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Toyota Prius Owners Tell of Braking Scares

Stocks in this article: TM

Blue Bell, Pa., resident Julia Reusch noticed a similar problem with her 2010 Prius. "About three weeks ago, I told my husband to make sure he left extra room when braking because sometimes the car seems to slip like it's on ice when stopping, though there is no ice around," she wrote.

Reusch, a producer for Nancy Glass Productions in Philadelphia, filed a complaint with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. She also made an appointment with a Toyota dealer, then canceled when she read that Toyota did not yet have a fix for the problem. Now, she says, she has an appointment.

One day last week, before Toyota announced the Prius recall, eight or nine Prius owners were lined up at a Toyota dealership in Alhambra, Calif., complaining about "the antilock brakes not working as expected when driven over bumps," said Adam Bray-Ali of Alhambra.

"The service writers were polite, but they were defensive," he said. At the time, "they didn't know how to fix it. They didn't have a fix from the national group."

A technician operates a diagnosing equipment "TA scan" in a Prius, to fix the program of the antilock brake system at a dealership of Toyota.

Toyota spokesman John Hanson said the Prius recall was a response to customer complaints concerning "inconsistent brake feel" when the car traveled over rough surfaces, particularly potholes and bumps. In fact, he said, the ABS system on the 2010 Prius functioned properly, but it was "very aggressive." He said all Toyota dealers are now able to reprogram the software in less than 10 minutes, once the computer is hooked up to the vehicle.

"An ABS system is designed to make adjustments many times a second, engaging or disengaging the brakes," Hanson said. "The microprocessor compares what the driver is telling it to do at the pedal to what the tire is capable of achieving, and then it makes the decision as to whether it will allow that much braking input." In the cases where 2010 Prius drivers complained, he said, "they were all traveling at a moderate or slow rate, going over a bump or pothole, and giving a light touch on the brake when they hit the pothole. The computer notices that as being close to losing traction, and makes an adjustment," which caused the driver to believe the brakes were not functioning.

Despite the recent problems, Bray-Ali remains a Toyota loyalist. His 2008 Toyota Tundra has been recalled, he said, and he plans to take it in during the next four to six weeks. The service writers said parts will be available. "I believe them and trust it will be done later," he said.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C. .

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