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12 V battery problem forces Toyota to recall 1.8 million SUVs

A 2017 Toyota RAV4 engine bay
Enlarge / This is the engine bay of a 2018 RAV4 Hybrid, but the problem is not the hybrid traction battery.

Alun Taylor

There’s plenty of fear, uncertainty, and doubt about electric cars and the potential risk of battery fires, but the regular old 12 V battery is responsible for Toyota issuing a recall for more than 1.8 million cars this week.

Toyota says the problem is due to differences in the sizes of replacement batteries—some have smaller tops than others, and if a smaller-top battery isn’t held in properly by its clamp, the battery could move under hard cornering, letting the positive terminal contact the clamp, causing a short-circuit and possible fire risk.

The problem affects 2013–2018 RAV4s—about 1,854,000 of them, according to Toyota. The official National Highway Traffic Safety Administration safety recall notice has not yet been posted, but NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation has had an open case looking into the problem since February 2021, after 11 complaints about “non-crash thermal events” starting in the engine bays of RAV4s.

Toyota says that it’s working on a new hold-down clamp, battery tray, and positive terminal cover. Once those are ready, the automaker will replace those components for free. The automaker says owners should be contacted about the recall by late December.

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