Toyota RAV4 Check Engine, Traction Control, and 4WD Lights On

An illuminated Check Engine, Traction Control, and 4WD light mean you should take your Toyota RAV4 to the mechanic.
Written by Jasmine Kanter
Reviewed by Hillary Kobayashi
The reason the Check Engine, Traction Control, and 4WD lights are on in your
Toyota
RAV4 might be due to a busted oxygen sensor rather than a problem with all three systems. You’ll need to take your vehicle to the mechanic for a check-up.
The Toyota RAV4 is a bestseller with both suburban swagger and down-to-earth toughness, especially the models equipped with traction control and 4WD. So when your reliable ride starts flashing lights, it’s a moment for concern—what could it mean?
We’ll tell you! Here's what flashing Toyota RAV4 Check Engine, Traction Control, and 4WD lights could mean.

Why your Toyota RAV4 Check Engine, Traction Control, and 4WD lights might be on

Three lights on the dashboard mean big trouble, right? Could be. Your car's
Check Engine
,
Traction Control
, and 4WD lights are tied to some important systems, so they should be the first things you check. 
Let’s go through them one at a time to see how and why they could be malfunctioning in tandem.

Why is my Traction Control light on?

Traction Control adjusts power to all four wheels when your car detects slippage in rough conditions, like mud, sand, or snow. The Traction Control light looks like a car with a couple of winding, 'S'-shaped tracks behind it. It illuminates if your Traction Control is disabled or malfunctioning, or if there's an engine error (in which case your check engine light will also be on).
Traction Control is always active by default, but sometimes it can get in the way. For example, by cutting power to your tires, it might keep you stuck in a snowy bank. You can deactivate it (whether on purpose or by accident) by pressing the switch with the Traction Control system and the words "TRAC OFF" or "OFF." Give it a try now—if the Traction Control light on your instrument panel turns off, problem solved! Traction Control is now back on.
Don't get ripped off!
Estimate repairs near you with GarageGuard™ for free so you KNOW the fair price.
No spam or unwanted phone calls · No long forms
No spam or unwanted phone calls · No long forms · No fees
icon4.717k Ratings
5M+Drivers Joined
7M+Cars Garaged

Why is my Check Engine light on?

The Check Engine light illuminates if your RAV4 detects a problem on ignition that can't be solved by the computer. A steady light is a warning that you should visit your mechanic. A flashing light is an urgent warning that you should do so immediately. 

Why is my 4WD light on?

Like the Traction Control light, the 4WD light is a signal with multiple messages. When you see "4WD LOCK" in orange letters on the instrument panel, it could mean that 4WD is either working as normal or malfunctioning. The system can deactivate if the transfer case overheats (which usually happens after you spin your wheels too hard) or the sensor fails. 
To narrow down the source of the problem, shut off your car and let the engine cool for at least 10 minutes. Then, start your car and remain in Park. The 4WD light shouldn't be on. If it is, the sensor might be busted and the light will remain on until the issue gets fixed.

Why are all three lights illuminated at the same time?

Let's say you're stuck in a muddy rut. You've deactivated Traction Control so you can rock your RAV4 back and forth, but it's not working. Not only has the Check Engine light come on, but the 4WD light has, too—looks like you might have damaged something in your frustration!
If none of this applies, however, your RAV4 might have fallen prey to an infamous glitch. Word around the internet is that a broken oxygen sensor can cause your Check Engine, Traction Control, and 4WD lights to come on. A
Toyota mechanic (unofficially) confirmed
that a broken catalytic converter or loose fuel cap could also be to blame.
Toyota has yet to issue an official recall, but the complaints are piling up. The issue has been
reported multiple times to the NHTSA
regarding the 2012 RAV4, but not the 2013 model—perhaps it's a problem with the third generation?

Can you drive with the Check Engine, Traction Control, and 4WD lights on?

If the Check Engine, Traction Control, and 4WD lights are on, proceed cautiously, especially in bad conditions.
Regardless of whether it's a glitch or a bona fide issue, these are three systems you don't want to mess with. It's safer to assume that all three are compromised and to drive yourself carefully to the garage. 
If you ignore the warning signs, your
car insurance
policy isn't likely to help you with the resulting  damages!
"My policy covers two people and four cars: a truck, SUV, convertible, and muscle car.
Jerry
helped me go from paying $308 a month to $125 a month with the same coverage. I’m loving the savings.” —Jocelyn A.
Don't get ripped off!
Estimate repairs near you with GarageGuard™ for free so you KNOW the fair price.
No spam or unwanted phone calls · No long forms
No spam or unwanted phone calls · No long forms · No fees
icon4.717k Ratings
5M+Drivers Joined
7M+Cars Garaged
Estimate your repair costs for free with GarageGuard™
Simplify your car maintenance with Jerry.
Try GarageGuard™

Easiest way to compare and buy car insurance

√
No long forms
√
No spam or unwanted phone calls
√
Quotes from top insurance companies
Find insurance savings