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Author Topic: Toyota: -Something smells fishy to me...  (Read 11936 times)

ssltech

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Toyota: -Something smells fishy to me...
« on: January 27, 2010, 10:59:02 pm »

This production halted/all sales halted... I'm a little concerned that they may be doing something quite disastrous.

I don't have all the information, and neither does anyone else, so this is all conjecture, but -as Tiger Woods illustrated so perfectly at Thanksgiving- allowing people time to muse and ponder with no information is a terrible way to go about things... you HAVE to get out in front of stories like this before they gather their own momentum.

So here's what we know: There have been over two thousand reports of unintended acceleration/runaway engine speed. Many of these PRE-DATE the highly-publicised (and compellingly tragic) 'deathbed testimony' of the family in California last fall, who dialed 9-1-1 from inside a runaway car...

First it was all put down to floor mats. -Not 'getting stuck under the pedals' as we've heard, but the pedals getting stuck UNDER the floormats. -The temporary cure according to the Toyota TSB was to zip-tie the floor mats to the seat frame (or some similar strong point) to prevent them migrating forwards.

Next however, Toyota announces that they will have to replace the pedal assemblies in over three million vehicles... -wait, I thought the problem was the floor mats?

Now they have announced the sales ban on EIGHT of their best-selling models, including Camrys, Corollas, Tundras, Matrixes... and they've stopped production.

It can't be a poorly-executed way to stop production and circumvent the unions, allowing excess inventory to draw down, because they've halted sales.

Between them, Toyota and Honda presently have just about the highest perception of 'rock-solid reliability' that it's possible to have... and if they don't get a grip on this -FAST- they'll discover what Audi found out in the late 1980's... Stories of unintended acceleration (which in the case of Audi turned out to be unfounded, a combination of driver-error and a hatchet job by some folks at CBS) can all but DESTROY a brand.

General Motors is trying to 'put the boot in' while Toyota are on the floor, by offering an additional $1000 to anyone who trades-in a Toyota for a GM product... That's a pretty desperate straw-grasping sort of play in my book. -But moves like that keeps Toyotas trouble in people's mind... and that's how the notion of flawed-product gains traction.

-But there's one thing which troubles me above everything else, and it's the deaths. -If I recall correctly, there have either been eight recent deaths attributed to runaway Toyota-product engine revs... or eight fatal incidents, I'm not sure which. -Either way, that's a lot of deaths... but at least FOUR of them were in a Lexus.

Sure, Lexus is made by Toyota and almost everybody knows that.. but no Lexus production has been halted, and no Lexus sales have been pre-empted... so if Toyota thinks the problem is serious enough to risk the wrath of their entire dealer network by telling them that they can't make any money selling cars for some unspecified period, while they try to figure a 'fix', then why aren't they doing the same thing over at Lexus?

The only valid reason which I might conceive of is that the Lexus failures just happened to be down to the floor mats, and the Toyota failures were as a result of some pedal problem... But I wonder if such a coincidence is really plausible?

Or is this possibly a problem of 'drive-by-wire' throttle bodies, now that we've basically given the modern car engine the same sort of control system that an Airbus A320 has, with its FADEC's (Full-Authority-Digital-Engine-Controller)?

See, an internal combustion engine burns fuel... we all know that... but it can't do that, and it can't generate power without AIR. -The OLD engines (up until about a decade ago) used to have a throttle cable; -a hard, MECHANICAL link between the pedal position and the air opening, with a spring to pull it closed in the event of a cable snapping. -Race cars were required (under BRDC regulations at least) to have a second spring as a backup, in case the first spring snapped... -a real "belt-and-braces" approach.

You used to be able to FEEL the pedal 'dipping' when the cruise control was activated for example... a great example of FEELING the mechanical linkage in action.

Now most cars use a simple potentiometer in the gas pedal, and a servo motor at the throttle body, to open and shut to let more or less air in. -In between the two, there is a dedicated computer. The computer looks at the potentiometer (you could even wire a modern car to rev from a Penny and Giles fader, if you really wanted to!) and takes a few other things into account (such as whether or not the engine is near redline already) and the COMPUTER decides which way to drive the motor which opens or closes the 'butterfly' (a glorified 'flap') to let more or less air in. From that point on, fuel is injected to match the amount of airflow... and if anything goes wrong the result can easily be that the engine speed is higher or lower than what you asked for.

I'd dearly love to know what the problem really is, but I'm also rather skeptical that -whatever the hardware problem is- it is confined solely to Toyota-branded vehicles... There's so much cross-brand part sharing between Toyota and Lexus, and they evidently use these parts among SO MANY different products in the Toyota model range, I find it VERY hard to believe that there's no inter-brand sharing of the same product... after all, the whole advantage to inter-brand platform sharing is that you don't have to re-invent the wheel over and over again.

