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Autobog visits LaFontaine Toyota to find out how a recalled pedal is fixed – Click above to see the process step-by-step

Toyota has built up the most enviable reputation for quality and durability in the auto industry, but the once unassailable industry giant is now embroiled in two simultaneous recalls related to faulty accelerator pedals. The floormat pedal entrapment recall announced late last year is the company's largest ever involving over four million vehicles, but the sticking accelerator pedal recall announced on January 21st has hurt its reputation the most. The Japanese automaker announced earlier this week that it would address the more recent of the two recalls by installing a metal shim into the pedal assembly of each affected vehicle. Toyota claims this fix will reduce the amount of friction that could cause the pedal to stick in certain situations.

We wanted to know exactly how the recall fix would be performed on the 2.3 million vehicles affected, so as soon as the shims began arriving at Detroit-area Toyota dealers on Wednesday, we and our PICs (that's Partners In Crime) from AOL Autos made arrangements to visit LaFontaine Toyota in Dearborn. Owner Mike LaFontaine Jr. and fixed operations director Todd McCallum agreed to let us check out the repair process and answer our questions. Read on after the jump to learn all about it or see the process step-by-step in our gallery.


  • LaFontaine Toyota in Dearborn, MI
  • LaFontaine Toyota service department
  • LaFontaine Toyota fixed operations director Todd McCallum
  • A row of new Corollas in the shop ready to be updated.
  • The brake pedal in a 2010 Toyota Corolla. The connector for the pedal position sensor is visible at the top
  • Boxes of various sized shims.
  • A bag of the reinforcing bars (aka shims) that are being used to adjust the gas pedal
  • "Precision machined reinforcing bars"
  • Doug Kropp checks the date chart to determine which pedal assemblies need to be updated.
  • Reaching up under the dashboard of a Corolla to unbolt the gas pedal.
  • Removing the gas pedal.
  • Checking the manufacturing date code on the pedal assembly. This unit does require an update.
  • This is the slot in the housing where the shim will be installed. The return spring stop is visible under Doug's thumb.
  • A set of feeler gauges, strips of metal of calibrated thickness.
  • The pedal assembly on the work bench.
  • Doug Kropp checks the gap in the pedal assembly with the feeler gauge.
  • A digital caliper is used to check the thickness of the feeler gauge.
  • Toyota provides an instruction chart that specifies the shim thickness to use based on the measured gap.
  • Doug Kropp uses a screwdriver to help insert the shim into the pedal assembly.
  • Kropp pushes the shim into the pedal assembly with a screwdriver.
  • Kropp pries up the friction shoe to allow the shim to be fully seated.
  • Kropp does a visual check to verify that the shim is properly seated.
  • Kropp pumps the pedal several times to make sure it doesn't stick.
  • Kropp re-installs the accelerator pedal and connects the diagnostic computer.
  • The diagnostic computer runs a series of tests to make sure none of the on-board computers in the car have been damaged.
  • Another Toyota supplied instruction chart lists the voltages that the pedal position sensor should be outputting.
  • The diagnostic computer displays the voltage from the pedal position sensor.
  • Master Toyota technician Doug Kropp explains the recall procedure.
  • The template that will be used for reshaping the pedal on Toyota Camrys.

Photos by Sam Abuelsamid / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.



When we walked into the service department at LaFontaine Toyota, it was filled with brand new Corollas. McCallum explained that after receiving the first batch of shims on Wednesday, the technicians immediately began pulling cars off the lot to start executing the repair process. The plan was to spend the first day practicing the repair on cars in stock before starting to repair customer cars on Thursday. LaFontaine Toyota has about 200 recalled cars on the lot and their technicians would be working late into the night to get as many of them repaired as possible.



The first deliveries of shims are for Corollas only, with subsequent shipments for other affected models arriving over the next several days. McCallum expects to receive about 300 shims a day at first, with the number gradually increasing as production ramps up. Initially the process will take up to 45 minutes per car, but McCallum expects that time to shrink as the technicians get more practice.

