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Answers to questions about Prius and the Toyota recalls

Here are some answers to questions about the recent problems at Toyota:

What is the problem that led to the Prius investigations?

The investigations focus on a new version of the antilock brake systems on the 2010 Prius, which was introduced in Japan and the United States last spring. There have been 124 reports of problems in the United States and 77 reports in Japan. The problem does not appear to affect earlier versions of the Prius because the brakes were redesigned for the 2010 model.

In a statement, Toyota said: "Some customers have complained of inconsistent brake feel during slow and steady application of brakes on rough or slick road surfaces when the antilock brake system (ABS) is activated in an effort to maintain tire traction. The system, in normal operation, engages and disengages rapidly (many times per second) as the control system senses and reacts to tire slippage."

Owners are reporting the brakes fail to work immediately when the car is on a bumpy or slippery surface, or when it drives over potholes.

Toyota said Thursday that it had already identified the cause of the problem and corrected it on cars built since January. Toyota officials in Japan said Friday that the company was considering a recall of 103,000 new Priuses in the United States and 176,000 in Japan, but that a decision had not yet been made.

What is the latest on the cars involved in the two big recalls that Toyota has announced?

Toyota is beginning to send letters to consumers who are involved in the recall for sticking gas pedals. It is asking owners to wait until they receive a notification letter before making an appointment at their dealerships.

In the floor mat recall, Toyota has begun issuing notices to owners of the Lexus ES 350, IS 250 and IS 350, as well as the Toyota Camry, the Corolla and the Avalon.

Which vehicles are involved in the recalls?

The sticking pedal recall involves Toyota division vehicles, including all 2009-10 Matrixes, 2005-10 Avalons, 2007-10 Tundras and 2008-10 Sequoia vehicles. Some 2009-10 RAV4s and Corollas, 2007-10 Camrys and 2010 Highlanders models are involved.

No Lexus or Scion vehicles are involved, and the Prius, Tacoma, Sienna, Venza, Solaris, Yaris, 4Runner, FJ Cruiser, Land Cruiser, Highlander hybrid and the Camry hybrid are not involved. Also, Camry, RAV4, Corolla and Highlander vehicles with Vehicle Identification Numbers, or V.I.N., that begin with "J," meaning that they are built in Japan, are not affected by the accelerator pedal recall.

The floor mat recall involves the 2007-10 Camry, Tundra and ES 350; 2005-10 Avalon; 2004-09 Prius; 2005-10 Tacoma; 2006-10 IS 250 and IS 350; 2008-10 Highlander; and the 2009-10 Venza and Matrix.

What kind of repairs will Toyota make?

For the sticking pedal recall, Toyota will install a stainless steel reinforcement bar, like a shim, into the pedal assembly. It is designed to keep the pedal from sticking and will assure that it returns into place. The company says drivers will not notice any different feel to the accelerator pedals.

For the floor mat recall, Toyota has asked owners to remove their mats and not replace them. It plans to reconfigure the accelerator pedal so that it cannot get caught on the floor mats. On Camry, ES 350 and Avalon, Toyota also will reshape the floor beneath the pedals.

The company will install a brake override system on the affected Camry, Avalon, and Lexus ES 350, IS 350 and IS 250. This system cuts engine power in case the accelerator and brake pedals are applied at the same time. The system already exists on the Prius and other hybrids.

I've been reading reports about the defects, and I think I might have a problem with my car. What should I do?

Contact your dealer, contact the car company and file a complaint with the Office of Defects Investigation at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Instructions can be found at www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/ivoq/.

In filing your complaint, be as specific as possible about any incidents in which your car was involved. Complaints to the government are added to the public files on each car model, which also can be viewed at the agency's Web site.

Answers to questions about Prius and the Toyota recalls 02/05/10 [Last modified: Friday, February 5, 2010 9:47pm]

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