2018 Toyota RAV4 Top Complaints and Problems – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Brakes, lighting, electrical system and engine issues among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

Toyota has long been known as a company that makes reliable vehicles. That’s why many owners turned to the 2018 Toyota RAV4 when looking for a compact SUV. Even the newest models are labeled to “Maximize Your Adventure.” While it’s true this vehicle will give drivers an adventure, it isn’t like the one they had planned. Instead, they spend their time at the dealership handling faulty exterior lighting, glitchy electrical systems and defective service brakes, among other complaints.

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Exterior Lighting

One thing that is vital in any family vehicle is the headlight system. These lights must shine brightly on the roadway ahead so everyone can remain safe. As we see from countless reviews on the RAV4, that simply isn’t the case with this model.

Just look at one NHTSA review that discusses this problem in depth. “Just brought my new Toyota RAV4 2018 and realized that I can’t drive it at night. My windshield turns dark 1/3 to 1/2 from the bottom and continues all the way to the top. It’s actually worse when driving home and going up my unlit hill when instead of my brights going on automatically, only my low lights are on. I am frightened to drive my car and now realize that there were online complaints going back years!”

This review is absolutely correct – there have been tons of complaints saying precisely the same thing. Still, there is nothing about the problem from Toyota themselves. They haven’t spoken about it publicly or issued a recall. It appears that part of the adventure they have created is learning how to drive without seeing clearly.

Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2018 Toyota RAV4 Headlights Problems:

TL* THE CONTACT OWNS A 2018 TOYOTA RAV4. WHILE DRIVING AT NIGHT OR AFTER DUSK, THE HEADLAMPS PROVIDED INSUFFICIENT ILLUMINATION TO OPERATE THE VEHICLE SAFELY. THE CONTACT WAS CONCERNED THAT THE FAILURE WAS DUE TO A FEATURE ON THE VEHICLE WHERE THE HEADLIGHTS DIM WHEN APPROACHING ONCOMING TRAFFIC. THE VEHICLE WAS TAKEN TO UEBELHOR  TO BE DIAGNOSED AND THEY STATED THAT THE VEHICLE PERFORMED AS INTENDED. ADDITIONALLY, THE CONTACT STATED THAT THE ILLUMINATION WAS INADEQUATE IN RURAL AREAS, BUT WAS NOT AFFECTED IN AN URBAN SETTING. THE VEHICLE WAS NOT REPAIRED. THE MANUFACTURER WAS MADE AWARE OF THE ISSUE. THE APPROXIMATE FAILURE MILEAGE WAS 4,200.

REPEATEDLY, WHILE IN MOTION, WITH THE HEADLIGHTS IN THE “AUTO” MODE, AND THE “AUTOMATIC HIGH BEAM FEATURE ENABLED (WHICH SWITCHES THE HEADLIGHTS FROM HIGH BEAM TO LOW BEAM AUTOMATICALLY BASED ON THE PRESENCE OF ONCOMING HEADLIGHTS/TAIL LIGHTS AHEAD/AMBIENT LIGHT LEVELS) THE AUTO HIGHBEAM FEATURE WILL DISABLE ITSELF, GENERALLY TIED TO THE PASSING OF A CAR WITH BRIGHT LIGHTS. WHEN THIS FEATURE DISABLES ITSELF IT PREVENTS ALL USE OF HIGHBEAMS. THE ONLY WAY TO GET HIGHBEAMS WHILE THE FEATURE IS “DISABLED” (EVEN IN COMPLETE DARKNESS) IS TO “ROTATE” THE STALK CONTROL AWAY FROM “AUTO HEADLIGHT” TO “MANUAL HEADLIGHT”. THE FEATURE EVENTUALLY RE-ENABLES ITSELF, BUT USUALLY TAKES A NUMBER OF MINUTES, LEAVING ME WITHOUT THE SAFETY OF HIGHBEAMS FOR THAT PERIOD, UNLESS I GO THROUGH THE CUMBERSOME ACT OF TURNING HEADLAMPS TO “MANUAL”. THIS IS PARTICULARLY DANGEROUS DURING MY COMMUTE WHERE I DRIVE A NUMBER OF MILES ON UNLIT STATE ROADS.

