The Highlander and RAV4 cars in question are equipped with roll over sensors that are prone to failure. These sensors are intended to read a car’s angle in relation to the road, and deploy safety measures if they determine the car is likely to roll. When a roll over is detected in a RAV4 or Highlander, side-curtain airbags will deploy and the seatbelts will tighten in an attempt to protect passengers.
There are two of the problematic sensors in these vehicles. If one sensor fails, an airbag warning light will illuminate on the dashboard. However there is a chance of both sensors failing simultaneously. In the case of a dual failure, the car will respond as if it were rolling and deploy its protective systems unnecessarily.
Airbags are capable of causing injury to passengers due to the speed and force of a deployment. And if an airbag goes off unexpectedly while the vehicle is in motion, it could cause the driver to lose control.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has multiple complaints on its website from Toyota customers experiencing the issue. One complaint states that the driver was knocked out when the airbag deployed as she started the car. In another complaint on the NHTSA website, a RAV4 owner reportedly received lacerations when the seatbelt tightened around her left hand.
If one of the sensors fails, and the car is involved in a side impact collision, the side airbags will still be able to deploy, according to the Toyota press release.
Owners of the vehicles affected by the recall are recommended to contact their local dealers in order to schedule the necessary repairs. Toyota will replace the roll sensors at no cost to owners, regardless of whether the car is still under warranty or not.
Starting next month, Toyota said it is going to be sending out notifications in the mail to customers who own RAV4 or Highlander vehicles that are covered by the recall.