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Toyota recall: Spiders are causing airbag problems

Toyota recall involves 885,000 vehicles with leaky air conditioning filters that could cause problems with airbags. In some cases, spiders may be at the heart of the problem that prompted the Toyota recall. 

By Staff writer / October 18, 2013

A Toyota car at a Toyota Motor Corp car dealership in Kiev last year. A Toyota recall involves vehicles with an air-conditioning leak that could cause airbags to behave erratically.

Anatolii Stepanov/Reuters/File

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Just what we all needed: another reason to be afraid of spiders.

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Staff writer/editor

Schuyler Velasco is a writer and editor for the Monitor's business desk.  She writes about consumer issues, sports, and the occasional sandwich.

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Toyota is recalling 885,000 vehicles worldwide due to electrical issues that could cause problems with airbag deployment. Two ‘minor’ injuries but no accidents have been reported in connection to the Toyota recall, according to the company.

Some 803,000 of the affected vehicles, both sedans and crossovers, were sold in the United States. Recalled US models include year 2012 and 2013 Toyota Camry, Camry Hybrid, Avalon, Avalon Hybrid, and Venza vehicles.

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The issue is with the cars’ air-conditioning units, which could leak onto the airbag control unit and cause a malfunction, and the possibility of the airbags either not deploying when they need to or, in some cases, deploying accidentally.  Toyota is aware of 35 cases of airbag warning lights coming on as a result of the problem, and three cases in which airbags deployed accidentally.

“In the involved vehicles, water from the air conditioning condenser unit housing could leak onto the airbag control module and cause a short circuit, resulting in illumination of the airbag warning light,” a Toyota announcement of the recall read. “In some instances, the air bag(s) could become disabled or could inadvertently deploy.

“In limited instances, the power steering assist function could also become inoperable if a communication line in the airbag control module is damaged.  Loss of power steering assist results in increased steering effort.”

And at the heart of at least some of these leaks is a creepy culprit: spiders, which can build webs blocking a key drainage tube in the air-conditioning unit. Toyota spokeswoman Cindy Knight told CNN that spider webs were the only consistent cause of the blockage in the cases the automaker had investigated. But spiders may not have caused every blockage.

To fix the issue, Toyota dealers will apply a sealant and install a new part to cover the air-conditioner’s condensing unit. Affected Toyota owners will be notified by mail, and dealerships will make the repair free of charge.

This is Toyota’s second recall in the past week. On Oct. 10, the automaker recalled 10,000 vehicles – 2013-14 Camrys and Camry Hybrids; 2013 Avalons and Avalon Hybrids; and 2014 Corollas – to replace a defective wiper switch.

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