The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has documented a series of issues related to 12-volt batteries, including instances of fires, power loss, and engine stalling. Additionally, the agency received reports of eight fires originating from the driver’s side of the engine compartment where the battery is located.
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According to the investigation, four reports indicated that “thermal events” occurred with the ignition off, suggesting a prudent approach for owners to park their SUVs outdoors until the necessary repairs are carried out. However, Toyota’s spokesperson, Aaron Fowles, clarified that the company is not specifically recommending outdoor parking for the RAV4s. Instead, the company advises owners to promptly take their vehicles to a dealer for inspection, ensuring correct installation of replacement batteries and secure clamps, and to carry out recall repairs when available.
Since 2021, the company has issued a consumer advisory urging owners to have their SUVs inspected at no cost. NHTSA was contacted on Friday for comment regarding whether owners should park the recalled RAV4s outdoors.
Toyota announced the recall of approximately 1.9 million RAV4s in the U.S. on the grounds that the batteries could shift during forceful turns, potentially leading to an electrical short caused by the positive pole touching a clamp. The recall applies to specific RAV4 models from 2013 to 2018. Toyota cited differences in the top dimensions of some replacement batteries, which, when combined with improperly tightened hold-down clamps, could result in battery movement during sharp cornering and subsequent contact between the positive terminal and the clamp, leading to a short circuit.
According to documents posted on Friday by the safety agency, Toyota has identified 22 “field technical reports” in the U.S. related to the issue. The company did not directly address whether the reports involved fires, stating that the field reports were compiled by Toyota staff documenting inspections related to the condition prompting the recall.
Toyota is currently working on a solution, with plans to replace the hold-down clamp, battery tray, and positive terminal cover with improved versions. The company aims to notify owners of the recall by late December. Owners can check whether their RAV4s are affected by visiting www.nhtsa.gov/recalls and entering their vehicle identification number.
NHTSA commenced its investigation in February 2021, prompted by 11 complaints about thermal events, including fires, melting, or smoke. The agency’s document revealed that most thermal events occurred during driving, with four instances taking place with the ignition off. In many cases, drivers experienced stalling prior to any thermal event, with the 12-volt battery identified as the primary source in the majority of reviewed incidents. A letter from the agency to Toyota on April 6, 2021, disclosed that the number of complaints had increased to 17.