Common Toyota RAV4 Electric Power Steering Problems


The modern RAV4 electric power steering system is reliable and it provides a smooth experience. In most cases, problems never occur.

However, the vehicle isn’t immune from trouble. For this reason, I’ve outlined some of the top Toyota RAV4 electric power steering problems that occur.

Let’s dive right into the vehicles that include this advanced system and discuss why the RAV4 electric power steering warning light comes on.

toyota rav4 steering wheel

Nothing makes a driver panicked or annoyed more than seeing a warning light appear on the dashboard. It doesn’t matter if it’s the check engine light or the tire pressure light on your Toyota RAV4, we all hate to see it. Though after diagnosing the issue, you can pick up the necessary RAV4 parts and head back on the road. In this article, we learn more about the RAV4’s electric power steering common issues and how to fix it.

Which RAV4s Have Electric Power Steering?

There are two main types of power steering in cars: electric and hydraulic.

A Toyota RAV4 can either have an electric power steering setup or a hydraulic power steering configuration, depending on the model year.

All Toyota RAV4 models from 2006 and newer include electric power steering. Any older models have a hydraulic power steering system instead.

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Hydraulic power steering is the older of the two options. This system includes a pump, hoses, plus valves that direct the flow of hydraulic fluid. The power steering pump provides the pressure needed to move fluid. It is driven with a belt connected to the engine.

The fluid applies force to the car’s steering rack, helping to rotate the tires when changes are made to the steering wheel. This type of power steering isn’t used as much today.

Instead, automakers are moving to electric power steering. Because the system relies on power from an electric motor, a more consistent performance occurs. The Engine Control Unit (ECU) communicates with various sensors to ensure that adjustments occur quickly.

This system doesn’t rely on any power steering fluid to work, thereby reducing how much maintenance is needed as well.

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Potential Causes for an Electric Power Steering (EPS) Warning Light

The RAV4 electric power steering warning light looks like a steering wheel with an exclamation mark next to it. When this warning light appears on the dashboard, a fault has occurred.

Depending on what has gone wrong, the power steering may not perform normally. There’s also the chance that it won’t work at all, leaving drivers in danger.

While a multitude of problems can lead to this warning light, there are two that are most common. In many cases, a weak battery or water leak is to blame. Either way, it’s critical to contact a local Toyota dealer or mechanic to diagnose the fault.

1. Weak Battery

12v car battery

The 12-volt RAV4 battery is responsible for running all of the electronic systems, including the power steering. If the battery is weak, it’s common for the electric power steering to malfunction. In this case, other electronic equipment may also act up at the same time.

Above all, this is the most common issue that leads to the warning light. In fact, it can also occur when the battery is new, but not for the same reason.

A new battery won’t always be weak, but the connection could be to blame. If there’s corrosion on the terminals or connectors, it will operate like a weak battery. In this case, cleaning the corrosion with baking soda and water establishes a better connection.

When in doubt, it’s best to have the battery tested. If it is weak or won’t hold a charge, it’s time to have it replaced.

2. Water Leak Damage

Water and electronics don’t mix. Sadly, some RAV4 models have a recall related to water leakage. If the RAV4 has a water leak that infiltrates the steering gearbox, it’s likely that you’ll lose the use of electric power steering.

If the vehicle was fixed with the recall, it’s unlikely that this is the problem. For this reason, it’s important to have all recalls fixed when the alert is sent out.

According to the NHTSA, the recall affects certain 2019-2020 RAV4 and 2020 RAV4 Hybrid vehicles with electric power steering (EPS). It’s easy to check a particular vehicle by VIN on the NHTSA website to see if it’s affected by the recall. If so, have the Toyota RAV4 electric power steering problems and water leak repaired immediately.

Hydraulic steering relies on power steering fluid and electric relies on power from an electric motor.

There could be a multitude of reasons but the two main reasons tend to be a weak battery or water damage from a leak.

