Toyota RAV4: 11 Common Problems (Useful Guide)

Japanese automaker Toyota produced the world’s very first compact crossover SUV in 1994 – the Toyota RAV4. 

Known for its cargo room, fuel economy and affordability, the RAV4 is the best-selling SUV worldwide with hundreds of thousands of units sold each year. The  RAV4 is regarded as one of the most reliable crossovers on the market. 

However, even RAV4s have encountered their issues over the years. Our goal is to help you save time and money on repairs, which is why we’ve dug deep on service and owner forums to compile the most useful troubleshooting information possible. 

Let’s get started! 

Toyota RAV4 Alarm Keeps Going Off 

The most common reason for a Toyota RAV4 alarm going off randomly is the vehicle’s battery being low on charge. However, if the 12V battery is in good condition, the problem could also lie in a faulty hood/door switch. 

If your RAV4 alarm keeps going off randomly without something obvious triggering it, the anti-theft system is not working as intended.

We’ve outlined a small list of the most likely causes your alarm keeps going  off at random: 

12V Battery 

The first thing to check when dealing with this issue, is the anti-theft system’s power source – the vehicle’s 12V battery. 

A battery that is on the brink of failure can cause the alarm to go off. This is because the anti-theft system triggers the alarm when power is interrupted while the system is armed. 

So, having the battery tested and replaced if necessary, is always the best place to start when dealing with this concern. 

Also ensure your battery connections are tight and clean. 

Faulty Hood Switch/Door Switch 

Hood and door switches are responsible for triggering the alarm in the event  of someone trying to forcibly enter your RAV4. 

When the vehicle is locked with the fob, the anti-theft system is armed. So, if  the door or the hood is opened or unlocked by force while the system is  armed, it will trigger the alarm.

A faulty hood switch or door switch can cause the alarm to go off even  when the door/hood is not being opened. 

It’s important to remember that the hood latch and door latches should be cleaned, lubricated, and free of debris. If the hood/doors are not closing properly, it could cause the switch to trigger the alarm. 

Glass Breakage Sensor (GBS) ECU 

The RAV4s security system comes equipped with a glass breakage sensor.  

This sensor can detect tapping or breakage of the glass, which then sounds the alarm. 

The sensor is controlled by an electronic control unit (ECU) which is located behind the glovebox. On the GBS ECU, there is an adjustment screw to control the sensitivity of the system. 

It is possible the sensitivity is set too high, causing the alarm to be triggered  by occurrences such as lightning storms or large gusts of wind. 

Always follow Toyota’s recommendation when setting the sensitivity.

Related: 6 Most Common Toyota RAV4 Problems (Explained)

Toyota RAV4 Keeps Beeping

The majority of RAV4 owners found their vehicle was beeping at them with no indication because the parking brake was slightly engaged, or they set something on the passenger’s seat (such as a bag of groceries). Other problems could be defective door switches or park assist sensors. 

The Toyota RAV4 can beep at you for many different reasons – but when it is seemingly at random or unprompted, it can leave owners frustrated. 

Usually this is an easy fix. Start by checking the parking brake, the passenger’s seat, and the doors. 

If the parking brake is engaged while the vehicle is in motion, the RAV4 will try to indicate the driver to release it by beeping. Rightfully so, as driving with the parking brake engaged will wear out brake pads and make them less effective. 

Another incident that can cause beeping, is objects placed on the passenger’s seat. 

The seat has weight sensors used to determine if the airbag should be deployed or not, and used to activate the passenger’s seatbelt indicator.  

If the seat weight sensors detects a load on the passenger’s seat but the seatbelt is disconnected, an audible chime will follow.

If you wish to place items on the passenger seat while driving without the beeping, simply connect the passenger seatbelt.

Also be sure to check all the doors and the rear hatch are closed properly. 

If all of these conditions are met, the problem could lie in a defective door switch, leading the RAV4’s electronic system to think a door is open while the vehicle is in motion. 

A park assist sensor could also be to blame.

Toyota’s park assist sensors are sensitive, and a small amount of dirt, moisture, or damage could cause them to chime continuously, though it will most likely display it on the Multi-Information Display (MID).

You may also be interested in our article: Toyota RAV4 Beeping? (5 Causes & Solutions)

Toyota RAV4 Keeps Cutting Out 

Usually when owners experience their RAV4 cutting out, it is due to an  electrical problem in the main battery/ignition circuit. This electrical  problem could be caused by a loose or corroded ground cable, a  defective ignition relay, or poor contact between battery terminals and  posts. 

RAV4 owners have reported that their vehicle would suddenly lose all electrical and engine power abruptly. 

This adverse situation can leave drivers without power steering,  power brakes, acceleration, exterior lights, driver assists, etc.

