By on July 13, 2012

Here we go again…Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is asking NHTSA to re-open the investigation into the Toyota unintended acceleration case.

Grassley claims he was approached by unnamed whistle blowers who were unsatisfied with the scope of the investigation. According to CNN

” the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee asked the NHTSA in a letter to look into the phenomenon of “tin whiskers” — or crystalline structures of tin — that theoretically could lead to the unintended acceleration.

The whistle-blowers also provided Grassley with documentation about the investigations by NHTSA and NASA into the Toyota vehicles, including one NASA report that stated: “Because proof that the (electronic throttle-control systems) caused the reported (unintended accelerations) was not found does not mean it could not occur.”

Tin whiskers are able to cause shorts in electrical systems, and have been known to disrupt devices like pacemakers. Pure tin solder is often a culprit for it; lead was previously added to solder to help eliminate the issue, but with jurisdictions banning the use of lead, the problem has re-occurred in certain products.

Toyota spokesman Brian Lyons told CNN that the tin whiskers problem was a non-issue, stating that

“…no one has ever found a single real-world example of tin whiskers causing an unintended acceleration event, nor have they put forth any evidence of unintended acceleration occurring in a Toyota vehicle because of tin whiskers forming inside an accelerator pedal position sensor.”

Clearly, being exonerated by NASA isn’t enough, if a scandal can be exploited in an election year.

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46 Comments on “Senator Chuck Grassley Wants NHTSA To Re-Open Toyota Sudden Acceleration Case...”

  • avatar

    Pop some popcorn and opens a beer.

    This should be GOOD.

    3, 2, 1…

  • avatar

    Do tin whiskers also make old people “accelerate unintentionally” more often?

    Grassley is either a hack or conveniently gullible or both.

    • 0 avatar

      Being from his home state I can tell you that without a doubt he is both. He is the walking embodiment of a case for term limits.

      • 0 avatar

        Agreed. I’m very glad I’m no longer represented by him (moved to Illinois). Crap like this and “death panels” falsehoods that he primarily perpetuated caused me to lose what little respect I had for him.

      • 0 avatar

        The death panels were included in Obummer’s healthcare bill…er TAX. Remember, we couldn’t see what was in the bill until it was passed. But maybe congress will do what the “supreme” court wouldn’t do and throw it out with the rest of the trash.
        Living in Illinois- where all politics is clean ? LOL

      • 0 avatar

      • 0 avatar

        you really lack imagination if you think the “death panels” are literal panels of bureaucrats that decide to grant or deny treatment on an individual basis. The “death panel” fear is that there will be a formula that decides when a procedure is too expensive based on cost vs expected years of life remaining (I suppose those who will set these formulas could be called a death panel, if you insist those who use the term are being literal). Once the government sets something like this in place, then where do you go? People from other countries come here now when they can’t get treatment where they are from. If they create that system here, then where do *we* go to get denied treatments? And don’t forget, perhaps the most insidious part of the law is that no one knows what is in it, still, because what will be in it is at the whim of bureaucrats who will make it up as they go along. Was “free contraception” anywhere in the bill? It was created, I would say for political and/or ideological reasons, by the bureaucracy that was created by the healthcare law. That is why the law needs to be repealed and replaced.

  • avatar

    Tin whiskers wouldn’t be likely inside a throttle sensor, but they could occur inside a control computer.

    Being ‘unsatisfied’ with a result doesn’t mean the process was flawed – just ask the voters in Wisconsin’s recall election.

    The high correlation of UA with elderly drivers is more compelling than tin whiskers.

  • avatar

    So much for the resident Toyota troll and his Obama/government anti-Toyota conspiracy theory.

  • avatar

    Wait…he’s not up for re-election?!

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Yeah, why don’t they put the whole NASA personnel to work on this, they sure don’t have much else to do.

  • avatar

    Too much behind the scene shenanigans by Toyota to let this one die, election year or not.

    • 0 avatar

      Shenanigans still doesn’t mean there is a design flaw.

      Lawyers don’t have to be present to let engineers do their jobs, and I’ll guess the engineers perused the data before the plaintiff was a plaintiff.

  • avatar

    As much as I love to watch Toyota squirm and take its true seat at the helm of real world scrutiny (instead of the free ride it got in the past from CR and their band of happy dimwits), in my opinion 99% of these cases are bogus. Oh, sure, the person may THINK and remember that they were standing on the brakes with both feet, but the reality is that in a bizarre twist of panic, they were not.
    Once upon a time, when I was about 20 and drove a Vandura for a living at a Toronto auto parts company, I made the van climb a curb and shoot across a sidewalk before it finally came to a stop. Fortunately, nobody was hurt, nothing was hit, and I was embarrassed as hell.
    The way I remembered the event, and still do today, is that I had reached for the brake at a red light. Looking back, I figure I probably stepped on both with my big clods and as the vehicle accelerated, I was so startled that it took me precious nanoseconds to slip the foot the extra cm to be fully on the brake.
    Just my two cents, but ‘accidents’ happen so quickly and our brain is often so shocked at what is unfolding that it either feels like an out of body experience or like a movie.
    Good cops know how to question an accident scene in such a way as to decipher what the witness actually saw.
    Just in the same way that that the type of loyal owners who have stuck with Buick over the years have vaunted that brand to epic status, even though they are really tarted up Chevrolets, the buyers who are ‘attracted’ to Toyotas (if you can call it that) are (for the most part) not exactly the enthusiast, outside the box thinker types. This is not to poke fun at geriatrics, for Gawd knows I will be amongst them soon enough, but rather the type of buyer who buys a Toyota.
    Richard Petty or Dale Earnhardt they are not.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, because buyers of American cars bleed motor oil and are so car savvy they could build the car themselves in their own backyard. The only thing that deserves to squirm are the failures from Detroit that my tax dollars bailed out.

