Explaining the Toyota Floormat Recall

Floormat1

Toyota is in the process of recalling nearly 4 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles for an issue with their floormats. A number of complaints have shown that the floormats can creep forward and get stuck under the accelerator, which can lead to unintended and potentially dangerous acceleration. (Yes, we know the recall is not official yet, but for clarity we will call it a recall).

We had a 2010 Toyota Prius in our test fleet this week and noted its floormat set-up is similar to Toyotas included in the recall. The 2010 Prius is not included in the current recall, but the 2005-2009 Prius is. Toyota spokesman John Hanson said that the 2010 model uses the same type of floormats as the older Prius, as do many other current Toyota models not included in the recall.

The 2010 Prius, which has only been on sale for a relatively short time, is not included in the recall at this time because there have been no specific complaints filed with either Toyota or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about the floormats, Hanson said. However, when the recall is finalized, which could be as early as next week, the 2010 Prius may be included, he said. Other models haven’t been included based solely on the lack of complaints. A number of factors including pedal placement and keyless ignition in addition to the floormats may have contributed to the complaints against the recalled cars.

So, what is it about these floormats that’s causing the problem?
Basically, any automaker’s floormats can slide forward if they’re not attached to a hook that keeps them in place. However, the Lexus and Toyota models in question include a hook that can be detached from the carpet, meaning there are two ways for the floormat to become dislodged. According to Hanson, the design stems from the fact that floormats are an option across the Toyota lineup, and someone buying a car without them wouldn’t want a fixed stem protruding from the carpet.

The timing of our Prius loan was pure coincidence. Before the recall was announced yesterday, we noticed the floormat had crept forward and its hooks were dislodged from the carpet. Our test cars are delivered from specialized fleets working with the automakers and are detailed before delivery. That often involves cleaning and removing the mats. Perhaps ours wasn’t put back properly or one of our editors with big feet kicked it out of place. Hanson mentioned that car washes are a prime opportunity for an owner to check the floormat’s installation.

Being detail-oriented car people, we popped the floor hooks back in and went on our way.

Toyota says that they are working on a permanent solution for the recalled models, and it will be developed within the government-mandated timeframe, which will be set after the recall is made official. How long that is we’re not sure. The recall itself is expected to be filed next week. In the meantime, all Toyota and Lexus drivers are being told to remove their floormats from the driver’s side to avoid any issues.

We would advise all car owners to be aware of their floormat placement, especially when using bulkier all-weather mats. We’d also suggest any owner of a modern Toyota not involved in the recall to be especially vigilant or remove their mats, too.

Floormat in place

Floormat2

Floormat too far forward

Floormat3

Comments 

"Hanson mentioned that car washes are a prime opportunity for an owner to check the floormat’s installation."

I'd be long dead...

Ziggy

Just make floor mats standard on all cars and make sure when the owner picks it up that they are secure and in place. If the owner takes them out and doesn't replace them correctly it's his fault. Floor mats are a way for dealers to nickel and dime you.

Paul

This has been a problem forever.Japanese makers use that flimsy plastic hook that usually rips the carpet out around it and no longer hooks (or is anchored).They should have a double cable arrangement with hooks on either end and anchor them to the seat bases.Afterall,there are 2 bolts at the front of each (bucket) seat.

All the cars I have had (admittedely, no Toyotas) have had a solid hook in the floor for the front floormats, regardless of whether or not you had them. There is no way that those floor mats would come loose unless it was intentional. And honestly, the hooks are so far under the seat that I wouldn't notice them if I didn't have floormats.

While I admire the intent of the Toyota hooks - no metal sticking up if you were too cheap to buy the 'mats - much like the headlight stalk and windshield wiper control placement, they should go with the standard set by their contemporaries instead of trying to address an issue that no one is really having (i.e. the hooks in the floor if you were cheap.)

* http://www.cardealerhorrorstories.com *

H

A floormat is...just that...a floormat. Floormats have been slipping forward since the first person ever decided to put a piece of carpet on their floorboard. They can do whatever to keep it from sliding but the real issue is the accelerator pedal and the lack of space between it and the floorboard and transmission tunnel. Correct that and the floormat won't ever have a chance to jam it.

And Ziggy, our legal system rarely condemns incompetence e.g. getting burned from spilling hot coffee on yourself. Is it your fault or the fault of the company that made the hot coffee?

Davin Peterson

I have a '03 Camry and the floormats stay in place because they are attached to a hook similar to the first picture on top. I've checked them again and they are still in place and have never came off.

segfault

My Pontiac had a factory-installed hook even though the floormats were an option. Maybe people who don't buy the factory floormats can learn to live with a useless (to them), permanent, factory-installed hook?

VW and Audi use some type of screw-in post for their floormat retainers. Maybe Toyota should study some of their designs... :P

Paul

Witnesses claimed to see the brakes literally on fire before the crash,so,without being able to engage neutral and/or shutting off the engine,the driver laid on the brakes for miles (full throttle engine operation means low vacuum,and that kills the power brakes,so he must have had both feet on the brakes in a futile attempt to slow down.)Frankly,I would have tried to find a field and off road the thing.Nothing to lose,but a loaner Lexus.Who cares about the lousy car under those conditions....
But I realize,it must have been a totally panicked situation.
Toyota should pay dearly.

