2021 Toyota RAV4 Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Fuel system, steering, structure and powertrain issues among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

By Brian Jones | Updated on

By Brian Jones | Updated on

Did your sunroof shatter unexpectedly? Find out if you are eligible to join our RAV4 Shattering Sunroof class action investigation.

Are you having brake problems? Read our post on Toyota RAV4 Brake Problems.

When it comes time to drive a trusty SUV, many consumers turn to the 2021 Toyota RAV4 with the illusion that it will provide everything desired. Even the automaker claims this model helps owners “seek adventure.” However, most drivers are getting more than they bargained for with the faulty fuel system, defective steering, malfunctioning powertrain and shoddy structure.

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Problems with the Fuel System

A well-working fuel system goes completely unnoticed because it is doing its job. That’s not the case with the 2021 RAV4.

One NHTSA complaint states, “Cannot fill fuel tank completely full. Had some tests run by Toyota and they found that there were only 12.5 gallons in the 14.5 gallon tank when the pump shuts off. I was told this was ‘within the spec’ and offered no further help.”

Another complaint states, “Measuring from when the “low fuel” light comes on, our RAV4 Prime is only accepting 10 gallons of gasoline when refueling (car is advertised having a 14.5 gallon tank). This results in us having to fill up every 400 miles when it should be closer to 600 miles. Complained at least four times to the dealership and escalated with Toyota HQ – Toyota engineers acknowledged they have seen this trend from other RAV4 Primes out in the field, but are deeming 10 gallon fill-ups a “normal” characteristic of the car. This is bait-and-switch false advertising and an infuriating quality failure by Toyota.”

This driver is accurate; Toyota does know about the problems. In fact, Service Bulletin #20TE06 – DL – Pu talks about the fuel gauge displaying less fuel and the tank capacity being off because of the shape of the tank while the car sits on an incline. Wow, what a load of malarkey! Where is the outrage about false advertising? Hopefully, no one had any long family trips in mind because this SUV that was built for adventure won’t make it far on a tank of gas.

Problems with the Steering

Being able to control an SUV is a given that is expected by any driver. Still, the RAV4 acts like it has a mind of its own, creating unsafe situations everywhere it goes.

One Edmunds user wrote, “So I just bought a 2021 RAV 4 LE which was not what I wanted but hey I needed a car. Had it for 2 weeks brand new I mind you and the car started [acting] crazy with my kids in it nearly causing an accident I could have [hardly] control it they were screaming and saying get me out this car so now the engine light is on so I had to drive so slow to the dealer and it was far I got their left the car then got word they don’t know what the issues is but they are still running test. I saved all my money for this car cause I have sick kids and now I’m without the new one got a car note to pay on the new car I can’t drive and they given me a rental.”

Toyota isn’t ashamed to discuss steering issues, even releasing Service Bulletin #T-TT-0616-20 Rev. This communication discusses how steering sensations, such as drifting and pulling are common. The cause seems to be related to replacing the car battery, which causes the Steering Sensor Zero Point Calibration to reset. Basically, whenever the battery is reset, the steering needs to relearn how to work, causing owners to need help from the dealership. Long gone are the days of people changing their own batteries.

Problems with Powertrain

Without a reliable powertrain, the road ahead is distracting and unenjoyable. That’s what many RAV4 owners are finding.

Here’s an example from an Edmunds review. “I’ve always driven General Motors vehicles but in March 2021, I decided to give Toyota a chance after hearing wonderful things about the Rav4. After having the car for less than one month, I was at a stop light – completely stopped – and my car lunged forward TWICE and hit the car in front of me. While at the body shop, the technician was pulling the car around and had his foot on the brake and said the RMPs went up and the car lunged again. I immediately reported it to Toyota after the first incident.  They sent someone to the body shop to perform diagnostic tests. The test was completed on 4/14.  I reported the second incident on 4/27 (immediately after it was reported to me) and was told they could not do anything until the Toyota engineers review the diagnostic test data. To sum it up, I have a brand new car that I have not driven since 4/1/21 because I do not feel it is safe to drive.”

This shouldn’t surprise anyone considering the issues that previous RAV4 models faced. In fact, 2013-2019 RAV4 SUVs were part of a class-action lawsuit because they would catch on fire, even when the engine was off. Considering the newer models simply accelerate on its own should be seen as a good thing. After all, at least it isn’t catching on fire in the driveway anymore. Now, it can just create an accident and cause someone else’s vehicle to start on fire.

Problems with the Structure

Looking at how the 2021 Toyota RAV4 is built should issue even more red flags. It’s clear that very little care was put into the actual construction.

Here’s a final Edmunds review illustrating this point. “Door handle on the inside is too close to the door hinge, make it very hard to close. Lack of power and seat comfort. Rear tail gate hinges are made of very cheap material appears to be cracking after 1 year.”

Even Toyota knows how poorly built the 2021 Toyota RAV4 is. Service Bulletin #T-SB-0079-20 Rev talks about the outer rearview mirror shaking and vibrating while driving, especially while heading down the street between 50 and 70 mph. At this point, it’s clear that the RAV4 does, in fact, create an adventure. It’s just not the type that people are expecting.

Your Lemon Law Legal Rights

Think you have a lemon? Sit back and let the experts work out your lemon case at no cost to you. The law makes Toyota pay legal fees. You may be able to get your lemon out of your life. Every year, auto manufacturers buy back, replace or pay cash settlements to thousands of ‘lemon’ owners like you.

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Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 20 years working as an ASE Certified Master Tech and Parts Specialist at multiple dealerships. Brian has become an authority in the industry, traveling across the country to consult for car dealerships and contributing his expertise as a writer for several major automotive publications. In his spare time, Brian enjoys working on pickup trucks, muscle cars, Jeeps and anything related to motorsports.

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  • Vladimir

    We have problems with RAV4 2021 plug-in hybrid. The plastic components of the exterior have been melting under the sun. We spent hours with Toyota dealer and headquarters but they refuse to cover the cost of replacing the low quality plastic even as the car is under warranty. I
    They almost sounded they were waiting for a class.action lawsuit to correct the problem. On forums, there are many people who report similar issues.

  • Cesar d

    I jave problems with my 2021 RAV Electric driver seat rail problems

  • F@r!D

    I recently bought a 2021 Toyota RAV4 Limited with 16,200 miles, which had a small number of crashes. In my first driving experience, I realized that steering is not easy and fast at all. And when the fuel tank light came on and the tank was almost empty, it was filled with only 12.5 gallons of gasoline. And while driving at a steady speed of about 45 miles, I was entering the highway when suddenly his own car accelerated and almost hit the car in front .. Toyota really disappointed me with this awful production. I’m really sorry I bought such rubbish.

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