Master Toyota technician Doug Kropp took us through a complete repair on one of the Corollas in the shop. The first step is to examine the pedal assembly to determine if it's one of the potentially problematic units. North American market cars have pedals from one of two suppliers, CTS and Denso, but only CTS units are subject to the recall. Among the CTS-made pedals, only units manufactured within a certain date range are known to have problems and each pedal assembly has a code that indicates its manufacturing date. Fortunately for us, the Corolla that Kropp was working on had a pedal that needed the fix.



Kropp first removed the two bolts that hold the pedal assembly on the firewall, followed next by the wire harness connector for the position sensor. Like almost all modern cars, the accelerator pedal is not physically connected to the throttle. Instead, a position sensor on the pedal arm detects how far the driver has pushed down. The sensor then sends an electrical signal to the engine management system, which also factors in signals from the traction/stability control, emissions sensors and other sensors to determine how far to open the throttle. Because there's no physical connection between the pedal and the throttle, the assembly has a mechanism that simulates the force feedback you would otherwise get from the throttle itself.

There are two grooved metal parts that rub against each other to provide some resistance in the pedal travel, as well as a return spring that pushes the pedal back up when it is released. This is what Toyota has identified as the source of the problem. On some vehicles and in certain situations, these friction shoes are interfering too much, exceeding the return spring force and potentially holding the pedal in place. The fix Toyota has developed involves installing a steel shim (Toyota calls it a reinforcing bar, although it doesn't seem to actually reinforce anything) between the spring stopper and housing.



Because all manufactured parts have tolerances, the amount of adjustment required varies from car to car. Kropp and other technicians use a feeler gauge (above) to measure the gap between the spring stopper and the pedal assembly housing. Based on that measurement, they select a shim to insert into the housing with one of seven thicknesses that range from 1.4–2.9 millimeters. Using the correct shim thickness ensures that the pedal doesn't end up with too little friction. According to both Kropp and McCallum, the updated pedals don't have any significant difference in feel before and after the procedure. If you own one of the recalled models and have this repair done, let us know if you notice any difference.

After inserting the shim, the friction shoe is pried up so that the plate can slide all the way in. Once the shim is properly seated, the pedal is pumped several times on the workbench to make sure nothing is hanging up. If it feels okay, the pedal is reinstalled in the car. Kropp also plugs in a diagnostic computer before the car leaves the shop to run some diagnostic checks that ensure the position sensor hasn't been damaged during the repair process. He then pumps the gas pedal through its full travel several times to check the voltage coming from the sensor. Once that process is completed successfully, the car is released back to its owner.



The pedal shim installation addresses Toyota's sticking accelerator pedal recall, but LaFontaine Toyota and other dealers will also begin reshaping gas pedals on more than four million Toyota and Lexus vehicles in the next several days. This repair addresses Toyota's other major recall involving pedal entrapment via defective floormats, and McCallum explained this process to us as well.

Toyota is providing templates to dealers for each of the affected models. With the pedal assembly out of the car, the appropriate template is used to scribe the back of the pedal. A reciprocating saw is then used to remove excess material from the pedal that could catch a floormat, and the edge of the pedal is then re-finished with a router. Once the pedal is installed back in the car, the engine management software is also updated before the car is released. We believe the software update incorporates the brake override functionality that will turn off the engine or close the throttle if the brake and accelerator pedals are applied at the same time. McCallum expects the pedal reshaping process to take about two hours at first, eventually coming down to about 90 minutes as service technicians get better at it.



Speaking of those technicians, it looks like there will be extra jobs for them during the next year as dealers work to correct millions of vehicles. McCallum told us that LaFontaine Toyota expects to hire an undetermined number of technicians and will extend service hours well into the night and on weekends to get through the repairs as soon as possible. Nonetheless, he expects it will take at least until the end of 2010 to complete the bulk of the repairs. Owner Mike LaFontaine Jr. also acknowledged that the recalls have affected sales, although he declined to get specific.

At least in the near term, both recalls will be a boon to Toyota service departments. As with all warranty work, Toyota is paying dealers for the work being done, and in the case of the shim repair, McCallum expects about $200 per car. This dealership expects to be repairing thousands of recalled customer cars over the next 12 months, not to mention a large number of fleet cars. Local Hertz rental outlets in the area have about 1,000 cars sitting idle right now that LaFontaine Toyota will eventually correct. It remains to be seen, however, whether all this extra service revenue for dealers will make up for what they've lost in sales. And if either of these two recalls are expanded or new recalls added for other problems like braking issues with the Prius, things will only get worse.


