On Wednesday, Toyota dealerships around the country received their first box of metal inserts that will go inside the 2.3 million potentially faulty accelerator pedals now under recall in the U.S. AOL Autos and Autoblog went along to a Toyota dealer last night to see how technicians will make the repairs.
When we arrived at LaFontaine Toyota in Dearborn, Michigan, the dealership had already started practicing the installation procedure. A row of brand new Toyota Corolla sedans sat inside their service area, each ready to receive about 30 minutes of work to fix the problem with reported sticky accelerator pedals.
The fix can come none too soon -- LaFontaine's Todd McCallum said they've received too many phone calls from their customers to count, but estimate the number of concerned owners who have called has been "in the thousands."
The process for installing the metal shim -- which is about the size of your thumbnail -- is fairly straightforward:
- Is this the right pedal? The technician checks the pedal to see if it's one of the recalled pedal systems (Toyota has two part suppliers for its gas pedals and only one -- made by CTS Corporation -- requires the pedal insert, while the others -- made by Denso Corporation -- will receive a software update and a pedal modification where the dealership will cut it down for size). If it's on the recall list, the technician removes it by unhooking the wiring harness and unscrewing the pedal from the firewall.
- Measuring: Next, the technician uses a feeler gauge to measure the distance of the space between the bottom of the pedal housing and the spring housing. This distance will determine which metal insert will be used (there are 7 different inserts of various thicknesses).- Installing the insert: Based on his measurements, the technician picks the right insert from the parts bin, then carefully slides it inside the pedal assembly. The fit is tight as a drum and reduces the surface tension and excess friction that can occur on contact points in the back of the pedal assembly.
- Does it feel right?: The technician gives the pedal 5 pumps to see if the feel of the unit has been compromised. If there is a problem, he can remove the insert or modify its installation. If it feels right, he puts it back in the vehicle.
- Check of the vehicle: Next, the technician plugs in his mobile diagnosis unit and runs a complete software check of the car. His computer is linked to wifi and he can check if there are any recalls current on the vehicle that require attention. He's then able to see if the pedal is within the right tolerances given the modification he's done to it. Toyota has a set of tolerances for the pedal when it's at idle and when it's at wide-open throttle. He checks this not by measuring distance, but by taking a voltage reading from the computer system. Remember, these Toyotas are all driven "by wire," meaning there is no mechanical connection between the gas pedal and the throttle body.
- All systems go: If everything checks out, the car is ready and the technician removes his gear and prints out the confirmation page for the customer. All in, the process takes about 30 minutes.
Toyota says that customers will start to receive notices from their dealers starting this week. LaFontaine, for example, received a box of 300 inserts Fixes start taking place today but the entire rollout of all recalls and remedies could take the entire year, according to the technicians at the dealership.