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  • LusciousGarage.com
  • 475 9th Street San Francisco, CA 94103USA
  • 415.875.9030
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Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Prius Gas/Accelerator Pedal: Replacement, How It Works

imageCurious about the Prius accelerator pedal?  Toyota will be recalling all from the “Gen 2s”, model years 2004-2009, along with a few million others.  It’s worth noting that the original crash that spawned this safety campaign involved a non-hybrid Lexus with push-button start. 

Catch up on the floor mat saga here…

The Prius is included in the previous floor mat “safety campaign”, yes, as well as the one recently announced for accelerator pedals, but the car has also become an icon of Toyota innovation, not to mention the blurring line between computer and automobile.  If there is any car suspected of being too complex, too radical, or at least highly watched for any signs of failure, I believe it is the Prius. 

imageNo surprise then that it has received the brunt of the attention regarding unintended acceleration, even though the car in the San Diego crash, I remind you, was a non-hybrid Lexus.  Evidence the video portion of the AP article with gratuitous footage of the Prius and it’s Hybrid Synergy Drive emblem. Toyota to replace gas pedals on 4 million vehicles (AP via SFGate.com) 

[Interesting side note: the title of the AP story updated while writing this blog, previously “Toyota replacing some 4M gas pedals that could jam”]

According to my local dealer, there is no accelerator replacement currently available for the Prius.  The updates will no doubt have a different pedal shape, to aid avoidance of creeping floor mats.  An interim fix may be simply cutting a portion of the current pedal away.  The pedal lever is one solid plastic piece, which could be easily modified by a hot knife along some Toyota-issued template.  This is wholly speculation on my part; what they will actually end up doing remains to be seen.

imageThe good news is that the pedal is super simple to remove: two 10mm bolts accessible under the dash and one connector, so recall effort should be minimal.  I pulled this unit out in 5 minutes. 

The mechanism includes a large spring assembly to provide the “kinaesthesia” of a traditional accelerator pedal (that actually connects to an engine).  In “drive-by-wire” cars, such as the Prius (and most modern cars), the pedal lever simply moves a magnet (the green colored portion in the photo) which changes the readings of a Hall Effect sensor—in this case two sensors, for redundancy and accuracy, which are conveyed to the HV ECU (the car’s main computer).  Pics of the sensor component below.

Based on this input the car decides how much to actually move the engine’s throttle plate and, in the hybrid case, provide current to the electric motors.

imageNote that this design makes it impossible for the pedal to stick down, like a hydraulic system does with a leak (dead clutch pedal, dead brake pedal), or bind from a frayed cable (floating throttle, cruise control).  This is an important point when considering posts like this one on PriusChat: SCARY; gas pedal stuck, dropped into “b” gear.  Basically if the pedal is stuck, something is holding it there.

The curious point, at least in my view, is that the accelerator pedal is only a sensor; replacing it with yet another sensor does nothing to change the fact that the car is still effectively “in control.”  What’s really in question?  First, the software: how well the car can interpret our inputs in a crisis: the accelerator pedal as well as brake, shifter, power button, steering wheel, etc.. What’s our confidence in technology?  Second, and more to the heart: what’s our personal ability to carry out those inputs—i.e. do we know how to operate this car?  Evidence the videos from our previous blog post, the car will cut power when shifted into neutral or when the brake is applied simultaneously. 

This is the brilliance of drive-by-wire: the car is smart enough to know it doesn’t need more “gas”, and will override the “gas” pedal request that’s ostensibly from the driver.  In my view, this is much safer than a traditional, mechanically operated powertrain.

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Carolyn's avatarPosted by Carolyn Permalink Categories:

Closed for Thanksgiving, Buy Nothing Day

We’ll be back Tuesday, December 1st.  Carolyn will be around on Monday if you need anything special, reach us 24/7 as always on the contact page.

