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Toyota Prius Brake Problems



  • On 2/27/09, my '05 Prius brakes completely failed. I was going downhill in an urban highly transited road (Rte 123 in VA, close to Tysons Corner). Thankfully I was only going about 40MPH when the light changed to red. The 2 vehicles in front of me stopped. I pressed the break pedal and my car accelerated initially, and then nothing. BRAKES ARE MEANT TO WORK. ALWAYS. I kept pumping the pedal hoping to engage the breaks, but what stopped me was the rear of a BMW X5. Thankfully I was the only injured party, and my injuries are mostly muscular. I could have died. I could have killed someone. In January I had taking my car to the dealer because all the alert lights on the dash would sporadically go off. They kept the car for a week and claimed that the secondary battery needed to be replaced. I got my vehicle back and on 2/23/09 the issue restarted. I was due to take my car back to the dealer the day of the accident.

    I called a lawyer to see if I had a case, and was told no. I am still researching the issue becuase someone should be held accountable and future tragedies should be avoided.

    If anyone has started a class action suit, please do let me know as I would like to join you.

  • gandercganderc Posts: 1
    I read that they redesigned the braking systems for the 2010 Prius. That appears to be Toyota's response to the fact that the U.S. Generation 2 Prius (2004-2009) has had low-speed brake failures reported to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) at 31 times the rate of such failures reported for the 2004-2009 Corolla, which of course has traditional brakes. Many of the Prius low speed brake failures were in low-speed city traffic, resulting in rear-end collisions without injury. It appears that the several computers that control the complex braking systems were too busy calculating the most efficient way to apply the brakes, and did not get around to actually applying them, until it was too late. Toyota never took responsibility for the problem, but the 2010 redesign indicates they were aware of it. Unfortunately, the NHTSA never initiated an investigation despite the extremely high rate of failures. The detailed failure reports ("complaints") are available to the public on the NHTSA website. The details are these: Through March 2009, 2004-2009 Prius has received 44 complaints of low speed brake failure. 2004-2009 Corolla has received 7 complaints of such failures. Given that about five times more Corollas than Prius were sold during 2004-2009, 44/(7/5) = 31 times the rate of brake failure for the Generation 2 Prius. Let's hope the 2010's brakes work!
  • whitey9whitey9 Posts: 138
    You may have been sliding on the wet metal trolley tracks. They can be like ice.
  • The trolley tracks can be like ice, but if I was sliding on them I would have had the ABS start working, and it did not. I just put my foot to the floor with the brake pedal and nothing happened. I was driving really slowly at the time.
  • etnpauletnpaul Posts: 2
    I have had 3 accidents or near accidents with my new 2009 Toyota Prius due to a combination of mysterious acceleration and loss of brakes.
    The first incident (a near accident) occurred when the car in front of me stopped. I was driving slowly but my car suddenly seemed to accelerate on its own and my brakes failed. How I stopped my car I will never know.
    The second incident was when I was driving into my garage. Again the car seemed to accelerate and the brakes did not work. The garage wall was damaged on both sides.
    After this I took the car into the Toyota dealer. They examined it and said if I had more trouble, bring it in again.
    The third incident occurred in a parking lot. The self-accelerating seemed to have been fixed, but while driving slow and looking for a place to park, the brakes did not hold and the result was the car hit a parked car.
    There was over $6000 damage to the Prius and some damage to the parked car. What is really scary is that by the next parked car (only a foot or so away) were a man and 2 children. If my car had hit that car there could have been some deaths - certainly serious injuries.
  • whitey9whitey9 Posts: 138
    Not necessarily. When driving on slick/wet metal, the ABS brakes can be "fooled".
    They don't know they are not stopping because of their "sliding".
    The VSSs ( Vehicle Speed Sensors ) don't send a "wheel locked-up" signal because of the sliding of the wheels on the wet metal track. As someone else has already stated, the ABS can be fooled by loose sand/gravel, as well as snow/ice.
    They do, however, work well on wet or dry PAVEMENT.
    It should be noted that the purpose of ABS is NOT to stop the car sooner/shorter distance/quicker, but to give the driver the ability to steer the car and avoid an accident while maintaining control of his vehicle.
    The offshoot of stopping a car w/o the wheels locking up while braking is to give a better stop. One that is a controlled stop. Without the skidding.
    Many times drivers think they are depressing the brake pedal, but are actually pressing the accelerator in a panic, or by accident.
    The Audi history has proven that. People sometimes just push on the wrong pedal.
  • Yes, but clearly no one in this forum is pressing the accelerator instead of the brake because they would actually speed up then. Also, when you put your foot on the brake and you have been driving at a speed of under 20 miles per hour, you are not panicked, because nothing is happening quickly. You are just continuing down the road at 20 mph and your foot is on the floor with the brake pedal and absolutely nothing is happening. Your brake feels like it does not even exist. Your car is brakeless for whatever reason.
  • whitey9whitey9 Posts: 138
    That's the point. No one THINKS they are "accelling", but with all of today's distractions we encounter while driving ( radio, TV/NAV, phone, makeup, kids/babies in back seat, changing pants, etc. ) sometimes we make mistakes.
    As I said earlier, the proof of that lies in the Audi history with people SWEARING the car "accelled" by itself. But actually not.
    That is why we now have "shift locks" on all our cars. We must now press the brake to shift out of Park.
    I will check the NHTSA website to see about any reports of this malfunction.
  • hadjibhadjib Posts: 1
    I know this message was posted a while back but was anyone able to get it resolved?
    I am seeing the exact same brake noise while coming to a stop: noise like metal parts are rubbing against each other. I can even feel a little bit of feedback on my foot while this happens.