Keith
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MDM (maxdimario) wrote on Fri, 16 November 2007 21:36

I have the feeling that I have more experience in my little finger than you do in your whole body about audio electronics..

MDM,

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Re: Toyota: -Something smells fishy to me...
« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2010, 03:52:37 am »

If the engine goes nuts, what would turning the ignition off do?

would it be possible to put the car in neutral?
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KB_S1

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Re: Toyota: -Something smells fishy to me...
« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2010, 06:03:09 am »

In drive-by-wire cars you cannot activate the throttle and brake simultaneously.

This 'problem' would therefore appear to not be with the pedal assembly but the ECU running the throttle.

The throttle/brake interaction is one of the many reasons I hate DBW. Try braking/shifting/accelerating smoothly at speed in a consistent manner.

There hasn't been any publicised cases here of runaway Toyotas.


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bblackwood

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Re: Toyota: -Something smells fishy to me...
« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2010, 08:01:44 am »

I'm curious as well as to what's going on - people seem to be acting like this is not big deal but I'm not aware of anything like this ever happening before. The worst part is that this reaction could be one of two things: either they're really worried about product safety and are desperately trying to figure out what is happening or something has happened which is forcing them to do this before it goes public in order to try to salvage their public image. Yah, I'm sometimes cynical so I wouldn't be surprised if it was the latter...

I can't help but wonder if there's not a critical issue in the computer which locks the transmission into D if the accelerator is depressed (or something similar) whereby once this issue arises there's nothing the operator can do to safely stop the vehicle.

I suspect Toyota (and be default Lexus) are going to be hurt very badly by all this.
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ssltech

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Re: Toyota: -Something smells fishy to me...
« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2010, 08:31:17 am »

KB_S1 wrote

In drive-by-wire cars you cannot activate the throttle and brake simultaneously.



I don't think that this is strictly true. -Of the three cars which I own only one is DBW, and it is my only 'automatic' (twin-clutch, technically). On it, you can definitely activate both, and doing so is part of the 'launch control'. The brake is a mechanical linkage still, and still operates uninhibited... I'd bet money that this is true in all cars. -My wife's car is also DBW, but she doesn't let me play with that car... she's seen the effect on our bank balance when the 'urge to improve' inspires me!  Very Happy

One problem however, is that the servo in power-assisted braking is vacuum-driven, and (in most engines) is generated by the engine when the throttle is CLOSED. SOME vehicles (such as the newer Infiniti G37) don't even HAVE a throttle... they determine how much air goes into the cylinders by varying the time that the valves are open (no intake camshaft) and/or the distance to which they open. In these cars (and diesel vehicles, which also have no throttle) there is therefore NO throttle-generated vacuum, and so there's usually a mechanical vacuum pump run off one of the main motor shafts, and an electric pump for when the engine is not running.

In a 'traditional' system, the vacuum is generated when the throttle is partially open or essentially 'closed'. The downward 'pulling' of the pistons pulls air past the open intake valves, and draws a significant vacuum (typically 20+ inches of mercury at warm idle, even more at running speed with throttle-lift) behind the (closed or partially-closed) throttle plate, usually in a plenum which is connected to the vacuum chamber in the brake servo.

When the 'gas pedal' is 'mashed to the mat' the throttling-plate opens and this vacuum disappears, so the vacuum chamber is fed from a line with a "check-valve" in it (which is analogous to a 'diode' in an electrical circuit and the servo chamber is like a 'capacitor') -the check valve lets air flow one way (AWAY from the servo) but not the other, and the servo 'stores' the vacuum in the vacuum chamber.

You can witness an example of this in a traditional servo-brake system, by running your car at idle while parked, and testing what it feels like to press the brakes firmly. -Now stop the engine and press the pedal firmly again. -IT should feel about the same. Now try a third time... then a fourth -Keep going.

The vacuum chamber usually has enough for about three full application/release cycles, and then you should probably notice that the brake pedal suddenly feels VERY 'hard'. -At this point the vacuum is exhausted, and you now have no more servo-assistance. Your braking power is now about one-tenth to one-fifth of what it was before, and at 70MPH (or in fact any other speed) your stopping distance will be extended accordingly.

For a traditional throttle-body-equipped-intake vehicle, the intake generates no vacuum when the gas pedal is "in the mat", and so the brakes would act as if the car had the engine stopped... after a few cycles, the driver would have a 'hard-pedal', the required braking effort would be enormous, and it's pretty much certain that a human driver would not have enough strength even then to overcome a 'screaming' motor.

