The New York Times reports that Toyota has issued a recall of approximately 106,000 Priuses worldwide, with about 52,000 being recalled in the United States. The recall was initiated due to the discovery of a problem with the electric power steering in vehicles from model years 2001 through 2003.
According to the automaker, the electric power steering pinion-shaft attachment nuts in the affected vehicles may loosen, and as time passes, a motorist will begin to notice they need to exert a significantly increased effort for steering, particularly when making a left turn. Toyota has been looking into the issue for close to four years, after receiving a field technical report in late 2007 that the steering wheels in first-generation Priuses had a tendency to lock up. The car maker found that the locking nuts were loose and investigated how the condition was created, while receiving sporadic reports from consumers regarding similar problems.
The steering problem relates to tightening and lubricating grease from the rack-and-pinion assembly that reaches the nuts. Due to the differences between right and left-hand drive models, the steering wheels on the Priuses sold in the U.S. would not stick, and would result in a significant increase in driver effort needed to turn. When the root of the problem was discovered, the manufacturer notified the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and issued a recall.
When the recall was announced, Toyota did not mention any defect-related accidents, but when a Toyota spokesperson was reached for comment, they stated the manufacturer had received one unconfirmed report of a minor accident. Toyota has also received several dozen complaints from vehicle owners regarding problems with the power steering on Priuses from model years 2001 to 2002.
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