By on February 3, 2010

And the hits, they keep on coming. Now, brakes of the Prius flake out.

Japan’s transport ministry has received 14 complaints about problems with brakes on Toyota’s latest. The ministry has asked Toyota to investigate the complaints, says the Nikkei [sub.] “Those are purely reported cases, so we still need to investigate to find out where problems really exist,” said a ministry spokesman, who said that the number of complaint over such a short time-span “more than usual.” There is more in the U.S.A.

As of Tuesday evening, the NHTSA had received 102 complaints about the brakes of the new Prius hybrid, says the Nikkei [sub.] The complaints center around the brakes cutting out for about one second when driving on slippery roads. Toyota is “looking into the technical aspects,” said a spokesperson.

In the pedal-gate dept., Toyota will recall a combined 180,000 vehicles in the Middle East, Latin America and Africa due to faulty gas pedals, says the Nikkei [sub]. According to a Toyota spokesperson, the total number of vehicles to be recalled in all regions stands at 4.45m vehicles. That’s not including the ones that were carpet-bagged.

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47 Comments on “Prius Brakes Fail In Japan and U.S.A....”


  • avatar
    shaker

    The Prius is the ultimate example of “drive by wire” linked to all systems (except the steering). I’ve seen scuttlebutt on the web about the traction control in slippery conditions completely overriding the driver’s inputs in reverse, and sometimes forward gears, essentially stopping the car no matter how much the “accelerator” was pressed. Two sides of the same coin? Throw in the regen braking, and you open another can o’ worms.

    • 0 avatar
      UnclePete

      I owned a 2007 Prius and had issues with the traction control in winter. I live in northern New England, so we do get some nasty winters here. There were a few times when I went to pull out from a side street and had the traction control stop the car in its tracks with the yellow traction light blinking on the dash. Putting snow tires on the car helped quite a bit but you could still get it into that mode occasionally.

      My way of getting around it was to pump the gas – completely release then nail the gas pedal. This fooled the TC a little bit and would inch the car along. Only completely releasing the gas pedal after getting through the slippery area would get the car back to normal. It’s one of the few times I’ve ever thought that I was not in complete control of driving a car. There’s no TC override either.

      I’ve since sold the Prius, primarily because we did not enjoy using it on long drives. That said, I’d never have let my new-driver teenagers use the car in winter by themselves because I think its TC could cause an accident, rather than prevent one in some cases.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      Yikes, a traction control system which can bring the car to an all-stop mode is a very bad thing.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I’ve seen the “oversealous traction control” in the Kia Rondo as well: it pretty much kills power when you step on the gas and the wheels spin. It’s unnerving, but it’s also doing it’s job.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Even steering is affected on the latest one, with lane keep assist. Unless you’re as weak and frail as the stereotypical Prius driver :), I believe you can override it by brute force no matter how screwed up the electronics get.

    • 0 avatar

      Uncle Peet:

      I suggest you consult the owner’s manual on how to use traction control when it’s really slippery … it says turn it off to prevent wheel lock up. My VW owner’s manual includes that little bit of advice. I suspect that the Prius owner’s manual say that too.

    • 0 avatar
      UnclePete

      Angela von Arlington: As it said in my response, there was no traction control override button on a 2007 Prius. I know there are on other cars – for example, my fiancee’s 2002 Oldsmobile Alero has an override button. The fact that the Prius does not have one is an issue in my mind.

    • 0 avatar

      Uncle Pete:

      So you did say the Prius lacks the override. Me bad/Toyota worse with its engineering.

  • avatar
    ghillie

    Overly aggressive traction control is one of the few complaints I have about my ’04 Prius. Accelerating hard from a standstill with the wheel turned leaves you feeling momentarily “stranded” and exposed to the oncoming traffic. I have learnt to allow for it. Then again I had a similar problem with my ’81 911SC – no traction control just wheelspin when accelerating hard into traffic with the wheel turned. Solved that with an LSD – an option not available on a Prius unfortunately.

