Toyota RAV4 Won’t Start: What Could Be The Problem?

WVDOT Automotive is reader-supported. This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Production for the RAV 4 started in 1994, and the car would soon become a commercial success, being present to this day and reaching milestones such as being the best-selling SUV in the world and 4th best-selling passenger car.

If you have recently had to ask yourself the question, ” why won’t my Toyota RAV4 start” you should know that the most common reasons why any car won’t start are related to the battery, the fuel system of the car, and the system which starts the car itself.

These areas can still be quite broad, which is why here is a list of the main issues faced by most RAV4s which prevent them from starting:

  1. Battery Charge And Dead Battery
  2. Ignition Lock Issues
  3. Bad Fuel Pump
  4. Bad Alternator
  5. Bad Starter

These are the main issues you will probably be dealing with if you are the owner of a RAV4 that is not starting.

This can be a bit daunting to hear but fear not, as I will go over how you can assess your situation and how you should carry out any fixes for your car.

What Would Cause A Toyota RAV4 To Not Start?

No car is perfect, and a lot of different issues can arise that halt you dead in your tracks. The Toyota RAV4 also falls victim to the various issues that a car can face, the most common of which I have listed above.

I will now take an in-depth look at these problems and talk about any signs and symptoms these issues show, along with ways you should fix them.

1: Battery Charge And Dead Battery

Almost every car has had to deal with this issue at least once in its natural lifetime. Whenever you have a tough time starting your Toyota RAV4, this should be the first thing you need to check.

The car’s engine needs the battery to create the spark to light up the fuel, and a weak or dead battery is incapable of doing so, which is why if your battery is not properly charged or is dead outright, your car will not be going anywhere.

This issue can be tricky to diagnose if your lights and other car accessories are also working as sometimes the battery has enough juice to light up all these things but not enough to turn the engine.

To determine if your battery is capable of starting the car, you should regularly conduct voltage tests every 2 to 3 months and replace the battery at the end of its life, usually 4 to 5 years, making sure you keep it in good condition until that time comes.

What Should You Do About It?

  • Carry out a voltage test to see if the battery is indeed the issue causing the car to not start. Visit a mechanic to carry out a voltage and see if it drops below 12 volts or not.
  • If the voltage is low, you should jumpstart the Toyota RAV4, which can be done by connecting a healthy battery from another car to the dead battery via cables.
  • Start the car with a good battery, and then start your RAV4.
  • Keep them on for a few minutes and then turn off both cars.
  • Disconnect all the cables, and you should be good.

2: Ignition Lock Issues

The ignition switch is one of the most important items on which the entire vehicle depends. It is so integral that if there is even the slightest problem with this component, the entire car will not work.

This is why if your Toyota RAV4 has been suffering from issues such as stalling while driving or starting and then immediately, you can bet that the issue is with the ignition lock.

This can get so bad that your car won’t start at all and even lead to battery draining and lack of power to other accessories.

The RAV4 has had a common complaint against this issue where the ignition switch lock cylinder can fail.

This creates a very annoying situation where the ignition cannot be turned at all or, in some cases, requires a lot of shaking and movement before turning.

Another weird issue this can cause is preventing the key from coming back out or going all the way in.

What Should You Do About It?

  • As mentioned above, a temporary solution to this problem can be trying to force your way into the cylinder and turning the ignition to start the car.
  • Once the Toyota RAV4 has been started, you should take a trip down to your local mechanic.
  • When you reach the mechanic, you should ask them to inspect the ignition system.
  • By the end of this trip, you should have a repaired or brand new ignition switch that does not get stuck or get locked.
  • From here on out, you should not twist and turn the key too hard and insert and remove it gently from the cylinder to avoid further issues.

3: Bad Fuel Pump

Bad or faulty fuel pumps are easy to spot and detect as they often cause a distinct sound when you start the Toyota RAV4.

