Toyota Airbag Recall Issued Due to Risk of Electrical Problems from Spiders

Toyota is recalling more than 800,000 vehicles due to electrical malfunctions that may be caused by spiders, which could impact the vehicle airbags, power-steering, and air conditioning, posing a potential crash hazard for drivers.  

The Toyota recall (PDF) was announced by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on October 18, after at least 35 complaints were received of the airbag warning lights illuminating, including 3 cases where the airbags deployed inappropriately. To date, two minor injury reports have been received, but no accidents have been linked to the defect.

Toyota became aware of the problem in early October, when a report from the U.S. market indicated a driver’s seat side airbag deployed unexpectedly. Upon investigation, the manufacturer noticed the vehicles condenser drain hose had become clogged, causing spill–over of condensation onto the circuit boards.

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The vehicles may experience these problems if the condenser drain hose becomes clogged due to its location. The condenser drain hose sits directly above the airbag control module and if it becomes clogged and overflows it may cause a short circuit in the airbag control module, potentially damaging the other terminals. If the airbags circuit shorts out, it may cause unexpected deployment of the airbags while driving, and in rare circumstances disrupt the power steering controls posing a crash hazard. Oddly, the NHTSA investigated 25 complaints of the condenser drain hose clogging and consistently the only cause of the blockage was spider webs.

The recall includes roughly 54,080 Toyota Avalon’s and Avalon HV models manufactured between May 9, 2012 and June 5, 2013, roughly 44,724 Toyota Venza’s models manufactured between May 9, 2012 and May 30, 2013, and 703,395 Toyota Camry’s and Camry HV models manufactured between August 29, 2011 and May 18, 2013.

The action is the second major Toyota recall in less than a month. On October 1, Toyota recalled roughly 614,722 Sienna vehicles due to concerns that they may shift out of park without having the brake pedal applied. The affected vehicles may experience a problem in the shift lock solenoid that causes the shift lever to move out of the park position without depressing the brake pedal due to insufficient dimensions of the stopper for the shifter.

Toyota sent a preliminary notification to distributors and dealers in mid-October with a corrective course of action to apply a sealant and install a new part to cover the air-conditioner condensing unit. Customers will be notified shortly to receive their repair appointment free of charge. Customers with questions may contact Toyota at 1-800-331-4331.

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