    I don’t live in an area with ice or snow in which case I expect that the problem would be more pronounced.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      “Accelerating hard from a standstill with the wheel turned leaves you feeling momentarily “stranded” and exposed to the oncoming traffic. I have learnt to allow for it.”

      My ’04 Smart Fortwo Brabus does the same thing … the only parking lot entry/exit lane at my office connects to a 50 mph road that carries much surface traffic that connects the expressways of two adjoining nations; in edition, due to visibility limited by a guardrail on the left and a stand of conifers on the right, there is a stop sign just before a bike path (which runs parallel to the 50 mph road) and a slight upward wngle on the exit side it has a slight upward angle; all in all a nice combination of factors…

      To exit the parking lot, one must start w/the st. wheel in the straight-ahead position and then add a large angle (high wheel angles freak out the ESC/ESP)…

      In this state, if one mashes the accelerator (ePedal) the car is slow to a) increase rpm, and b) engage the automated clutch … only after a) tire rotation crosses some minimum threshold and b) st. wheel angle is reduced does the clutch engage and rpm increase (sometimes this burst is so sudden that I can see for some, it would be surprising and possibly accident inducing.)

      I learned never to try using “all” 75 bhp for a sporting exit there, and to use patience, else the due care efforts of the TC would create an accident.

    • 0 avatar
      dkulmacz

      R.W,

      I’m afraid your admission of driving a Smart car may knock a few points off of your expert status around here . . .

    • 0 avatar
      FleetofWheel

      The designers of oddball cars such as the Smart and Prius have to know that stories about not being able to adequately accelerate will play into existing consumer presumptions that they are dangerous little death traps.

      Even if the instances of over-zealous traction control issues are rare, the public perception will magnify it.

  • avatar
    windswords

    Bertel,

    Do the recalled units in the Middle East, Latin America, Africa, etc. all use the CTS pedal?

    • 0 avatar
      Stingray

      Local news report that the local Toyota branch may recall 308 Tundras.

      Last week they stated they weren’t going to recall ANY car here.

      Supposedly, they’re awaiting information.

      Since the king is already naked, I expect to read about more Toyota defects, as people start making them public. This people is screwed. Say good bye to Toyota’s quality image.

    • 0 avatar
      windswords

      Anybody? Bueller?

  • avatar
    Stingray

    So the fad-mobile has problems. Too.

    The “perfect brand” as I read in another article (JB) got its first dent.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    Hi Bertel, Any word on if these regions will get a) the Denso pedal, b) the Euro CTS pedal, c) new CTS pedal (B & C possibly being the same thing), or d) precision-bar-shafted in Toyota’s Flim-Flam-Shim-Sham*?

    *(c)2010, Robert Walter!
    (limited release for use here on TTAC)

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Of Mismanaged-Motor-Mounts, Flim-Flam-Shim-Shams and Slap-Dash-Tie-Wraps and Destroyed Reputations: How Toyota is Behaving Like GM Did.

      In a separate post on TTAC yesterday, I looked at Organizational Similarities between GM then and Toyota now, as well as Societical Changes between then and now. This compared GM’s actions in its 1971 motor mount recall with the current Toyota Mat-Gate* and Pedal-Gate* debacles … unfortunately, it was late, and after writing the preamble, I was tired and forgot to make a key point…

      In 1971, GM tried to claim that motor mounts are service items, but finally did the legally minimally required thing, but not the minimally-required customer-oriented thing by replacing failed mounts with a cable tie down.

      Today, Toyota seems to be exhibiting a GM-like trajectory in its response to the CTS pedal issue: denial, customer blame, grudging mat recall (2007 and 2009), laggard pedal recall.

      And, in its behaviour and response, like GM decades before it, Toyota has done only the legally minimally required thing by offering-up Slap-Dash-Tie-Wrap* and Flim-Flam-Shim-Sham* fixes for the mats and the pedal recalls respectively.

