Toyota RAV4 steering column klunking noise - an epidemic?

Summary: The Toyota RAV, 2006 model and newer, have become famous for a steering column klunking sound. Toyota then saddles the RAV4 owner with an $800 repair bill.

The question is, why isn't there a Toyota recall on this steering column klunking sound problem?

I started doing some research about my Toyota RAV4 steering column "klunking" noise, and it turns out that a lot of people have this same RAV4 steering column klunk/knocking/popping sound (threads here and here.)

People that are writing about their RAV4 steering column noise problems are also saying that the Toyota dealer mechanics are "unable to reproduce this problem", the same as the Toyota dealer here in Anchorage, Alaska. Maybe I've watched too many X-Files episodes, but this sure sounds like a cover-up to me.

Toyota RAV4 steering column klunking noise - how about a recall?

This RAV4 steering column klunk problem also makes me wonder what needs to be done to have a recall on this issue? I'm going to get into that next, as this is really pissing me off big-time.

In a way this is also upsetting because I heard so much about Toyota quality that I'm surprised to have such a major problem so early (33K miles).

(A little later in the day ...) I just figured out how to deal with this. Since my digital camera also takes movies, I'm going to take the car out for a spin w/ the camera running, and see if it can pick up all the noise. This way I can show it to the dealer (if need be), post it on YouTube, and have some proof that this was a big problem while the car was under warranty.

RAV4 steering column noise - follow up - 2009

If this didn't make me want to cry, I'd laugh ... I just looked on the internet, and not surprisingly, the Toyota dealer in Anchorage, Alaska is now under new ownership.

RAV4 steering column klunking noise - follow up - April, 2010

As a follow-up to this article, I wrote another article titled, "Hey Toyota, how about a RAV4 recall (RAV4 steering column noise)?". Finally today, April 19, 2010, Toyota has agreed to reimburse me for half of the total repair cost for this RAV4 steering column klunking noise. If you're interested, you can read all the details at that other link - including dozens of comments from other RAV4 owners.

 

Comments

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I have the same problem, I believe it is the rack that is going, Had the same or similar problem with a 1995 Dodge Dakota. Remember even Toyota gets thier parts from the low bidder.

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I have the same problem, you need to also call toyota to file a complaint 1-800-331-4331 in the US or 1-888-869-6828 in Canada.

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Same problem, 45K miles, dealer said not to drive and fix immediately. There is a TSB on this issue and it specs new part numbers to replace defectively designed parts of the steering column. What you are hearing are the u-joints that connect the break-away steering column in three parts. In the old days, steering columns were one piece but in an accident that tended to impale the drivers in a head-on collision. The three piece system is safer, but only if designed correctly. Big Toyota issue that may come to the surface in light of the current gas pedal fiasco. Dealer will fix for $700-$900, see if you can get them to go at least 50/50 and then hope for a recall and the Toyota may reimburse you. Other than that, your "^&$#*"ed.

My dealership told me if I had come in before the 30K warranty was up they would have fixed it free of charge. They are willing to pick up the parts costs but I have to spring for the labor of $400 - $600! Service dept. told me that there is a bulletin out on this stating that this is caused by a lack of grease at one of the joints. Was also told that it available on the web, but have been unable to find it yet. Does anyone know what happens if you just live with it? Has anyone experienced any pulling to one side or another?

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Same problem. The dealership refused to pay! Called Toyta customer relations and was told that "This is a well known problem - however, since there were no related accidents, they were not going to share the repair costs with me" - No one in my familty will be buying any Toyota products in the future.

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my father has an 04 rav with 6982mls only! and its just 3 months outside the warrenty. i took it in and complained on his behalf and they told him today he only had to pay £188 towards the costs. do you think he should be happy with that? and yes it was only 6982mls.

I've received so many emails and comments about this RAV4 steering column clunking noise, and read so many reports on other websites, that I think any repair price above $0 is too high. This is clearly a design/engineering flaw, unrelated to car mileage, as your example demonstrates.

Why will these other Toyota automobile problems be fixed for free, and this problem is not?

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I have an 06 RAV4 with this same problem. Toyota paid for the parts and I paid $1000 in labor. I felt totally ripped off. Had only 25K miles on vehicle. There had been a technical service bulletin issued for this but the dealer said that this was not the same thing as a recall. Does that make sense?

Wow, sorry to hear about this, especially with 25K miles. I don't know when Toyota (or any other car manufacturer) has to perform a recall.

After all the good things people told me about Toyota before I bought my RAV4, I'm surprised Toyota doesn't do something to make their customers happy about what is clearly a design flaw. A lot of times in the software world when we screwed something up -- and it was clearly our fault, not just a misunderstanding -- I offered our clients some sort of discount.

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Around 46K miles, I noticed a clunking sound when turning the steering wheel. Toyota dealer told me it was the steering shaft and it needs to be replaced. But since It is over 36,000 miles, they wouldn't cover it with warrantly eventhough it is less than 3 years old. Said it was $460 to replace and fix.

