What to do in the event of a stuck gas pedal

Written by Andrew Traub

January 28, 2010

The problem of a stuck accelerator occasionally besets vehicles of nearly every make and model. Here is what consumer experts advise drivers to do if they find that the gas pedal is stuck:

What’s the best defensive course of action for drivers who find themselves in a sudden-acceleration incident?

Test-track drivers have found the most effective strategy was to hit the brake pedal hard and hold it. Don’t start pumping the brakes. That kills the vacuum assist and makes them less effective. Toyota goes a step further. It advises stepping on the brake pedal with both feet. using firm and steady pressure.

After hitting the brakes, shift the transmission into neutral. That should make the vehicle easier to bring to a complete halt. After disengaging the engine, pull safely off the road, turn off the car and park it.

How can I be prepared?

Be sure you know how to get your car into neutral. This varies greatly by make and model and is not always intuitive.

People might be tempted to turn off the engine, but shifting into neutral is a better option. That’s because turning the engine off stops the power steering system and will make it harder to control the vehicle. Still, if you can’t get it into neutral, shut the engine off.

Toyota said if its vehicle is equipped with an ‘engine start/stop’ button, you need to push the button firmly for at least three seconds to turn off the engine. If your auto has a conventional key ignition, turn the ignition key to the ACC position to turn off the engine. Don’t remove the key from the ignition because this will lock the steering wheel.

Is there some warning that lets me know my car has the problem?

Don’t expect a warning light to go off on the dashboard. You might notice that the pedal is getting harder to depress over time or is sluggish when you ease off the gas. Some drivers might notice a rough feeling while using the pedal.

Which models are affected by this latest warning and sales suspension?

Toyota said it stopped sales of the following models and years: 2009 and 2010 RAV4, 2009 and 2010 Corolla, 2009 and 2010 Matrix, 2005 to 2010 Avalon, 2010 Highlander 2007 to 2010 Tundra and 2008 to 2010 Sequoia. It also stopped sales of certain 2007 to 2010 Camry sedans, depending on where those vehicles were made; Camry owners should ask their dealer whether their car is affected.

What causes the problem?

Toyota said the accelerator pedals become worn over time. They develop friction, which causes the pedals to stick or return slowly after a driver removes pressure from the gas pedal.

What should I do if I think this might be happening to my vehicle?

Toyota is telling owners to drive the vehicle to the nearest safe location, shut off the engine and contact a dealer.

What is Toyota doing about the issue?

The automaker says it is working on a fix. For more information, call the Toyota Customer Experience Center at 800-331-4331.

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