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QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

What Toyota owners should know

January 30, 2010|By Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Toyota Motor Corp. recalled and halted sales of eight models because of a design flaw.

Here is what the automaker and consumer experts think Toyota owners should know:

Which models are included in this latest recall and sales suspension?

Toyota stopped sales of the following models: 2009 and 2010 RAV4, 2009 and 2010 Corolla, 2009 and 2010 Matrix, 2005 to 2010 Avalon, 2010 Highlander, 2007 to 2010 Tundra and 2008 to 2010 Sequoia.

It also stopped sales of certain 2007 to 2010 Camry sedans, depending on where those vehicles were manufactured; owners of Camrys, RAV4s, Corollas and Highlanders with vehicle identification numbers that begin with "J" are not affected by the recall, Toyota says.

Where can I find the VIN number on my car?

The VIN, or vehicle identification number, can be found by looking through the windshield for a black tag located on the driver's side of the dashboard. The tag should be where the dashboard meets the windshield.

What should I do if I find myself in a sudden-acceleration incident?

Toyota says the best course of action for drivers who experience accelerator pedal problems is to press and hold down the brake pedal with both feet.

Don't pump or pound on the brakes. That makes them less effective. While pressing down on the brake pedal, shift the transmission into neutral.

When possible, pull safely off the road, park the car and then turn off the engine.

"We found that it is very hard to bring the car to a complete halt with just the brake pedal," said Rik Paul, automotive editor for Consumer Reports magazine, which modeled such a scenario on its test track last year.

How can I be prepared?

Be sure you know how to get your car into neutral. This varies greatly by make and model and is not always intuitive. You need to know how to do this before you find yourself in an emergency situation.

People may be tempted to turn off the engine, but shifting into neutral is a better option. That's because turning off the engine stops the power steering system and will make it harder to control the vehicle.

Still, if you can't shift the car into neutral, don't fool around. Shut the engine off. But even this can be tricky if you are not prepared.

Toyota says if its vehicle is equipped with an "engine start/stop" button, you need to push the button firmly and steadily for at least three seconds to turn off the engine. Do not tap the start/stop button. Other makers, however, use different systems, so be sure you know how your vehicle works.

If your auto has a conventional key ignition, turn the ignition key to the ACC position to turn off the engine. Don't remove the key from the ignition because this will lock the steering wheel, and you won't be able to maneuver the car.

Is there some warning that lets me know my car has the problem?

Don't expect any type of warning light on the dashboard. You might notice that the gas pedal is getting harder to depress over time or is sluggish when you ease off the throttle. Some drivers might notice a rough or "chatter"-like feeling depressing the accelerator, according to Toyota.

If I am an owner of one of the affected vehicles, or I think the problem might be occurring with my car, what should I do?

Toyota says no action is required at this time unless you believe that you are experiencing problems with your accelerator pedal. If you are having gas pedal troubles, you should immediately contact your nearest Toyota dealer for assistance. Toyota is working on a remedy and will issue owner notifications in the future.

What's wrong with the vehicles?

Toyota says the accelerator pedal on the affected models can stick in a partially depressed position. It also can be slow to rise back up when you ease off the gas.

In addition, Toyota says, in some cases, vehicle floor mats can become entangled with the accelerator pedal, trapping it down.

What causes the problem?

Toyota says the accelerator pedals become worn over time. They develop friction, which causes the pedals to stick or return slowly after a driver removes pressure from the pedal.

What if I have questions?

Call the Toyota Customer Experience Center at (800) 331-4331.

nathan.olivarezgiles@latimes.com

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