Paul

This Lexus has a weird ignition that requires one to hold it down for 3 seconds to shut off.In a panic are you going to know that??
THe shift pattern is a strange H.Neutral is hard to find.Heaven forbid if one isnt familiar with these cars.
I feel NHTSA is going to set up a major investigation,and Toyota will be swapping out ignition switches,gear shifts for millions of vehicles.
Oh what a feeling,give me a 75 Valiant or K-car anyday compared to this!

Ziggy

My Toyota has a permanent hook on the floor that comes up through the mat and locks it into place. It is not like the one pictured. My Hyundai has one that is similar.

Dave Wuss

If you cant find Neutral you shouldn't be driving. This accident was driver error - nothing else. If the car was put into Neutral at ANY point between 70 & 120mph this wouldn't have happened.

Is the Yaris included in this recall?

DaveInLBC

I purchased the after market (though thru Toyota) all weather mats for my '06 Prius and I'll admit the gas pedal has gotten stuck two or three times; but because of MY neglegence. When the folks at the car wash remove the mats to clean them, they almost never secure them when they put them back in. Me, being in a hurry because they always seem to take a long time to clean the car, just get in and go... I am responsible for ensuring that they have been properly secured (or maybe the car wash folks); not Toyota.

What do I do when it gets stuck? At first I wonder what the heck is going on, but after a split second I just reach down and pull up the mat- sliding it back. No accident or "close calls" for me.

It seems as though the issue is the mats that come from the factory? I can understand the concern for Toyota to fix the issue- but be responsible for peoples neglect? I don't think so. If I pour liquid into my engine that will sieze it; or dump wood chips in the oil to "quiet the engine", should Toyota be sued when my car dies? There is so much that someone can do to a car to lead to an accident- I don't get why I would want to go after Toyota for my stupidity? If I held anyone responsible it would be whoever took out the mats and didn't replace them properly. Let's play "What if": What if the driver was texting? Eating? Looking down at a Nav screen? Looking at another driver of another car? What if the driver wasn't paying attention, then when it was too late noticed the pedal was stuck? I could go on and on...

Mike

I wish that I even had a hook on my floormats!

S.G.

H,

You have to remember though, this was a dealership loaner. So technically it would be like the Vendor of that coffee giving you a cracked mug and then it breaks and spills on you. The Vender should keep a quality inventory, so it technically isn't that he spilled it onto himself.

Derrick G

After looking at the shifter at the Lexus website, it looks like to me that it'd be easy for someone not familiar with it to think that the upshift part of the manual-mode gate was neutral due to the way it's laid out and labeled.

That said, the real issue seems to be Toyota's pedal design. I've purposely tried to get the throttle on my Sonata to jamb after detatching the mat from its post and putting it in various positions. The spring easily overcomes it every time. The mat in the Cavalier my company owns doesn't have a retainer. Even so, it's never came close to holding the pedal down as it rides up towards the firewall. And there are millions of cars with non-standard mats yet the complaints are centering around Toyota's cars.

Tony

I had this problem on the Mercury Villager. Never got it recalled. That car had worst floor mats I ever head. Too thin - prone to bending, prone to get dirty and impossible to wash. Hook cam out of the floor lining and floor mat went under the gas pedal on many occasions. Good that not under brake pedal.

Derrick G

Tony,

Are you saying your Mercury's mat actually caused the gas pedal to stick or that the mat just got under the pedal?

cody

not trying to start an argument here, but i just can't see how floormats can cause this, especially with the post above stating that witnesses saw that the brakes were on fire. could it be a problem with the throttle-by-wire system?? just a thought.

Ceckel

Who knew floormats could cause so much damage. This video has an audio clip from the 911 call made right before the Lexus in question crashed. It's definitely chilling: http://bit.ly/3oh5h

