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Discussion Starter #1
Last week my 02 Prius (which has had 26,500 trouble-free miles) did a strange thing. I'm wondering if anyone has heard of something similar, or experienced it, or has some idea/theory what the cause might be:

My Prius was parked for several hours on a cool day (temps around 55 F). I started it up, then (while parked with the engine running) I took a minute or two to enter an address into the navigation system. Then I began backing out of the parking space, driving very slowly because there were very expensive cars parked on either side (*g*), and was turning the steering wheel slightly while I was backing out of the parking space.

The Prius began to make a very loud mechanical buzzing noise (which seemed to come from the front of the vehicle), and the steering wheel vibrated _very_ violently. I immediately put my foot on the brake pedal, and put the car in "Park", but the noise & vibration continued. I waited about 3-5 seconds, but the problem continued, so my friend & I agreed that turning off the ignition was a good idea, which I did. The Prius' engine stopped, as did the noise & vibration. I waited about 5 seconds, then restarted the car, and the Prius functioned completely normally after that.

Needless to say my friend & I were freaked out, and I drove home extra carefully. The next morning the Prius started and drove normally, and I drove it straight to the nearby Toyota dealer where I bought it.

The dealer has had the car for several days, but everytime they drive it -- including after the car has been parked overnight -- the problem hasn't returned. So far they say they can't find anything wrong with the car, and they say Toyota hasn't been able to tell them what might have caused the symptoms. The dealer says they'll test for another day or two, but that I may just have to take it back and "wait and see if it happens again".

Because the symptoms were so intense I certainly wouldn't want it to do it again especially while driving at highway speeds, let alone over 10 mph. Unfortunately, I feel very reluctant to drive the car.

I'm going to call Toyota Customer Service myself tomorrow AM (Tuesday 5/27) to see if I can get any info about what might cause those particular symptoms.

In the meantime, if anyone has an idea or educated guess what might be the cause, I'd appreciate hearing it. Thanks.

- Peter
 

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If your dealers mechanic doesn't know about this issue, I'm not sure I'd want him working on my car.

I believe that this was a recall issue on the '01 (?) that has recurred on occasional '02s. As I recall, it's the steering box replacement that fixes the problem. I think it's documented on the yahoo droup.
 

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The problem on the 01 models was a software bug that caused malformed packets to the power stearing. It should have not have occured in an 02 but who knows...

Aron
 

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Make: TOYOTA
Model: PRIUS
Year: 2001
Recall Number: 00V285000
Summary:
VEHICLE DESCRIPTION: PASSENGER VEHICLES. INSUFFICIENT ELECTRICAL CONTACT CAN OCCUR IN THE TORQUE SENSOR THAT CONTROLS THE POWER ASSIST OPERATION OF THE ELECTRIC POWER STEERING GEAR BOX. THE TORQUE SENSOR COULD SEND IMPROPER ELECTRICAL SIGNALS.
Consequence:
IF THIS OCCURS, THE POWER STEERING WARNING ICON WILL BE DISPLAYED ON THE CENTER PANEL, AND THE DRIVER COULD EXPERIENCE HIGHER THAN NORMAL STEERING EFFORT DEPENDING UPON VEHICLE SPEED.
Remedy:
DEALERS WILL REPAIR THE ELECTRIC STEERING GEAR BOX.
Notes:
OWNER NOTIFICATION BEGAN OCTOBER 27, 2000. OWNERS WHO TAKE THEIR VEHICLES TO AN AUTHORIZED DEALER ON AN AGREED UPON SERVICE DATE AND DO NOT RECEIVE THE FREE REMEDY WITHIN A REASONABLE TIME SHOULD CONTACT TOYOTA AT 1-800-331-4331. ALSO CONTACT THE NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION'S AUTO SAFETY HOTLINE AT 1-888-DASH-2-DOT (1-888-327-4236).
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for your replies.

