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Honda Recalls 344,000 Odyssey Minivans for Brake Issues

Honda Odyssey
2008 Honda Odyssey (American Honda)

Honda is recalling 344,000 Odysseys from the 2007 and 2008 model years because of a problem with the stability control system (which Honda calls Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA)) that can cause sudden, hard braking, without the driver pressing on the brake pedal. The brake lights will not illuminate during this event, increasing the risk of a rear-end crash.

In a press release, Honda says the solution to the problem is a new sensor, which the company will install for free. However, Honda told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that the part won't be available until spring of 2014.

In the meantime, Honda is telling Odyssey owners that they can learn how to avoid the problem by changing their driving habits. Honda includes instructions in its press release that detail what drivers should do to avoid the issue.

How to Prevent the Issue for Now:

  • When drivers starts the minivan, they shouldn’t pull away until the VSA indicator on the instrument panel turns off, which should take about 2 seconds. Before shifting out of Park, the driver must be sure the front wheels are straight. The driver must then drive in a straight line, in forward or reverse, for several feet or the VSA system might not calibrate properly. If the driver doesn’t have room to do so (if he or she is pulling out of a parking space, for instance) he or she must pull out and drive to a safe location where there is room to maneuver. While finding a safe place to perform the starting procedure, the driver should either turn off the VSA system by pressing and holding the “VSA OFF” button located on the driver’s side instrument panel until it beeps, or maintain a speed of less than 25 miles per hour. When the driver reaches a place where there is room to maneuver and it is safe to stop, he or she should turn off the minivan, and then restart it and drive in a straight line in forward or reverse to recalibrate the VSA system.

What to Do If Your Odyssey Brakes Unexpectedly:

  • Honda says that following the instructions above should prevent the issue from occurring. However, in the event the VSA system causes your Odyssey’s brakes to engage unexpectedly, Honda instructs the driver to gently press the brake pedal, which will temporarily stop the VSA system, then find a safe place to go through the starting procedure listed above. Again, while finding a safe place to perform the starting procedure, the driver should either turn off the VSA system or maintain a speed of less than 25 miles per hour.

Stability control systems like Honda’s VSA use sensors to detect whether a car is deviating from the driver’s intended path. It then uses the vehicle’s brakes to pull the car back on course.

The Odyssey’s issue occurs because the VSA sensors are mistakenly detecting a loss of control and applying the vehicle’s brakes, causing an abrupt reduction in speed.

According to its report to NHTSA, Honda first heard of the issue from an Odyssey owner in April 2012, but the automaker was unable to recreate the problem.

The Detroit News reports that NHTSA opened an investigation in June 2013 after receiving 22 complaints of involuntary braking.

Honda says that as of June 30, 2013, it has received 109 warranty claims related to the problem, but has not received any reports of crashes or injuries.

Affected Odyssey owners should soon receive a letter from Honda informing them of the recall and the steps they can take to prevent the issue. They should receive a second letter next year when the new sensors are available. Starting in December, owners can also determine whether their vehicle is affected by going to www.recalls.honda.com or calling (800) 999-1009, and selecting option 4.

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