Saturday, March 13, 2010

Toyota recall - Part 3

So last week I took the Camry in for a 15,000 mile service.  They had a couple of recalls on the gas pedal thing.  They put the reinforced shims on the gas pedal, they shortened the gas pedal arm (?) about 1/2 an inch, and then they reprogrammed the computer.  The computer reprogram was the brake over-ride so if I have gas and brakes both depressed, the engine would reduce power.

So, any differences after the changes?  The gas pedal still feels the same.  The shortening of the pedal is unnoticeable.  The gas pedal seems a little bit more on the sensitive side.  The car seems a little more peppy to me on the lower end of the RPM scale.  That could be the affects of the shortening of the pedal itself, but that's my perception.  For the brake override, that seems to work.  Before the recall, I put on the gas and the brakes the the engine was still pushing hard.  After the computer reprogram, the engine power will decrease.  Once you release the brake pedal, normal power resumes.  Kinda cool.

Is there a problem with Toyotas?  Honestly, I really don't know.  The runaway Prius story in California makes me wonder what is going on.  And I will be very interested to read about the results of the engineering team's testing.  Newer cars have a black box similar in nature to black boxes in airplanes.  I'm sure that the engineers will extensively review the data from that black box.  I hope that Toyota does the right thing for this guy and fixes his car - brakes and all - for free.  If anything, they should fix it for free for PR reasons.

I'm on my second Toyota.  The cars have been built solidly.  The first car I had was a 2003 Corolla and it was a magnificent car.  My 2009 Camry is a lot like my Corolla was like, except even better. 

With the runaway car issue, I'm mostly concerned about my son and his reaction to a sudden acceleration problem.  My Camry has a five speed manual transmission, something that is extremely rare in a Camry.  We've told him that if he has that problem, to simply put the car into neutral, pull over and turn off the car.  And with the brake override, he could use the brakes to slow things down.  But the Prius should also have a brake override system and it didn't work in the California Prius incident, so who knows.  Best bet, put in the clutch, put it into neutral, pull over and turn off the car.

Will I buy another Toyota?  Probably.  I think the overall quality of Toyota cars is better than the American cars.  And I think Toyota will figure out the root cause of the problem and take care of their customers.  Many of these problems, especially intermittent or rare computer related problems, are quite difficult to troubleshoot and diagnose.  I know because I've worked in tech support for over a decade.  The "easy" problems to solve are the readily duplicate-able problems.  The harder ones to solve are those that are rare and random.  This issue seems to appear in the latter case - rare and random.  Hopefully the Prius in the California incident will provide Toyota the details that they need to fully understand the root cause of the problem.

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