      Perhaps it is among the hundreds of Pedal-Gate postings here on TTAC, but I must have missed it … did it occur to anyone that the Slap-Dash-Tie-Wrapped mat and the Flim-Flam-Shim-Shammed CTS pedal may just be a minimum-requirement measures to allow Toyota to continue and resume production and sales? And, more cynically, a possible test-balloon for a minimum-effort/minimum-cost repair regime, which will prevail until being shot down by customer-complaints on the micro-side, or NHTSA action on the macro-side? (both likely after Toyota’s reputation has begun to suffer?)

      *(c)2010, Robert Walter
      (limited release for use on TTAC)

    • 0 avatar
      Stingray

      Link to the aforementioned preamble… please.

      Thanks.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      And, in its behaviour and response, like GM decades before it, Toyota has done only the legally minimally required thing…

      One very big difference is that, unlike GM product at the time, Toyota’s stuff is actually statistically reliable.

    • 0 avatar
      Gary Cee

      The sins of others don’t make us saints.This is a Toyota today problem.Not a GM of 1970 problem. Toyota’s numerous problems till now,have been soft pedaled by the media, page 10 news if that. Toyota has never had to deal with agenda driven NBC “news” tactics of bottle rocket induced phoney fires etc. Very little has been made of the Toyota door lock solenoid freeze-ups ,occupants trapped in locked Siennas, right along with the steering gears departing frames on trucks and SUVs from that maker. Maybe this whole matter will bring the light to some of the many other issues Toyota has been able to slip aside till now. Toyota now trying to push this off on CTS is a lameness that pre-dates the 1970s…Back to the future ?

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Old fashioned drive by cable and manually pumping the brakes to stop on slippery roads looks better all the time.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Right up until ice sticks the throttle cable or you lock your wheels despite pumping.

      How many people got into fender-benders (or worse) before ABS and ESC? Recall that both the IIHS and NHTSA have noted fewer accidents, both minor and severe, as a result of both systems. Advocating otherwise is Luddism.

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      Come drive in Edmonton and manually pump your brakes through a winter. ABS is a f*****g gift from the gods here. Traction control – not so much.

    • 0 avatar
      FleetofWheel

      Manufacturers should keep testing and proofing an existing generation of technology before introducing the next level.

      I’d rather have a car with a very well proven drive-by-wire gas pedal rather than the latest version which has some minor new features but has not had long-term real world use.

      Sure, at some point they have to introduce the next new level of tech, but that can be on higher end models and by running longer term fleet studies.

  • avatar

    Re Denso or CTS or shim: No info available at the moment. This was fresh off the Nikkei.

  • avatar
    MBella

    “The complaints center around the brakes cutting out for about one second when driving on slippery roads.”

    This is basically saying that the car has ABS. Toyota is now getting hounded by problems that don’t even exist.

    On a different note, values of used Toyotas should start dropping. I can’t think of a better time to buy. You will never get a speeding ticket again. Just blame the car.

  • avatar
    Telegraph Road

    Looking at many of the complaints at
    http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/complaints/index.cfm
    about the 2010 Prius brakes, it seems there is a common theme of momentary (e.g. one second) brake failure while braking over bumpy roads accompanied by the vehicle lunging forward with a brief surge of acceleration. The road bumps appear to trigger the event.

    An interesting question is whether the sensation of surging acceleration is merely the jerk (e.g. -da/dt) from the loss of braking deceleraton, or whether the engine is reving higher momentarily. I suspect the former.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      It could be the latter.

      Remember that the Prius’ powertrain isn’t quite directly-connected to the wheels. You could be feeling the engine turn on in anticipation of needing full power, or it could be the the regen-braking activating and deactivating, rather than actual brake-force.

      People tend to think noise and fury are indicative of speed. If you have a stick-shift car you can test this with your passenger: drive in a lower gear than normal and watch them get nervous, despite no net change in speed. In a Prius or CVT-equipped car I imagine that subjective impressions get confused fairly often.

    • 0 avatar
      Aqua225

      I vote surge in power, and software at issue again.

