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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Has anyone else had their 2017 Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD catch on fire?

I was nearly killed in a vehicle fire while I was driving from work. My 2017 RAV4 that I purchased brand new from a Toyota dealership September 2017 caught fire. There was less than 17,000 miles on it.

Near the end of my 12 mile drive, I smelled smoke. I looked at the temperature on the dashboard and it showed that the temperature was a little below the middle line indicating the vehicle was normal and not overheating so I continued driving for a couple more blocks thinking it was another vehicle around me. I continued to smell smoke after I turned onto a street away from traffic so I attempted to pull over. As I was attempting to pull over, the coolant light came on for the first time and the vehicle stopped on its own. The vehicle stopped when I was half way between the street and parking lot. I saw smoke come out from under the hood a minute or so later and flames light up within seconds of me seeing the smoke. I called 911. The police and fire department came to put out the fire. I contacted Toyota and have not heard back.

The Toyota dealership was the only place that serviced the vehicle. Last labor day weekend, I brought the RAV4 in for a regular oil change and brought the car home. The next time I drove the car (1 or 2 days later) the vehicle stalled and turned off by itself while I was on the highway. I pressed the start button and the vehicle turned on again so I continued a few more blocks to my destination. On my way home, the vehicle stalled again and turned off by itself. I pressed the start button and made it home. I contacted my usual Toyota service dealership and they were not able to see me until a few days later. I dropped off the car for inspection for a whole day with the dealership so they can take a look at the issue. When I returned to pick it up, they said they were not able to repeat the error and did not find anything wrong. They thought it might be rats chewing wires because they found debris that looked like it might be a rats nest, they said they have had many cases of rodents chewing wires. I asked if they found any wires that were chewed and they said no. They said they can look into it more if I pay them to take the vehicle apart but there are no guarantees. It is not covered under warranty. I said okay, I'll come back if it happens again. The issue never happened again. The dashboard did not indicate any issues after that inspection. There were no notices of overheating, check engine or anything after I left Toyota. The vehicle just spontaneously caught fire on March 2020.

I contacted NCDS and this is what they said:

"Your request for arbitration within the Toyota Dispute Settlement Program has been received. Your application for arbitration states that the situation, which gave rise to your complaint, included the vehicle caught on fire. The arbitration program has jurisdiction over issues covered under Toyota's New Vehicle Limited Warranties. Therefore, your claim is not eligible for the arbitration program.

Although we are unable to assist you with this matter, we appreciate the time you took to explore this situation with NCDS."

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Good to hear that that you were not injured - frightening occurrence. It would seem that your RAV4 should still be under the 36,000/36 month bumper to bumper warranty and the 5 year/50,000 mile powertrain warranty. Toyota wants to opt out to disclaim responsibility and make you have your insurance deal with the matter. The incident should be reported to the NTSB, and there may be a class action lawsuit in progress which you could join. Let us know what happens.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Good to hear that that you were not injured - frightening occurrence. It would seem that your RAV4 should still be under the 36,000/36 month bumper to bumper warranty and the 5 year/50,000 mile powertrain warranty. Toyota wants to opt out to disclaim responsibility and make you have your insurance deal with the matter. The incident should be reported to the NTSB, and there may be a class action lawsuit in progress which you could join. Let us know what happens.
E
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thank you, it was definitely frightening. It was hard to believe the car just lit up in flames within minutes in front of me.
 

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They thought it might be rats chewing wires because they found debris that looked like it might be a rats nest, they said they have had many cases of rodents chewing wires.
Wires with chewed off insulation certainly is a plausible theory as to what caused the fire. What area of the country is this? Where do people keep their cars parked?
 

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If the problem was caused by rats chewing on wires that should have either made the vehicle inoperable or caused some other obvious problem, or if it created a short circuit that would have blown a fuse or fuses before the vehicle caught fire.
 

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or if it created a short circuit that would have blown a fuse or fuses before the vehicle caught fire.
A vehicle fuse is as primitive as it can get. It won't open when there is arcing.

Building code went to arc detecting breakers a while ago, because arcing is a much more common cause of fires than short circuits.

 

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It is possible that arcing can take place and could cause a fire, but I have seen arcing in a vehicle situation in such a comparatively primitively protected vehicle as a 1956 Ford which has caused fuses to blow. If the cause of the fire in this situation was electrical the actual reason will not be determinable due to the amount of destruction. It would have been interesting to know the actual cause. Unfortunately as all of the evidence has basically been destroyed it would be difficult to blame Toyota unless there has been a rash of similar instances where Toyota clearly has been at fault.
 

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At 12V there should be NO arching, there is not enough voltage. The electrical fires happen only when the fuses are bad (not listed) and don't break the circuit under short circuit (fault) current.

My experience:
I almost had a fire in one of my cars, when a cheap Chinese car charger intermittently shorted my Cigarette Lighter socket.
First time the OE fuse blown correctly. In my stupidity, I replaced it with a cheap fuse (from a pack bought at a store). And kept the charger.
A week later, the charger shorted again the socket, but this time the fuse didn't blow. I was in stop-and-go traffic, stopped for a while (accident in front), and I wanted to charge my phone. Suddenly smoke started to come from under my dash. I could see glowing red light under the dash. Smoke was accumulating visibly on the top of windshield.
Quickly, I have reach under and yanked the glowing red wires with all my might. Burned my hand in that, but saved my car... and probably the cars next tome, because no one could move away (guard rails on sides of the road, packed two lanes).

When I went back to the store I saw a big ad on the wall that said that my specific fuse pack was recalled and they will pay the $5 that I had spent on it.

This is the wire harness that I had removed after that:
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And this was the Chinese fuse:
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In my arcing situation I seem recall that the arcing problem was something in the high voltage ignition system but that was so long ago that I don't recall the details. My wife had a similar problem as you had with the wiring for a dealer installed ammeter in her old Datsun, with as I recall no fuse circuit protection. A kindly passing motorist did quite a lot to stop the overload and even did a quick rewire so that she should drive home. In your and her situations fires were averted by quick action. That melted supposed 20 amp fuse is quite something to see.
 

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Yeah, that blob of melted metal was like soldered to the fuse holder contacts...

Probably I wasn't the first one to report, because by the time I went back to the store, they had already a recall notice. What good does it after the fire... I don't know.
 
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