When A Recall Is Just A Recall: It a leaking seal, not a smoking gun ...

When A Recall Is Just A Recall: It a leaking seal, not a smoking gun …

You probably noticed that I kept quiet during the entire Toyota unintended acceleration fiasco while the rest of the media ran with the story giving it new levels mass hysteria. The media was even gift-wrapped an LAPD-style car chase as one driver faked a stuck gas pedal in his Prius on the Pacific Coast Highway.

Almost every Toyota dealer had a local or national camera crew in front of their dealership doing a story on the recall. The parade of so-called experts was endless, and more law firms came out of the woodwork hoping for an injured Toyota driver.

As recalls go, it was a small recall in terms of the number of vehicles and repair procedures. But, the recall had a huge media following because of the propensity of Toyota drivers to be cheapskates craving any form of attention. Toyota did make some public relations miscues. The recall fed on itself, creating new fake victims with new  psychosomatic symptoms every week. I am sure there is a psychology student writing their master’s thesis on the events of the summer of 2010.

When the latest Toyota recall hit the media, it was the lead story on October 21st for about half the day. It was a nice distraction from the political news of the day.

The voluntary recall focused on the brake fluid leaking from the brake master cylinder, resulting in illumination of the brake warning lamp. Some Toyota owners were even driving with the brake warning lamp illuminated until they noticed a spongy or soft brake pedal feel and braking performance declined.

The cause of the leak was cited as non-factory fill brake fluid added during service of the systems that  affects the internal rubber seal (brake master cylinder cup) located at the end of the brake master cylinder piston at the rear of the master cylinder.

Toyota claims that some replacement brake fluids do not contain the correct levels of a certain polymer to protect the seal from drying out and curling during movements of the brake pedal.  

The press release states: “The Toyota genuine brake fluid used during vehicle assembly for vehicles sold in the U.S. contains polymers. The polymers act as lubricants for certain brake system components.”

The repair procedure for the recall is to install an updated seal manufactured of a material that can operate in an environment with lower levels of this unnamed polymer. Toyota claims the new seal should prevent any further leaks no matter what brand of brake fluid is used to service the system.

A day later, Honda announced  almost the same voluntary recall for some of its vehicles that used a master cylinder manufactured by the same company. This helped to take some of the mass media pressure off Toyota.

It was a simple case of the manufacturer of the master cylinder using the wrong material for the seal. It was a voluntary recall that was well handled by Toyota and Honda. There were no flaming Pintos, dead bodies or cars flipped over and in a canyon.

Some people choose to see deeper implications that were not there. One comment from a technicians’ forum said this was a scam by Toyota to sell brake fluid and flushes to drivers caught in their recall web.

Has this guy ever worked at a dealership? I have worked at a dealership as a service advisor during a high-profile recall and selling maintenance items, or even a required repair, is next to impossible. Trust me, if you can sell a Toyota owner a brake fluid flush during a recall, you should be selling beach-front property in Florida.

This recall was just a recall, and a voluntary one at that.

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