• Tacoma pickups, Camry sedans and Venza crossovers affected
  • Owners to be notified in early April
  • Repairs carried out free of charge

Toyota is back on the recall trail again, notifying 682,538 owners in the United States of potential problems. That breaks down to 495,740 Tacoma pickup trucks between model years 2005 to 2009, plus 186,798 examples of the 2009 Camry sedan and the 2009 to 2011 Venza crossover.

The Tacoma issue centers on its driver-side front airbags. Vibration through the steering wheel could, over time, damage a spiral cable assembly connected to the airbag's control module. If this occurs, a broken connection means the airbag might not deploy in the event of a crash. Before it gets to that point, though, drivers will see the dash's airbag warning light stay on after the usual start-up illumination.

Tacoma pickups built between September 14, 2004 and August 29, 2008 are affected. Toyota will check and replace the spiral cable assembly free of charge starting in early April. The company says that anyone who has paid for work related to this problem is entitled to claim for reimbursement.

Small amounts of silicon grease are at the root of the Camry/Venza recall. Used to lubricate the parking brake cable, this grease can accumulate on workers' gloves and then glom onto a stop lamp switch during the manufacturing process. The resulting electrical resistance could give rise to a few problems, such as dashboard warning lamps lighting up, brake lights not working, the car not starting or the transmission being stuck in "Park."

This affects about 70,500 Camry models built from July 1, 2008 to February 28, 2009, and around 116,000 Venza models built from October 20, 2008 to January 4, 2011. As with the Tacoma situation, Toyota will provide free-of-charge repairs starting in early April, once dealers receive sufficient stock of the relevant new parts. The company has also filed this information with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), while stating that it is unaware of any accidents or injuries arising from these faults.

Owners may contact Toyota customer service on 1-800-331-4331 for more information. The corresponding NHTSA campaign ID number for the Tacoma issue is 12V092000; for the Camry and Venza, it's 12V091000. The administration's website is safercar.gov and its vehicle safety hotline is 1-888-327-4236.

The words "Toyota" and "recall" have been seen together quite frequently ever since the company recalled four million vehicles in September 2009 - the biggest in its history. Since then, there have been a few other large recalls, but this can be seen as a good thing - it shows a willingness by the company to be proactive and transparent in its dealings. Toyota's woes were compounded by last year's earthquake and tsunami that affected much of Japan's industry.

However, Toyota's standing in the eyes of the car shoppers seems to have recovered from a low in 2010 (according to a study from Starch Advertising Research). "Consumers could begin to lose faith," said Kelley Blue Book's executive market analyst, Jack Nerad, "although there is little indication that is happening to any great degree."

What it means to you: Looking at the small picture, it's significant for owners of the vehicles being recalled. Big picture - this recall means the roads are a little safer as a result.

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Colin Ryan has driven hundreds of cars thousands of miles while writing for BBC Top Gear magazine, Popular Mechanics, the Los Angeles Times, European Car, Import Tuner and many other publications, websites, TV shows, etc.

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