Toyota Hybrid SUVs May Suddenly Lose Power or Stop Completely
by By Jonathan Welsh of The Wall Street Journal – June 29, 2011
2011 Toyota Highlander
Toyota Motor Corp. said today it will recall about 82,200 hybrid sport-utility vehicles to correct an electronic problem that could cause the vehicles to lose power or stop running completely.
The car maker said the recall includes about 45,500 Highlander Hybrid and 36,700 Lexus RX 400h models from the 2006 and 2007 model years and sold in the U.S. The company said no other Toyota or Lexus vehicles are involved in the recall.
Toyota also noted that it is waiting until enough replacement parts are available before making service appointments for customers to have the repair work done at dealerships. The parts-supply network for many car makers has yet to fully recover fully from the affects of the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
At the root of the problem is what Toyota calls the Intelligent Power Module, which is part of the vehicles’ hybrid gasoline-electric power systems. The module has a control board with transistors. Certain transistors on the control boards in some vehicles weren’t soldered properly and might not stand up to the heat of high electrical current in certain driving conditions.
If the transistors are damaged by the heat, warning lamps will illuminate on the dashboard, Toyota said. In most cases the vehicles will enter fail-safe driving mode, a condition of reduced power under which the cars can still be driven short distances. In some cases, though, the fuse for the power-supply circuit could blow, causing the vehicle to stop.
Toyota says it will notify owners of affected vehicles by mail in mid-July, and after it has enough parts in stock it will send notices advising owners to make service appointments. Dealers will inspect the power modules and replace them if necessary.
Owners may contact the car maker at www.toyota.com/recall or 800-331-4331 for the Toyota brand, or www.lexus.com/recall, or 800-255-3987 for Lexus.