  • LaFontaine Toyota in Dearborn, MI
  • LaFontaine Toyota service department
  • LaFontaine Toyota fixed operations director Todd McCallum
  • A row of new Corollas in the shop ready to be updated.
  • The brake pedal in a 2010 Toyota Corolla. The connector for the pedal position sensor is visible at the top
  • Boxes of various sized shims.
  • A bag of the reinforcing bars (aka shims) that are being used to adjust the gas pedal
  • "Precision machined reinforcing bars"
  • Doug Kropp checks the date chart to determine which pedal assemblies need to be updated.
  • Reaching up under the dashboard of a Corolla to unbolt the gas pedal.
  • Removing the gas pedal.
  • Checking the manufacturing date code on the pedal assembly. This unit does require an update.
  • This is the slot in the housing where the shim will be installed. The return spring stop is visible under Doug's thumb.
  • A set of feeler gauges, strips of metal of calibrated thickness.
  • The pedal assembly on the work bench.
  • Doug Kropp checks the gap in the pedal assembly with the feeler gauge.
  • A digital caliper is used to check the thickness of the feeler gauge.
  • Toyota provides an instruction chart that specifies the shim thickness to use based on the measured gap.
  • Doug Kropp uses a screwdriver to help insert the shim into the pedal assembly.
  • Kropp pushes the shim into the pedal assembly with a screwdriver.
  • Kropp pries up the friction shoe to allow the shim to be fully seated.
  • Kropp does a visual check to verify that the shim is properly seated.
  • Kropp pumps the pedal several times to make sure it doesn't stick.
  • Kropp re-installs the accelerator pedal and connects the diagnostic computer.
  • The diagnostic computer runs a series of tests to make sure none of the on-board computers in the car have been damaged.
  • Another Toyota supplied instruction chart lists the voltages that the pedal position sensor should be outputting.
  • The diagnostic computer displays the voltage from the pedal position sensor.
  • Master Toyota technician Doug Kropp explains the recall procedure.
  • The template that will be used for reshaping the pedal on Toyota Camrys.

Photos by Sam Abuelsamid / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 46 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      Looks like a good fix. I still think the real key is fail-safe in the ECU. I'm sure Toyota will make the changes (brake cancels gas and button reprogramming along the lines of GM's "two jab" system), I wonder why Toyota doesn't place any emphasis on this.
        • 5 Years Ago
        because that's not what the "software update" is. it is simply and ECU reflash.
        • 5 Years Ago
        No, but sudden acceleration can be caused by someone who's panicking, and they would not be able to recall that's what they did due to said panic.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "The plan was to spend the first day practicing the repair on cars in stock before starting to repair customer cars on Thursday."

      Should that be interpreted as ...

      (A) ... what it says at face value.
      (B) ... we might screw something up, so we'll let the future owner worry about it instead of our current owners.
      (C) ... the sooner I get the stuck ones on the lot fixed, the sooner I could sell them.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The two grooved parts that make the friction are NOT medal. They're plastic. TTAC has taken one apart already and has pictures. They also have some memos where Toyota had previously changed the plastic to reduced swelling when there's condensation. So here's the thing: Toyota's procedure, which they also have, warns against trying to clean the shavings from existing wear out lest it create more of a jam. So when there's more wear later will customers again have to go back for a wider shim? It all looks like a shim-sham to me.
      • 5 Years Ago
      All of this reminds me of Audi and their battle with unintended acceleration from what, the 80's? That hurt Audi for a little while, but it didn't last.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Toyota's own stimulus plan!
        • 5 Years Ago
        There, its all "fixed". Come on SUCKERS, get in here and give us your money.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The first line of the post says, "Toyota has built up the most enviable reputation for quality and durability in the auto industry"

        I think a more appropriate sentence is "Toyota HAD built..."

