PhotoToyota is recalling nearly 2.8 million 2004 to 2009 model year Prius vehicles -- 670,000 of them in the U.S. -- due to a steering problem.

Due to insufficient hardness treatment of some of the extension shafts, the splines that connect the extension shaft to the steering gear box may deform if the steering wheel is frequently and forcefully turned to the full left or full right position while driving at slow speeds. This deformation may create increased internal clearance and the splines may eventually, over time, wear out.

Toyota dealers will inspect the extension shaft to determine if it needs to be replaced and, if confirmed, will replace it. The inspection and repair will take approximately one hour depending on the dealer’s work schedule.

Water pump problem

Approximately 350,000 of these same Prius vehicles are being recalled to replace the electric water pump for the hybrid system.

In the hybrid system, there is an electrically driven water pump that circulates coolant through the hybrid components to provide cooling. There is a possibility that the electric motor installed in the water pump may stop functioning, leading to illumination of various warning lights in the instrument panel. In limited instances, the electric power supply circuit fuse may open, causing the hybrid system to stop while the vehicle is being driven.

Toyota dealers will replace the electric water pump for the hybrid system. The repair will take approximately two hours depending on the dealer’s work schedule.

There have been no crashes or injuries reported for these two conditions. Owners of vehicles covered by these safety recalls will receive an owner notification letter via first class mail starting in December 2012.

Any authorized Toyota dealer will perform these recalls at no charge to the vehicle owner.

This is the second major recall for the Japanese automaker in the last five weeks. In October, Toyota recalled more than 7.4 million vehicles to deal with a problem involving the driver’s side power window master switch that could have led to a fire under some circumstances.

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