Toyota Prius recall: Is my 2010 Prius safe to drive? When will it be fixed?

With its Prius and Lexus recall, Toyota is gearing up to fix a software glitch for the braking system.

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    An unsold 2010 Prius sedan sits at a Toyota dealership in Lakewood, Colo. Toyota said Feb. 9 it was recalling about 437,000 Prius and other hybrid vehicles worldwide to fix brake problems. The recall includes 133,000 Prius cars and 14,500 Lexus HS 250h vehicles in the United States.
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[Editor's note: This story was updated on Feb. 9 3:15 p.m. EST with additional information from Toyota.]

Toyota's worldwide recall of two hybrids hits the brands that the company has most wanted to protect: the Prius and the Lexus.

During its January recall for sticky accelerators, Toyota went out of its way to point out that no Lexus was being recalled. That changed with Tuesday's recall of more than 400,000 2010 models Priuses in the United States, Asia, and Europe and all 2010 Lexus HS 250h cars sold in the United States. This one involves braking problems.

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"The past few weeks ... have made clear that Toyota has not lived up to the high standards we set for ourselves," Akio Toyoda, Toyota's CEO, wrote in an op-ed Tuesday in The Washington Post. "More important, we have not lived up to the high standards you have come to expect from us."

Separately, the company announced a recall involving a power-steering pressure hose affecting some 7,300 2010 four-cylinder Camrys.

So what should owners of Priuses and Lexus hybrids do?

The problem involves the cars' antilock brakes, which can feel like they're not working momentarily on rough or slick roads. Toyota says it's a software glitch. In earlier Priuses, the delay for the brakes was 0.4 seconds. In the 2010 model, the delay is 0.46 seconds. The software fix will return the new Priuses to the 0.4-second standard.

If you experience the situation, keep pressing the brake pedal hard, Toyota says. That will engage the brakes. "The vehicles are safe to drive because pressing hard on the brake pedal will stop the vehicle," the company says in its online Q & A.

Toyota says it began fixing the software last month on new 2010 Priuses on the assembly lines. US dealers began downloading the software fix last night and this morning began repairing customers' Priuses. The 14,500 recalled Lexus hybrids have similar antilock brakes and a similar software fix is being finalized.

Given the 8 million cars that Toyota has already recalled in the US, getting a dealer to fix the hybrid braking problem right away might prove difficult. The company says it will begin mailing letters to owners of recalled 2010 Priuses next week and owners of recalled Lexuses in the next few weeks to let them know when to bring their cars in to a dealer.

But if you feel in danger, you can call the dealer right away. "They can come in today and we'll start to repair that vehicle," says Brian Lyons, a Toyota spokesman. "On a case by case basis, we might put them in a rental car and they can pick up the car the next day."

The software fix should take about 30 minutes, the company says. It is free of charge.

For more information, Prius owners can call Toyota at 800-331-4331 or visit its website at www.toyota.com/recall. Lexus customers can call 800-255-3987 or visit www.lexus.com on the Web.

For the 2010 Camry problem, owners will be notified by mail in mid-February, the company says.

A recall of Toyota's flagship car, the Prius, comes as the latest and perhaps most harmful installment of a rocky, three-pronged recall for the Japanese automaker.
Do you drive a Prius or another Toyota? How do you think the company has handled the recall? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter.

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