There was a recall related to water leakage in certain RAV4 models that could affect electric power steering. The recall affects certain 2019-2020 RAV4 and 2020 RAV4 Hybrid vehicles.

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Maintain Control of the Toyota RAV4

The benefits of the RAV4 electric power steering system far outweigh the potential problems. This system is designed to provide maximum control and on-road safety. Yet, it’s not immune from trouble.

When the Toyota RAV4 power steering malfunctions, an alert shows up on the dashboard. The first step is to test the battery to see if the system is getting the power it needs. Beyond that, visiting a mechanic would be the next priority to ensure everything runs as it should.

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16 Comments

  1. Bought new 2023 Rav4 a week ago. Hate the steering. Seems like I’m fighting it all the time.

    1. Jonathan Buckley says:

      Hi,

      This could be the lane tracing assist, especially if you’re experiencing this issue while in cruise control. I remember driving my RAV4 home from the dealership and noticed that same feeling. You can turn LTA off using the button on the steering wheel. Check the owner’s manual for more information.

      If that doesn’t work, there should be no reason why you’d feel like you’re fighting the steering wheel. This is not a common report. Visit your Toyota dealer or mechanic to diagnose and fix the issue.

      1. I do have lta turned off. I don’t really fight it hard but always needs a little correction always. If I took my hand off a second it would wander. Thinking taking off 5 lbs pressure on tires might help but then it would show low tire. Wondering now, since we’ve only had it a week and it’s been below zero every day, if it’s the cold weather.

        1. Jonathan Buckley says:

          Have you measured the tire pressure from the dealership? I know my tires were overinflated by about 12 PSI from the dealer… If that doesn’t resolve the issue, definitely take it to a mechanic/dealer.

  2. I think the EPS light comes on but goes out quickly , then I get a message battery charging?Rav 4 2022 7200 miles on it in about a year

    1. Jonathan Buckley says:

      That’s an interesting warning. I’ve noticed that the RAV4 tends to throw strange warnings when the battery is low or in poor health.

      I recommend getting your battery checked at a local auto parts store, and you might want to consider a trickle charger if you think the battery might be the culprit: https://amzn.to/3Jnk3pi

  3. Teresa veney says:

    My Eps has cane on at least 4 times. My battery is good and I have no water leakage. I don’t know what to do anymore. I wanna give my car back to the dealership because this shouldn’t be happening when I brought my car brand new. Help me

    1. Jonathan Buckley says:

      Have you had it assessed by a mechanic as well? Both by the dealership and an independent mechanic? If not, that’s what I recommend.

  4. Bill Patterson says:

    We have a 2015 rav 4 and the steering has started to play up. The best way to describe it would be its notchy. The steering wheel clicks when you turn it. Could this be the module?

    1. RAV4 Resource says:

      It could be, or perhaps some other component of the steering. I recommend taking it to a mechanic.

  5. 2012 rav4. When my car is idling I hear a whining noise. When I drive it isn’t near as loud. There aren’t any warning lights on on the dash.I don’t want to wait til something breaks to replace it. I need help to figure out what it is causing it.

    1. RAV4 Resource says:

      After some quick research, I think your issue could be the alternator.

  6. Mark Cocjin says:

    Hi, we had just replaced the wheel bearing front left hand and steering rack assy of a toyota rav4 2017 model, after that the skiding light glow permanently, what might be the problem?

    1. RAV4 Resource says:

      This means that traction control is turned off, either manually or due to an error.

      Try pressing the traction control button to toggle it back on. See my article here: https://rav4resource.com/traction-control-toyota-rav4/

      If the light is still illuminated, then there is probably an error with traction control.

  7. Hello
    I have problem with my rav 4 model year 2015
    When I turn the steering wheel to the left, it tightens in the last round,What is the reason??
    Thank you

    1. RAV4 Resource says:

      Hm, since it is electric power steering I am not quite sure. I recommend contacting a local mechanic.