    I realized that this doesn't happen under wet conditions (if there had been snow/ rain) or after the car has been driven for a while. That was probably why it never happened whenever I took it to the dealer to get it checked.

    If anyone did get it resolved by yourself/ outside mechanic/ a dealer, can you please reply?

    Also, I have the some other issues as well:
    1) sometimes the car speeding up when the brake is being applied.
    2) a whistling noise inside the car when driving above 35mph (like there is a hole somewhere thro which air is leaking in)
    3) the handrests and some other interior plastic is loose resulting in rattling sound when driving over rough roads/ playing bass-y music.

    I am going to take the car to the dealer soon but if anyone has seen similar issues and have resolved it or know how to fix them, please reply..

    Thanks in advance
  • whardywhardy Posts: 4
    I have a 2008 prius with 20K miles. Just drove from Sacramento to Tahoe and heard a funny noise on right side rear of car. Thought it sounded like an aerosol can releasing in my suitcase in the back of car, but maybe not, because we parked the car for one day, then drove it around town for one day (but there was a funny smell in the car when we got in) but had no problems, then today every time we press the brake pedal there is a funny noise. I'm concerned about driving the car home to Sac now after reading about other posts about brake problems. Anybody know what's going on?
  • whitey9whitey9 Posts: 138
    Knowing that the two most important systems of a car are the braking system, and the steering system, I would sure as heck get any kind of a problem checked out before driving home thru the mountains.
    It is about 115mi back to Sacramento.
    Make sure the brakes work!

    Get them checked at the dealer in South Lake Tahoe! Arrive alive.
  • whardywhardy Posts: 4
    Thanks for the reply. I called the dealer last night and they called me back this morning. Nice guy said to bring the car in to check it out. I'm a little concerned about driving it all the way over there especially when I looked at the construction delays. Looks like it would take quite a bit longer and probably more stop and go traffic using the brakes even more. Not sure what to do.
  • whardywhardy Posts: 4
    Talked to the guy at the dealership. Will go to Tahoe City and down 89 instead tomorrow morning to have it checked out.
  • hal_cathal_cat Posts: 11
    You can bump the number of complaints up by one. I've finally submitted mine for my 2007 Prius with 37,020 miles.

    Like others, I was traveling at a low speed, about 15mph. I had to do a quick stop because of a car stopped in my lane. There were parked cars on one side and opposing traffic on the other so I had no avoidance options. When I jammed on the brake, absolutely nothing happened before I hit the Imperial in front of me. The time from hitting the brakes and hitting the car was long enough for my wife to realize that we weren't stopping, shout "stop the car" and for me to reply "I'm trying to, but nothing is happening."

