Tuesday, March 1, 2011 03:05
On behalf of my fellow journalists, I apologize to Toyota for our ignorance and incompetence. In my defense, I tried to spread the word that they were screwing up. And now the U.S. Department of Transportation has confirmed it.
During the height of the Toyota/Lexus “sudden acceleration” media feeding frenzy, I informed (among others) my professors and fellow students in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s journalism Master’s degree program that Toyotas (or any other car) don’t run away on their own. The drivers, I said, were either pushing the accelerator in the mistaken, but unshakeable, belief they were pushing on the brakes. Or, if the gas pedal was truly stuck open, the drivers were failing to push adequately hard on the brakes.
As the DOT recently confirmed, almost all instances of “sudden acceleration”—whether in Toyota products or not—is caused by “pedal misapplication.” The government confirms the drivers were pushing the gas instead of the brake.
I told my classmates and teachers that, as a high-performance driving instructor, I’ve ridden with dozens of people who mistook the gas for the brake. One driver pressed the clutch instead of the brake. Also, I sat beside other drivers who refused to push adequately hard on the brakes despite me yelling in their ears: “BRAKE!” One said she was afraid she might skid. “You’d rather run off the track than skid?” I asked.
Gas pedals stick for any number of reasons, including floor mats and problem throttle linkages. (Toyota is not innocent in those areas.) However, the brakes will easily overpower the engine in any modern, modestly well-maintained car. I have tested this on perhaps 100 cars, from Corollas to Corvettes to Suburbans. Here’s the test: Right foot hard on the gas, left foot hard on the brakes, and leave them both there. I’ve done it from well more than 100 mph. The cars stopped. Every time. More...
Thursday, December 2, 2010 03:08
We recently received one of those “My Car Is Doing This Bad Thing” notes. (A guy’s 2002 Camry was smoking heavily after cold startup. The smoke stopped shortly afterward. The car, he said, wasn’t using oil.) I was immediately able to diagnose his problem. The diagnosis: Worn-out valve guides.
The valve guide’s purpose it to prevent oil from leaking past the valve stems and into the combustion chamber. They weren’t fully doing their job in our poor questioner’s Camry. When his car is running, the small amount of oil leaking past the guides is mostly burned off with the fuel. But when the car is left overnight, enough leaks into the combustion camber to make the car look like a World War II warship laying down a smoke screen. More...
Monday, November 15, 2010 04:44
When you find a story that makes you think, it’s not always the story that matters. In this case, a brief overview of the confluence of Toyota and Honda recalls spurs some serious manufacturing and OEM thoughts that affect anyone who buys a new car.
The article is titled “Honda Joins Toyota in Brake System Recall. 472K Cars Affected.” Read it for yourself. Its nothing special, describing a Honda recall of about a half-million cars and minivans, and how the same simple brake system part – a seal in the master cylinder being broken down by brake fluid – just caused a mill-five recall for Toyota.
There are questions and thinking left after flitting through this story. Honda says, “Certain types of brake fluid could affect the seal” – what does “affect” mean? What kind of fluid? If it wasn’t an approved brake fluid, then it would void parts warranties, and Honda (and Toyota) wouldn’t bother with a recall, which means this seal (probably part of the plunger in the master cylinder), is being destroyed by brake fluids that the manufacturer has recommended. Whoops. More...
Friday, October 15, 2010 02:44
Brake bleeding is one of the easiest, cheapest, and effective forms of preventive maintenance for the do-it-yourselfer. Done every two years, completely renewing brake fluid will not only help ensure maximum stopping power but also will extend the life of internal brake components. Another advantage: Like drawing blood from a human, brake bleeding will indicate the health of the brakes system.
I learned the value of regular brake bleeding when I was racing and encountered badly fading brakes: Blasting into a 65-mph turn at 130 with ineffective brakes is not nearly as much fun it sounds. I was baffled as the brake pads and rotors had been freshly serviced. In desperation, I bled the brakes. Out squirted a dark, bubbly mess reminiscent of cola syrup with a bit of carbonated water. Racetrack braking had raised the temperature of the brake fluid to nearly 300 degrees. This caused the brake fluid to break down and release vapors. Also, the moisture that brake fluid inevitably sucks out of the air boiled and added more air pockets, so the system wasn’t fully pressing the brake pads against the rotors. Bleeding the brakes before every on-track session became a ritual. More...
Wednesday, September 22, 2010 02:30
From the So Funny It’s Sad Dept., we recalled that Toyota (and other hybrid manufacturers, in theory) are outfitting their happy little smiling, partially electric cars with noisemakers. Seems someone is afraid that silent cars will not be noticed despite being large and shiny and metal and full of people and weighing thousands of pounds and being in the street all the time anyway… Hey look, there’s an upside to that horrible noisy inefficient internal combustion after all – it’s less likely to kill you, or so this story would suggest.
From Fox, in a piece called “Toyota Prius Gets Fitted With a Noisemaker,” the reporter claims a primary use of the optional hummer (the driver can turn it on and off—how’s that for shifting liability?) is to protect older pedestrians, but if recollection serves us, the first thing that went in our grandparents was their hearing. Hmmm. Who’s that over there, your big brother? More...