My dealer (and their mechanics) says no error codes were returned by my '02 Prius. They tell me that tends to indicate a mechanical problem rather than one involving electronics.

My dealer suspects it may be a "rack" related issue, but since they haven't been able to reproduce the problem on my car, they can't fix it.

To repeat, the only symptoms I'm aware of were the loud buzzing sound coming from the front of the car and the severe steering wheel vibration. (This while driving in reverse at about 1 MPH). Unfortunately, while the problem was happening I didn't have the presence of mind to test to see if the car had "hard steering" -- for what it's worth, the steering seemed to working OK for the few seconds I used it while backing out of the parking space.

To the best of my knowledge the '01 Prius steering recall didn't involve symptoms like what I experienced in my '02 Prius. As previously posted, the '01 Prius issue manifested as "hard steering".

I spoke with Toyota Cust. Service this AM & they said I have to work thru my dealer. Afterwards I spoke to my dealer and they say they can't fix the car if they can't reproduce the problem. Time for another go-around, I guess ...

I'm going to call Toyota back to try to at least get more info about what is most likely to cause the symptoms I (and my friend) witnessed in my car.

Of course, if the problem were only related to the power windows, or the stereo system, or some other non-safety related issue I'd be glad to take the car back and "wait to see if it happens again." But this is (possibly) the steering! (Whatever it was it sounded & felt really out of wack.)

Any other suggestions/ideas are welcome. I'll keep you informed as I move this along with Toyota & the dealer. Thanks again.

- Peter
 

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steering rack shudder

The only recall on the Prius has been
the Power Steering Rack for the
early shipments of 2001s. PS light
would come on, and the electric-assist
power steering would go out. You
could still drive the car, but it took
a lot of effort to turn the wheel.
A reboot of the car would usually
clear it if it happened to you, while
waiting for the recalled rack replacement
to arrive.

The violent steering shudder that
you mention has been recorded a
couple of times over on the toyota-prius
yahoogroup, usually on 2002s. I haven't
seen a TSB or recall on it yet.
Usually only seen in the morning
(cold start), often when reversing.
It usualy goes away after a reboot
or driving forward. It's not always
reproducable, but it usually gets more
freqent as time goes on. The fix is
a new steering rack, a $3000 part
under warranty.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Re: steering rack shudder

mrv said:
...The violent steering shudder that
you mention has been recorded a
couple of times over on the toyota-prius
yahoogroup, usually on 2002s. I haven't
seen a TSB or recall on it yet.
Usually only seen in the morning
(cold start), often when reversing.
It usualy goes away after a reboot
or driving forward. It's not always
reproducable, but it usually gets more
freqent as time goes on. The fix is
a new steering rack, a $3000 part
under warranty.
Thanks! This is exactly the kind of info I'm looking for. I'll mention the above info to Toyota & my dealer when I speak with them again. Unfortunately, I may not be able to do so until Friday. Stay tuned.

- Peter

Edited by Pete... You need to enable BBCode for formating to work
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Good news: Re: steering rack shudder

Yesterday the Prius mechanic at my Toyota dealership was able to reproduce the "steering rack shudder" in my car -- after several days of attempts, it finally exhibited the symptom while the mechanic was in the car. (For the record, my dealer says they have to reproduce a symptom/problem before they can begin a repair.)

The dealer got the steering rack repair authorized by Toyota, and it will hopefully be done by late today or Saturday. After I get the car back I'll post the exact repair description from their warranty paperwork.

Thanks again for everyone's help, especially "mrv" for correctly describing the issue.

(And thanks to PriusOnline, too!)

- Peter
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Repaired: steering rack shudder

My dealer finished the steering system repair on my '02 Prius today (under warranty; no charge). Here's what the service paperwork says:

Cause: Internal failure
450991 Others R&R*
1003 W94
1 44200-47060 Link
ASSY, ELECTRIC
FC: 87/99
PART#: 44200-47060

The car seemed to drive normally on the way home from the dealership. I'm going for a longer drive tomorrow; knock on plastic that everything's OK. ;-)

Thanks again.