      • 0 avatar

        YOUR tax dollars? If Americans were taxed like the rest of the world, they wouldn’t the world’s largest debtor nation.
        If they stopped exporting jobs and importing EVERYTHING, the economy might not be such a massive sphincter.
        You should read The Rise and Fall of the Great World Powers. Balance is everything. Government, the economy, the military – there has to be equilibrium.
        Maybe GM did deserve to die, just as maybe the West deserves to fade away, but not because the banks went insolvent from their own greed. GM had $23 Billion in cash reserves going into 2008, but needed more to weather the storm everyone knew was coming. Do you even know what bailouts Japan Inc got?
        I truly don’t get Americans that have such a hate-on for unions and government intervention that they’d rather see the backbone of the industrial heartland of the country snapped in two, then see the patents, intellectual property and value added jobs stay here. Lunacy. And that is why we’re going down without a shot.
        If Japan Inc hadn’t received billions in handouts from the Japanese government, Japanese banks (0% financing on their overseas conquests) and the Japanese consumer (you can buy any type of car in Russia, but still not Japan)

      • 0 avatar
        Volt 230

        I have yet to meet a Toyota or Honda customer who blindly followed CR articles and recommendations, if this were the case , the new Civic and Jetta would be selling less than samples than they are at this time.

    • 0 avatar

      I fully agree in the psychology that goes into an accident. It is very easy to misremember events without intentionally lying about what happened.

      The attempt to characterize buyers of a brand as large as Toyota is silly. I’ve seen people of every age and demographic wearing everything from work boots to nurse shoes to flip flops to high heels drive everything from F-350s to Miatas. Toyota’s unintended acceleration was in the statistical noise, and I thought even lower than many vehicles that weren’t under investigation.

  • avatar

    Because Congress has already addressed the more pressing matters facing this nation.

    • 0 avatar

      The Senate hasn’t voted on a budget (Up or Down) in 3 years, they’ve got to keep busy.

      Kidding aside, they all don’t focus on one thing at one time. There are 21 House Committees. Don’t know how many subcommitttes.

      The Senate has 20 committees, 68 subcommittees.

      There are 4 joint committees.

      These people have been assigned a corner somewhere to do something and that’s what they are going to do, even if it goes nowhere.

      • 0 avatar

        “The Senate has 20 committees, 68 subcommittees.”

        Grassley is on the Agricultural, Finance, Budget and Judiciary committees.

        There is a committee that includes transportation, but he isn’t a member of that committee.

        There is also an automotive caucus (which has an agenda of protecting domestic automakers), but he’s not a member of that, either.

        I’m trying to figure out what would motivate him to take this up as a cause, but I’m not seeing it.

    • 0 avatar

      ClutchCarGo, +1

    • 0 avatar


  • avatar

    The logic that there is no evidence and therefore there must be something, is the same logic that UFO, paranormal, Bigfoot etc investigators use. Just saying

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Yah, driving an Astro. I had a few un-intended acceleration events. My feets are triple E. The TC is wimpier and better braked, so it gives me more time to figure out what is happening. D)

  • avatar

    The fact that elected officials know diddly-squat about cars or anything else remotely complicated under their purview does not restrain their urges to ‘do something’ to help their constituants or an interested party. Ten to one that this ‘unintended acceleration’ was caused by a driver applying their foot to the wrong pedal, just like 9,999 times out of 10.000. Or more.
    I have a suggestion for congress- cut out the massive deficit spending before the dollar crashes.

  • avatar

    Grassley of all people is bringing this up again? The guy was first elected to the Senate in 1980; he must be as old as Methuselah by now!

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    WHo is paying off the corrupt toad?

    The number of critters in either the house or senate that could pass a science 101 class could be counted on two hands.

    Shove it up your technically illiterate smelly Obama, senator.

    Stick with something you and your fellow critters understand…corruption and stupidity.

  • avatar

    Why Does ANYONE still believe this dung? Go out to your car. Turn the interior lights on. Put Your left foot on the brake, STAND ON IT. Start the car. Put it in Drive if you have an auto, and if you don’t just take it out of gear. FLOOR THE GAS!, WHILE STANDING ON THE BRAKES!