    The dealership checked the car, and of course nothing mechanical was at fault. Toyota sent a regional rep to investigate, and a couple of days ago we got a letter from Toyota legal saying that obviously I did not step on the brakes until it was too late. Now we are getting the car repaired (we have insurance, and the cost is estimated at $4000 to $5000), but we are unsure what we will do with it when we are done. We don't like the idea of driving it - the though of cruising slowly into an intersection of fast moving cars doesn't appeal to us, nor the though of driving down a mountain without guard rails which we have done in other cars. If we sold it to someone ourselves and something happened we would feel like we had blood on our hands. Our best option is probably to sell it to a Toyota dealer so at least they would have the responsibility for future lawsuits.

    What I would really like is for Toyota to fix the brake problem for my car. I really enjoyed it for the first two years. I don't expect to see a fix though, the recall would be too expensive for them, and stonewalling will probably see them through.
  • A lot of people don't realize that the Prius brakes differently than other cars. When you initially press the brake moderately and you're going 45MPH, the Disc/Drums are NOT engaging, but what is happening is that the generator is applied and converting energy for the battery, Yes the car is slowing down, but without the aid of the conventional braking system. If you slow down faster i.e. press harder, you will eventually engage the disc/drum brakes which will augment the braking power of the vehicle. I have 66,000 trouble free miles in my 2004 Prius and I've driven in snow, rain, dry weather and heavy stop and go city driving. I have never,ever had any incident with respect to the brakes not doing what they're supposed to. I did have one instance which scared the crap out of me and that was unintended acceleration. I had the car cleaned the day before and they put the mats back incorrectly. I took my foot off the accelerator and the car kept going faster!!! I immediately knew what the problem was, pulled over and remounted the mat on the holding pins. Based on the submissions to the NTSB site and also based on other sources (CR, Prius enthusiast sites) there is nothing wrong with the braking system of the Prius.
  • jacquescjacquesc Posts: 13
    There is something wrong with the break system. Occasionally a delay occurs between abrupt low speed brake pedal application and brake engagement. It hasn't happened to you - but it exists. And it is a design flaw. And has cost Prius owners thousands in deductibles and raised insurance rates.
  • hal_cathal_cat Posts: 11
    You are fortunate, as are almost a million other Prius drivers, who have never encountered the brake problem. I had driven 32K miles with no brake problems what-so-ever. I believe that the problem has to do with the interactions of the energy management software, the brake system software, and the brake hardware. I believe that the problem is the result of some very specific set of conditions which do not happen very often, given that hundreds of thousands of Priuses with the same equipment and software that I have are not crashing daily, or even monthly. I have 14 years experience in writing software for engines and transmissions. I understand how difficult it is to develop a fail-safe system, and how a very simple detail, like comparing two values incorrectly, can make the difference between something working correctly all the time or working correctly almost all the time, and with brakes, almost all the time is not good enough. I also believe that if it were happening all the time, the software and hardware engineers in Japan would have found the problem and corrected it. I do know that I slammed down the brakes hard when I wanted to stop, and that I got absolutely no observable response at all. (I don't know if it was charging my battery prior to slamming me into the car in front of me.) I sincerely hope that you don't have a brake failure like I had, but I know I won't, because I am dumping a two year old Prius which my wife refuses to ride in.
  • It must be an extraordinary set of circumstances to replicate this from happening. There are over a million Prius out there and I happen to participate in numerous chats on other boards. I have not read anything about a brake issue other than a few on edmunds. Contrary to what another poster mentioned, my insurance rates have gone DOWN since I got my Prius. I haven't even heard/read anything in the media about it either. You know how stories like that tend to get everyone's attention. Like I said, with all the millions and millions of miles being accumulated daily you would think that this alleged problem would manifest itself more frequently. Oh FYI.... brake: stop break: broken. :blush:
  • I just bought a certified used 2005 three weeks ago, and since then I have had this happen TWICE, which is why I'm on the Internet searching for information about it. Fortunately, so far, the break has eventually engaged just in the nick of time but it has made this usually very confident driver more than a little squeamish about driving in Chicago area traffic. I love every other aspect of this car. Are you telling me that Toyota refuses to acknowledge the problem, and there is no way to correct it? HELP!! :confuse:
  • Minerva...I'm with you. I've only had my used 2005 for 3 weeks, and it's already almost failed (grabbed at the last minute) twice. Please let me know -- and I'll do the same -- if you hear about a class action suit. UGH!!! :lemon:
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