Being involved in a car fire can be one of the most frightening events in a person’s life. And because many automotive conflagrations occur as a result of a multiple-car crash or collision with a commercial truck, such as a tractor-trailer rig or large box truck, the chances of being trapped in a burning vehicle are even greater. As Maryland personal injury specialists, my legal staff is well aware of the potentially life-threatening traffic incidents that affect residents of Baltimore, Rockville, Annapolis and the District every day.
While electrical fires may not seem to be as common as some kinds of car fires, they are nonetheless serious from the standpoint of personal injury. Whatever the cause of an automobile fire, the risk of a person being terribly burned is always present. With gasoline and other flammable liquids and fluids contained within a vehicle, the threat that a fire, even a small one, presents is quite seriousness. Safety agencies, such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which handle complaints from people who have been injured in car, truck and motorcycle accidents as a result of possible mechanical problems, take any instance of potential vehicle fires as very serious and unacceptable hazards to the public.
That said, we recently learned that Toyota plans to recall about two and one-half million cars sold in the United States for a problem with window control switches. As a matter of fact, this recall extends beyond the U.S. to other countries where Toyota has sold the affected vehicles. Based on news reports, more than seven million vehicles are affected by this one problem. According to news reports, this particular recall is one of the biggest for Toyota, and the largest nationwide recall since a Ford Motor Company recall back in 1996.
The problem, which Toyota indicated was due to a problem with the manufacturing process, involves ’07-‘09 Camry, Camry Hybrid, RAV4 and Tundra models, as well as ’07-‘08 Yaris vehicles. The company’s Highlander and Highlander Hybrid (‘08 models), Sequoia (’08-’09 models), Scion xA and xD (’08-‘09 models), and Corolla/Matrix (’09 models) are also included in the safety recall.
According to news reports, the Toyota recall focuses on faulty power window controls that can potentially start a fire within the driver-side door. The cause of the problem was traced back to the manufacturing facility where the components were made. Toyota officials stated that window switches may not have been properly greased causing the switch action to feel sticky or notchy, according to reports. The problem itself apparently does not necessarily result in a fire, but the manufacturer said that if an “aftermarket grease” is used to smooth the switch operation this could result in a short occurring, which then could lead to a fire.
Based on news articles, Toyota dealers will be ready to repair the affected vehicles toward the end of October by applying a Toyota-specified grease to the switches. This fluorine-based grease is supposed to alleviate the problem, according to Toyota.
For anyone wondering if there vehicle may be affected, it’s instructive to note that Camry models make up more than 40 percent of the entire recall pool, which includes about 2.5 million cars. Since last February, the NHTSA in Washington, D.C., had reportedly been looking into more than one million Toyota models for similar window switch fires. The government safety agency had already noted 161 complaints of fires, as well as nearly 50 warranty-related claims involving electrical-related fires. Amojng those complaints, based on news reports, there were reportedly nine related injuries, but no reported defective vehicle-related fatalities.
Toyota Recalls 2.5 Million Vehicles in US for Window Switch Fires, MSN.com, October 10, 2012