Toyota is replacing the pumps that cool the hybrid system in 650,000 Prius cars worldwide for a coolant pump glitch that could cause the top-selling hybrid to overheat and lose power, the automaker said. Toyota Motor Corp. spokesman Paul Nolasco said Tuesday the fix is needed in Prius cars for model years 2004 through to 2007. When the pump malfunctions, the car’s hybrid system switches off to prevent overheating and the vehicle’s regular gasoline engine takes over, he said. The owners can get their electric water pumps replaced at service centers at no charge, April Rose G. Francisco, a Toyota Motor Philippines Corp. public relations staffer, said in a text message.
Toyota said the design of the electric water pump let air bubbles enter the system, slowing coolant circulation and allowing the hybrid’s components to heat up. The heating up of the components could trigger a warning light. If left unattended, the Prius could overheat and drop into a “fail-safe” mode where engine power would be reduced, Toyota said.
However, the company said that the fault would not prevent the car from running and it had received no reports of accidents or injuries as a result of the problem. Automakers often issue repair notices separately from official recalls filed with regulators if they see no safety risk. “This is a ‘customer satisfaction campaign,’ which is a voluntary action of the company unlike legally-bound recalls,” said Toyota spokesman Paul Nolasco. There were only 28 reported cases of the problem occurring worldwide – none of which were in New Zealand – but 795 of the vehicles sold here would be repaired anyway. It was more likely the problem would cause the cars to overheat in warmer climates, he said.
Of the Prius cars that need fixing, 390,000 are in North America and 180,000 are in Japan. The problem affects 70,000 Prius vehicles in Europe. The problem with the Prius, which is closely associated with Toyota’s reputation for innovative technology, is the latest embarrassment for the world’s No. 1 automaker, which has recalled more than 11 million vehicles globally since late last year.