Ken Thomas, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — Mazda Motor Corp. is recalling more than 300,000 Mazda3 and Mazda5 vehicles in North America to fix problems with the power-steering system that could lead to a crash, a problem the automaker addressed in Japan a year ago.
The Japanese automaker told the government the recall involved model year 2007-2009 Mazda3 and Mazda5 vehicles built from April 2007 through November 2008. The recall involves 215,000 vehicles in the United States and an additional 100,000 vehicles in Canada and Mexico.
Mazda said the vehicles could have a sudden loss of power-steering assist, making it difficult for the driver to steer the vehicle and increase the risk of a crash. The company said it has not received any reports of crashes or injuries tied to the problem.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation on June 28 into steering problems in 2007-2009 Mazda3s, citing 33 complaints alleging steering problems, including three crashes.
Mazda started fixing vehicles in Japan for the same problem last year and has investigated the issue for two years.
In a letter to NHTSA last week, Mazda said it was first informed of similar steering problems in Japan in March 2008. After receiving additional reports, the company began its own probe in July 2008.
By the summer of 2009, Mazda said it found that the problem was caused by rust forming inside the high-pressure pipe in the power steering system. Rust particles could enter the power steering pump, causing it to go into a fail safe mode and shut down to avoid overheating.
Mazda conducted an "improvement campaign" last summer to repair vehicles in Japan "due to a high occurrence rate of this problem," according to the letter to NHTSA. But the company stopped short of a recall in North America, issuing a technical service bulletin to dealers since the "occurrence rate was low." The service bulletin included repair procedures for customers who reported the steering problems.