Stalling Cars Stumps Toyota

2007 Corolla LE

This latest report, from Reuters, suggests that Toyota is having problems with its 2005-2007 Corollas and Matrixes (Matrices?), a total of about 1.2 million vehicles.  In a move much different than the way it’s handled its recent recalls, Toyota announced Thursday that it informed U.S. regulators of a potential problem with stalling cars, and that it’s working on a fix for it.

Since they’ve been criticized recently for being too slow to action on problems with its vehicles, Toyota is trying, more or less, to prevent this one from snowballing on it.

The problem stems from a crack in soldered joints or an electrical short in the ECM, or Engine Control Module, commonly referred to as the car’s computer.  This causes a failure, leading to the engine shutting off.  There have been 26 reported stalls so far, but the concern comes from the randomness of where and when the stall occurs.  It’s happened while at both highway and slow speeds, and at least one stall was while a driver was in the middle of an intersection.

Toyota has said that there is no rhyme or reason why the stalls occur when they do, and that there is no prior warning to the engine shutoff.  Chris Santucci, Toyota’s regulatory affairs manager, had this to say in a letter to regulators:

“Toyota does not believe that the alleged defect creates an unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety.”

Later on in the letter, he mentioned that it was better that the engine stall than risk catching fire or creating “catastrophic failures.”

So, while this isn’t a recall per se, notify your dealer as soon as possible if your Corolla or Matrix stalls on you.  According to the NHTSA, Toyota informed dealers that there is an upgraded ECM and a reflash available for the affected cars through a bulletin, way back in 2007.  The NHTSA also opened its own investigation into this problem in November of 2009.

2007 Matrix XR

If the last paragraph didn’t make you scratch your head, let’s delve into it a bit.  There exists both a public “ECM Reflash” TSB (Technical Service Bulletin), and a more hidden “ECM Replacement” TSB, which were issued in 2007.  The NHTSA only opened an investigation in November of 2009, two years later.  So, while this issue has been brought to the forefront much quicker than the recalls affecting 8.5 million Toyotas, it still took two whole years for Toyota to bring it up.  Despite Santucci’s assurances that the problem is not a safety issue, if my car were to stall while making a left turn, I would definitely consider that a safety issue.

When more news is available, you can be sure we’ll have it right here.

by John Suit

Source: Reuters, NHTSA

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2 Responses to “Stalling Cars Stumps Toyota”


  • Add another car to the list – my 2005 Matrix started stalling a few days ago and now is in the shop. They told me when I dropped it off that I’ll have to pay for it despite this news. You can bet I’ll yell loudly if they try to charge me for something that has been known to be a defect for years.

  • I’m sorry to hear that you’re having troubles with your car – by all means, please keep me updated on this situation. My email is john.suit@road-reality.com

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