Toyota Prius Recall Issued Over Power Steering Problem

Problems with the electronic power steering in Toyota Prius hybrid vehicles from the 2001 through 2003 model years has led to the recall of about 52,000 cars sold in the United States, and more than 100,000 sold worldwide. 

The Toyota Prius recall was announced by Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. on June 1, after a four-year investigation into power steering problems. One minor, unconfirmed accident is believed to have been reported in connection to the Prius problem.

According to Toyota, the issue is with the electric power steering pinion shaft nuts, which may become loose if the steering wheel is repeatedly and forcefully turned to the full-lock position. If the nuts loosen, the driver may experience gradually increasing difficulty making left turns over time.

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The recall affects certain model year 2001 through 2003 Prius vehicles sold in the U.S. and abroad. Owners whose vehicles are affected by the recall will be notified by first class mail in early July, the Japanese automaker reported.

Those affected by the recall will be able to take their Prius to a Toyota dealer who will install new nuts to secure the pinion shaft free of charge. Toyota officials estimate that the repairs will take about four hours.

This is at least the second major recall this year for Toyota, which recalled about 2.2 million vehicles in February to replace floor mats that could cause drivers to experience sudden unintended acceleration (SUA).

Sudden acceleration problems with Toyota vehicles led to the recall of millions of Toyota and Lexus vehicles in 2009 and early 2010. Those Toyota recalls were issued in waves, starting with 3.8 million vehicles recalled for floor mat problems in September 2009, followed by other recalls that eventually affected a total of more than 13 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles.

In December, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that Toyota was being fined $32.4 million following two federal investigations into how it handled unintended acceleration recalls and steering rod defects. Government investigators say the company stalled on the recalls and failed to notify federal safety officials about the problems in a timely manner. The fines are the maximum allowed by law.

Hundreds of Toyota personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits have been centralized and consolidated under Judge James V. Selna for pretrial proceedings in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in Santa Ana as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL). All of the lawsuits contain allegations that drivers or passengers experienced an injury or death after their Toyota vehicles accelerated unexpectedly out of control. The first trial is not expected to begin until early 2013.

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