The Toyota Motor Company cannot catch a break; it has announced a recall of more than 80,000 Highlander hybrid and Lexus RX400h SUVs. The hybrid utility vehicles have a problem in the drive system that can cause components to burn out and shut the vehicle down.
Transistors can cause vehicle shutdown
Toyota has announced a recall of more than 80,000 hybrid SUVs, according to MSNBC, because of faulty assembly in the hybrid drive system. The Toyota Highlander hybrid and Lexus RX400h are the affected models. The recall is only for vehicles that were made in the United States, though it isn’t known whether all the affected vehicles were traced to manufacturing errors made in one plant. The defect is only confined to hybrid models, as the RX400h only comes in hybrid and the normal Highlander does not have the defect, according to USA Today. Only the 2006 and 2007 model years are affected. The problem is due to a manufacturing defect in the hybrid drive system. The defect can cause the vehicle to enter its “fail-safe” mode or total shutdown.
Solder of misfortune
The defect is caused by a faulty solder joint. According to the press release on Toyota’s website, the problem is with the Isolated Power Module, or IPM, located within the Hybrid System Inverter. Transistors in the IPM’s circuit board were not adequately soldered to the board and can sustain heat damage or burn out during “high load driving,” which includes driving at highway speeds. The inadequately soldered transistors can’t handle the load and could overheat. The defect will cause warning lights to be illuminated and possibly cause the vehicle to enter a “fail safe” driving mode. If that happens, the vehicle will be under-powered and can only be driven for short distances. In the worst case scenario, the vehicle could shut down entirely.
Toyota ordering parts
Toyota is in the process of contacting owners and obtaining replacement parts to fix the defect. Owners should receive a notice in the mail from Toyota by the middle of July about the defect. Once enough replacement parts have been manufactured, Toyota will contact owners and set up appointments to fix the defect free of charge. There are 45,500 affected Highlander hybrid models and 36,700 Lexus RX400h models in the recall, all of which were sold in the United States. Toyota is still reeling from damage from the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan earlier this year. General Motors, according to CNN, is poised to overtake Toyota this year in global auto sales for the first time in five years.