NHTSA opens probe of 01-02 Sequoia stability issues

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Friday opened an investigation into 135 consumer complaints about 2001-02 Toyota Sequoias. The complaints are about the vehicle stabiity control system.

Following 135 consumer complaints, two crashes and five injuries, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Friday announced it had opened a preliminary investigation of 135,000 2001-02 Toyota Sequoias for stability control problems. The initial probe is the step the agency takes before deciding whether to ask for a recall.

According to documents on file with NHTSA, “Consumers allege incidents of unexpected Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) activations while driving at various speeds resulting in automatic application of braking force to the left or right front wheel and unexpected steering pull in the direction of the brake application.”

Or, to translate from legalese to English, a fault in their vehicle stability control systems can cause the Sequoia to swerve suddenly and unexpectedly to the left or right because the particular front brake is automatically applied. Toyota spokeswoman told Cindy Knight said the automaker is cooperating with regulators.

According to the agency’s Office of Defect Investigation (ODI), half of the 135 complaints it has received “indicate that a faulty yaw rate sensor was diagnosed as the cause of the VSC activations.” About 60 percent reported a “vehicle pull to the right at highway speeds.” In some of the incidents, operators stated that they had experienced “multiple incidents with some involving little to no pull lasting several seconds and others involving greater pull for a shorter duration, frequently described as feeling like a ‘jerk’ to the steering wheel.”

The VSC probe isn’t the first one for Sequoia. In 2010, Toyota called back 50,000 2003 Sequoias for low-speed activation of the VSC system. NHTSA opened an investigation in 2008, upgrading it to a recall in 2009. Though Toyota believed there was no safety issue, the automaker recalled the SUVs.

Sources: Automotive News, www.safercar.gov (NHTSA)

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