Check Engine Light on Your Toyota RAV4? Here’s Why.

When your RAV4 Check Engine Light comes on, it’s natural to panic. This warning light is meant to get your attention. Even though it’s important to take action, there’s usually no need to stress. A little information goes a long way to reducing worry.

In this guide, I cover the top reasons for a check engine light in the RAV4. I explain what it means and show you what to do about it. With this information, you can be back on the road in no time.

toyota rav4 engine bay

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Understanding the Basics

The RAV4 check engine light looks different depending on what vehicle you drive, however it is easily recognizable. In most RAV4 models, you see a little picture of an engine with the word “CHECK” written below it.

Check engine light on a 2021 Toyota RAV4

If the check engine light comes on, you should pay attention. However, you don’t typically need to stop right where you are. If the RAV4 continues to drive normally, go ahead and get home or drive to your local repair shop.

However, once the check engine light starts flashing, you must pull over as soon as you can and shut down the engine. Driving the RAV4 any further could lead to major engine damage.


The check engine light comes on when there’s a fault noticed by the RAV4 computer. This fault sets a diagnostic trouble code within the system, so you can figure out what’s wrong. This code can be read with an OBD-II scanner.

In your RAV4, you can hook a compatible code scanner into the OBDII port located below the steering wheel near the door. When reading engine codes, you’ll see a format consisting of letters and numbers, such as P0300. This code tells you what’s wrong with the vehicle, but you need to do research to figure out what it means.

Once you’ve read the code and figured out what’s wrong, you can use the same scanner to reset the system. If you turn off the Check Engine Light and it comes back on, there’s still something wrong.

So, what do you do if you don’t have a code scanner? You could purchase one, considering how minimal the investment is. If you prefer not to buy one, most auto parts stores will read the codes for free. Additionally, your local mechanic is willing to run diagnostics, but normally for a small fee.

Which OBD-II Scanner is Best?

I typically recommend one of two OBD-II scanners. And I recommend everyone get one and toss it in your glovebox. Being informed before speaking with a mechanic or the dealership could save you a lot of headache and money.

The first is a bare-bones plug-and-play OBD-II scanner from ANCEL. It’s capable of reading all types of CEL codes in your RAV4 (note: some OBD-II scanners can’t read all the different types of codes). It’s small enough to fit into your glove box and affordable enough not to break the bank.

The second type of OBD-II scanner I recommend is the Blue Driver Bluetooth OBD-II scanner. It can also read all of the CEL codes on the RAV4. This is the one I personally use as I find being able to use it through an app on my phone very helpful.

The best part is, as someone who works on their own car, is that it gives me some guidance on what to repair. I find this helps a lot, again, when speaking with a mechanic or the dealership.

After I scan the codes on my SUV, I can go back inside and have the report on my phone. This allows me to run the diagnostics once, then go research.

(Kelly Blue Book)

Common Causes

The check engine light in your RAV4 can turn on for a multitude of reasons. Without a complete diagnosis, it’s impossible to tell what’s wrong with your SUV.

Here are a few of the most common reasons for the RAV4 check engine light.

  • Loose gas cap
  • Faulty sensors
  • Malfunctioning spark plug or ignition coil
  • Defective catalytic converter
  • Engine misfire
  • Old gas
  • Failing fuel system component
  • Malfunctioning transmission, also causes the trans light to come on
  • Overheating engine, should trigger the temperature warning light too
  • Low or contaminated oil, triggers the oil warning light as well

If you aren’t sure how to figure out what’s wrong with the RAV4 engine, it’s best to visit a professional mechanic. You don’t want to take chances with the motor.


Cost to Repair

There’s no way to provide an accurate repair cost for the check engine light on a RAV4. The only way to know what’s wrong and to figure out the costs is to get the system checked.

For example, if the gas cap wasn’t tightened properly, the repair cost is $0. On the other hand, a faulty catalytic converter for a RAV4 costs an average of $1,300, according to RepairPal. That’s a big difference.


There’s a saying in medicine that relates to this situation, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.†In simpler terms, this saying means by preventing a problem, you reduce the need for a fix.

For this reason, I always recommend taking steps to prevent the check engine light from coming on in the first place. It doesn’t even take that much effort to keep your RAV4 in good working order.

Follow these steps to reduce the chances of a check engine light on a RAV4:

  • Perform regular oil and filter change
  • Tighten the gas cap after a fill-up
  • Change spark plugs as per the maintenance schedule
  • Replace air filters when needed
  • Diagnose any performance issues quickly
  • Use top-tier fuel
  • Treat your RAV4 with respect

If you aren’t mechanically inclined, it’s good to have a relationship with a nearby mechanic. Whether you use a local Toyota dealership or an independent shop, you want someone you can trust with the regular maintenance and necessary repairs.

Frequently Asked Questions

If the check engine light isn’t flashing and you aren’t noticing any performance issues, you should be safe to drive it home or to a shop for repair. However, if the check engine light is blinking, you should pull over as soon as possible and turn off the SUV.

If the light came on within 24 hours after filling up, it could be caused by a loose gas cap. Remove the cap and tighten it back up. It could take up to 24 hours for the check engine light to go away, or you can reset it with a code scanner. If the gas cap is broken, it must be replaced.

No, an overdue oil change doesn’t cause the check engine light to come on. However, if the dirty, contaminated oil leads to performance issues, the light could come on. Any mechanical issue can create a fault that alerts the computer of a problem.


Your RAV4 means the world to you, as it should. To protect it from harm, proper maintenance is required. You can find the recommended maintenance schedule in the owner’s manual or have it printed at your local dealership. A small amount of due diligence keeps your RAV4 running the way it should.

When a problem arises, go ahead and get it repaired. What might cost you a minimal amount of money today could turn into a boatload of bills if left neglected.

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  1. Don Pitaniello says:

    We have a 2019 Rav4 hybrid, we intend to use it to camp and go coast to coast. We have an air mattress just for this model, we noticed the back seats do not lay flat. Is there something we can do to level them out so the mattress will lay flat (back seats drop down further) ???

  2. Bill Bates says:

    My daughter has a 2017 RAV4 with remote start. With my new RAV4 I have to pay for remote startup. Very disappointed.
    Also, my 2008 Forerunner had simple electronics. New RAV4 electronics Very unused friendly.