We recently had a reader write in asking for help with a RAV4 with a wet passenger floor. Like many RAV4 owners, GB’s RAV4 was repeatedly getting wet on the passenger side. We took some time to research the issue and found that it is a common complaint on prior generation RAV4s. Some of the complaints are specific to the RAV4, but most are not. Here is what you can try if you don’t have a trusted local mechanic or dealer you work with.
Sunroofs Leak Onto Floors
One of the first new cars I bought was a Honda Accord. The floor was wet after the first rain. I was furious. Two trips to the dealer resulted in all of the door gaskets being changed. It did not help. The leak was coming in from above. It turns out that sunroofs are not waterproof. They have a drain system around their perimeter under the glass. The drains connect to tubes that run down the A-pillars and then are supposed to drain out onto the ground by dripping in between the body panels and the inner chassis (for lack of a better term). My Honda came from the factory with the tube sticking out into the interior. It was eventually discovered – by me. The total time to repair was less than 5 min.
A few years later I had another newish vehicle of a different brand (Subaru). Again, wet passenger floor. This time the tube was plugged with leaves and debris. That stuff can get in the drains when you drive with the roof open and then when it gets wet it becomes pasty. I learned to use a thin wire to poke it gently and pull out what I could until the drain was clear. Other folks have used shop-vacs or compressed air to remove or pass the blockage. A related issue is when the holes at the bottom of the body get clogged up. Poke them with a wire to clear them. Based on our research the RAV4s with wet floors are usually, but not always, clogged sunroof drains or drain outlets.
Trim Cracks Cause Leaks
Other RAV4 owners found that the body trim surrounding their windshield or even the fender panel had degraded and failed, allowing water to seep in during heavy rain. They proved this by using a hose to put water on the areas one at a time while having another person look for the leaks. This takes time to troubleshoot. Our research indicated this is the second most common form of trouble. Depending upon how good the condition of your RAV4 is, you may want to let a body-shop or mechanic fix this. It is easy to make a mess of body trim if it is your first attempt. There are special tools required, and you will need parts from Toyota. We have heard of a technical service bulletin for these seal issues, so ask your dealer to check.
If your RAV4 is an old beater, clear silicone caulking is always an option. Use an Exacto knife or similar to make the degraded area a bit larger. Save yourself some time and use surgical gloves when you work with it and tape around the work area. It makes cleanup much easier.
HVAC (Air Conditioning) Causes Wet Floors
The third cause of these problems can be your vehicle’s heating and cooling system, and this is not unique to the RAV4. All automotive AC systems manage condensation. The system is designed to channel the condensate away from the cabin. If you notice the water after the AC has been on (but it has not rained), this is a problem to have your mechanic troubleshoot. It usually means a cracked plastic part needs replacing. Related to this is a heating element leak. If you smell a sweet smell, it could be the heating line is damaged. The sweet smell is your anti-freeze (coolant). Not usually a DIY fix, but at least it is a very clear diagnosis.
Why Does the RAV4 Have This Problem?
Why do RAV4s seem to have more than their share of problems? Perhaps because the RAV4 as a model outsold entire car brands during its long run. It still does. In July, the RAV4’s 27,000 vehicles sold were more than Buick (21K) and Cadillac (14K), and close to the total sales of Mazda in America (27K). The RAV4 sold in huge numbers, for many years. There are popular forums on which to complain, and those complaints begin to look like a Toyota conspiracy. The internet amplifies any problem on popular models so that they seem like they have a higher rate of occurance. In my experience, with two vehicles having leaked, neither of which was a Toyota, I can say with confidence that RAV4 owners are not alone.
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