    If you have a manual, you have failed the intelligence test for a driver’s license. Send it back in to your state police. Assuming you are intelligent enough to properly perform this intellectual exercise, you will now know that the motor is weaker than the brakes.

    The Car does not MOVE. Fine. If it does move, do some maintenance on your brakes. END of Problem for responsible car owners /makers/ Congress critters. If your Congress Critter FAILS this test, keep him/her home. End of problem. (Again!)

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    The Audi 5000 incidents of unintended accelation were shown to be nothing more than the driver pressing on the accelrator pedal when she thought that she was pressing on the brake pedal.
    This preceded the advent of low lead solder and the resulting, well documented tine wiskers.
    I would not be too quick to exonerate Toyota cars unitended accelrations being cuased by said tin wiskers even though the feds have concluede that the programming was not the causeof the unintended accerltion.

    • 0 avatar

      After Audi put in a bigger brake pedal their unintended accelertion problems went away.

      • 0 avatar

        Here is my analysis of the Audi unintended acceleration issue.

        I have owned 4 Audi 5000. 2 were automatics. The problem of course were only in the automatic cars.

        I think I understand why this unintentional acceleration issue got started.

        Sometimes the idle will hunt for 3-6 seconds when you start an Audi 5000 with your foot off the gas. (both automatics and stickshifts) This can occur after the car has been sitting more than 4 hours and the ambient air temperature is above 75 degrees. It is usually during your first start-up in the morning or after the car sat all day after you were at your destination.

        So it goes something like this…
        1. crank engine
        2. engine starts at around 700 rpm’s for 2 seconds while running a little on the rough side.
        3. Engine suddenly revs to 1200 to 1500 rpm’s.
        4. Engine drops back to 700 rpm’s
        5. Engine immediately surges back to 1000 to 1200 rpm’s
        6. Engine smooths out at a steady 800 rpm’s

        They say this happens because the computer is figuring everything out. Slow oxygen sensor feedback, idle speed compensator valve, and other factors. All four of my Audi 5000’s have done this at one time or another.

        So you could see what would happen if someone dropped the car in gear immediately after starting the car. It would give the impression that it was going to surge ahead.
        Then the owner would have a panic reaction and improperly apply the gas for the brake.

        The brake would have held the surge no problem. During colder temperatures the engine typically starts at 1000-1200 rpms and does not surge at start up. So the owner has no problem with any panic reaction. Clunk, in gear, and steady.

      • 0 avatar

        Fredtal, you might onto something with high idle cold start. Especially since many of the incidents involve parking garages and store fronts.

        My late 90’s Camry rental had crazy aggressive accelerator pedal tip-in. Then it would fall flat like a 100 HP 4-cylinder back then. I figured it was torque converter or timing programming to make the car feel fast and most Camry owners wouldn’t venture beyond a certain throttle position so it felt fast.

        If it was timing based on rpms a high idle could be almost quick enough to lurch the car if the brakes were not firmly applied. Or worse the steering was turned full lock and parked and it took off when taken out od park with cold idle. Something I can see the non-car type demographic doing.

        Sometimes manufacturers change computer operating parameter to hide noises. The Toyota engineers probably already made changes and publicly bland floor matts, CTS made pedals, and operator errors.

        The cash will fly until the legal cases are done with the public not knowing the root cause.

      • 0 avatar

        I also think it was something to do with the way most Americans tend to not use the “emergency/ parking” brake on cars with automatic transmissions.

        They put in P and they are done!

        I don’t think the Germans who tended to purchase manual transmission vehicles understood that.

  • avatar

    The biggest unreported scandal of our time is how so many Toyota vehicles were manufactured and delivered without shifters, brake pedals, or ignition switches.

  • avatar


  • avatar

    Legit issue or not, if this whole thing can rid the world of electronic throttles then it would be a victory in my book.

    No real reason whatsoever for them to exist on an automobile.

  • avatar

    I wonder what the motivation is here. Grassley is a Republican so I doubt he is doing the UAW’s bidding on this one. This is beating a dead horse. Maybe I’ll call my senator and tell him that I’m not satisfied with the investigation into the exploding Chevy trucks. So what they had to use C4 on em…I’m still not sure they are safe.

  • avatar

    Perhaps the sudden acceleration problem Grassley wants to reopen is the sudden accelaration of Toyota and Honda sales.

  • avatar
    Robert Fahey

    He must have missed the Toyota hearings, when the “whistleblowers” turned out to be paid stooges for trial attorneys. Surely the same “whistleblowers” are still seeking a receptive ear somewhere, ANYWHERE at this point. Even a comatose senator is good enough.

  • avatar
    Mike Kelley

    Yeah, semaj82, you really moved up in the world going to Illinois. There a Senate seat was put up for bid by the now incarcerated Governor, the largest city is synonymous with corruption, and Senator Durbin compared US soldiers to “Nazis”:

    Illinois is also the only state in worse shape financially than California. Sounds like paradise.

  • avatar

    “The government concluded in February of 2011 that driver error, sticky gas pedals and floor mats trapping accelerators caused the problems.”

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