Toyota is recalling almost half a million cars, most of them large sedans sold in the U.S., because the steering lock bar in these vehicles could break under some conditions.
The recall was announced Thursday and involves 412,000 vehicles in the U.S., 373,000 Avalon sedans and 39,000 Lexus LX 470 SUVs. The recall is Toyota's largest since announcing it would fix 600,000 Sienna minivans over rusting spare tire holders in April.
The automaker also is recalling 4,200 of those Avalons and 520 LX470 SUVs in Canada, Toyota Canada said.
The Avalons recalled in the U.S. range from the 2000 model year through to 2004 and have improper casting of the steering lock bar, the component that locks the steering wheel when the vehicle is shut off, that can cause a crack to form on the surface. Over time, the crack can expand, which can cause the steering wheel to become difficult to unlock when stationary. In some circumstances, the problem can cause the steering wheel to lock up during driving, Toyota said.
Toyota has received reports of three accidents involving the Avalon models under the recall though no injuries have been reported, a Toyota spokesman said. It was unclear whether the three accidents were related to the possible defect, he said. There have been no reports of accidents involving the LX470 models subject to the recall, Toyota said.
Toyota said that it would take about two hours to replace the steering column bracket for the vehicles. Owners will be notified via first class mail starting from late August, with the operations being performed free of charge.
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