This issue can take extensive diagnosis, and finding the root cause can be tricky. Therefore, labor costs will vary depending on how easily your mechanic can locate the source of the problem. 

However, according to our research, the main causes of this complaint were:

  • Loose/corroded battery terminals 
  • Loose/corroded electrical ground cable 
  • Loose electrical cable connected to fuse box 
  • Defective ignition relay 

Due to the technical nature of this concern, we recommend leaving your vehicle in the hands of a trained professional, specifically an auto-electrician.

Toyota RAV4 Glove Box Keeps Opening 

When the glove box of your RAV4 keeps opening, it is usually caused by a broken latch. Unfortunately, latches cannot be replaced individually, so the entire glove box will need to be replaced. Before buying one though, ensure nothing is jammed in the way of the latch or the sides of the glove box. 

When this problem occurs, owners should check to ensure the box is not  overloaded, and the mechanisms (such as the hinges or latch) are not  jammed by an item.

But if this is not the case, then a latch may have gone bad. When the latch breaks they are no longer able to support the weight of the box and keep the glove compartment closed. 

The latches cannot be replaced individually, so the whole glove box will  have to be interchanged. 

On a light note, this repair is relatively easy, which is why “DIYers” should have no issue attempting this repair so long as they have some basic hand tools.

The box itself can be pricey though, sometimes ranging into the hundreds of dollars. For those on a tight budget a used one might be a better option. 

You can find a full price breakdown of Rav4 ownership costs here. 

Toyota RAV4 Headlights Keep Burning Out 

Headlight bulbs should not require frequent replacement. If you find the bulbs burn out all too often on your RAV4, check your alternator output,  or for moisture inside the headlight. It’s also important to wear gloves when installing bulbs, oil from fingers can decrease bulb life. 

A common cause of decreased headlight bulb longevity lies in the installer not wearing gloves. 

This is because the oil on your hands disrupts the uniform heating process.

But if you always wear gloves when changing bulbs, then it may be due to moisture in the headlight assembly itself. 

Headlight assemblies should be sealed and free of any moisture. If not, this moisture can cause the bulb to fail prematurely. 

Lastly, the alternator output voltage should be checked.

If the voltage regulator in the charging system fails, excessive voltage can be sent to the headlights causing them to overheat and burn out. 

Toyota RAV4 Clicking Noise, But Won’t Start 

Some Toyota RAV4 owners experienced their vehicle making a clicking noise but not starting. This problem is largely caused by a weak battery.  Alternatively, a malfunctioning starter motor could be to blame. The starter solenoid is not the issue though, as it is the source of the clicking noise. 

A vehicle clicking and failing to start is a common problem that is by no means exclusive to the RAV4.

The majority of issues stem from a weak or defective battery. A battery without enough power to start the vehicle will cause a no-start, yet solenoids or relays may still make a clicking noise. 

Always have the battery tested first, and confirm connections are clean and tight. Corrosion or poor connections can cause the battery to behave as if it is weak. 

Damaged battery cables could also be the root-cause, and almost always exhibit the same symptoms as a failing battery. 

If the vehicles 12V battery passes a test, then the next likely cause is the  starter motor. 

The starter motor is an electric motor that functions by electrical current from the 12V battery. The motor spins a gear to turn the engine over. It is engaged by a solenoid. 

When the motor wears out, it fails to turn the engine and get it started.  However, the solenoid still functions, which is the cause of the clicking noise. 

For the Toyota RAV4 starter replacement, RepairPal estimates labor costs are between $89 and $113, while parts are priced between $252  and $407 on average. 

Toyota RAV4 Won’t Lock 

Usually when the RAV4 won’t lock, the cause of concern lies in a fob being left in the vehicle, or the doors not being closed all the way.  However, if this is not the case, it may be caused by a dead key fob battery, worn-out door lock actuator, or blown fuse.

Toyota implements Power Lock and Smart Entry systems in their new vehicles however they are not without their share of problems. 

Here’s a list of what to look out for when researching why your RAV4 won’t lock: 

Fob In the Vehicle / Doors Not Closed 

If your RAV4 has a push button start, it uses proximity sensors to determine  how close the fob is to the vehicle, and whether or not it is in the cabin. 

The RAV4 comes off the lot with two key fobs – meaning one could be left  inside the vehicle as you try to lock it with another. 

If a key fob is inside the vehicle, it simply will not lock, especially a smart key. 

If you cannot find the key fob anywhere but suspect there still might be one  in the cabin of your RAV4, simply try to start it with no known keys inside the  vehicle. If it starts, there must be a key fob inside. 

Also ensure all doors (including rear hatch) are closed. If not, the door lock  system will refuse to operate.

