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article imageToyota finds fix to gas pedal problem - a shim!

By Ken Wightman     Jan 29, 2010 in Business
Toyota tells its workers that engineers have solved the problem of how to fix sticking gas pedals. In the meantime, what should owners of these cars, now under a cloud of recall-induced suspicion, be looking for?
In the United States the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has scheduled a February 4 hearing, "Toyota Gas Pedals: Is the Public at Risk?"
Meanwhile the owners of the vehicles involved in the massive Toyota recall are left wondering: Are our cars safe to drive?
These are good questions. What exactly should car owners watch for when it comes to accelerator pedals in Toyota vehicles now on the road but under recall-induced suspicion?
According to Toyota Motor Corp. there is a chance that among the pedals being recalled a very small number may mechanically stick in a partially depressed state or they may return, but slowly, to the idle position.
It is believed this sluggish pedal response is caused by an increase in friction resulting from progressive wear of the pedal mechanism. The problem is aggravated by certain operating and environmental conditions. When depressing the accelerator pedal drivers may notice that intermittently the pedal requires more pressure than usual. After being depressed the affected pedals take longer than expected to return to a neutral position. In the worst case scenario, the pedal sticks in a partially open state propelling the accelerating car forward unexpectedly.
Drivers must be alert to the warning signs of gas pedal problems.
Thursday the company presented a solution to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and it is now waiting for a decision. Apparently Toyota engineers propose resolving the sticking gas pedal problem affecting on-the-road vehicles by inserting a "selective spacer" into the accelerator mechanism. This is engineer-speak for a shim, a thin wedge or washer inserted in a space to make parts fit or align properly.
No company spokesperson has publicly announced this fix. It is believed nothing will be said on record before the NHTSA has approved the solution.
The shim, it is said, increases the tension in an internal spring preventing the accelerator from remaining in a depressed position. If this is all it takes to complete repairs, production of the part will be quick and simple with the installation almost equally straight forward.
It was reported Toyota e-mailed employees Thursday night informing them that a remedy for the problem had been devised. For workers and just-in-time suppliers, this news should alleviate their fears associated with the halting of production at six North American Toyota plants come Monday.
Company spokesman Brian Lyons says Toyota has started sending new gas pedal systems to their car plants. Dealerships are being asked to wait patiently. If a shim is the answer, they may not have to be patient too long.
Whatever the decision, AP is reporting the repairs should be done within one month. With about 4.2 million vehicles in the U.S., Europe and China affected, this would be quite a feat.
One last question remains: How long will it take Toyota to fix their tarnished reputation for quality?
More information on this topic can be found on the Digital Journal:
Toyota temporarily stops sales . . . and Toyota halting some production.
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