Latest Reader Question: Toyota Problems (May 6, 2018)

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with y reply:

Charlie asks: I have a story I think you will love to hate. My wife has a 2013 Toyota Camry SE with only 25K miles. She has complained about a problem where she will start to pull out onto a busy boulevard and all of a sudden the car won’t go – she steps on the gas but nothing happens, no high revving, no acceleration, the car just starts slowing down as if your foot has been taken off the gas pedal.

She says she puts the car into neutral and revs the engine to get the car to recover. As you can see this could lead to a very dangerous situation, with cars bearing down on you and expecting you to keep accelerating. It is an extremely intermittent problem, only happening approx. 3 times a year although it did happened twice this week.

Of course I drive the car and the problem doesn’t happen. I take car to the Toyota dealer and the problem doesn’t happen.I start searching on the Internet and find that this is a pretty common problem that Toyota seems to know about, and knows how to fix. According to an entry I found on one web site,  the poster states their Toyota dealer was able to reproduce the problem.

It sounds very much like this problem is caused by the fix to Toyota’s older, deadly problem of unexplained sudden acceleration. It appears Toyota fixed the sudden acceleration problem by putting in a mechanism to detect when the brake pedal is pressed, and if so, will effectively turn off the gas pedal input.

Toyota HQ told this persons’s dealer to lower the sensitivity of the brake pedal something along those lines) and that fixes the problem. Apparently problem is by this brake sensor being set a little too sensitive and sometimes thinks the brake pedal is being depressed when it isn’t.

I took our 2013 Camry to our Toyota dealer and showed them the important entries on the web site explaining the problem and how to fix it. Of course they try to reproduce the problem and can’t. I tell them that I don’t care if they can reproduce problem and that I just want them to do whatever needs to be done to make brake sensor less sensitive.They tell me they can’t make any adjustments on something that is not showing a problem. Either that or they do not know how to do it.

I write this to show the sad state of these dealer so-called mechanics. They aren’t really mechanics, they only know how to hook up a diagnostic computer to the car and read which part the computer tells them to replace.  Otherwise they are helpless figure out or fix any problem that the computer cannot tell them about. I need to write Toyota to ask them why they haven’t told their dealers about this problem, and how they can fix it. I will probably have to go to an independent mechanic, i.e. a real mechanic, to get this issue fixed.

My reply: Well, much of this is speculative. I have also read that there was a problem with “Unintended acceleration.” But I have not read that it’s a fact. It is certainly possible . Your Toyota, like pretty much all modern cars, has drive-by-wire throttle. Instead of a cable that runs from the accelerator pedal to the engine, which governs engine speed according to mechanical pulling on that cable, there are sensors which interpret how much the driver is depressing the accelerator pedal, send that information to the computer, which then increases throttle opening (engine RPM) accordingly.

Just like a stuck throttle cable, drive-by-wire could cause the engine to rev when not wanted and if the transmission is in gear the car will accelerate in an unwanted manner.

The difference is it’s pretty easy to physically see  a stuck mechanical cable; a software glitch you can’t see or touch. If it’s intermittent, it can be very frustrating t diagnose.

On the rest: Some new cars are programmed to cut throttle when braking pressure is applied. It’s part of the traction control system, in some cars. In any event, if your wife is a two-footed driver (she keeps her left foot on the brake while using her right for the gas) you have found your problem – and it’s not with the car!

. . .

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  1. I love all those DBW issues like the Dodge diesels that do rev when you put your foot in it…..for 3 seconds and then revert to idle, puts the excitement back into getting across a busy highway. It’s perfect for leaving you stopped so you can see how well oncoming traffic can anticipate you’re just going to stay there.

    There is a workaround for it but not quickly. Cycle the ignition 5 times and you’re good to go…..til it does it again.

    I’ve driven several 60 series Detroit Deisel’s that don’t respond properly to the throttle after you’ve used the engine to slow with.

    It’s more a PITA than anything else when gearing down. Probably nobody else gives a shit.


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