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(Photo: Harvey Barrison, Flickr)
Spiders are to blame for Toyota's massive recall of more than 800,000 vehicles last week.

This isn't some Halloween prank. The critters have been spinning cobwebs and making their homes in tubes in the cars' air-conditioning units and causing all sorts of problems.

"Spiders have been implicated in the condition," said Cindy Knight, public affairs manager for Toyota. "It's a very rare occurrence, but a spider can get into the air conditioning drainage tube and build a nest."

Those nets were blocking drainage in the tubes, which led to leaks. In some cases, these leaks drained on top of the airbag control units in the vehicles, causing electrical short circuits and airbag malfunctions.

Toyota announced the recall last Thursday, but Gwen Pearson of Wired was the first to report the spider's contribution to the problem in this fascinating piece. "This makes sense to me, as a spider-watcher," she wrote. "It's warm under a car, it's dark, it's damp -– it's the perfect spider habitat."

Two people sustained what Toyota described as "minor" injuries in accidents when their airbags failed to deploy because of this problem, which has affected the 2012 and 2013 Camry, Camry Hybrid, Avalon, Avalon Hybrid and Venza.

"The remedy," Knight said, "is to help prevent water from the condenser unit housing from seeping onto the airbag control module."

Airbag-related malfunctions have caused increased problems for automakers this year. They've issued 29 airbag-related recalls so far in 2013, which is a record. Toyota has recalled vehicles for airbag problems four times, and three of the four have recalled more than 800,000 vehicles.

Across the industry, those are the three largest airbag recalls this year.

This isn't the first time spiders have caused problems that resulted in a recall. In 2011, Mazda had to recall 65,000 cars because spiders nested in hoses attached to the fuel system. This dude sent his car to be painted, and it came back with a nest filled with freaky spiders. So he did the natural thing -- took a video and put it on YouTube. Of course.

It's not uncommon for critters to take residence in cars. One woman had an ant infestation. Rabbits caused a huge ruckus at the Denver International Airport after they were caught chewing on car wiring in the long-term parking lot. And one terrified family drove down the highway with a snake flapping around on the windshield.

Pearson notes the greater problem with spiders and automobiles usually isn't found under the hood. It's when drivers see spiders, get frightened and get distracted. "Mechanical problems related to spiders are extremely rare, as best I can tell," she says. "The primary way that spiders cause problems in cars is by making people freak out."

Indeed, a spider spooked a driver in Cornplanter Township, Pa., last month, causing a one-car crash in which two occupants were unhurt. In 2009, an accident occurred when a bug landed on the back of a truck driver in North Dakota. He overturned, but his load of "rocket engine parts for intercontinental ballistic missiles" was nonetheless safe, according to reports.

Pete Bigelow is an associate editor at AOL Autos. He can be reached via email at peter.bigelow@teamaol.com and followed on Twitter @PeterCBigelow.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 1 Year Ago
      Rabbits munching on wiring? That's what you get when the insulation is made of soy products--food to them!
      • 1 Year Ago
      LOL!!! After a date, my brother left a slice of pizza in a pizza box in the back seat of his car, and forgot the window down. In the morning, there was a hound dog snoozing on the back seat, we had to shoo him away. He was happy tho, he had pizza for dinner.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Great Alfred Hitchcock Movie Script !
      • 1 Year Ago
      Seriously wish car makers would get a clue and make their cars spider-proof. I've had this a few times and it's really annoying.
      • 1 Year Ago
      • 1 Year Ago
      The news here first reported air bag problems, so it's really spiders.
      • 1 Year Ago
      • 1 Year Ago
      We just bought a 2013 Toyota van n noticed spiders I'm freaked out
      • 1 Year Ago
      i will have a carp with sunroof, air, power seats good tunes & please hold the spiders
      • 1 Year Ago
      Funny thing was at the car dealer and a older lady with a subaru a spider had made a web in an intake air temp sensor causing some type of issue.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Stupid automakers--no electrcal, module or computer should be mounted anywhere on a vehicle where there is any possibility of water dripping on them. MOVE IT OR WATERPROOF IT and keep the drips in the engineering dept.
      • 1 Year Ago
      A friend of mine 2012 Kia optima had a spider problem too... It was hard to figure out at first but now it is fine. Good thing it was under warranty.
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