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Common Toyota RAV4 Problems You Should Know About

Marc Skirvin
Marc Skirvin

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As of fall 2019, almost 9 million Toyotas were produced in a single year. That being said, there are a handful of Toyota RAV4 complaints to deal with too.

Let’s be honest: every car has problems. So, if you own or are considering buying a Toyota RAV4, here are some common RAV4 problems to be aware of!

Camshaft Position Sensor Replacement

Besides standard oil changes, one of the biggest RAV4 complaints has to do with camshaft position sensor replacement. In case you didn’t know, this special sensor is extremely vital to monitoring the camshaft’s position. Not only that, but it will send its status to your vehicles built-in computer systems too.

The craziest part is that this system works hand-in-hand with other devices and sensors to keep your engine up and running. Without this data, the fuel injector wouldn’t even know went to fire. 

What happens when your camshaft position sensor goes down?

Unfortunately, if you own a Toyota RAV4, your injectors may not fire at all. As one of the most common problems, camshaft position sensor malfunctions could lead to a negative impact on the fuel economy of your car. Since the spark timing of your RAV4 is totally thrown off, this will also affect your ignition timing.

The result is oil and heat leaks, which cause camshaft position sensors to fall apart. Of course, this is because of the location of your camshaft position sensor. 

How do you know that you have a problem with your camshaft position sensor?

One of the first signs of trouble is that your RAV4 doesn’t start or stalls upon starting. Besides this, cars that struggle to accelerate or fail to maintain speed are also at risk of camshaft position sensor failure.

Toyota owners who have a check engine light on should take their RAV4 into the shop for a camshaft position sensor replacement.

RAV4s that are misfiring or stumbling on startup should have their camshaft position sensor inspected as well. Lastly, camshaft position sensor malfunctioning could be the blame for cars that are running rough or poorly.

Solution: have a technician replace and remove your crankshaft position sensor!

Car Door Lock Actuator Replacement

Sick and tired of reading about car door lock actuator replacements on your favorite RAV4 forum?

This problem isn’t at the top of the RAV4 recall list, but it’s still important to address if you already own or are considering buying a Toyota anytime soon. For those of you who aren’t very skilled with cars, door lock actuators are what make electronic doors lock and unlock.

By pressing a small button, your car is automatically able to unlock and lock itself. This essential lock switch actually makes the car’s actuator function. Next, a small motor inside of the actuator begins to trigger a bunch of gears. Then, the last gear will connect a pinion set of gears to a rack.

The point of all this is to make the motor rotate in such a way that it unlocks and locks your door. To put it simply, door lock actuator problems usually mean that your entire RAV4 door lock assembly will have to be replaced.

However, this isn’t necessary unless you see that’s your door locks are malfunctioning. Once this happens, you might want to call a technician right away. If you’re not sure how to tell if there’s a problem with your RAV4 door lock actuator, think about this way.

When your doors won’t unlock or lock properly, a door lock actuator malfunction is typically responsible. The same thing goes for car doors that lock sporadically. Not to mention doors that make strange noises while unlocking or locking.

In addition, car alarms that go off at random times may also have a faulty door lock actuator problem. If you don’t want your RAV4 to get stolen because it can’t be locked and unlocked, the answer is simple. Get in touch with an expert mechanic ASAP!

Wheel Bearings Replacement

If wheel bearing replacement problems make you want to Google “sell my used car,” then you’ve come to the right place. First of all, wheel bearing assemblies come with rolling parts like roller bearings and hardened steel ball bearings. These are made to roll around along “steel bearing races.”

Wheel bearings support the rear and front axle of your RAV4, holding all of your car’s weight. As if that’s not enough, your wheel bearings are built strong enough to withstand any impact to your tire and wheel assembling while you drive.

Moving forward, you’ll know that the wheel bearings on your RAV4 need to be replaced when you experience the following symptoms:

  • Grinding or growling noises from your wheels
  • Radial or axial play in the wheel hub or the wheel
  • Vibration in the vehicle body or the steering wheel
  • Wheel and tire assemblies that are not turning smoothly

RAV4 drivers who are experiencing these sorts of problems shouldn’t be driving on the roads. Keep in mind that this is a gradual safety issue. However, some drivers experience this issue immediately following an impact to their tire and wheel assembly.

If you still aren’t sure if you should bring your RAV4 to a mechanic, then consider this. If your wheel bearings are making a loud sound, then the noisier the sound is, the more urgently it needs to be addressed. But here’s the catch: it’s virtually impossible to foresee when your vehicle’s wheel bearings will break or seize.

Therefore, it’s not safe to drive your vehicle if it’s in this condition. For those of you with RAV4’s that have over 100,000 miles, you should probably replace both of your wheel bearings at the exact same time. Remember that noisy wheel bearing can be mistaken for defective tire noises too!

Car Air Filter Replacement

Okay, so maybe car air filter replacement isn’t as major as replacing a catalytic converter. However, you’d be shocked to find out how effective car air filters are at passing air in and out of your engine. In fact, some RAV4 vehicles have several air filters inside of them.