      Here is my theory:

      Induction motors like the Prius require power to brake, as wierd as that may seem. You reduce the frequency and drive voltage to the motor so that the resulting output RPMs would be lower than the actual speed the motor is turning (being turned by the car’s momentum). This changes the motor into a 3-phase generator. It’s known as dynamic braking. The extra power is put back on the DC bus, and charges the batteries. Unfortunately, there is a optimum lower frequency. Too low a frequency, and the power dissipates as heat in the rotor and stator. Because of this, the motor speed must be continually monitored and the frequency reduced to keep the motor in the efficient regenerative braking region of operation.

      If the momentum of the car was suddenly cut off from the motor (wheels lose contact), the motor would quite rapidly “brake” down to the RPM provided by the drive frequency, and the motor would switch from providing braking torque back to providing drive torque.

      It’s simple 3-phase induction motor control theory.

      The bug or design flaw could lie at the point where the VFD for the traction motor monitors the speed of the motor and adjusts the frequency driven to the motor (to keep it in braking). Ie., the speed monitoring system is not fast enough to compensate for sudden reductions in speed caused by the wheels losing contact with the pavement.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      The Prius has soft enough suspension to pitch a good bit under even moderate braking. Over bumpy roads, ABS will kick in, hence reducing deceleration, and reduce forward pitch. I bet some mistake this for acceleration.

      It used to be a very prominent effect on early ABS motorbikes, where the high center of gravity cause much larger weight transfer during braking. Hit a bump large enough to unweight the front wheel a bit while hard on the brakes, and ABS cutting the brakes made it feel like the bike was taking off, about to wheelie, while in reality it was just getting back to its neutral, non decellerating stance for a moment.

    • 0 avatar
      Csnyder

      The brake issue —
      ABS has it’s advantages – but in many situations it is far less than optimal. In sloppy conditions, particularly with wide low profile performance tires, the tires ride up on a cushion of “slop” and all 4 wheels slide. What does ABS do? It shuts off ALL braking untill one or more wheels start turning again. This CAN lead to what is essentually “total brake failure” for a short time.

      Now, add dynamic braking and AC motor controls to the mix. It is not a case of the system not being able to react quickly enough as suggested in a previous post – but a lack of hysteresis – in other words it reacts TOO quickly. The programming needs to allow for wheel lockup during dynamic/regenerative braking without causing the motor to revert to the “drive” mode.

      Ford has had (what appears to be) the same issue on their Hybrids and they are reflashing the controller to prevent (hopefully) the problem.

      ABS – “all it does is make sure that when you hit something, you hit it square”.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    Very interesting news about the Prius. Now all those jokes about Prius acceleration don’t seem to bad.

  • avatar
    YotaCarFan

    I experienced the same issue with a 2002 Camry I used to have. If I hit a pothole or slick area while braking, the ABS would kick in with a pulsating growl reducing braking force and allowing a slight speedup. My 2005 Prius did the same thing. I considered this an annoyance and learned to deal with it. Releasing the brake pedal momentarily stopped the ABS intervention. The newer Toyotas I’ve driven (eg 07 Camry) had more intelligent ABS firmware and didn’t suffer this problem.

    This is a case where “operating normally” causes problems. The ABS is supposed to kick in when a wheel locks up, evidenced by it not turning. When a car hit a pothole of sufficient size, especially one with debris in it, the impacted wheel will stop momentarily. I think that we should expect for drivers to have some knowledge of how to use ABS.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I think that we should expect for drivers to have some knowledge of how to use ABS.

      When my mother-in-law drove her new ABS-equipped car in the snow, she absolutely freaked when the pedal started “pinging” during a skid.

      So much so that she let off the pedal and drove (slowly) right into a pole.

      She did complain that there was something wrong with the brakes, only to have the dealer explain that, truly, they all do that and it’s how the car tells you the ABS is working. He even pointed it out in manual. She still maintained that it was a problem, and how could normal people be expected to deal with that situation appropriately?