I HAVE A NEW XLE AND THE HEADLIGHTS ARE DANGEROUS. THESE ARE PROJECTOR HEADLIGHTS THAT CAST A VERY FOCUSED BEAM FORWARD. IT IS FRIGTENING WHEN YOU DRIVE IN SOME ROADS WITHOUT A LOT OF AMBIENT LIGHT. WITH THE LOW BEAMS ON, IT IS LIKE SOMEONE PAINTED THE TOP HALF OF MY WINDSHIELD BLACK. THERE IS LITTLE PERIPHERAL ILLUMINATION, SO I CAN SEE WHAT IS DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF ME, AND NOTHING ELSE. WHERE THE ROAD INCLINES DOWN, THE ILLUMINATION CUTS OUT JUST A FEW FEET OFF THE GROUND, BELOW THE LEVEL OF THINGS LIKE STOP SIGNS. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO PERIPHERAL ILLUMINATION RIGHT AT THE FRONT OF THE CAR, SO WHEN I TURN, I CAN’T SEE WHAT I’M TURNING INTO UNTIL IT’S DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF MY CAR, LIKE PEDESTRIANS.

Electrical System

When it comes to the electronics of a car, they are designed for more than comfort. Sure, having a working radio and navigation system is important, but they also run the essential components of a vehicle.

Just look at what happened to this NHTSA reviewer. “While driving the car just shut down and the code read Charging System Malfunction, we had it towed to the dealership and they erased the codes but they acknowledged they existed, however they said there is nothing wrong and want us to continue driving this vehicle with no assurance it will not happen again.”

When looking at the available service bulletins from the company, we don’t see anything addressing these major concerns. They do, however, have several bulletins talking about minor electronic issues. For example, T-TT-0501-18_Rev illustrates how some drivers face trouble with the Entune operation and voice recognition following an update. That’s enough to drive an owner insane, especially while attempting to drive. People expect their systems to operate the way they should – whether it is voice recognition or the engine. Maybe it’s time to tell the GPS to find the nearest car dealer and trade this SUV in instead of waiting for Toyota to address concerns.

Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2018 Toyota RAV4 Electrical Problems:

THE VEHICLE WAS STATIONARY IN A DRIVEWAY FOR APPROXIMATELY 2 HOURS. AFTER PULLING AWAY FROM THE HOUSE, DASH PANEL INDICATORS WERE SHOWING MALFUNCTIONS ON BRAKE SYSTEMS, AWS, ETC. IT SHOWED THAT ALL COMPUTER SYSTEMS WERE MALFUNCTIONING. I DROVE IMMEDIATELY TO THE DEALER. INSPECTION SHOWED THAT THE WIRE HARNESS ON THE VEHICLE HAD BEEN CHEWED APART, OFF, AND INSULATION HAD BEEN REMOVED. I INVESTIGATED THE INTERNET ON THIS PROBLEM AND IT SEEMS THAT SEVERAL VEHICLE MAKES AND MODELS WERE AFFECTED. IT SEEMS THAT THE MANUFACTURES WERE USING A FOOD BASED INGREDIENT IN THE INSULATION OF THE WIRES, (SOY). THIS IS ATTRACTING RODENTS, (SQUIRRELS) TO THIS FOR FOOD. IT COULD HAPPEN ANYWHERE, PARKED AT THE POST OFFICE, GROCERY STORE, YOUR FRIENDS HOUSE, ETC. MY VEHICLE ONLY HAS 980 MILES. I HAVE NEVER HAD THIS BEFORE. WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF THE WIRES CATCH ON FIRE OR YOUR CAR STOPS ON THE FREEWAY BECAUSE OF THIS ISSUE. CAN THIS BE INVESTIGATED? AT THIS POINT, WHAT’S GOING TO KEEP THIS FROM HAPPENING AGAIN. WE’VE HAD SEVERAL TOYOTA VEHICLES IN THE PAST AND DID NOT HAVE ANY WIRE HARNESS PROBLEMS.

