Toyota Motor Co. is recalling 533,000 trucks and SUVs because of possible steering and suspension problems caused by faulty ball joints.
The recall marks a sudden shift in policy for the Japanese automaker after repeatedly denying consumer complaints about ball joint problems and failures in the Tundra and Sequoia.
The Toyota recall includes 2004 to 2007 model year Sequoia full-size sport utility vehicles and 2004 to 2006 Tundra pickups sold in the U.S.
A ball joint in the front suspension may wear out causing the vehicles to be difficult or sometimes impossible to steer.
Toyota reports that the defect may be the cause of 11 accidents resulting in six injuries.
Paul in Covina, California, was involved in just such an accident in his Tundra.
"My 2004 Toyota Tundra had a lower ball joint fail on the right front wheel. This caused me to lose control of the vehicle and lose braking," he told ConsumerAffairs.com.
The failed ball joint severed the brake lines on Paul's truck. "I was able to regain control and pull to the side of the road," he wrote.
After investigating the ball joint failure, Paul learned that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had "launched two investigations into the ball joints on 2004 Toyota Tundras due to several reported ball joint failures and resulting collisions."
"I have spoken with employees of Toyota who know that there is a recurring problem with 2004 Tundra's ball-joints and they openly admit that the Toyota is denying the claims to avoid a liability issue, even though they have existing knowledge of the defective equipment," Paul reported to ConsumerAffiars.Com.
In Orangevale, California, Penelope was driving in the center lane of a freeway when the ball joints failed on her 2004 Sequoia.
"The front ball joints collapsed, buckling the drivers' side tire under the car. Miraculously I was able to get the car to the shoulder without injury or damage," she said. The repair cost Penelope $2,100, an expense that she thinks Toyota should have covered.
In Jackson, Mississippi, Michael had the ball joint collapse under his Tundra after "only 107,000 highway miles." he wrote.
"The front wheel on the driver's side collapsed under the vehicle sending the truck onto the pavement and damaging the front spindle," Michael wrote ConsumerAffairs.com. " I did not expect this from a Toyota vehicle."
The cost of Michael's repair and towing was $1,057.47.
In 2006 Toyota reduced the number of its recalls substantially but recalls also declined dramatically throughout the auto industry in 2006. Industrywide, an estimated 10.8 million vehicles were recalled last year, compared with 17.9 million cars and trucks recalled in 2005.
The ball joint recall follows a Toyota a settlement in a class-action lawsuit filed over sludge that was apparently building in the engines of millions of vehicles, requiring the engine to be replaced or repaired. As many as 3 million to 4 million vehicles are believed to be involved.