Seems like the steering shaft noise problem is an epidemic with RAV4s. Hope Toyota recalls this, as it really is their own design issue.

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My 2007 Rav4 has 52K on the clock and is clunking more and more. Dealer (frankston Toyota) say they can't tell what it is over the phone "so bring it in and we'll fix it". Didn't say it might be dangerous. Prob will cost a bomb.

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interesting stories, i had a similar concern with a 2005 4runner. offered to take steering column apart to pinpoint exact area of noise and did so as side work( if wondering i work as a mechanic for dodge dealership) found that the thurst collar bearing is what makes a small clunk sound when turning the steering wheel. went to toyota to see if they would sell the bearing individually but told me i had to buy the whole steering column, about 800.00!! so, still looking in the internet for a simple bearing

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I have an 07 rav4 has 48K Km(not mile)on. this noise started at 35K Km. I was so embrassed when my friend drove this and heard the noise. now 3yr warranty period has expired. toyota said i have to pay for it... it sucks deep!!

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I have '06 RAV4 with the clunking noice; the dealer (Westbury Toyota) replaced the steering shaft under warranty. Less than a year later the noice is re-occuring and were told by the dealer they do not warranty the warranty and would charge me $700 for new parts/labor. I refused (its clearly design issue) and lived with the noise for the last 5-6 months; it appears to get worse these days... Arg....

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My 2006 RAV4 has just 17,000 miles on it, but since I am out of the 3 year warranty, the dealership doesn't even want to talk about this. Radio went bad in it just 3 weeks out of warranty, they claimed they could do nothing for me.

Clunking in the steering column began about a month ago, it happens when turning either left or right and is far worse at slow speeds, but also happens if I turn the wheel while parked. It seems to be happening less now that the weather is colder (I'm in Wisconsin and it's been down into the 20s at night lately). So, I'll probably have my local mechanic have a look, and let him know there's a TSB out on this thing. But my main concern is, is this dangerous? If I get it repaired will the problem come back? If I do nothing, will the steering give out?

In the next year, I'm hoping to get rid of this vehicle. I've completely lost faith in Toyota. I previously owned a Camry for 12 years with no issues and loved it, but I'm done with them after this.

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Same here! 76 000 km, so out of warranty. Northern Toyota (Prince George) offered me the part at half price, plus labour, for a total bill of $500 including taxes. Was told it was not a safety threat, just an annoying sound. I'll put up with the annoying sound for that price...

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There currently are no recalls on the RAV4 steering issues because not enough people have filed a complaint with the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) to open an investigation. Please everyone make sure you go to their site and file a complaint so that an investigation can be launched.
https://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/ivoq/online.cfm

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I had a klunking noise in the steering column and I was also able to feel it on my brake pedal. It only occurred when I was turning right. The brake pedal was fixed first by having the brake pedal dismantled and cleaned. This was no charge by one dealership. The steering column's noise was fixed at my original dealership. I had an extended warranty, and therefore, it was covered. They told me the problem originated from the steering knuckle. This was replaced and now the problem no longer exists. Total cost (if it came out of pocket) >$900.

I have the same problem. Everyone should register a complaint with the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) to put pressure on Toyota to issue a recall.

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I have a 2007 Rav 4 with the same klunking problem. I'm hoping for a recall and hope it doesn't disable my vehicle.

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Noticed a clanking noise when I turned the wheel all the way to the right or left out of the blue one day. (the vehicle has 55K miles)
When I brought it to the dealer he noted the following

"Steering intermediate shaft sticking, seized, making noise"
Recommendations
replace intermediate steering shaft 479.95
replace stabalizer links and bushings 369.95
front struts and mounts 789.95
NOTE: they charged me 49.95 for the 20 minutes that it took to diagnose!
This is my 3rd new toyota in the last 8 years. I was going to trade up and purchase a Lexus but I am having severe doubts of Toyota's commitment to it's customers.....this is a rampant problem due to faulty engineering and design and should be recalled at once.

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If anyone has an idea, how Toyota can take ownership of this issue it would help, as this is not an isolated issue, we have the same problem, and the cost is totally unacceptable.

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Been living with this for a few years now. lately its got more frequent and louder.

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I took my Rav4 to the dealer to complain about steering noise. An hour later they called me back and told me that it cost $700.00 to fix it. I was shock as my car is 4 years old and 50.000KM only. After exhaustedly fighting and try to make sense out of this, I called Toyota Canada and my day just like *%*&^ . I have completely lost faith in Toyota…

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I have the same issue when my rav4 was just 1000 miles over the 36000 warranty. I was told it is going to cost me $600 plus tax to fix it. I filed a ODI complaint #10412133. Hoping Toyota can do something about this.

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Had the clunking noise just prior to the warranty expiring. Took it to the Toyota dealer and they replaced the intermidiate steering shaft at no charge. I'm now sitting in the dealer again, one year later, with the same problem. I'm waiting to hear what they plan to do about it. Not a happy camper.

