Dangerous Fires Lead to Toyota RAV4 Lawsuit

A serious battery defect in some Toyota RAV4 models has prompted consumers to file a class-action lawsuit against the automaker. The suit alleges batteries in some RAV4 models can lose electrical power, stall, and catch fire. Such a flaw poses a significant safety threat to the driver and passengers.

The Toyota RAV4’s battery defect

According to the class-action lawsuit, defects in 12-volt B+ terminals cause electrical shorts in the frames that hold the batteries in 2013 to 2018 Toyota RAV4 models. Owner Juliet Murphy filed the lawsuit. She leased a 2015 RAV4 that she bought at the end of the lease in 2018.

According to the consumer site CarComplaints.com, Murphy claims to have taken her RAV4 in for service at a Toyota dealership in February 2020. Not long after, she saw corrosion around the 12-volt battery and its terminals. She replaced the battery after noticing the corrosion interfered with her SUV’s operation.

Murphy became worried about the integrity and safety of her vehicle’s battery system, the lawsuit states. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened an investigation after receiving 11 complaints of RAV4 fires that weren’t crash-related. Murphy filed her class action the following week.

Dangerous fires

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Early reports detailed fires that started on the left side of the engine compartments in 2013 to 2018 Toyota RAV4 models. That’s where the 12-volt batteries sit in the vehicles.

The majority of the fires, according to the NHTSA, happened while the SUVs were being driven. There were four complaints, however, where the fires occurred in the RAV4 with the engine off.

According to safety investigators, the B+ battery terminals are sometimes prone to electrical shorts to the frames that secure the 12-volt batteries. The shorts can cause electrical power problems, causing the SUV to stall and create an environment where fires can break out in the engine compartment.

In some fire reports, improper battery installation or front-end collision repair was a factor, the NHTSA reports.

Murphy claims Toyota has tried to conceal the alleged battery issue for years and subsequently caused the RAV4 to lose value. According to the lawsuit, the battery defect threatens all occupants’ safety and health. 

The suit also alleges many lessees and owners complained to their dealers, who allegedly evaded any warranty obligations by failing to tell customers the RAV4 models were defective and refusing to make repairs.

If you own a 2013 to 2018 Toyota RAV4 and are experiencing problems with the battery system, report them to the NHTSA. Also, find an authorized service technician to replace the battery to avoid further issues.

And if you’d like more information about joining the class-action lawsuit, contact one of the law firms representing the plaintiffs and mention Murphy v. Toyota Motor Corporation, et al. The law firms are Steckler Wayne Cochran Cherry, Freed Kanner London & Millen, LeVan Muhic Stapleton, Carlson Lynch, and McCune Wright Arevalo.

The 2021 Toyota RAV4 at a glance

The 2021 Toyota RAV4 has shown no such battery issues so far. In fact, this model year has earned an Editors’ Choice Award from Car and Driver. The base-model RAV4 can offer great value for consumers on a budget. If you want a RAV4 with all the trimmings, you can have that too. There’s also a TRD off-roading model.

All RAV4 trims come with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. All models are front-wheel drive standard with optional all-wheel drive on LE, XLE, XLE Premium, and limited models. The Adventure and TRS off-road models get all-wheel drive standard. There are also hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains with standard all-wheel drive.

Borrowing the 4Runner SUV and Tacoma’s rugged good looks, the 2021 RAV4 sits on a car-based platform providing a smooth ride. The cabin offers plenty of room, and the materials are durable yet inviting. If you’re looking for more than the basics, consider the higher trim levels.