I own a 2006 Toyota Highland Hybrid with 54K+ miles on it. Last week my power steering failed. Fortunately I was only trying to back out of my parking space and not driving down the interstate. I had the vehicle towed to a local Toyota dealership. Initially they said they had never seen this problem before and were unable to diagnose the problem. After a couple hours they said they would have to call the technicians in California and since there was no telling when they would call back they put me in a rental car at my expense. The following day they called to tell me they needed to replace my power steering rack and since the vehicle was no longer in warranty (less than 3 years but over 36K miles) the repair costs would be $1,840. I’ve owned many cars in my life with many more miles on them than this and I’ve never had a power steering failure. I started to do some internet research and found this is definitely not an isolated incident. There are numerous reports of similar failures on both the 2006 Highlander Hybrid as well as the 2006 Lexus 400h hybrid SUV. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened an investigation into the defect in Nov 2006. In response to a request for information to support that investigation, Toyota reported there had already been 109 warranty claims related to the electronic power steering assembly on the 2006 HIHY. Unfortunately the investigation was closed in Mar 2007 without a recall because the defect seemed to only occur at no or low speeds and didn’t result in a loss of steering control. I’d like to try and find out the magnitude of the problem. Toyota reported 109 warranty claims as of Nov 06-Mar 07. How many have there been since then? How many non-warranty claims such as mine? On both the Highlander and the Lexus 400h? It’s certainly more than 109 and it sure seems like it’s a matter of when your power steering will fail and not if. Remarkably, after 109 warranty claims, I can find no evidence that Toyota even had the decency to issue a technical service bulletin. I would encourage everyone who has experienced this problem to file a complaint with both the NHTSA (http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/
) as well as the Center for Auto Safety (http://www.autosafety.org/
). Perhaps the NHTSA will reopen the investigation if enough consumers report the problem. The Center for Auto Safety will ask if you want to be part of a class action suit if you report your complaint through their web site.
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