Toyota says a problem with electric power steering is prompting a Prius recall. About 52,000 Priuses from 2001-3 in the United States are affected, part of 106,000 global vehicles.
In a news release early Wednesday, the automaker said the electric power steering pinion-shaft attachment nuts could loosen and “over time, the customer will gradually notice significant increased steering effort when making a left turn.”
Toyota’s announcement did not mention any accidents, but Toyota spokeman Brian Lyons told The New York Times it received one unconfirmed report of a minor accident. The company described the recall as voluntary, but under federal regulations, once a manufacturer was aware of a safety problemit must inform the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrationwithin five business days of its plan for a recall.
The problem is related to tightening and lubricating grease from the rack-and-pinion assembly reaching the nuts. Because of differences between the right- and left-hand-drive models, the steering wheels on the Prius sold in the United States would not stick, although there could be a significant increase in driver effort, the company said.
The Prius recall has been in the works for almost four years, according to NHTSA filing, where Toyota said it received a field technical report in August 2007 that the steering wheel locked up on a first-generation Japanese-market Prius.
Toyota told the agency it discovered that the locking nuts were loose and began investigating how the condition was created, the Times reports. It received sporadic reports of other vehicles with such problems, but it was not until late May 2011 that brand engineers determined the cause and concluded a recall was necessary.
Owners of the vehicles involved in the recall will receive notices in the mail, beginning in July. More detailed information as available to customers at on the Toytoa website or by calling the Toyota Customer Experience Center at 1-800-331-4331.