Plus, your car filter remove leaves, debris, and dust from your air before bringing it to your engine, where it’s combined with gas. Believe it or not, this mixture of fuel and air is the number one ingredient that your RAV4 needs to run.

Once this becomes clogged or dirty, it won’t be able to bring enough oxygen to your car’s engine, which leads to all kinds of issues, such as:

  • Your car may not start
  • Your engine might not run smoothly

On the bright side, getting your air filter replaced is literally the most affordable auto repair ever. But here’s the thing. While car air filters can be replaced, they can never be repaired.

If you’ve got a broken car filter on your hands, then it must be replaced and removed. At your next maintenance service visit, feel free to ask your mechanic to perform a complete air filter inspection too.

Take a look at a few ways to know that your car filter needs to be replaced:

  • Your check engine light is constantly on
  • Your gas mileage is low, no matter how much fuel you put in
  • Your engine doesn’t run anymore
  • Your engine is running extremely roughly

If you decide to ignore your dirty air filters, don’t be surprised when your oil and cylinders become contaminated with dirt particles. Without a way to cycle out bad air, your engine will gain more wear and tear. Besides, your gas emissions and mileage will go down too!

Valve Cover Gasket Replacement

For RAV4 owners who don’t know the first thing about valve cover gasket replacement, let us explain. If you take a close look at your vehicle’s engine, you’ll notice that it has a plastic or aluminum valve cover attached to it. Between the cylinder head and the valve cover, you’ll find a gasket that prevents oil from escaping your engine.

The bolts within the valve cover are meant to compress the gasket, helping to avoid leaks in the first place. Nevertheless, your gasket can become brittle over time from loose bolts or overheated engines, leading to a leaky engine. And nobody wants that, right?

To know when your valve cover gasket needs to be replaced, consider the following signs:

  • Oil dripping or seepage between the cylinder head and the valve cover joint
  • Oil that collects within the spark plug well
  • Oil that leaks between the rubber grommets of your bolt heads

FYI – it is safe to drive your RAV4 if your oil leakage is relatively small, especially if there is no leakage on your exhaust manifold parts. Even though it may seem secure for the time being, you still need to get your car fixed.

Another word of advice is to take your RAV4 to the mechanic as soon as you spot oil leakage on the pavement underneath your vehicle when it’s parked. Obviously, this means that your leak is larger than usual, which causes severe oil leakage while you drive.

Besides taking it straight to the experts, checking your engine oil more regularly is the best way to avoid engine damage from low oil levels. If you decide to have your valve cover replaced, it’s a pretty simple operation.

Pro tip: ask your auto technician to inspect your RAV4 for other leaks too!

CV Axle/Shaft Assembly Replacement

You might be wondering: how do CV axles work, anyway?

Fair question. For those of you who are unaware, all-wheel-drive vehicles use constant velocity axles. Also known as CV axles, they’re related to the transmission and engine of your RAV4. 

Since your transmission and your engine are connected to your car’s body, they’re unable to move along with your car’s suspension. Nevertheless, your wheels and suspension can move automatically. That means that they help with steering and absorbing small bumps on the road. 

As the shaft that connects two velocity joints on each end, CV axles are linked to your transmission and your wheel hub. This is what makes CV axles spin while your suspension travels and you drive the car. Sadly, your CV axles can become worn out when:

  • They get damaged
  • Grease escapes from them
  • Water and dirt gets into their joints

Once your CV axle becomes worn out, you’ll start to hear a clicking noise while you turn the front of your car. Otherwise, you might notice tons of black grease on the ground near your car or inside of your wheel hub. RAV4 vehicles that vibrate at fast highway speeds might need their CV axles replaced as well.

When you send it your RAV4 to the mechanic, prepare to be informed that you need to replace your axle shaft. Next, it will most likely be removed, replaced with a brand-new axle. Then, your mechanic will torque the wheels and fasteners on your RAV4 to meet factory requirements.

After these steps are taken care of, your transmission fluid will be topped off and your tire pressure will be checked. Finally, a road test will be performed. 

Want to learn how to sell a car that needs work? We highly recommend that you get familiar with negotiating before you hit the car lot!

It Pays to Know RAV4 Problems

Here’s the deal. When it comes to RAV4 complaints, we’ve got the 4-1-1 on everything you need to know. Before you rush to the Toyota dealership, it pays to know RAV4 problems.

While you might think that some issues are small, like dirty car air filters, they can prevent your car from starting. In fact, tiny problems could eventually spiral into big ones, like contaminated oil and cylinders.

Don’t want your RAV4 troubles to spiral out of control? If yes, we suggest that you take your RAV4 to the mechanic today.

Looking to sell your Toyota? Contact us to get an instant offer now!

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About the Author


Marc is the Co-Founder of Cash Auto Salvage and Director of daily operations. He retired from a leading Internet Marketing company in 2013 and has been involved in the automotive industry ever since.

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