MDM, wrote

If the engine goes nuts, what would turning the ignition off do?



Yes, absolutely. -However, in the awful case of the Caifornian highway crash which was recorded in a 9-1-1 call, the driver (who was a 40-ish year old off-duty police officer IIRC) was driving a 'loaner' vehicle which had been provided to him by the Lexus dealership while his personal vehicle was in for service, and -as in the case of most disasters- it was not a SINGLE problem which made this so calamitous, but the 'perfect storm' convergence of several smaller problems...

These 'service loaner' vehicles at 'prestige-brand' dealerships are sometimes cleverly used as 'lures' to put existing brand owners (who have cars of a few years old and may be at the stage where they're considering their NEXT car purchase) in the mindset that the newer versions are familiar, yet "cooler" in some way. -For example, they sometimes have navigation systems in them. Or a more comprehensive entertainment package... All the little things which make a buyer think "well, I wasn't necessarily looking to replace mine, but this new gadget is so neat to have... I wonder how much it would be to get the newer model?"

In the Lexus crash, the car had a pushbutton ignition engine stop/start, with an electronic "key", the presence of which is detected by RF. Basically you leave it in your pocket and just just pull the door handle to open the car. -No fumbling for keys, no scratching paint trying to find the lock in a dark parking lot. And to start the engine there's no fumbling down the side of the steering column... you just press "engine start" while the automatic shift lever is in 'park' or 'neutral'.

STOPPING the engine also requires the engine to be in 'park' or 'neutral', so that the driver doesn't accidentally shut off  the engine while in the fast lane due to an accidental 'fumble' while trying to turn the radio down when a phone call comes in, for example...

So the "engine start/engine stop" button DOESN'T stop the engine... unless you VERY deliberately hold the button down for an extended period, like three to five seconds.

The people in the car didn't appear to know this... it wasn't their car, and while there's a strong possibility that their personal vehicle had a traditional metal-keyed ignition switch, I suspect that MANY pushbutton-start-engine vehicle owners don't know that trick... I mean, how many people actually READ the owner's manual? (okay... apart from car-geeks like me!!!)

MDM, wrote

would it be possible to put the car in neutral?



Yes. Absolutely. The engine would scream the song of near-self-destruction of course, but who cares? -This is -tragically- life or death stuff.

Sadly though, if you listen to the final phone call of the front seat passenger in the California Lexus crash, you get the impression -or at least I do- that after a few seconds (during which the phone signal is -frustratingly- poor, and some precious seconds are lost as a result), he's not LISTENING to the dispatcher who answers... he's called to talk, and seems to be certain that they've already TRIED everything. At that point they're at 130MPH reaching surface streets and heading towards a required stop at a busy intersection...

Possibly the fact that the driver represented an 'authority figure' (police officers of my acquaintance seem to have "the presence") to the passengers in the car had the effect that when HE said there was nothing that he could do to stop the accident, the passengers just accepted that nothing could be done. -Certainly I feel that the dispatcher said the right things, but the passenger really wasn't 'listening'. (Perhaps understandably... he was -correctly- fairly certain that he was about to die...)

The full 50-second recording is here but -BE WARNED- it's quite disturbing.

Keith
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MDM (maxdimario) wrote on Fri, 16 November 2007 21:36

I have the feeling that I have more experience in my little finger than you do in your whole body about audio electronics..

ssltech

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Re: Toyota: -Something smells fishy to me...
« Reply #5 on: January 28, 2010, 09:16:08 am »

This web posting (from almost a year ago) notes that -among other vehicles- Toyota TACOMAS were having the 'runaway throttle' problem from TWO YEARS AGO.

...Yet the Tacoma is NOT among the vehicles for which is production currently stopped, and it is still on sale.

In addition, the YouTube video further down the page shows a Lexus which HAD the problem, and shows one owner's opinion of how unlikely the "mat" is to be true.

Toyota's June 2008 statement:
Quote:

"Toyota believes that it is likely that many of the consumer complaints about the general issue of unwanted acceleration… as well as many of the complaints about this subject that have been received by Toyota, were inspired by publicity… Even taking (the accusations) at face value, it is clear that the majority of the complaints are related to minor drivability issues and are not indicative of a safety-related defect."



Interestingly Toyota (and most manufacturers, I understand, have programmed the ECU/DBW  system to log an error if it ever detects that the accelerator pedal and throttle plate position are ever 'determined to be mismatched'...

Keith
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MDM (maxdimario) wrote on Fri, 16 November 2007 21:36

I have the feeling that I have more experience in my little finger than you do in your whole body about audio electronics..

