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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began investigating after obtaining 11 fire complaints between the 2013 through 2018 design years.
The RAV4 is the top-selling automobile in the U.S. that isn’t a pickup truck.
In papers posted Monday, the agency says fires start on the left side of the motor compartment. A terminal on the 12-volt battery can short to the frame, causing reduction of electric power, engine optimization or even a flame.
Most of the fires happened while the vehicles have been driven, but four owners complained that firing broke out with the motor off.
A Toyota spokesman would not answer questions regarding whether the SUVs should be parked outdoors until the matter is solved, but said the company is working in the research. A spokeswoman for NHTSA stated she’s checking into whether the RAV4s should remain outdoors as a result of probability of catching fire with the motor off.
NHTSA says improper battery setup or front-end collision repair was a factor at the complaints. The agency states the RAV4 has a higher number of fire complaints in the battery area than similar vehicles.
Researchers will attempt to know better what is leading to the fires. The vehicles are not being recalled as of yet.