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Rust on 2001 RAV4 door

We have a 2001 RAV4 which we bought used in 2005. About a year ago, we started seeing some significant rust on the driver’s side door (only). This rust appears around the edges of the door and is close to perforating the door.

There is no other rust on the vehicle which is in otherwise fine shape.

Both Toyota and the dealership have essentially told us “tough luck,” although the dealership service manager acknowledged this was an unusual condition.

My question here is, am I being unreasonable in thinking that something is wrong here? Should we be getting serious rust like this after 7 years?

This is a New England car and I know winters are tough (and salty) here. But I’ve never seen a rust problem like this with our other cars (both American).



Bear in mind that you’re talking about a used car with 4 years of unknown history prior to your buying it. That door skin could have been damaged and repaired or replaced, for example.

The first thing I would do is check the door drains by fishing some stiff, plastic string trimmer line up into the drain holes along the bottom edge. See if any water, moisture or debris comes out.

The Good Old Salvage Yard!

There is something wrong there, I agree. You said: “There is no other rust on the vehicle which is in otherwise fine shape.” This door may have been repaired, repainted, defective, etc.

You can check and see what the manufacturer’s body rust warranty says, have it looked at by a Toyota dealer, etc.

I’ve been here and done this before: If I owned a car like this, I would find a rust-free, experienced door at a recycling yard. Try to find one the same color (whatever year interchanges and is the same color, maybe newer,). It probably won’t match your car exactly, but if it’s “off” noticeably, it is easier (cheaper) to have it refinished to match if the (interior) ends and edges are the right color. A Body Shop can easily swap it for you. I can only guess this whole thing would be in the $300 to $700 total range, but you will have to do a little calling around. Remember, you said: “There is no other rust on the vehicle which is in otherwise fine shape.”

You like the car. It would be worth doing, in my opinion.

Good Luck!

This is my suspicion – the dealership sold me a car that been in an accident without disclosing this. We did do a CarFax check on the vehicle before we bought it and it came back clean, so maybe they didn’t know. But since these guys are car experts, I have a hard time believing that they didn’t have a clue.

Thanks for that idea – I’ll look into it. We definitely want to keep the car - it’s why we bought a Toyota in the first place. I’m hoping not to return to a car dealership for at least another 5 years.

Body Shops Do This Frequently…

In fact many insurance companies now specify used doors on collision repairs of their customer’s cars, with their approval. The used doors come “complete” and save a lot of labor money compared with a new door “shell” which has to have window parts, latches, and trim reinstalled. Sometimes you do have to still transfer colored trim if it is not the correct color. I don’t know if all 2001 RAV4’s have power windows/locks or some are manual, but try to match what your’s has.

I recently got a totally rust-free door, same color, for under $150, but it was for a car several years older than your’s and therefore cheaper. I installed it myself, but quite often this can be very difficult, depending on the car. I think Body Shop labor would be reasonable. It’s child’s play for them.

Oh, and you are welcome.

Follow up:

The dealer completely ignored us on this. I’ve lodged complaints with the BBB and with Angie’s List. We took the car to a body shop and they fixed (I hope) the rust for $250. The mechanic we spoke with said he was reasonably confident that the orginal door had been damaged at some point and either repaired, or replaced.

Needless to say, we won’t ever be returning to this dealership.

If the body of the vehicle was damaged before it was traded in to that Toyota dealer, I fail to see where the dealer (or the manufacturer) had any responsibility for what was likely shoddy body work that they had nothing to do with.

Also, I have to tell you that you likely wasted your time in filing a complaint with the BBB. Read the October 2008 issue of Smart Money magazine for a fairly complete expose on the old boys’ club frequently referred to as the Better FOR Business Bureau.

If you have resolved the problem, I am very glad for you, but I think that you are casting blame on the wrong party and you are looking for relief from an organization that provides little significant help to consumers.

I’d be very interested to hear what specifically they did to the door to fix this problem. Your original post indicated that it was close to perforating the door skin. $250 seems awful cheap for this kind of repair.

You cannot say the dealer is totally dishonest about this even if they/you checked with carfax. Carfax is not reliable, we have found cars on Carfax with $60 of damage but then we could not find cars on Carfax that had $6000 in damage.

You never stated how many miles are on the vehicle, that could shed some light on this also.

Rust has to start somewhere and it can start in one area first but I agree with the others that the door was either repaired or replaced and since no one knows the origin of the door it could have had rust inside the shell that no one could have seen.

With all due respect the vehicle is 8 years old and in rainy, snowy area. If you took a photo could you post a pic of the damage?

How Long Do You Want It To Last?

I was at a Dentist one time and overheard a converstaion between the Dentist and an elderly woman patient. She need expensive work done on some teeth. The Dentist gave her a couple of options because she was on a limited budget. One option was less costly but may not hold up as long. The woman questioned the doctor about which treatment would last the rest of her life. The Dentist finally said, “Ma’am, tell me how long you are planning to be around and I will make your teeth last just that long.”

Sometimes a shop can make a rust repair last long enough so that when the rust starts to come back through, the rest of the car will be showing rust, too. You pay just enough to get a couple more years of “look’in good”.

My thought is a door dent that was repaired would be to insignificant to show up on a Carfax report

If you are really interested in seeing if the door has been replaced, remove the door trim panel and look at the paint inside the door and at the edges of the trim panel to see if it matches the exposed paint. It may not matter now, though, since you had it repaired. BTW, did the body shop see any difference in paint color?

To put another comment in: Rust can’t be scheduled in New England. It has to appear somewhere and it has broken out in the most likely place. If my door worked well and had no other problem but the rust, I would have a body shop fix it and be happy. I have enough rust on an 02 GMC to make you sick. Toyota has not ever had a good reputation for their rust situation.

Exactly. If the OP used Carfax, it is doubtful that it would have shown up on that database.

In any event–even if the car dealership was aware of the earlier damage to the door (and there is nothing to indicate that they were aware of it) I doubt that any car dealer would make a potential purchaser aware of that damage–nor are they obligated to reveal this information.

The bottom line is that the OP bought a vehicle of unknown history when it was already at least 4 years old. (In that 4 years, it could have been abused, it could have been in multiple accidents, and it could have had multiple owners.) Then, about 2 years after purchasing this used vehicle, which was then 6 years old, the OP began to notice some rust. How is this rust the responsibility of either the dealership or the vehicle’s manufacturer?

If the OP wants a pristine vehicle whose history is known to him/her, then the OP needs to buy only new vehicles. A used car will inevitably have something–or perhaps many things–in its background that are less than optimal, but that is the risk that one takes with used merchandise of any type.

we have found cars on Carfax with $60 of damage but then we could not find cars on Carfax that had $6000 in damage.

I’m with pleasedodgevan on this one . . . get a body shop to repair it . . . if it is done properly it’ll probably last longer than the rest of the vehicle. You’re not expecting the manufacturer to cover this under warranty after another owner had it and 7 winters in New England are you? Any of you guys remember Detroits’ glory days of the late 60’s and early 70’s ? You could expect your new Chevy Vega to have rust holes in it after 3 or 4 years. Ford was not much better . . . my '69 Torino must’ve been made with rusty sheet metal. New fenders were needed and major holes all over the body by 1975. I’d get it fixed and move on. Rocketman