Toyota has recalled nearly half a million cars, most of them large sedans sold in the U.S., for problems that can cause the steering wheel to lock up. It’s the latest indication that the automaker is still struggling with vehicle problems. The recall affects 412,000 vehicles in the U.S. – 373,000 Avalon sedans and 39,000 Lexus LX 470 SUVs. The recall is Toyota’s largest since announcing it would fix 600,000 Sienna minivans over rusting spare tire holders in April.
Toyota has been embroiled in its recall crisis since October, when it announced a recall of 5.3 million cars and trucks to fix floor mats that can trap pedals and cause unintended acceleration. A number of recalls have followed, from sticky gas pedals to braking problems with the Prius hybrid to rusting frames in the Tacoma pickup.
This last recall brings the size of Toyota’s recalls to about 9.5 million cars and trucks in the U.S. since October. Some of the recalls affect models as old as the 1998 model year. That means of the 24.1 million vehicles Toyota has sold in the U.S. since 1998, as tracked by Wards AutoInfoBank, Toyota has recalled about 39% of the vehicles sold.
The Avalons recalled in the U.S. range from the 2000 model year through to 2004 and have improper casting of the steering lock bar – the component that locks the steering wheel when the vehicle is shut off – that can cause a crack to form on the surface. Over time, the crack can expand, which can cause the steering wheel to become difficult to unlock when stationary. In some circumstances, the problem can cause the steering wheel to lock up during driving, according to Toyota. Three unconfirmed accidents with no injuries have been reported because of the problem. Toyota will fix the Avalon steering problem by replacing a part called the steering column bracket, which houses the lock bar.
For the Lexus LX 470, Toyota is recalling the 2003-2007 model years to fix a different steering shaft problem, which could cause loss of steering control. No accidents have been reported from the problem, the company said. For both repairs, customers will begin receiving letters in August asking them to bring their cars to dealers.
The LX 470 problem also affects 9,670 Land Cruiser models sold in Japan. Toyota is recalling another 6,750 sedans called the Pronard, also sold in Japan, for a problem similar to that experienced by the Avalon.
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