For Toyota, it's one more headache as the beleaguered carmaker issued a widely expected recall to fix a problem on 133,000 2010 Prius models, as well as 14,500 Lexus vehicles.
Toyota said it would update software in the vehicles' anti-lock brake system. The ABS, in normal operation, engages and disengages rapidly as the control system senses and reacts to tire slippage.
Some 2010 model year Prius and 2010 HS 250h owners have reported experiencing inconsistent brake feel during slow and steady application of brakes on rough or slick road surfaces when the ABS is activated in an effort to maintain tire traction. Some have reported not being able to stop the car.
Toyota said it responded to owner concerns with a running production change for 2010 Prius that was introduced last month, improving the ABS systems response time, as well as the systems overall sensitivity to tire slippage. The production change for the HS 250h is planned for later this month.
The brake problem recall comes on top of the highly-publicized sudden acceleration recall that prompted Toyota to not only recall eight popular models of its cars, but suspend their sale in the U.S.
The Prius Brake recall is limited to 2010 models although ConsumerAffairs.com has received complaints about other model year Prius brake problems. Last month, Lisa, of South Salt Lake, Utah, reported a problem with her 2008 Prius.
From day one I have noticed the brakes do not work properly, Lisa told ConsumerAffairs.com. At first I thought it was just a terrible car for rain or snow but it was having problems in the slightest rain shower. If I hit a pot hole or bump while slowing down the brakes release. If the traction control activates the brakes release. The smallest bump or slight slip from one tire and the brakes stop working. If I'm turning into a driveway or onto a side street and theres a bump or dip by brakes will release and my car will slide. Now that I'm aware of the brakes slipping I've noticed it's every day, the roads will be perfectly dry, I have brand new tires, the brake pads just barely checked at the dealer, but if I hit a bump I have no brakes.
Recall Limited To 2010 Models
Unfortunately for Lisa and other drivers experiencing the problem in older models, both the recall and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration probe are limited to the 2010 Prius. NHTSA reported last week it had opened an investigation into the 2010 Prius after receiving 124 complaints about the brakes.
Toyota said the recall will allow Toyota dealers to perform the software update on 2010 Prius vehicles sold prior to this running production change. Only Prius vehicles produced since May 2009 and all HS 250h vehicles are subject to this recall. The company says first- and second-generation Prius vehicles use a different ABS system and are not involved in this campaign.
The ABS system on the Lexus HS 250h is similar in design to the Prius. The software adjustment planned for HS 250h production and dealer modification is being finalized and will be announced very soon, the company said.
Toyota will begin mailing letters to Prius owners included in this recall next week and HS 250h owners within the next few weeks, to let them know when to bring their vehicles into a dealership. Owners will only receive a letter if their vehicle is involved in the recall.
Older Camrys Recalled
Separately, Toyota said it will conduct a voluntary safety recall on approximately 7,300 early production - 2010 model year Camry vehicles equipped with the 4 cylinder engine to inspect for a power steering hose that may be in contact with a front brake tube. This contact could lead to a hole in the brake tube and cause a brake fluid leak, increased brake pedal stroke and greater vehicle stopping distance.
Owners of the involved 2010 Camry vehicles will be notified by mail starting in the middle of February.
Were committed to doing everything we can as fast as we can to restore consumer trust in Toyota, and these recalls are part of this effort, said Jim Lentz, President and Chief Operating Officer, Toyota Motor Sales. We regret the inconvenience this recall will cause to Prius and HS 250h owners, and will do our best with the support of our dealers to make sure that it is conducted in the most trouble-free manner possible.