Service Brakes

Another important safety feature is the braking system. These must be functional in order to stop when the need arises. Anyone that thinks Toyota upholds the same dependability and qualities that they once held to would find themselves in shock of what actual owners believe.

Just read this NHTSA review. “The vehicle braking system failed while trying to slow down to a stop a couple hundred feet back from a stopped vehicle sitting at a redlight. This completely resulted in collision on August 26, 2018. There was only approximately 500 miles on the vehicle originally purchased on August 18, 2018.”

Does Toyota want to address this safety concern? As usual, the answer is no. Instead, they use communication to talk about things of less importance. For example, #T-SB-0025-19 discusses how some brakes exhibit a groaning or grinding noise. To make customers happy, they supplied a new pad kit that fixes the problem. Still, it will take much more than new brake kits that don’t squeal to make drivers content. What they really want is a car that stops when it should and goes when intended. Maybe the automaker thought playing bumper cars was the way to “maximize the adventure.”

Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2018 Toyota RAV4 Brake Problems:

TL* THE CONTACT OWNS A 2018 TOYOTA RAV4. WHILE DRIVING, THE BRAKE PEDAL HAD TO BE DEPRESSED TO THE FLOORBOARD TO STOP THE VEHICLE. THERE WERE NO WARNING INDICATORS ILLUMINATED. THE VEHICLE WAS NOT TAKEN TO A DEALER OR INDEPENDENT MECHANIC FOR DIAGNOSTIC TESTING. THE MANUFACTURER WAS NOT NOTIFIED OF THE FAILURE. THE APPROXIMATE FAILURE MILEAGE WAS 1,055.

TL* THE CONTACT OWNS A 2018 TOYOTA RAV4. WHILE DRIVING 35 MPH, THE BRAKE PEDAL WAS APPLIED AND MADE AN ABNORMAL GRINDING NOISE. THERE WERE NO WARNING INDICATORS ILLUMINATED. THE VEHICLE WAS TAKEN TO THE LOCAL DEALER WHERE IT WAS DIAGNOSED THAT AN ALIGNMENT WAS NEEDED. THE VEHICLE WAS REPAIRED; HOWEVER THE FAILURE RECURRED. THE MANUFACTURER WAS NOTIFIED AND PROVIDED CASE NUMBER: 1808171087, BUT NO FURTHER ASSISTANCE WAS PROVIDED. THE FAILURE MILEAGE WAS 21,500.

Engine and Transmission

While the RAV4 isn’t considered to be a high-powered beast, it’s fair for consumers to expect reliability and dependability out of the engine. As can be expected from what has already been revealed, this engine leaves a lot to be desired.

Just look at yet another NHTSA review. “After purchasing our brand-new 2018 RAV4 from authorized Toyota dealer, we were heading back home, on our way, we noticed burning smell followed by black smoke filled front side of the cabin. I quickly moved my car to the right side parking lot. While changing the lane I could not even see the right mirror because of the black smoke in the cabin. As soon as I parked the car and we got off the car within a few seconds flames from the hoods were noticed I called emergency service (911) and to our disbelief to watch our new car burning in front of us. It was only 15 min drive from the dealer when the incident happened. It took only 10 mins to see my car was destroyed by flames. I could not get anything out from front or back seats.”

Wow! How horrifying that must have been. Again, Toyota remains eerily quiet about what might cause this. Instead, they use their service bulletins to discuss other engine issues, such as #T-SB-0201-17-Rev which acknowledges how the vehicle can rock back and forth while moving between 55 and 75 mph on straight and flat roadways. To fix it, the technicians must update the ECM, which they claim only “reduces the possibility of this condition occurring.” It seems they are fine with not fixing it completely, but merely reducing the chances. How about car fires? Are they doing anything to reduce the chances of that from happening?

Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2018 Toyota RAV4 Engine and Transmission Problems:

MY 2018 TOYOTA RAV4 HAS STALLED 5 TIMES WHILE DRIVING ON CITY STREETS IN MOVING TRAFFIC, FIRST TIME IN FEB 2019 WHILE DRIVING HOME FROM WORK, IN APRIL THREE TIMES WHILE DRIVING TO WORK AND ONE TIME WHILE DRIVING HOME FROM WORK(RUSH HOUR). ALL DOCUMENTED WITH TOYOTA. OCCURS WHEN I TAKE MY FOOT OFF THE GAS WHILE DRIVING, AND DIFFICULTY RESTARTING AFTER IT STALLS WITH LOSS OF POWER AND SPUTTERING. ‘CHARGING SYSTEM MALFUNCTION’ WARNING MSG APPEARED ON DASHBOARD(I TOOK PHOTO AND EMAILED TO TOYOTA). I FOLLOWED INSTRUCTIONS IN 2018 TOYOTA RAV4 OWNER’S MANUAL “STOP THE CAR IMMEDIATELY…CONTINUING TO DRIVE THE VEHICLE MAY BE DANGEROUS”. HAD CAR TOWED TO TOYOTA IMMEDIATELY. 3 TROUBLE CODES WERE RECORDED P1603 (ENGINE STALL),  P1604 (STARTABILITY MALFUNCTION),  AND P1605 (ROUGH IDLING), HOWEVER THEY WERE UNABLE TO DETERMINE ROOT CAUSE OF STALLING AND REFUSED TO KEEP MY CAR TO DO FURTHER ANALYSIS DESPITE THE FACT THAT I TOLD THEM I DID NOT FEEL SAFE DRIVING VEHICLE, AND MY CAR IS STILL UNDER COMPREHENSIVE WARRANTY COVERAGE. I CONTACTED CORPORATE, AND THEY RESTATED DEALER CONCLUSIONS AND WOULD NOT ALLOW ME TO SPEAK TO A FIELD TECH SPECIALIST. I ASKED FOR TOYOTA TO PROVIDE ME WITH EITHER TRANSPORTATION ASSISTANCE AND A NO COST-TO-ME EXTENDED COMPREHENSIVE WARRANTY UNTIL THE UNDERLYING CAUSE IS DETERMINED AND WITHOUT FURTHER STALLING INCIDENCES, OR A REPLACEMENT VEHICLE. HE REFUSED, DESPITE ALL THE SIGNIFICANT POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS SAFETY ISSUES IN A VEHICLE WITH LESS THAN 9,200 MILES. TOYOTA DOES NOT APPEAR TO BE CONCERNED WITH RELIABILITY, PEACE OF MIND, AND MOST OF ALL SAFETY. I HAVE A CASE # WITH TOYOTA. I RECENTLY DISCOVERED THERE ARE SEVERAL OTHER REPORTS ON THIS SITE WITH SAME STALLING ISSUES AS MY CAR.

Visibility/Wiper

Going full circle, it’s time to look once again at the visibility of the RAV4. It appears that the issues stem from more than just the headlights, but also the structure and configuration of this vehicle.

Just look at a review from an Edmunds user. “The headlights on the 2018 RAV4 XLE do not work in rural areas.  A black line appears across the top two thirds of the windshield and visibility from the lower third of the windshield is not more than 75 feet.  This vehicle should be considered a lemon.  It is a death trap for anyone driving on unlit roads.  Shame on Toyota for not issuing an immediate recall.”

As everyone expected, Toyota has nothing to say. They haven’t addressed the headlights, windshield concerns or overall visibility. Instead, they have left customers in the dark.

Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2018 Toyota RAV4 Visibility Problems:

DRIVING SOUTH ON COUNTRY ROAD IN BRIGHT SUN. THE SUN WAS REFLECTING OFF THE HORIZONTAL DASHBOARD. CAUSING A REFLECTION OFF THE INSIDE OF THE WINDSHIELD. HAMPERING MY VISION, ALMOST CAUSING ME TO HIT A PERSON ON A BICYCLE. MY VISION WAS IMPAIRED BY THE REFLECTING LIGHT FROM THE DASHBOARD ONTO THE INSIDE OF MY WINDSHIELD. PREVENTING A CLEAR VISION OF THE ROAD AHEAD OF ME.

Your Lemon Law Legal Rights

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