Roadster

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Re: Toyota: -Something smells fishy to me...
« Reply #6 on: January 28, 2010, 11:02:11 am »

For some reason, reading all this, I hate GM more than I ever have now. And that's quite a bit.

I certainly wouldn't be afraid to purchase a Toyota either.

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Jay Kadis

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Re: Toyota: -Something smells fishy to me...
« Reply #7 on: January 28, 2010, 11:14:11 am »

Having owned Chevys for 30 years, I would NEVER replace a Toyota with a GM product.  Our Sienna is the best vehicle I've ever owned.

ssltech

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Re: Toyota: -Something smells fishy to me...
« Reply #8 on: January 28, 2010, 12:08:09 pm »

I agree completely, I'd still happily buy a Toyota before a GM.

Two of my colleagues recently bought affected vehicles. I just chatted with them to make sure that they knew what to do... just in case the unlikely ever happened.

But GM's "kick 'em in the lugnuts" tactic shows how other makers -keen to grab any advantage in a tight market- can raise the 'specter of doubt' in people's minds.

Toyota need to get out in front of this problem before it does them some serious public perception damage. -Audi decided to pro-actively fight the 'unintended acceleration' charges back in the 1980's, but battled with the plaintiffs on a "we are completely blameless" basis, because they had a respectable amount of backup showing that it was due to the customers inadvertently pressing the gas pedal instead of the brake which was causing their particular issues. -I think that they were trying to be seen as 'trustworthy', but in the end they plummeted in the general US car-buyers eyes, even though the rest of the world still respected the brand in increasing numbers.

Perversely, the pedal-position issue which caused the driver disorientation wasn't an issue in RHD markets, such as the UK, South Africa, Australia etc. Other vehicles have had similar problems, such as the first iteration of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, and all seem to have learned at least something from the Audi debacle.

Keith
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MDM (maxdimario) wrote on Fri, 16 November 2007 21:36

I have the feeling that I have more experience in my little finger than you do in your whole body about audio electronics..

compasspnt

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Re: Toyota: -Something smells fishy to me...
« Reply #9 on: January 28, 2010, 12:15:36 pm »

I WILL NOT BUY A COMPUTER ACCELERATION CONTROLLED VEHICLE.

Even if it means always buying used.
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jimlongo

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Re: Toyota: -Something smells fishy to me...
« Reply #10 on: January 28, 2010, 12:18:35 pm »

I'm on my second Matrix, a 2006.  I've only bought Toyotas since a 1979 Celica.

For vague reasons I started thinking about a year ago it might be my last Toyota.

When I was at my dealer last fall the salesman kept pushing how many more-features-at-a-lower-price the new Matrix had.  It felt flimsier than the 06.  
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Randirainbow

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Re: Toyota: -Something smells fishy to me...
« Reply #11 on: January 28, 2010, 12:23:12 pm »

Well I guess that with Toyota manufacturing and sales halted for mysterious reasons, I will have to buy an American car. Hmmmmmm!     Twisted Evil  Twisted Evil
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Roadster

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Re: Toyota: -Something smells fishy to me...
« Reply #12 on: January 28, 2010, 01:40:03 pm »

Randirainbow wrote on Thu, 28 January 2010 11:23

Well I guess that with Toyota manufacturing and sales halted for mysterious reasons, I will have to buy an American car. Hmmmmmm!     Twisted Evil  Twisted Evil


My Saturn Vue is for sale. It will probably become a collectible.
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Rich
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KB_S1

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Re: Toyota: -Something smells fishy to me...
« Reply #13 on: January 28, 2010, 02:40:31 pm »

Keith.


Try manually activating the throttle yourself whilst downshifting or applying a bit of left foot braking whilst accelerating.

Pretty sure the car will not comply and probably give you a row.
Unless you have sneaked a Fezza or Lambo purchase that you have kept quiet?
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Re: Toyota: -Something smells fishy to me...
« Reply #14 on: January 28, 2010, 09:33:58 pm »

KB_S1 wrote on Thu, 28 January 2010 14:40

Keith.


Try manually activating the throttle yourself whilst downshifting or applying a bit of left foot braking whilst accelerating.

Pretty sure the car will not comply and probably give you a row.
Unless you have sneaked a Fezza or Lambo purchase that you have kept quiet?


The point is that the brakes are mechanical.  Even if what you say is true, it will be the accel pedal that will not function, unless of course the computer controlled ABS is somehow preventing you from appying the brakes ... which would be ridiculous, and indeed very scary.

Brakes will ALWAYS overpower an engine ... even at full throttle, a functional brake system will stop the car.  Simply standing on the brakes will do it.  I'm not sure how these poeple are dyning (very tragic), but there are always options.  brakes is one, neutral is another, even if the engine cannot be shut off.
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