Delays plague Toyota owners with defect
Major recall leaves frustrated drivers waiting for fixes
Robert Sarner owns a 2008 Toyota RAV4 sport utility vehicle, which he bought used in 2012. The car has a mechanical problem that makes him feel burned.
Last fall, he went to a garage for basic service and learned that his engine consumed an excessive amount of oil. It was a known defect with the RAV4, he was told.
The garage contacted Toyota Canada, which said the problem was under warranty and would be addressed once the parts arrived. But almost a year later, nothing has happened.
“I had to bring in the car to have the oil consumption officially analyzed by an authorized Toyota dealer. They confirmed the problem, but so far there is no solution in sight,” Sarner said.
Frustrated to own a car that requires frequent additions of oil at his own expense, he keeps contacting Toyota to find out when the parts will arrive.
He’s had no response, other than a request by Toyota to go back to the authorized dealer for another oil consumption analysis.
Spokeswoman Alice Young Jeon said Toyota Canada has a warranty enhancement program (WEP) that extends coverage for vehicles with excessive engine oil consumption, as verified by a Toyota dealer.
“The current expectation is for this WEP to resume in early fall,” she added.
“All affected customers will be contact- ed as soon as replacement parts become available.”
It’s not clear why Toyota Canada’s extended warranty program has been delayed. But the company is not offering to reimburse owners for their expenses while waiting for repairs.
Phil Edmonston, author of the LemonAid car guide published each year, suggests going to small claims court to ask for repairs and expenses if your car burns excess oil and is not covered by Toyota’s warranty enhancement program.
In March 2014, a U.S. law firm filed a class-action suit in California on behalf of Toyota and Scion owners experiencing problems with excess oil consumption due to defective 2AZ-FE engines.
Waiting for repairs is upsetting. But it’s even worse if your car has a safety problem and there is a shortage of parts to fix it under a safety recall.
For instance, several million Canadian vehicles are included in a worldwide recall of airbags made by Takata Corp. in Japan. It’s one of the largest recalls for a safety problem in automotive history.
You can find out if your make and model of vehicle is affected at Transport Canada’s motor vehicle safety recalls database.
“The defect is more likely to occur if your vehicle has been exposed to sustained high humidity and temperatures for long periods of time,” says Transport Canada, which considers the risk to be low and has not received any complaints about abnormal deployment of Takata airbags in Canada.
Pamela Greenwood has been waiting one year for repairs to her Toyota Corolla’s airbag. She wants the manufacturer to pin down a repair date or — as some manufacturers have done — to offer a loaner vehicle to use as an alternative.
“I wonder how they expect a family of four to manage without using the passenger seat,” she said. “I am ready to trade in my vehicle because of this issue. My car is currently running well, so I would not be considering this if it weren’t for the safety problem.”
Greenwood wrote to me after hearing a report by Erica Johnson of CBC about a Toyota customer in Abbotsford, B.C., who has also waited a year for repairs.
“I feel like I’m driving Miss Daisy,” said 85-year-old Barb Fleming, who tells passengers to sit in the back seat to avoid possible injury or death from metal shrapnel shooting from a ruptured airbag.
Toyota Canada has not supplied an estimated time for repairs under the airbag recall. The government can’t force automakers to give customers this information.
The former Harper government tabled a bill to strengthen Transport Canada’s recall powers before the election was called last August. The Trudeau government plans to go ahead with the legislation.
The Motor Vehicle Safety Act is a “zombie law, neither dead nor alive, hollowed out with no enforcement powers,” says Edmonston, a consumer advocate who helped ease the passage of the act in 1971.
“But Takata delays and Transport Canada weakness have forced government to put this at the head of their agenda.” Ellen Roseman writes every Tuesday for Smart Money. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Safety regulators ordered Takata to recall millions of airbags.
Problems with Takata’s airbag inflators have led to one of the largest recalls for a safety problem in automotive history.