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Toyota Recalls 52,000 Original Prius Models for Steering Fix

Don't turn the steering wheel too hard if you own a 2001 through 2003 Toyota Prius because you could loosen the nuts in the steering gear box according to a volunteer safety recall announced for the first hybrids to hit the United States.

According to an announcement from Toyota, the voluntary safety recall (as in we're doing this before the government makes us), involves about 52,000 2001 through 2003 Prius vehicles sold in the U.S. It is part of a global recall of 106,000 vehicles to replace the electric power steering pinion shaft attachment nuts.

Fortunately for Toyota, this is "just" a steering problem. Its hybrid models are hitting the 10-year mark, which is when the expensive batteries that drive the hybrids are expected to start losing their efficiency. It's rare that a battery will ever fail entirely all at once but it will lose its efficiency gradually. A recall related to the hybrid batteries could have greatly hurt the value of used Prius models.

That would have been a huge blow to the sale of hybrids on the used car market and hurt Toyota Prius sales for years to come. Major recalls for older models have a way of creeping into the public psyche and influencing new car sales and that could have hurt Toyota at a time when it is greatly expanding the Prius lineup.

A Toyota news release said if the steering wheel is repeatedly and strongly turned to the full-lock position, there is a possibility the nuts securing the pinion shaft in the steering gear box assembly may become loose. If the vehicle is continuously operated in this condition, over time, the customer will gradually notice significant increased steering effort when making a left turn.

Owner notification letters by first class mail will begin in early July 2011.Toyota dealers will install improved nuts that secure the pinion shaft at no charge to the vehicle owner. The repair will take approximately 4 hours depending upon the dealer’s work schedule.

That last sentence demonstrates the urgency of this current Toyota Prius recall. Unlike recalls from last year when dealerships were open, in some cases, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Toyota's attitude seems to be, "The dealers will fix it when they can on their schedule, not ours."

Of course, that also makes us ponder something else about that particular statement. Does a repair take more time or less time depending on how busy a dealership is? Service departments don't get paid by the hour (in spite of those signs on the wall that advertise the per hour fee for services). Instead, they charge based on how long a job is supposed to take. Mechanics earn more money by finishing repairs in less time. A mechanic can easily perform 10 hours of work in an eight-hour day.


Sam (not verified)    June 14, 2011 - 1:41AM

I appreciate your work TOYOTA group.52,000 is the big no. but great to see no compromise with safety. Recall is no good for the company reputation it effect the market status of the company. So be careful & solve almost all problems before launching the car.