have expressed their frustrations regarding the vehicle’s excessive oil consumption.

Some of these owners report exhausting 2-3 quarts of oil every 800-1,000 miles.

This problem is common with vehicles north of 90,000 miles on the odometer.

Check Engine Light Illumination

Some RAV4 owners also noticed their check engine lights coming on while driving, usually between 10-35 mph.

Some also reported that, besides these warning lights, the vehicle seemingly lost power.

Water Pump Leaks

Another commonly reported engine problem is the water pump leak on the Toyota RAV4.

Multiple owners complained that the water pump leaked fluid without warning, and this was sometimes accompanied by a loud noise from the engine.

The Toyota RAV4 develops these water pump issues as early as 25,000 miles.

Exhaust Problems

A considerable number of complaints have also been lodged concerning the Toyota RAV4’s engine exhaust. Multiple RAV4 owners reported smelling a strong burning odor and exhaust fumes emerging from the cabin.

We found that this problem is most common with pre-2010 Toyota RAV4 models.

Fuel System Problems

The fifth-generation Toyota RAV4 debuted in 2019 with substantial design and technological enhancements.

However, a special issue dogged this generation, notably the 2019 and 2020 models; fuel system issues that resulted in stalling and a subsequent drop in dependability ratings.

A faulty low-pressure fuel pump present in certain RAV4 models was discovered as the source of the problem. This component has the potential to fail, resulting in engine stalls while driving.

The problem had a direct influence on the fuel system’s critical components, including the fuel tank and the combustion chamber.

Toyota announced a recall for nearly 1.5 million vehicles in response to the widespread problem.

If you believe you are experiencing this issue, it’s best to contact your nearest dealership so that a qualified mechanic can rectify the issue.

Causes and Solutions

Issue Causes Solutions
Defective Piston Rings Damaged or worn-out piston rings Replace damaged piston rings to prevent engine oil seepage and carbon deposits.
  Oil burning leads to frequent oil refills  
Worn Out Gaskets Defective crankshaft seal or valve cover gasket Replace faulty gaskets to prevent oil leaks and potential coolant leaks.
  Engine oil top-offs required to prevent damage  
Oxygen Sensor Failure Check engine light due to a failed oxygen sensor Replace the failed oxygen sensor to address the illuminated check engine light.
Loose Fuel Cap Check engine light triggered by a loose fuel cap Tighten or replace the fuel cap to ensure the proper functioning of the fuel delivery system.
Faulty Catalytic Converter Worn-out or overheated catalytic converters Replace faulty catalytic converters to eliminate exhaust fume odors and ensure pollution control.

Related: How Long Do Toyota RAV4 Last? (Solved & Explained)

Issues With Steering

Several RAV4 owners have also reported issues regarding the vehicle’s steering. First, make sure your tires are a good fit for your RAV4.

Let’s take a look at some of these issues.

Noise Issues

A good number of RAV4 owners have complained about unpleasant clicking noises emerging from the steering column.

This mostly happens when the driver makes a turn at low speeds or tries to reverse.

Steering Wheel Failure

Some RAV4 owners have also reported steering wheel failure while driving, which led to crashes in some cases.

The failure mileage was often north of 50,000 miles, and the failure was with pre-2010 Toyota RAV4 models.

Power Steering Light On

Another commonly reported steering problem was the power steering light coming on abruptly.

In addition to this, owners reported that the steering wheel became incredibly difficult to maneuver.

We found that this problem occurred even in RAV4 models with just about 4,000-5,000 miles.

Causes and Solutions

Issue Causes Solutions
Contamination of Power Steering Fluids Foreign particles in power steering fluid To fix this, flush and replace contaminated power steering fluid to ensure proper steering system function.
  Impaired fluid circulation leads to steering issues  
Worn Out Steering Belts Wear and tear of the steering belts Replace worn-out steering belts to maintain proper tension and ensure effective steering control.
  Reduced responsiveness due to belt degradation  
Leaking Fluids Fluid leaks from the power steering system Identify and repair leaks promptly. Replace damaged components or seals to prevent fluid loss.
Bad Tie Rod Ends Wear or damage to tie rod ends Replace bad tie rod ends to restore proper alignment and prevent steering instability.
Defective Column Bearing Issues with the steering column bearing Replace the defective column bearing for smoother steering operation and reduced noise.
Faulty Steering Rack Malfunctions or wear in the steering racks Replace or repair faulty steering racks to ensure precise and responsive steering.
Bad Ball Joints Wear or damage to ball joints Replace bad ball joints and bolts to maintain proper suspension and prevent steering vibrations or play.

Related: 10 Toyota Rav4 Statistics You Should Know (Facts & Numbers)

Toyota Rav4 Issues Per Year

Let’s break down the most common issues per year for the different generations.
We also have a list of the best and worst years of the RAV4 models.

Generation Model Years Common Issues
First Generation 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 Mechanical parts issues (e.g., door, rust)
    Clutch and battery problems
Second Generation 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 Automatic transmission issues, especially with 2.0L models
    Various engine options, including 2.0 d4d and 1AZ-FE engines
Third Generation 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 Problems with the exhaust system
    Strong odor from the exhaust, indicating potential leaks
    Concerns about fuel economy due to exhaust system issues
Fourth Generation 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 Battery defects
    Reports of a sour smell from the air conditioning system
Fifth Generation 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 Transmission issues when starting from a standstill
    Hesitation and slow acceleration, potentially a computer issue
    Few reports due to the models being relatively new


General Pros & Cons

Here are the general advantages and disadvantages of the RAV4:

Pros Cons
Variety of Trims Powertrain and Transmission Issues
Outstanding Gas Mileage Car Engine Problems
All-wheel drive with Multi-Terrain Select Option Issues With the Vehicle’s Steering
Sophisticated Infotainment System  
Snug and Cozy Cabin  
World-Class Safety Features​​​​

What Do the Reviews Say?


“Needless to say, there’s a RAV4 for just about anyone, and it’s safe to say the RAV4 should remain near the top of the market for years to come.”

Source: AutoTrader

“The RAV4 is a … genuinely satisfying crossover. Remarkably pleasant to drive, very functional for everyday life, and generously equipped with safety technology, the … Toyota RAV4 would make a great addition to anybody’s garage.”

Source: CNET


rav4 inside

What Is the Resale Value of the RAV4?

Model Year Mileage Price
2014 Toyota RAV4 112,585 miles $17,999
2015 Toyota RAV4 69,649 miles $20,499
2016 Toyota RAV4 60,173 miles $24,990
2017 Toyota RAV4 39,035 miles $23,640
2018 Toyota RAV4 31,279 miles $27,879
2019 Toyota RAV4 21,969 miles $32,999

rav4 open trunk

Go Back: Problems for each Toyota model.

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ⓘ  The information in this article is based on data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recall reports, consumer complaints submitted to the NHTSA, reliability ratings from J.D. Power, auto review and rating sites such as Edmunds, specialist forums, etc. We analyzed this data to provide insights into the best and worst years for these vehicle models.