      This is the same woman who has rear-ended four people in her driving career. She’s absolutely terrifying to drive with because she’s in a continual state of both panic and ignorance; changing lanes is an interesting exercise of “change lane without looking, get honked at, seesaw the wheel back through two lanes in the other direction”. She is, of course, always right.

      If Toyota’s troubles are indicative of anything, it’s how, despite the best efforts of engineers, marketers and such, and despite the continued drop in accident rates, people are still people and do boneheaded things behind the wheel. I have all the sympathy in the world for the NHTSA because, quite frankly, there’s probably quite a large number of “sudden acceleration” and “sudden loss of control” perpetrators like my MIL.

  • avatar
    obbop

    “about the 2010 Prius brakes, it seems there is a common theme of momentary (e.g. one second) brake failure while braking over bumpy roads accompanied by the vehicle lunging forward with a brief surge of acceleration. The road bumps appear to trigger the event.”

    2004 Silverado. ABS engaged during slow-speed stops when road was bumpy and at relatively low speeds.

    Most common on the “bump types” at rural and semi-rural well-used by semi-truck roads with asphalt paving and where frequent stops by semis caused the asphalt to to be formed into a “wave” pattern of trough followed by crest.

    I informed dealer of a location three miles away that caused the ABS to apply when it shouldn’t.

    I recorded the mileage when leaving the truck.

    After the expected “Can not replicate the problem” I noted the mileage… not even a 1/2-mile added since leaving the truck.

    Learned to be observant for the wear patterns on asphalt roads at stop signs and stop lights.

    Activation of ABS unexpected at slow speeds right where one needs to stop can be hazardous. First time it happened I advanced into the intersection far enough to have had a wreck if a vehicle was there.

    Never before did I have a vehicle behave in that manner and was unprepared for it.

    Informed NHTSA and corporate GMC but no satisfaction.

    Others left complaints with NHTSA.

    I would still rather own a Toyota than GMC.

    GMC/Chevy too blatantly spat upon my face. Repeatedly.

    • 0 avatar
      Facebook User

      In my experience, most of this “bump-start ABS” action has to do with the lousy tires OEMs put on most new vehicles.

      I’ve dealt with a couple of cars that did this when the garbage OE tires were still installed. Swap OE tires for something better => problem solved.

      Same goes for the traction control issues discussed above. Many people don’t seem to appreciate just how much difference tires can make not only with grip but also with ride smoothness, road noise, etc.

  • avatar
    Odomeater

    “The “perfect brand” as I read in another article (JB) got its first dent.”

    Dent? More like the crusher. Every day there seems to be another recall. This is a catastrophic turn of events for Toyota. I work at a domestic dealership and I never saw so many Toyota potential trade ins in one day. A woman with a 2010 Camtry wanted out because she did not want to drive her grandchildren in the car. 4 Runners, Sequoia, Tundra’s- they all wanted out. Amazing.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    All this during the week that the Prius makes it to the mainstream.

    Yes, a Prius was used to commit a murder on CSI Miami earlier this week.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Sounds like Toyota bought there brakes from CTS too. With Toyota quality design specs of course!

  • avatar
    Ernie

    Any chance these are failing from NON_USE? It’s crazy watching these people at rush hour trying to avoid using their brakes . . . but hey, they’re approaching 50mpg! (to quote a co-worker)

  • avatar
    MarcKyle64

    I like the traction control overide on my 2010 Hyundai, it’s called a “clutch”. No unintended acceleration problems either!

  • avatar
    blowfish

    As reading from all u folks wrote about these High tech Traction control, its very much a double edged sword which can cut backward too, or being a Victim of your own charm.
    It also sounds like a Pilot friend who told me these F14/16 when launch from a flat deck. The Pilot has no control but sat there look pretty and pray the plane will be faster than the stall speed by a wide margin. That will for sure Air borne.
    And for the first few secs u no need to do anything but to hit the ejection button should the untowards had happened by then some red lights will be flashing. He only had a sec or so to hit the Eject button, or else he could have the Eternal swim.
    I had read quite a bit about the issues of these TC, which rendered u totally stuck when u need the power most.

