In a precautionary action, Toyota issued a new recall on select Lexus models after discovering more information about fuel leaks in those vehicles. According to its required report submitted to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Toyota noted it had been monitoring the problem since 2010 but only now discovered the source of the problem.
Before the recall, the automaker was aware of six field reports and 238 warranty claims regarding fuel leaks. The problem was not considered widespread and issues were managed on warranty claims as they emerged. All claims were fixed without incident and for no charge.
But once engineers determined the cause and source of the leaks, there was concern that this problem could be widespread. As a response to this concern, the company’s leadership made the decision to start a new recall in October.
The recall will affect at least 422,000 of the luxury cars and is limited to older models. Currently, the recall includes the 2006 to 2011 GS and IS models and the 2007 to 2010 LS trim. The fuel lines of these vehicles contain nickel phosphate plating that was designed to minimize corrosion. However, the material often flakes off particles that come into contact with the gasket, compromising its sealing.
As the sealing disintegrates, the fuel will leak and cause the odor previously reported by Lexus drivers. The company traced these leaks to where the fuel pressure sensor is attached to the fuel delivery pipe. However, because of the trace elements from corrosion, there is a risk of the car creating sparks that can start a fire and risk accidents, injuries, and death.
In its NHTSA report, Toyota explained that it started looking deeper into the problem when customer reports of smelling gasoline started to increase. These testimonials consistently indicated that the odor appeared to come from the engine compartment. After four years of examination, engineers discovered the fuel piping and gasket link to these fuel leaks.
It also explained that Toyota is not aware of any injuries or deaths arising from this defect. The plan is to start mailing recall notices next month and provide the new parts to authorized dealerships. Consumers will be able to get the repairs completed for no charge. Planned repairs associated with this recall include replacing the gasket, resealing it, and installing a new fuel pressure sensor.
Fuel leaks are also not unique to Toyota and this is the second time the issue arose. In 2011, Toyota announced a recall of 2009 Lexus models when the aluminum fuel piping also started leaking. At that time, Toyota received harsh criticism for taking too much time examining the cause and alerting the public. Toyota started investigating the causes of those leaks after hearing reports in March 2009. There is no indication on whether Toyota’s response is considered timely in this current round of recalls.
Toyota is one of many brands facing multiple recalls this year. In 2014, the company issued recalls affecting 1.7 million vehicles worldwide, mostly models not sold in the U.S. Anyone who is concerned about the recall and its effects is instructed to contact their nearby dealership.
By Jocelyn Mackie
Photo Courtesy of Lexus, A Division of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.