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Toyota's Plan to Fix Millions of Pedals; Some Dealers Open 24 Hours

Posted: Feb 01, 2010 11:16 a.m.

Worried Toyota owners will be happy to hear that the Japanese automaker has announced details of a plan to repair 4.2 million vehicles worldwide (2.3 million in the U.S.) recalled due to a gas pedal defect that could lead to unintended acceleration. 

Autoblog explains, “The fix involves installing a ‘precision-cut steel reinforcement bar’ into the pedal assembly that will reduce friction between a shoe and the adjoining surface, the place where Toyota has found these defective pedals to be sticking. The automaker says the fix is ‘effective and simple’ – it should take around 30 minutes to perform – and has been rigorously tested on pedal assemblies that have been known to stick.”

The troubled automaker says that repairs will begin soon.  Kicking Tires reports, “Parts to reinforce the pedals are already being shipped for use by dealers, and dealer training is under way.  Many Toyota dealers will work extended hours to complete the recall campaign as quickly and conveniently as possible, some even staying open 24 hours a day.”

The automaker will not be replacing the faulty pedals.  Instead, they maintain that adding the “reinforcement bar” to the pedal mechanism will correct the defect.  Jalopnik explains, “The issue involves a friction device in the pedal designed to provide the proper 'feel' by adding resistance and making the pedal steady and stable. The device includes a 'shoe' that rubs against an adjoining surface during normal pedal operation.”  Over time, Toyota believes, normal use can cause these surfaces to wear, at which point they may “stick and release instead of operating smoothly. In some cases, friction could increase to a point that the pedal is slow to return to the idle position or, in rare cases, the pedal sticks, leaving the throttle partially open.”  Installing the reinforcement bar – essentially a shim -- should “reduce the surface tension between the friction shoe and the adjoining surface. With this reinforcement in place, the excess friction that can cause the pedal to stick will supposedly be eliminated.”

The new approach allows dealers to fix the cars with simple parts, rather than waiting for millions of new pedal assemblies to ship from suppliers.  The supplier that builds most Toyota accelerator pedals in the United States, CTS Corp, is capable of producing about 2 million pedal assemblies per year.  Even if the company modified its pedal assembly today, replacing the 4.2 million pedals already recalled world-wide while re-starting production at idled factories could take years.  Instead, the Wall Street Journal notes, “Toyota has told dealers that it can produce as many as 120,000 of the shims a day.”  The new approach has “received clearance from U.S. federal regulators.”

So, what’s next for Toyota owners?  Autoblog reports, “Toyota says owners of vehicles affected by the sticking pedal recall can expect a letter by mail sometime in the next couple of days with instructions on how to coordinate their repair with a dealer.”

Many of the vehicles included in the sticky pedal recall are also affected by an earlier recall involving improperly secured floormats that could trap the accelerator pedal in the down position.  Toyota has instructed dealerships to co-ordinate a single service appointment to handle both recalls whenever possible.

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