- Peter
 

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Another 2002 Prius Waiting for Steering Rack Replacement

My white 2002 Prius with 21,500 miles started the "shaking steering wheel" phenomenon about a month ago. It only occurs on the first and/or second right turn of the day. I recently brought the car to the dealership at night with specific instructions on how they were to drive the car the next morning. They experienced the shaking and have ordered a replacement steering rack. When they checked rack availability, I was told there are 3000 on back-order. Is this steering rack becoming a major problem for the Prius?

Is it possible the shaking (or chattering) is really a problem with control system feedback from whatever senses the steering position and the motor that aids the steering? Is this chattering really a mechanical oscillation? There is no sign of looseness in the steering system when the car is off.
 

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> I was told there are 3000 on back-order

Don't be surprised to discover the dealer exaggerated that quantity to make the delivery wait seem more reasonable.

> Is this steering rack becoming a major problem for the Prius?

Not really. There's a known problem with the old torque-sensor & rack. The electric system isn't as forgiving as a traditional fluid system. So it took some tweaks on Toyota's part to get it working perfectly under every possible driving condition.

And since there isn't a safety issue, the newer classic Prius (beginning in late 2002?) has the fix already, and the original problem doesn't effect everyone, there isn't a recall. For now, Toyota is just informally honoring replacement requests outside of the warranty period, even providing rentals in the extreme cases. Many of us expect a formal statement of extended coverage once the backorder of current replacements is fulfilled.
 

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The steering rack is the problem

I had to have my steering rack replaced on my 2002 Prius. The shudder is the symptom.

In less than 30,000 miles I have also been through several sets of tires and had the front end aligned twice (in addition to the one presumably done during replacement of the rack).

The Service Manager at my dealer told me during my complaint meeting that I should be rotating the tires every 5000 miles and that 10,000 miles on a set of tires was not out of normal bounds. He also implied not doing an alignment every 10,000 miles was slacking on the maintenance.

Love the car. Wish they'd fix the problem on an ongoing basis gratis until they find a permanent fix. I am not happy with the service.
 

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10,000 miles on a set of tires is terrible. With proper inflation, even the OEM Bridgestones will run 20-25,000. Also, a realignment every 10,000 miles is unnecessary. Are you running the car off-road? If you don't hit a curb or a really bad pot hole and damage the front-end, the alignment should run the life of the tires or longer. I have had other cars that ran over 100,000 without needing an alignment.

You must have something else wrong with your car. I'd have it serviced at another Toyota dealer to get a second opinion. If you aren't getting the service free, I think the dealer is setting you up for a big repair bill.

I hope the steering rack fixes the problem...
 

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Nope, not running it off-road or anything. Drive it quite sedately. I know these figures are terrible and I'm quite angry about it.

I had the first alignment done very early on and they agreed to replace the tires without charge (but charged for the alignment). Then the rack replacement. Then just recently the latest alignment and new tire set (which they charged for).

I agree that an alignment should last. So should a steering rack. So should tires.

I've requested a full printout of my service record from my dealer -- it hasn't arrived yet and I'm beginning to doubt that it will.
 
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As I read this message thread, a I am extremely disheartened as I also FEEL your plight. The fact that you seem disheartened and are not receiving a fair disclosure of your/the overall situation simply additionally confirms my realization that you too are being dissed by Toyota and the mechanisms.

You can lookl throughout this forum and aside from the ample gloat and pride e prius owners have, there is a seemingly forboding sense that there is an Iceburg.

Had these problems occurren in another vehicle aside from the prius, would folks find it acceptable. We have placed our ownership high among our values that, a state of denial must be entered to protect that decision. Once you get past the hype and realize that you are being brushed off by the cogs in the toyota machinery, how do you reclaim your value system. Will you allow treatment by the toyota corporation to go unrefuted? If not, let's talk. I definitely have had enough!
 
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