This issue can also be assumed if you notice any fuel leaks. If either of these two symptoms starts to show, you should have your fuel system checked soon.

The fuel pump’s job is to transport the fuel inside the tank of the car to the engine so that it may start to combust and provide power to move the car.

A faulty fuel pump will prevent the engine from getting the fuel it needs to start and cause a lot of frustration in fuel leaks and noise.

If you still find it difficult to believe that your fuel pumps are the issue, then other signs that point towards this are a loss of engine power, check engine light coming on, engine sputtering, and lower mileage due to fuel leaks.

A mechanic should be able to provide better insight into the issue.

What Should You Do About It?

  • Once you have assessed that you are dealing with a faulty fuel pump, you should plan a trip to the mechanic as soon as possible.
  • This is because fuel pumps are very difficult to fix, especially without proper tools, which is why your best bet is to get it done by the hands of a capable mechanic.
  • Fixing the fuel pumps can be more trouble than they are worth and will cost you more than getting an entirely new pump which is why it is recommended you have your old faulty fuel pump replaced with a brand new one.

4: Bad Alternator

As I have discussed above, your battery needs to be charged if you want your Toyota RAV4 to start.

One of the main mechanisms used to charge the battery is the alternator, a device that converts the rotational energy of the car’s engine into electrical energy, which it uses to supply to the electrical system of the car and also charges the battery.

This should make it obvious that if your alternator is defective or damaged, you may not be able to charge your battery, and eventually, your car may not start.

Even if you get a new battery, it will be only a matter of time before it too is drained.

This can be very difficult to detect unless you see a pattern of new batteries being drained quickly, which is why you should always have the alternator checked after inspecting the battery.

The car’s alternator is usually very reliable and can last you more than 300,000 miles, but if it is damaged, you will have to get a new one.

What Should You Do About It?

  • When having troubles with your battery, you should always check to see if the real culprit is the alternator or not.
  • Once you and the mechanic have assessed that the alternator is the cause of the problem, the only thing left to do is to get a new one.
  • Just like the fuel pumps, fixing damaged alternators is more trouble than it’s worth, which is why it is more effective and economical to get a new one.
  • In the case of the RAV4, 27% of staring issues are due to the alternator, so you should always look closely at it and ensure it is well maintained.

5: Bad Starter

Inside every engine is a small motor called the starter motor, which is, as the name implies, the main component that starts the movement of the engine. Once your engine starts to move, the starter is shut down.

Starters usually last between 100,000 to 150,000 miles, so this can likely be a frequent issue, and given that every time you start up the engine, its lifespan is shortened. (Click here to also learn about the longevity of your Toyota RAV4).

Signs that your starter is starting to wear off or has already become defective are that your engine starts to make a clicking sound when you try and start the RAV4.

This sound is usually the starter solenoid activating, forcing the motor to rotate, but due to the defects, this does not happen, and the engine does not rotate.

It is easy to conclude that the starter motor is the main problem as various other electrical components can also prevent the starter from working. 20% of the time, the starter is the root cause of your car not working.

To ensure you properly root out the issue, you should inspect the car engine properly and ensure it is indeed the starter causing the issue.

What Should You Do About It?

  • If you are hearing whirring, clicking, and fast-spinning noises, you should assume that the starter is the root cause of the problem and visit the mechanic as soon as possible.
  • Once you get to the mechanic, you should have him/her inspect the starter and the starter solenoid.
  • When the component causing the issue has been isolated, you should have that specific component replaced with a brand new one.
  • Continuing the trend, getting a brand new starter is more economical than fixing your old one.
  • From here on out, you should prevent the starter from overheating and ensure it lasts for the entirety of its natural life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Why Won’t My Toyota RAV4 Start With New Battery?

If you have recently gotten yourself a new battery for your Toyota RAV4 and it is not starting, then you should take a moment to see whether the new battery has been fitted correctly or not.

