NHTSA launches investigation into Toyota RAV4 engine fires

Photo (c) shaunl - Getty Images

The issue involves nearly 1.9 million vehicles made between 2013 and 2018

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced Monday that it has launched an investigation into Toyota’s RAV4 vehicles. Regulators said there have been 11 reports of fires in 2013-2018 RAV4 vehicles. 

Toyota said it’s aware of the investigation and is cooperating with the NHTSA’s probe, which involves more than 1.86 million vehicles.

In a filing, the NHTSA alleged that “a non-crash thermal event” originated in the left side of the SUVs engine compartment. The auto safety agency said the vehicle’s 12-volt battery appears to be the “area of origin” in a majority of incidents reviewed. 

Investigators suspect that the issue may be caused by improper battery installation. Specifically, they say it involves a short on the battery’s hold-down frame by the positive terminal of the 12-volt battery. The agency said the problem “may result in the sudden loss of electrical power, vehicle stalling, and/or a fire originating in the engine compartment.” 

Stalling reported before fires

Most drivers said the incidents happened while they were driving their RAV4, but four fires started while the ignition was off. Investigators said “stalling” was reported in the run up to several incidents. 

"Drivers experienced stalling prior to the thermal event in half of the instances where the vehicle was in motion," the NHTSA said. 

The agency said it’s opened the investigation to “better understand the contributing factors and frequency of vehicle fires originating from the battery region of the subject vehicles.” So far, no injuries or accidents have occured in connection to the issue. 

The vehicles under investigation haven't been recalled, but they eventually could be depending on what the investigation reveals. 

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