Drinking Problem: Owners Cry Foul Over Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Gas Tank

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
drinking problem owners cry foul over toyota rav4 hybrid gas tank

Buyers of the revamped-for-2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid seem pleased with their vehicle’s upgraded fuel economy, but ask them about range, and you’re liable to get an earful.

In an unusual development not often associated with non-EVs, RAV4 Hybrid owners have begun complaining about lackluster driving distance — an issue that stems from the model’s redesigned gas tank.

The issue is simple. Apparently, the RAV4 Hybrid gets full too early. Owners have complained to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that their vehicles can’t accept a full tank, with some reviewers making a similar discovery.

Automotive News shed light on the issue, referencing the tank design’s transition from a longitudinal vessel to a lateral, side-saddle layout, which shouldn’t necessarily lead to fueling confusion. Volume is 14.5 gallons, though many owners say they can’t get that much in there. Not only that, but the vehicle’s fuel gauge can prove misleading, often registering a level too high.

None other than John Davis of MotorWeek has called out the problem. In an email to AN, Davis said, “On highway trips, when the gas gauge reads between 1/8-1/4, it will take about 9-9.5 gallons max in a fill-up. At that point the gas gauge reads nearly full, but just barely.”

Complaints filed to the NHTSA all claim that the RAV4 Hybrid’s fuel tank comes up roughly 5 gallons short during the refueling process.

While the problem is annoying, it’s more of an inconvenience than anything else. The low fuel warning light will still come on when the fuel level nears the bottom, and owners won’t be caught off-guard by a vehicle running low; the problem is simply that owners can’t achieve the bladder-busting 500-plus-mile range touted in Toyota ads.

For its part, the manufacturer is aware of the problem. In response to AN‘s questions, Toyota said it is “investigating a fuel tank shape issue on certain RAV4 Hybrid vehicles.”

“In these cases, variations in fuel tank shape may prevent a full refill by up to several gallons,” the automaker stated. “This condition may impact the vehicle’s total available driving distance. As a best practice, customers should refuel before or when the low fuel light illuminates, to prevent running out of fuel.”

As you read here last week, the RAV4 Hybrid has catapulted to the top of the Toyota hybrid food chain, easily outselling the once-dominant Prius. For 2019, the hybrid crossover earns a 40 mpg combined rating from the EPA.

[Image: Toyota]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Salguod Salguod on Dec 25, 2019

    The second generation Prius had fuel capacity issues as well. It designed with a bladder in the tank which would expand and contract with the fuel load. The intent was to minimize the fuel vapor and therefore the vapor emissions while refueling, I guess. Problem was that in the winter, the bladder shrank and was less flexible. I rarely put more than 8 gallons in our 2007's supposed 11.9 tank. In the summer it rarely took more than 10. Fuel economy drops from the mid 40s in the summer to the mid 30s as well. So, a summer tank of fuel got you a 450 mile or so range, the winter was only 280 or so. Certain pumps made it worse, too. Sometimes I was only able to pump a gallon or two and had to go to another station to fill the rest.

  • Geozinger Geozinger on Dec 28, 2019

    I think this issue is nothing new. I've noticed that all mfrs are putting smaller and smaller fuel tanks in cars. While I never run my cars to E unless absolutely necessary, I don't think I've ever put more than 13 (out of 16 gallon capacity) in my G6 in the 10+ years of ownership. I've owned other cars over the years that you could hear the fuel splash in the tank when filling from indicated empty. It makes sense, why load down a car with more fuel than necessary for a given advertised range? The added weight and potential for other issues probably are overruled by an algorithm in some corporate computer somewhere. But if you've ever had to walk to the gas station after thinking you can make it, I can live with this trade off.

    • See 2 previous
    • ToddAtlasF1 ToddAtlasF1 on Dec 28, 2019

      @geozinger I'd have given you the benefit of the doubt, but you called me out as a paid Honda shill when I was the first one to say that they jumped the shark going to ChiCom compliant engines and Obama-compliant transmissions.

  • ToolGuy "Mr. President, no government agency, no think tank, and no polling firm knows more about the automobile customer than us. We talk to customers every day. As retail automotive dealerships, we are agnostic as to what we sell. Our business is to provide customers with vehicles that meet the needs of their budgets and lifestyles.”• How many lies can you fit into one paragraph?
  • Spamvw Three on the tree, even Generation X would have a hard time stealing one of those.
  • ToolGuy This trend of cyan wheels needs to end NOW.
  • Kwik_Shift Interesting nugget(s) of EV follies. https://x.com/WallStreetApes/status/1729212326237327708?s=20
  • SaulTigh I've said it before and I'll say it again...if you really cared about the environment you'd be encouraging everyone to drive a standard hybrid. Mature and reliable technology that uses less resources yet can still be conveniently driven cross country and use existing infrastructure.These young people have no concept of how far we've come. Cars were dirty, stinking things when I was a kid. They've never been cleaner. You hardly ever see a car smoking out the tail pipe or smell it running rich these days, even the most clapped out 20 year old POS. Hybrids are even cleaner.