        Buyers may not recall or know about the other large-scale recalls involving sludge in engines and rusting truck frames, but their perception of quality by consumers will take a big hit after this.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Our Toyota store has it down to 15 minutes for the shim. Don't let Toyota get wind of that, they might decrease the labor time (.7 hours) that the techs are getting paid.
        • 5 Years Ago
        LOL---classic learning curve. Although there is the probability (Non-zero) that the speedy technician will put in the wrong size shim....and lie about doing the diagnostic testing.
        He'll just put down a set of numbers in the middle of the range.
        • 5 Years Ago
        nice article....

        down to 15 mins - that would make many customers very happy
      • 5 Years Ago
      The shim is install in the back of the pedal housing, really its to prevent one from pressing the gas all the way down? So if you're lite on your foot it shouldn't matter.
      Someone explain...
        • 5 Years Ago
        This appears to be between the gas mechanism and the gas mechanism mounting bracket. The relative position of these two is not supposed to change, even when you press the gas hard. The system appears to have some play (perhaps in case flex or something else) and this shim helps prevent relative movement in systems where there is play.

        It shouldn't affect the travel of the pedal much.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Nice story. Now, does anybody have a component description and operation summary of the Toyota electronic throttle pedal system? I mean, how much different can it really be from a GM system with an Accelerator Position Sensor, Throttle Actuator Control Module, minor PCM interface, and electronic throttle body. I am having a hard time wrapping my head around how an “electronic” issue could cause what this Sean Kane and all of the conspiracy theorist claim. All auto and diesel engine manufactures have calibration issues of one type or another but I just don’t see how a calibration issue or electrical, for that matter, could overtake entire control over the throttle plate when there are so many checks and balances already in place within that system.

      All we are hearing is BS and speculation from NHTSA and the media. A comprehensive Toyota electronic throttle control component description and operation thread would be a nice visual aid for us techie people to understand what makes Toyota's system so "unique". AB?? Can you whip something like this up?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Toyota's factory service manuals usually include pretty good descriptions of how things like this work, so I'll bet it could be found there.

        Before this issue came along, my main concern with drive-by-wire systems was about throttle servos crapping out, and how expensive the replacement parts would be. I can remember when the BMW 7- and 8-Series V12s came out, and reading about how insanely expensive the servos were to replace. The cars used two (one for each bank), and they ran $750 apiece, IIRC.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "I just don’t see how a calibration issue or electrical, for that matter, could overtake entire control over the throttle plate when there are so many checks and balances already in place within that system."

        That's my question, do they really have checks and safety factors built in to the system?

        How could electronics be a factor? Well first we need to look at how does this pedal work? Using a magnetic position sensor? What happens if other magnetic fields are introduced? I dont know any of this, I'm curious to find out. There's a missing piece to the puzzle here and toyota seems to be ignoring the "electronic malfunction" claims...
      • 5 Years Ago
      "I just don’t see how a calibration issue or electrical, for that matter, could overtake entire control over the throttle plate when there are so many checks and balances already in place within that system."

      That's my question, do they really have checks and safety factors built in to the system?

      How could electronics be a factor? Well first we need to look at how does this pedal work? Using a magnetic position sensor? What happens if other magnetic fields are introduced? I dont know any of this, I'm curious to find out. There's a missing piece to the puzzle here and toyota seems to be ignoring the "electronic malfunction" claims...
        • 5 Years Ago
        umm... i clicked reply to Bigassgas8.1L comment....
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm a bit confused. I own a doubly recalled Camry. Does this mean I will get zip ties, shim, pedal shaping, and floor/carpet adjustments. What kind of hack job is this going to be? What happened to the new pedals Toyota promised?
      • 5 Years Ago
      The software doesn't allow brake and gas pedal to be depressed? How am I supposed to power through corners then? +1 for driving domestic.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'll tell you what. Seeing this so called "fix" really makes me feel real comfortable about placing my wife in the drivers seat with the kids in the back - NOT. No way in hell that is gonna happen. I would demand that the part is replaced with something properly engineered. Not some hacked up remedy that some poor clown was forced to come up with overnight. No way this thing was stress tested properly. And I can't believe Toyota's engineers are comfortable in saying this will fix the problem. I'm sure the North American president can say it, he HAS to.
        • 5 Years Ago
        So you want to take a known quantity and replace it with a redesign built and tested in a week. Yeah, maybe you shouldn't have kids or a wife in the car.
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