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Carolyn's avatarPosted by Carolyn Permalink Categories: Facility »

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Recovery Special: $70 Oil Change and Tire Rotation

The “Recovery Special” includes:

Changing the oil
Replacing the drain plug gasket
Replacing the oil filter
Tire rotation, if necessary
Checking the tire pressure, and filling as necessary
Maintenance reminder reset
Master Technician eyes looking at the machine (insert comprehensive list of automobile systems) as he/she performs said duties
Confidence in knowing all these things were performed, and performed properly
Direct contact with your technician
Green facility and service practices
Online, paperless records
Honesty and attention, without sales pressure

Total: $70

Caveats:

Not available on weekends/Mondays (unless you have a hangover)
Loaner/rides not included
No free bulbs, diagnostics, favors etc.
Translation: if you want the full Luscious, get “The Vitals”!

Carolyn's avatarPosted by Carolyn Permalink Categories: Maintenance »

Friday, November 13, 2009


LG TV: Worst Case Scenarios

Shifting into neutral works anytime

Pressing the brake will stop the car (quite quickly) when the accelerator is still held down

What happens when you hold the power button down for 3 seconds?

Don’t be afraid to practice shifting into neutral or pressing the power button under controlled conditions, to reassure yourself how the car works. 

Any other questions, comments, or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact us.

 

Carolyn's avatarPosted by Carolyn Permalink Categories:

Floor mat anxiety?  LG TV investigates…

imageBy now we’ve all heard about the tragic accident in San Diego involving an off-duty CHP officer losing control of his car.  Here is the initial story in the San Diego Union-Tribune:

CHP veteran among four thought to be victims of Friday crash via SignOnSanDiego.com

See all related news from the Union-Tribune here

Toyota attributed the inability to stop to the floor mats:

Read the initial NHTSA and Toyota releases here (via AutoBlogGreen)

Over two months since the accident, sympathy for the Saylor family has given way to media sensationalism and speculation.  Here’s an example of such an article:

Toyota Executive Denies “Cover Up” In Probe of Runaway Cars via abcnews.com

More speculating from the LA Times:

Toyota’s runaway-car worries may not stop at floor mats via latimes.com

imageSince the campaign involves the Toyota Prius, LG customers have had many questions about our experiences with floor mats and what we recommend.  Here is our response:

1. Two of our customers have experienced unintended acceleration due to floor mat interference. Both cases were Prius with aftermarket floor mats.  Both were able to avert an accident by pulling the floor mat back.

2. I have not removed the floor mats in the shop Prius, a 2007. (Note plenty of pedal clearance with all weather mats, held in place by the factory clips.)

3. We are making note of floor mat installation on cars coming in. We are happy to inspect your floor mats and make sure they are installed properly, free of charge.  We are always available to answer any questions via email or phone.

imageYesterday I received the Safety Recall Campaign letter, direct from Toyota, for the shop car.  In it they offer four suggestions on how to react if your vehicle continues to accelerate rapidly after releasing the accelerator pedal.

1. Pull back the floor mat
2. Step on the brake pedal
3. Shift into neutral
4. Hold the power button down for 3 seconds (safety override)

As the media whips up anxiety surrounding electronic failure of cars (rather than floor mat interference), I’ve heard speculation that the vehicle will not actually apply the brakes when the accelerator pedal is fully depressed, or that it won’t shift into neutral, or uncertainty on how to shut the car down with a push button start mechanism.  Since we at LG want you to feel empowered and informed in your car ownership (rather than afraid or powerless), we filmed examples of actions 2-4 to reassure you how the Prius behaves:

Shifting into neutral works anytime

Pressing the brake will stop the car (quite quickly) when the accelerator is still held down

What happens when you hold the power button down for 3 seconds?

The Saylor accident, like all car accidents, is a reminder of how deadly cars can be and that we shouldn’t take them for granted.  Don’t be afraid to practice shifting into neutral or pressing the power button under controlled conditions, to reassure yourself how the car works. 

Any other questions, comments, or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Carolyn's avatarPosted by Carolyn Permalink Categories:

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