PedalGate: Now SteeringGate? Toyota Corolla Steering issues

2010 Toyota Corolla S

When it rains, it pours.  In Toyota’s case, make that a monsoon.  Automotive News is reporting that the NHTSA is considering an investigation into concerns over Toyota’s bread-and-butter small car, the Corolla.  So far, 83 owners in the United States have complained about steering issues with their cars, a feeling similar to hydroplaning or being buffeted by the wind.  Some 73 of the reports have occurred at speeds of 40mph and greater, and the consensus from owners is that it takes a tight 2-handed grip on the steering wheel to keep the car driving straight when this problem occurs.

One complaint said, “if you take your eye off the road for a second, the car will drift into another lane,” in October, while on September 11, a grandmother from North Carolina had this to say to the NHTSA:

“This was the most terrifying thing that has ever happened to me in my life as well as my grandchildren!”

This was after her car veered off the road, down a cliff, and into a tree.  The grandmother and her grandchildren count for part of the 10 injuries in 6 accidents so far reported because of the power steering issue.

The cause for this issue stems from a change for the 2009 model year Corolla, in which Toyota changed from the traditional hydraulic power steering setup to an electronic one.  The difference is in how the steering is powered.  In hydraulic systems, an hydraulic power steering pump is run off of the engine of the car, which magnifies the driver’s steering inputs, easing slow-speed maneuvers.  In the new electronic system, an electric motor takes the place of the hydraulic system, doing the same magnification but no longer powered by the engine.  This allows manufacturers to build cars which can parallel park themselves, among other neat tricks.  Toyota uses electronic power steering in many of its cars, including some Lexus models.  Other manufacturers, including Ford, GM and Honda use similar systems, but nobody but Toyota seems be drawing complaints about it, yet.

Electronic power steering systems have several benefits over the traditional setups, the big three of which are greater efficiency for the engine, lighter weight, as well as the aforementioned self-parallel parking feature.

When any more news about this latest investigation surfaces, you can be sure I’ll have it all here for you.

by John Suit

Source: Automotive News

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