    A friend almost became a Popsicles too, he got outside of his truck to do something, suddenly unbeknownst to him, the power door lock decided to lock up his truck! If this is in town close to other drivers he’d be OK, but being -40 in the God forsaken place. Luckily the good Lord had sent someone to passed by and drove him to to get help.

    So as Plane who fly by the wire, where a Computer will arbitrarily
    make dogmatic decision on your behalf.

    As one bloke here mentioned that he drove a Electronic Joystick controlled Fork lift. Once I had operated a Bobcat Excavator with Electronic Joystick control, is not as linear as the old fashion that run via the manual hydraulic valves. When the throttle is low the machine is not responsive, when revved the engine, it became kind of twitchy, or felt like u can drank 3 cans of Red Bull. The Bucket just flies around kind of dangerous too.

    “Accelerating hard from a standstill with the wheel turned leaves you feeling momentarily “stranded” and exposed to the oncoming traffic. I have learnt to allow for it.”

    My ‘04 Smart Fortwo Brabus does the same thing … the only parking lot entry/exit lane at my office connects to a 50 mph road that carries much surface traffic that connects the expressways of two adjoining nations; in edition, due to visibility limited by a guardrail on the left and a stand of conifers on the right, there is a stop sign just before a bike path (which runs parallel to the 50 mph road) and a slight upward wngle on the exit side it has a slight upward angle; all in all a nice combination of factors…

  • avatar
    blowfish

    I take our body can detect the change of speed much faster than the computer does!
    Our semi-circular canal, when over stimulated can get very nasty to our brain perception too, worse are the Meniere disease is another topic by itself.

    It used to be a very prominent effect on early ABS motorbikes, where the high center of gravity cause much larger weight transfer during braking. Hit a bump large enough to unweight the front wheel a bit while hard on the brakes, and ABS cutting the brakes made it feel like the bike was taking off, about to wheelie, while in reality it was just getting back to its neutral, non decellerating stance for a moment.

  • avatar
    myGore

    Why have people only just started talking about Toyota glitches?
    Back in the 90s we drove a Carina. After 3 years the cam pulley fell out, and I was told I was lucky to be alive. My colleague had the same thing happen to his Carina a couple of weeks later. They never did a recall, but gave us a lot of hush money in free repairs for two years. But it kept stalling and the automatic choke needed to be repaired 13 times till we got rid of it. Price after 5 years; zero.
    The Ford Taurus we bought after that had no major problems, and we got half our money back 5 years later. We bought another Ford , and have been very happy with it.

  • avatar
    MC-7 Rusty

    Wouldn’t HAVE a “Taurus Turd-Mobile” if you GAVE it to me…a JUNK trans and a heat-intolerant engine that you PRAY does not lose the sorry-@$$ cooling fan from a dead temp sensor, fan control relay or the fan motor crapping out! I’ve fixed a SLEW of them…far too many. I never have liked FWD, anyway. I would opt for that 3.0-liter RWD turbodiesel Toyota HILUX pickup instead! Notice that the HILUX is conspicuously NOT on the “no-no list” of other Toyotas, like the tree-hugger’s Prius is(“Help PRY-US out of it!”), with its looming problematic, complex hybrid technology issues, and the rest of the “problem kids” that are coming out of the woodwork now. The HILUX is ‘high tech’, but not so much so as to have “low-brow” loss of common sense and solid quality. Toyota had better learn HARD and FAST to be much more careful about going so far with increasingly complex ultra-computerization, and bypassing the operator/driver’s control of the vehicle. That will NEVER sell or sit well with the majority of us. Let all the goofy tree huggers live in caves, WALK or ride friggin’ HORSES if they truly want to be so “green”! I’m so tired of having their leftist, control freak agendas and lopsided green ideologies FORCED onto me, and at my ever-increasing expense and loss of liberty and choices, to boot! Enough is ENOUGH! ;)


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