As early as next week, Toyota may begin fixing the sticky acceleration problem that has caused it to recall 2.3 million vehicles last month, the company announced Monday.
Toyota called it an "effective and simple" solution to pedal wear that, in rare instances, has caused vehicles to accelerate suddenly. But with so many cars involved (and an even larger group of cars with a related floor-mat problem) even a simple fix will take weeks or even months to complete.
What should Toyota owners do? Here are five steps you can take now:
1. Determine if your model is on either recall. Here's a list (click on the chart above for more details):
Models with an asterisk aren't included in the pedal recall if their vehicle identification number (VIN) starts with a J. You can find the 17-character VIN through the window on the driver's side dashboard, on the driver's side pillar by the tire-inflation sticker, or on the vehicle’s registration. (Click here for Toyota's Q&A about the fix.)
2. If you have a vehicle with a floor-mat problem, call your dealer. He or she can reshape the pedal and, if you like, replace it with a new pedal when parts become available. Also, Toyota will replace any Toyota all-weather mat with a free newly designed mat. If you don't want the new mat, the dealer will take back the current mat and reimburse you for its price.
3. If your model is involved in the sticky accelerator recall, it will probably take some time to get it fixed. Letters are going out this week and repairs conceivably could begin next week, says John Hanson, Toyota spokesman. But if you currently have a problem with a sticky accelerator – or even if you're simply worried you might have a problem – call the dealer now and ask about scheduling a fix. (Click here for a description of the problem.) The repair, which involves installing a steel reinforcement bar behind the accelerator mechanism, will take about 30 minutes and will be free of charge, the company says.
4. If you're on the pedal recall list and don't notice any accelerator problem, relax and wait for the company to send out letters about when to set up a dealer appointment, Mr. Hanson says. "What we are saying is [absent a noticeable change in your accelerator] you will not have a problem. You will be driving a safe car." Toyota dealers will be extending their service hours and, in some cases, operating 24 hours to take care of the problem.
5. If you bought a car between Jan. 21, when Toyota announced the recall, and Jan. 26, when it suspended sales of the recalled models, there's a possibility you can return your car for a refund. Some buyers have tried to do that on their own. "It's on a case-by-case basis. There's no official policy with this," Hanson says. But "there have been examples where a buyback occurs." To initiate the process, contact your dealer, he adds.