Key Fob Battery Dead 

Like many electronic gadgets, the key fob has a battery. This battery is a known as  a CR2032 battery, it is widely available and only costs around $5. 

If the battery in the fob goes dead, it needs to be replaced.

A relatively easy task with minimal tools required, and some dealerships may even replace it for you, free of labor charges. 

Blown Door Lock Fuse 

Even though blown door lock fuses are uncommon, they are not unheard of. 

If the door lock fuse blows, it will prevent the entire door lock system from functioning. 

Fuses can be easily accessed and inspected by pulling them out of the fuse box. 

A blown fuse is usually caused by an electrical short though – this occurs due to exposed or damaged wires or connections.

So if you find a blown door lock fuse and replace it, it may continually blow until the wiring fault is rectified. 

You may also be interested in our article: How Long Do Toyota RAV4 Hybrids Last?

Defective Door Lock Actuator

The door lock actuator is an electrical device responsible for moving the lock  mechanism, when a lock signal from the key fob is detected. 

A defective door lock actuator typically only causes one door lock to fail,  rather than all doors. 

This component requires testing, and checking for supply voltage and ground presence in the harness connected to the actuator. 

We recommend leaving a door lock actuator diagnosis and repair to a  professional automotive technician due to the technical nature of the problem.

Toyota RAV4 Won’t Start When Hot 

If you find your RAV4 won’t start when hot, more often than not it is caused by a bad starter. This is because as heat increases, the starter motor windings resistance increase. Most RAV4 owners with this issue fit a 2.2KW starter instead of the 1.6KW starter. 

This issue is most prevalent on model years 2001 – 2005, especially with the diesel engine.  

If this model year and engine combo pertain to you, then you’ll be assured to know this is a known issue with a lot of documentation.

Assuming your vehicle’s battery has been tested and is fully charged (if it isn’t, start there) the problem lies in a weak starter motor.  

When starter motors get too hot, they tend to act up. This is because the copper windings inside the motor increase in resistance, making it harder to spin the engine. 

Diesel engines are especially hard to spin, which is why many 2001 – 2005 diesel RAV4 owners have upgraded to a more heavy-duty starter motor. Specifically, they upgraded their 1.6 kW starters to 2.2 kW ones. 

Even if your RAV4 is not a diesel for 2001 – 2005, this could still be your  issue. However, if you lack knowledge with car repair, always consult a  professional. 

RAV4 Won’t Connect To iPhone 

When your RAV4 won’t connect to your iPhone, you need to confirm the  Bluetooth setting are enabled first, both on the vehicle and on the phone. Also, the system can only hold a max of 5 phones. Delete a device if you have too many. Lastly, check for updates, and check your phone’s compatibility.

Phone connectivity is a common issue for RAV4 owners, and iPhone users are no exception. However, there are a number of quick checks you should perform before you rush it into the service department. 

In the RAV4’s settings, be sure that your Bluetooth settings are enabled. The same goes for your phone’s Bluetooth settings. It may seem obvious, but it is often overlooked. 

Understand that most Toyotas (including the RAV4) only allow a max of 5  phones registered. If you already have 5, you’ll have to delete one if you want to pair a new one. 

It never hurts to reboot the system, and/or clear the cache. Just be sure you don’t completely reset or reformat either your phone or the RAV4 – you may lose all of your data in the process. 

Some devices simply are not compatible with Entune. There’s a list of compatible devices on Toyota’s website.

Always make sure your iPhone is running the latest iOS software, this can often be the root cause of a number of iPhone related issues.

If all else fails, you may want to contact your local dealer and check for any software updates. There may be one available for your vehicle, or they may be able to pinpoint why your phone is not connecting.

Toyota RAV4 Bluetooth Keeps Disconnecting 

When Bluetooth keeps disconnecting from the RAV4, owners found the easiest fix was to delete their phone from the RAV4’s Bluetooth device list, and pair the device again. If this does not work, confirm your phone is compatible with your vehicle, and confirm your RAV4 has the latest software update. 

If your phone continually disconnects from your RAV4, it’s always best to try a few simple things first before you hand over any money to a technician. 

Firstly, delete the device from your RAV4s Bluetooth device list.

Delete the RAV4 from your device’s Bluetooth list as well if needed. 

If possible, clear the cache or perform a soft reset as well.

Key the vehicle off and back on again, and perform the pairing process. This method fixed the majority of owner’s problems with Bluetooth disconnecting. 

Always check your phone for the latest software updates.

Additionally, check with your dealership to confirm your RAV4 has the latest update.

Toyota is always updating the software on their vehicles to fix glitches and bugs. 

If this does not help, check to ensure your device is compatible. A list of  compatible devices can be found on the Toyota website.