According to Toyota, some of the nuts that secure the steering assembly inside the car can come loose after years of use. If that happens, the car can become difficult to steer.
The recall is for 2001-2003 model year Priuses, meaning the problem only impacts the first generation of the car. In the US around 52,000 Priuses are affected.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides a service that allows the public to log complaints about vehicle defects they encounter. There are many complaints logged on the site from Prius owners who found their cars suddenly difficult to steer.
Some Prius owners complained that the steering wheel started shaking violently. Others reported that the steering wheel warning light illuminated before any trouble started.
If you experience any of these problems in a Prius – or any car for that matter – stop driving immediately and contact a qualified mechanic. Problems with the steering system can be extremely dangerous and should not be put off.
Cars covered by the recall will have new hardware fitted at a local dealer at no charge. The new nuts should keep the steering equipment secured.
Toyota also announced a separate recall for its Venza and Sienna AWD vehicles.
The Venza and Sienna issue is for a drive shaft that Toyota says was insufficiently heat-treated. The drive shaft connects the transmission to the wheels. The heat treatment process hardens and strengthens it, so a drive shaft that hasn't been treated properly is weaker and more likely to break.
If a drive shaft were to break, a driver would notice some noise and a loss of power to the wheels.
This separate recall is much smaller than the first. Only 2011 model year cars are affected by this recall. As with the Prius, any necessary repairs will be taken care of at a local dealer for free.