If the brake light on your Toyota just illuminated, it may be because you're part of a recall.
Toyota on Wednesday announced it was recalling some 740,000 vehicles because of a potential brake-fluid leak. The recall involves Avalons (model years 2005-06), and nonbybrid Highlanders and RX330 Lexuses (2004-06), and GS300, IS250, and IS350 Lexuses (2006).
There are no reports of accidents or injuries as a result of the leaks in the United States or in Japan (where reports first surfaced). Nevertheless, the company will be mailing out letters to owners early next month.
If your car is on the list and have any concerns, you can call Toyota (800-331-4331) or Lexus (800-255-3987) or visit their websites (www.toyota.com/recall and www.lexus.com/recall). The company has also listed answers to common questions here.
The first sign that something is wrong will be an illuminated brake warning light. It's a possible sign that an internal rubber seal, called the brake master cylinder cup, is leaking.
Toyota found that a part of the seal could dry out and curl if owners maintained the car with low- or no-polymer brake fluid.
The leak is slow. If a driver ignored the warning light and continued to drive, he would have to brake an additional 1,800 times before the brakes would start to feel soft and spongy, says Toyota spokesman Brian Lyons. Even then "you will always have the ability to stop the vehicle."
Still, Toyota urges owners to contact their dealer as soon as the brake warning light comes on. The fix will take about two hours.
Although the recall will cost Toyota an estimated $125 million, the cost to the owner is free. Owners who paid to have the problem fixed before the recall was announced can apply to Toyota for a refund.