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Close-up: The metal stamping to save Toyota?

Posted by Clifford Atiyeh  February 3, 2010 04:40 PM

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toyota-gas-pedal-bar.jpg

(Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff)

So what does Toyota's "precision cut steel reinforcement bar" actually look like? Judging from the Globe's Wednesday visit to Ernie Boch's Toyota dealership in Norwood, it appears to bear the size and thickness of a postage stamp.

"Something like this here, easiest fix ever," said mechanic Stephen Oranellas. "It's a very small fix for a big problem."

Toyota, which began shipping the metal stamping to dealerships this week, is riding on this little part to fix the 2.3 million cars recalled for sticky throttle pedals. The piece is supposed to reduce "rare occurrences of excessive friction on contact points" in the pedal assembly. The company has not yet decided on a solution for the earlier floor mat entrapment recall (other than sawing part of the gas pedal down) which now affects 5.75 million cars.

But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and a committee in the House of Representatives are trying to determine whether Toyota's electronic sensors may also be at fault. Many modern cars use electronic "drive by wire" systems — which negate the mechanical, cable-actuated setup of traditional throttles — to more precisely control the engine's fuel intake and thus increase fuel economy. The same technology can be tuned to provide faster throttle response for performance-oriented cars.

The NHTSA is trying to determine if electromagnetic interference can cause these throttle systems to malfunction. From testing a 2007 Lexus ES 350, the NHTSA said the throttle had "no vulnerabilities" to interference, but that magnetic fields near the throttle body caused engine speed to rise by up to 1,000 rpm, according to The New York Times. The Times said the agency did not have any testing procedures to repeat the claim.

In related news, the NHTSA revealed about 100 complaints, two of them involving crashes that resulted in injuries, regarding brakes on the Prius, which has not been the subject of a recent recall.

Globe staff writers D.C. Denison and Erin Ailworth contributed to this report.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
In the garage: Hyundai Sante Fe, Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible
Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
In the garage: 1968 Buick Riviera, 1996 Buick Roadmaster, 1974 Honda CB450
Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on About.com. He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
In the garage: Mazda 5, Dodge Neon
George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
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