If the battery is fitted perfectly, then the issue is elsewhere, either in the car’s fuel system or the starting system. You should have these two systems checked out by a mechanic and then have the cause of the problem fixed as soon as possible.

Q2. Why Won’t My Toyota RAV4 Start Even With A Jump?

Jump-starting your Toyota RAV4 is a good way to see if any issue is with the battery or any other car system. If your car is cranking, you may have some issues with the fuel system of your car, which needs to be fixed.

On the other hand, if the car is not cranking, the issue is most likely in the car’s starter. Bad battery cables could also be a valid reason your RAV4 is not starting.

Q3. Why Won’t My Toyota RAV4 Start But Lights Work?

There can be a lot of reasons why your RAV4’s lights work, but the engine does not. The first and most likely case is that your battery is not charged enough. It is capable of turning on the lights inside the car but not capable of starting the engine.

Another issue could be the starter switch, which may have been damaged or outright busted. Either way, you should have it looked at and replaced whenever you have time.

Q4. Why Won’t My Toyota RAV4 Start But Cranks?

A car cranking signifies that the car’s battery, electrical system, and starting system are all in working condition. This means that you should look into the fuel system of the Toyota RAV4 to see where the issue lies.

It should be fairly obvious that the car is unable to get enough fuel to cause the engine to start. This can signify any fuel-related problem, and you should visit the mechanic at your earliest and have them inspect the car for any defects.

Q5. Why Won’t My Toyota RAV4 Start Just Clicks?

If you try to start your Toyota RAV4 but instead hear a pathetic clicking sound, then you should assume that there is some fault in the electrical system of your car.

This is a pretty broad system, so the first thing you need to inspect should be the alternator, followed by the starter of the car.

A lot of the time, getting your battery recharged should also do the trick, but if you want to play it safe, then you should also have your RAV4’s alternator too.

Q6. Why Won’t My Toyota RAV4 Start In The Cold Weather?

The cold weather can have drastic effects on the starting of your RAV4 If your car is left outside in the cold for too long, then the battery output is reduced, and the oil starts to thicken up.

All of this is disastrous if you want to start your car and can lead to you having to get a new battery or having to have the oil changed, with the old oil flushed from the system, which is sure to cost you a pretty penny.

Q7. Why Won’t My Toyota RAV4 Start After I Get Gas?

If you have recently gotten gas for your Toyota RAV4 but for some reason, it won’t turn on. This is a clear sign that the car is not able to utilize the fuel that it has just gotten.

You should check the fuel system and see whether the engine is being supplied with the fuel or not. If the fuel system is perfectly fine, then the problem may lie in the battery or the starter system of the car and should be next for inspection.

Q8. Why Won’t My Toyota RAV4 Start But Radio Works?

If you are in a curious situation where the radio of your Toyota RAV4 is working, but the car itself is not starting, then this could be a sign that the starter motor of the car is not receiving an adequate amount of power.

This will undoubtedly cause problems with the starting ignition system and prevent the car from starting. This could also be a sign that the terminals of your battery are dirty or have been corroded. Either way, you should visit a mechanic.

If you’re enjoying reading my guide, you probably want to check out this article on What Are The Worst Years For The Toyota RAV4?

Conclusion

The RAV4 is an excellent crossover SUV that Toyota has put out, which a lot of people have gravitated towards over the years.

Having more than 25 years of car models, you would think the manufacturers have all the kinks ironed out, but this is rarely the case.

More often than not, there will be cases where you will stop and wonder, why won’t my Toyota RAV4 start, and most of the time, the issue will not be so clear and visible.

Regardless, this article should help point you in the right direction and let you know what you can expect to deal with.

Resources:
https://www.courtesytoyota.com/toyota-rav4-battery.htm
https://www.justanswer.com/toyota/e39qn-2003-toyota-rav-4-key-turns-naturally-engine-won-t.html
https://forums.edmunds.com/discussion/5439/toyota/rav4/toyota-rav4-battery-and-electrical-problems/p2