Unintended Acceleration: Not Just Toyota’s Problem

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Don’t blame Toyota for run-amok Corollas.

The main problem Toyota owners are dealing with – loose or out of adjustment floor mats that jam the gas pedal down – can happen with any vehicle. If the little tabs that secure the mat in place aren’t fitted correctly, the floor mat can slide forward and bunch up near the car’s brake and gas pedals. That could lead to “unintended acceleration.”

Also, the cable that connects the gas pedal to the engine can bind and stick, too – especially in older cars. Not just Toyotas, either. I had it happen to me many years ago in a ’73 Super Beetle. Not the car’s fault. Mine, really – for not keeping the cable greased and checking its condition.

So, what should you be doing to keep from embarrassing yourself by driving through a plate glass window?

* Before you drive off, check to be sure that your floor mats are properly positioned –

If the mat is held in place by tabs, be sure they are all lined up and secured correctly. If the mat is not secured in place by some sort of tab or retainer, be sure it at least has a “no slip” underside (for example, rubber pegs to prevent it from sliding around). If not, it’s a good idea to replace them with mats that do have this feature (check with your local auto parts store or see online sources such as www.weathertech.com).

* Know what to do if your car decides to run amok –

If you are driving along and find the accelerator is sticking, immediately put the gearshift lever into neutral (on manual cars, you can just depress the clutch). Then use the brakes to slow the car. Pull over and stop as soon as possible. Do not turn off the engine! If you do, the power steering (and brakes) will go away and the car will be much harder to control and stop. Don’t worry about harming the engine by placing the transmission in neutral or depressing the clutch. All modern cars have electronic rev limiters that will prevent the engine from over-speeding (RPMs in the red zone) and causing damage. Even if your car is old and doesn’t have a rev limiter, risking a blown engine is preferable to risking vehicular homicide (or suicide).

Once stopped, you can physically check the floor mat to see whether it was bunched up against the gas pedal, causing the problem. Never try to adjust the floor mat while the vehicle is moving.

* Stuck throttle cable –

This is the other major source of unwanted acceleration. The good news is the fix is usually very easy. Often, all it takes is using some spray penetrant on the throttle linkage/cable to free the mechanism. Work the throttle arm back and forth by hand as you spray the penetrant (WD-40 works well) on the area. Following this up with some light grease (check your owner’s manual or a shop manual before you do this to make sure you’re using the right type – don’t guess) and you should be back in business. The bad news is that it may be necessary to replace the cable – and that can be a torturous PITAS. Especially at night, when you’re sitting on the shoulder of a busy freeway. Best bet is to make sure the cable is regularly checked/greased as per the factory recommendations. Then you’ll probably never have to deal with this problem.

For Toyota owners:

The automaker has set up a special web site – http://www.toyota.com/recall/- and phone number (1-800-331-4331) to assist consumers. If you own a 2009-2010 RAV4, 2009-2010 Corolla, 2009-2010 Matrix, 2005-2010 Aavalon, 2007-2010 Camry, or 2010 Highlander, Tundra or Sequoia, you are affected by the recall. The latest news is that certain Prius and Lexus hybrids are affected by the recall as well.

 

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  1. We owned (from brand new) an Oldsmobile front wheel drive V6 Cutlass Ciera Brougham 2-door . It had many problems. The engine was the Canadian version with a carburetor. The throttle cable was replaced after an unintended acceleration episode. Fortunately the brakes brought the vehicle to a halt after the transmission was shifted into Neutral, which of course caused the engine to rev up to a scream until it could be shut off when the car stopped. After a while it happened again. Back to the dealer under warranty. Verdict: nothing wrong! No charge. Then I was very afraid to drive it, my wife wouldn’t touch it. Eventually I replaced the return spring on the throttle linkage with one that was at least twice as strong. That fixed it. However, there were numerous other mechanical problems, such as a slowly leaking oil pan – pin hole because of faulty welding of baffles and too many other problems to mention. All in all a vehicle which one was glad to get rid off eventually….

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