Everyone’s favorite small SUV — America’s best-selling vehicle that’s not a pickup truck — is under investigation by NHTSA as of Monday. It could possibly lead to another recall for Toyota, Reuters reported.
The ubiquitous RAV4 is the subject of a new probe after 11 incidents of “non crash thermal events” have been reported, according to USA Today. Thermal events is just a fancy term NHTSA uses to refer to fires, and those in the affected RAV4s have been traced to the 12-volt batteries in the SUVs.
The probe affects as many as 1.9 million RAV4s from the 2013 to 2018 model years, which makes them the fourth-generation RAV4. Also, 11 incidents may not sound like much, especially given the amount of cars NHTSA is investigating, but the agency said that “the number of vehicle fires reported [...] is larger than for other similar vehicles,” per Reuters.
There are reports of the fires both while the car was in motion and while the car was stationary. I don’t know which is scarier, driving down the highway and suddenly seeing smoke from under the hood or sitting at home/school/work and peeking out the window to see your car in flames.
I’d pick the latter if I had to, because catching fire at speed sounds like quite the nightmare, but I can confidently say I’d rather my car not catch fire at all. One incident involved a driver in Colorado who was piloting a hybrid RAV4 at “50 miles per hour when the check-engine light came on, and then white smoke emerged from beneath the hood,” Reuters reported.
Half of the incident reports stated that the RAV4s experienced stalling before the onset of the fire. You may remember that stalling was an issue in another Toyota recall. Last year, the carmaker issued a recall for some 1.5 million cars due to faulty fuel pumps that could also stall the car while in motion. This recall affected newer model years, including 2019 to 2020 RAV4s.
NHTSA is calling this a “preliminary evaluation” for now, per Reuters. And no injuries have been connected to the fires, according to USA Today. So it’s not a recall, but it could go that way. If you drive one of the RAV4s in question, best to bookmark the NHTSA recall tool and check it periodically.