Toyota Issues Second Major Recall in Three Months
January 31, 2013

by Casey Neeley,

Toyota Motor has issued a recall through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) affecting an estimated 1.15 million vehicles for windshield wiper and airbag defects.

The recall for windshield wiper faults will affect 2006-2010 Lexus IS 250 models, 2010-2012 Lexus IS 250C models, 2006-2012 Lexus IS 350 models, 2010-2012 Lexus IS 350C models and 2008-2011 Lexus IS F models.

According to the recall notice issued to NHTSA, Vinnie Venugopal, general manager of quality control for Toyota says, "In the front wipers on the subject vehicles, there is high friction at the tightening surface between the wiper arm nut and the wiper arm that could result in the nut being insufficiently tight. If movement of wipers is restricted by an external load, such as a buildup of heavy snow on the windshield, the wiper motor torque may exceed the wiper arm slipping torque, and one or both of the wipers could become inoperative. If this occurs, driver visibility could be reduced, which could increase the risk of a vehicle crash."

Toyota first became aware of a potential problem in May 2008, after receiving reports that the wiper arm nuts became too loose. In August 2011, Toyota continued its ongoing investigation into the problem before deciding on January 24, 2013, to issue a recall notice. This recall will affect 267,718 vehicles. The percentage of those recalled possessing the error is unknown.

Toyota is also recalling 887,709 vehicles for airbag defects.

The 2003-2004 Pontiac Vibe models, in addition to the 2003-2004 Toyota Corolla and Corolla Matrix are affected by the recall resulting from "the supplemental restraint system (SRS) circuits [being] susceptible to internal shorting," according to a letter issued by Jennifer Timian, chief of the Recall Management Division for the NHTSA.

A letter from Venugopal also suggests that the defect may have occurred during the manufacturing process. "The airbag control module for the SRS in the subject vehicles could have been manufactured with application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) that are susceptible to internal shorting. When exposed to high inductive electrical noise from various vehicle electrical components, these ASICs could experience an internal short that creates abnormal current flow and increased heat. If this occurs, there is a possibility that the ASIC could become damaged. In some instances, the front airbag(s) and/or seat belt pretensioners could inadvertently deploy," says Venugopal. "An airbag that deploys inadvertently can, under some circumstances, increase the risk of minor injury and the possibility of a crash."

Toyota was alerted to the problem August 20, 2012, through NHTSA. Toyota investigated the ASIC damage and decided to issue a voluntary recall January 24, 2012.

Of the vehicles affected, the Toyota Corolla has the highest number of potentially defective models at 603,936. The Corolla Matrix has 148,024 possibly affected models and 135,749 Pontiac Vibes are involved in the recall. The percentage of recalled vehicles containing the defect is unknown.

Toyota recalled more than 7.5 million vehicles in October for faulty power window switches which may have caught on fire.

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