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We are having the same problem with a 2006 Rav4. has 35.000km on clock. NZ Toyota knew of the steering problem but still refused to pay for the repair.....not good enough!! Have read heaps of articles on this steering problem in the last couple of days Bizzare that there has been no recall or good will towards customers who have brought their cars in to be repaired.

I am in NJ also - and have the same issue. Looking at those prices, you now know where they got the nickname "stealerships". I don't know the prices for the steering shafts (yet!), but 789.95 (oh- plus tax I'm sure) for front struts???? First off - unless you had a problem like hit a curb at 50MPH, your struts should be fine-I guess they told you it had something to do with the problem. Then, even if you give them 2 hrs of labor at 110.00, that is $284.75 for each strut.-- 2 X retail (and they are do an install, should not be charging you retail). I will be filing a complaint in a few minutes regarding the shaft - my steering shaft, not the shaft you got from the dealer.

I am in NJ also - and have the same issue. Looking at those prices, you now know where they got the nickname "stealerships". I don't know the prices for the steering shafts (yet!), but 789.95 (oh- plus tax I'm sure) for front struts???? First off - unless you had a problem like hit a curb at 50MPH, your struts should be fine-I guess they told you it had something to do with the problem. Then, even if you give them 2 hrs of labor at 110.00, that is $284.75 for each strut.-- 2 X retail (and they are do an install, should not be charging you retail). I will be filing a complaint in a few minutes regarding the shaft - my steering shaft, not the shaft you got from the dealer.

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Had the same problem with my Rav 4 regarding the steering problem. The car had only 34,000 miles and was under warranty when I first had the clunking noise. The lower steering shaft was replaced. Now at 73,000 miles it happened again. They said it was a different problem and they replaced the steering shaft and the stub shaft for $720. I was told if I kept driving it like that the steering could lock up. I am going to contact Toyota to see why there is no recall on this problem as I can see now I'm not the only one. I will never buy or recommend a Toyota again if they don't do something.

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Same issue! 65000 KM (started immediately when I bought the vehicle at 48000 km). Finally got around to having them look at it as I don't use them for regular service. Steering shaft which they say my ECP doesn't cover (despite the brochure saying it's included). I'll be raising a polite stink until they agree to fix it. Clearly this has spanned many years. Very frustrating.

In addition, it doesn't start well if it's humid or has been sitting in damp conditions. Of course, they can't reproduce this so I'll just have to suck it up.

This is my last Toyota! I'm very disappointed.

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Hello All - From Atlanic Canada - just posting to say that I also have the infamous steering clunk. I will be submitting a complaint on the Transport website. My family has owned Toyota`s (pickups, 4 runners, corollas, camry) and they have been excellent - but I`m not impressed with my 09 Rav (80K) Sure hope that Toyota doesn`t let me down.

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This is my 3rd Rav 4 58 plate & it has the infernal 'klunk' after only 30k. I am appalled at the experiences in the emails experienced by Rav owners over the years, till now, & the attitude by Toyota,their personel & those in dealerships & garages to this issue. As I am in the UK I wonder how & if this can be resolved quickly as I will now be more concerned than ever driving around in my 'klunky' Rav with the dire consequences should the steering fail.

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Hi all,

Just to update regarding my post (October 5, 2012 - 4:21pm)....

I pushed at the dealership and after they contacted ECP directly rather than using the information on the computer, they agreed that the new steering shaft was covered by my warranty. It's fixed and is now VERY nice. I didn't realize quite how unnerving the clunk was until it was gone.

As for the poor starting, they weren't able to reproduce it, but through some trial and error, I've come to discover that it's a problem with the pump not priming quickly. If I turn the key to "on", then wait 5 seconds before starting the engine, it starts very well. Not sure if this will be a long term problem for me or not. I've never had a vehicle where I had to hesitate while priming before starting the engine. Does this mean the pump is failing? The fuel injection system? Any thoughts about long term issues with this? I want to be certain to get any problems fixed while I'm still covered by ECP.

As an aside, my mother's 2012 Corolla with less than 15,000 km needed 3 gaskets replaced last month. I have definitely lost any confidence I had in Toyota's reliability.

Thanks!
Shannon

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My Rav4 07 only has 37K miles and has started the clunking (don't hear a noise though)
Since this is obviously a persistent problem and Toyota hasn't owned it yet, is it seriously enough to require a fix?
I prefer not to use the dealer and wonder if this is something that my mechanic would be able to repair?

Thanks.
Paula

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My steering on my 06 Rav4 clunked for ages. Went to the local Toyota dealer to have it investigated (still under Toyota's warranty) and they could find nothing! It was even MOT'd (UK annual road worthiness test when 3 years old and older) by them and clunking had been going on for over 1 year.

Yet at a tyre dealer, it was noted the tracking rod was loose and had it come off whilst driving it would have caused a serious accident!

(Had one too many serious accidents already.... 2 killed when their car collided with mine because of their 100mph speed - before my Rav4 ownership and why I wanted my Rav4 because of its keyless ignition, because the ignition key can cripple you in a serious accident - my knee clicks now when I walk, as a tendon got knocked out of place!)