The Toyota accelerator issue: What to do if your throttle runs out of control

By Associated Press
Friday, January 29, 2010

Toyota Motor has stopped selling and building eight models, saying there is a possibility that their accelerator pedals may get stuck in a partially depressed position or return slowly to the idle position. Affected are certain makes of the Camry, Corolla, RAV4, Highlander, Tundra, Avalon, Matrix and Sequoia. The automaker and experts have advice for drivers if a vehicle's accelerator pedal sticks.

Brake hard and try to shift to neutral

Consumer Reports magazine's instructions are simple: First, brake hard. Then put the car in neutral. When you come to a stop, turn off the engine.

The engine may keep revving loudly while you try to stop, but do not turn it off if you can avoid it. Turning off the engine means you lose power-assisted steering and brakes, and if you turn the key too far, you could lock the steering wheel.

The revving is not good for the transmission, but that is not important, said John Heywood, director of MIT's Sloan Automotive Lab.

Consumer Reports has a video demonstration on its Web site.

Brake firmly, steadily. Don't pump brakes.

Toyota warns that pumping the brake pedal will deplete the vacuum assist, which boosts the braking force using power from the engine. If that is depleted, you'll need to put much stronger pressure on the brake pedal, and it still might not be enough force to stop safely.

"If the engine really goes to wide-open throttle, it's really scary," Heywood said. "You have to jam your foot on the brake really hard."

If all else fails, turn off the engine

If you can't put the vehicle in neutral, then turn the engine off. This will not cause loss of steering or braking control, but the power assist to these systems will be lost. Toyota advises:

-- If the vehicle is equipped with a conventional key ignition, turn the ignition key to the accessory (ACC) position, but don't remove the key from the ignition, because that will lock the steering wheel.

-- If you start your car by pressing a button instead of turning a key, push and hold the start-stop button for at least three seconds to turn off the engine. Do not tap the button.

Sources: Toyota documents, Consumer Reports, Associated Press interviews

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