NEW YORK — Toyota is recalling more than 400,000 cars, most of them large sedans sold in the United States, for problems that can cause the steering wheel to lock up. It's the latest indication that the automaker is still struggling with vehicle problems even as it works to overhaul quality control.
The recall affects 412,000 vehicles in the United States: 373,000 Avalon sedans and 39,000 Lexus LX 470 SUVs. The recall is Toyota's largest since it said in April it would fix rusting spare tire holders in 600,000 Sienna minivans.
Thursday's announcement brings the size of Toyota's recalls to about 9.5 million cars and trucks in the United States since October, with some recalls affecting models as old as the 1998 model year. Of the 24.1 million vehicles Toyota has sold in the United States since 1998, as tracked by Wards AutoInfoBank, it has recalled about 39 percent.
The Avalons recalled are from model years 2000 to 2004 and have improper casting of the steering lock bar — the component that locks the steering wheel when the vehicle is shut off — that can cause a crack to form on the surface. Over time, the crack can expand, which can cause the steering wheel to become difficult to unlock when stationary. In some circumstances, the problem can cause the steering wheel to lock up during driving, Toyota said.
Three unconfirmed accidents with no injuries have been reported because of the problem, Toyota said.
For the Lexus LX 470, Toyota is recalling the 2003 to 2007 model years to fix a different steering shaft problem, which could cause loss of steering control. No accidents have been reported from the problem, the company said.
For both repairs, customers will begin receiving letters in August asking them to bring their cars to dealers.