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The Toyota RAV4 compact crossover SUV has a strong history of reliability. However, a new class action lawsuit puts a dent in this dependability reputation. The lawsuit alleges that Toyota knew about a leak in the roof rails in RAV4 models, resulting in water damage to electronics components and airbags.

Roof rail lawsuit for 2019-2021 Toyota RAV4 models 

Front angle view of 2021 Toyota RAV4 SUV, highlighting lawsuit for roof rail leak that causes water damage
2021 Toyota RAV4 | Toyota

The roof rail lawsuit includes anyone that bought or leased a 2019-2021 Toyota RAV4 in the United States. Plaintiffs Judith and Todd Fishkind, who bought a 2019 RAV4 in April 2019, filed the suit, per CarComplaints

Their SUV first began having electrical issues in October 2022 — with around 28,000 miles on the odometer. The gauges on the dashboard malfunctioned and were unusable, so the couple took the vehicle to a Toyota dealership in New York, where it remained for weeks until the replacement parts arrived. 

After the parts arrived in December 2022, mechanics attempted to repair the dashboard gauges. However, the cold temperature resulted in the wiring of the RAV4 getting covered in ice. The dealership told the plaintiffs that water entered the A-pillars — and then leaked into the dashboard and covered the airbags. 

However, citing the expired warranty, the dealer said that Toyota wouldn’t cover the repair costs. Also, despite the couple purchasing an extended warranty, the automaker refused to cover the costs due to the issue not being a “mechanic failure.”

In addition to not resolving the problem and covering the repair expenses of the RAV4, which remains unusable, the class action lawsuit claims that Toyota refused to repurchase the vehicle from the plaintiffs.

Why do the roof rails leak in the RAV4?

Rear angle view of 2021 Toyota RAV4 SUV, highlighting lawsuit for roof rail leak that damages electronics and airbags
2021 Toyota RAV4 | Toyota

Essentially, the roof rail leak is due to a low-quality material, alleges the lawsuit. The roof rails of the RAV4 are manufactured with a rubber gasket and a white plastic stake. These two components affix the rails to the roof of the SUV. Toyota drills a hole in the roof and then mounts the rails with the plastic stakes.

However, the lawsuit states that the problem occurs because the rubber gasket features a thin material that quickly degrades. This results in water seeping into the SUV. Water from such sources as rain, snow, ice, and car washes leaks into the drilled holes. The water then travels down the pillars — and eventually causes water damage to the electrical components in the dashboard, as well as the airbags. 

The suit claims that Toyota knew about the problem in 2019

The class action lawsuit also alleges that Toyota knew about the roof rail leak problem in 2019 — but still sold the defective RAV4 models. Additionally, the suit cites a change that the automaker made in September 2021 to the design of the rubber gaskets in the SUV. In place of the thin material for the gaskets, Toyota used a much thicker version that’s not as susceptible to rapid degradation. 

Furthermore, the plaintiffs claim that despite the roof rail leak problem, the automaker hasn’t issued a recall for the RAV4. The class action lawsuit, titled Todd and Judith Fishkind v. Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A, was filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.


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