Ruth

In early July I also had an unintentional acceleration event occur while driving my 2002 Honda Accord, 6 cylinder car, on a major highway in NJ. As I entered the highway and accelerated, I felt the engine gun artificially and thought perhaps my cruise control was engaged, but it wasn't, and I haven't used the CC since I purchased the vehicle, I never use it. Immediately I realized I was traveling at 55MPH and could not slow the car down in spite of what I intuitively tried to do...ease off gas, hit the brakes (with both feet!), use the hand brake ( lots of smoke, no slowing of the car), put transmission into first gear (still 55 mph, just like nothing happened)...nothing worked. Now I realized that I was probably going to die. I saw a traffic light with many cars sitting in the road not far ahead. The last thing I wanted to do was to take someone else out with me! I maneuvered onto the shoulder, still barreling down the road at 55MPH and realized that if I put the car into park or reverse, the car would have to stop. I slammed the auto-transmission into park and pulled up again on the hand brake and the car finally stopped just short of the traffic at the light. All of this took place within 2 minutes.
What I have learned since this event is the following: if you turn off the key, you lose your ability to steer. If you turn the key to accessory, you have limited steering potential, (steering was all I had left!), if you put the car into neutral, the motor may blow up and ignite into a fiery inferno (there are many documented cases of this happening), the throttle opening and getting stuck has nothing to do with the car being in or out of cruise control. In my case, the cruise control cable clips failed (despite the fact the car was NOT in cruise control mode) and the cables relaxed and opened the throttle. In other cases, the microchip fails. When a service guy started my engine the following day at Honda, the RPMs raced immediately to 6500. The transmission was miraculously intact because the throttle box was wide open. Under normal conditions, if you threw the transmission into park while driving at 55MPH, you'd blow the transmission.
Please correct the misinformation provided by the investigator, Forrest Folke. Unintentional acceleration is a common dysfunction you rarely hear about because people die and their cars are generally wrecked or burned beyond the point of investigation. Honda and Toyota know there is a problem and are not recalling these vehicles. When I contacted Honda Corporate customer service all they had to say was that they were sorry for the "inconvenience". All I can say is that I hope it never happens to them, you, or someone you know. It was terrifying. The day after my incident, a woman driver in Pennsylvania apparently went through a similar situation, except she perished in a crash and injured other people. As a survivor, my intent is to alert as many people as possible about this malfunction and what to do to correct it, if it should happen. Please set the record straight...unintentional acceleration has little, if nothing, to do with cruise control status and turning the ignition off will leave the driver without the ability to steer the car, while placing the engine in neutral may ignite the engine. Oh yes, and it also has absolutely NOTHING to do with car mats. Here is a link to the story from Pennsylvania.

http://www.phillyburbs.com/news/local/the_intelligencer/the_intelligencer_news_details/article/27/2009/july/09/crash-site-called-horrific.html

Divorced

I have just divorced, and my spouse still loves me... she just gave me her Lexus with new floormats.

Jayz

"...if you put the car into neutral, the motor may blow up and ignite into a fiery inferno (there are many documented cases of this happening)..."

Your above statement proves you have no idea what you're talking about.

Sarah M. Kent

I had a wreck in an '05 Camry in Jan. '07. Reported it to Toyota and was snubbed. Told that it was impossible for the accelrator to stick and the brakes to fail at the same time. However, I have a wonderful mechanic who knew at the time that there was a problem. I still own the vehichle and have it in storage because he knew that someday something awful would happen and someone may need to look at the intact car.

Both of my legs were broken. I still have problems with them. My daughter was dying with cancer. I was not able to see her for two months while I was in the hospital, rehab and nursing home. I bought a car as soon as I was released and a friend drove me to see her in Austin. I live near New Orleans. She died just over a month later. I'll never get back the time I could have had with her. Her husband and children as well as she needed me. I wasn't able to be with them the way I wanted afterwards because I was still in therapy and much pain.

It was a horrible experience!

Tony

Derrick G ,

yes, floor mat caused gas pedal stick

Clayman

The mats in my old '03 Camry had these hooks, but the grommets they fit into eventually pulled out of the carpet, rendering them useless. My '08 Avalon has the same design and the left side grommet has just pulled out. I use Weathertech liners in the winter...they're form-fitted to the floor and are less likely to creep. When I return the carpet mats in the spring, I just make sure I pull them back each time I get in the car. I haven't had any issues...yet!

metakid

Sure, the mats are a key issue in this but what I think was highly disturbing was how there was no way to turn the engine off. If you listen to the 911 call http://www.newsy.com/videos/toyota_s_dented_reputation, those who were driving din know how to shut the engine even. I agree with Paul. How would anyone know to hold the ignition button for 3 sec when in panic. And I hear that it's not even stated clearly in the car.

fred

2001 camry, i noticed it has a hole for the hook, but i'm pretty sure they never installed the hook in the first place.
very odd. clearly this issue goes back much further. i know my honda has a permanent peg/hook.

WS

Your article states that the "floormats can creep forward and get stuck under the accelerator, which can lead to unintended and potentially dangerous acceleration." I'm confused. On every car I've ever driven you press down on the accelerator. If the floor mat is "stuck under the accelerator" how does that make the car go faster?

juntao

what about the 100,000s of GM cars that floormats that got stuck on the gas pedal, no one talks about those anymore. this is just a plot by GM to poke at toyota because the big 3 have failed at research and developement,

any floormat could get stuck over the accelerator, it depends how you put them back in, it's your responsibilty when you clean your mats to make sure they're not on top of the accelerator,,

Also it is your responsibility to push the "BRAKE" when your accelerator gets stuck. brakes are much stronger that the engine,

this could happen to anycar anywhere. they probly had those rain floormats installed ontop of the factory mats,

GM's failure of safety has killed millions of people over the years, but that's ok? because they're GM.

lets just put on-star in the car so when you do crash because of our poor design and you can't move, the car will automatically call the police.

i'd rather have a reliable and safe car than a poorly designed car with on-star that is always breaking down just so you can get a busy signal from on-star,

Erik

"Also it is your responsibility to push the "BRAKE" when your accelerator gets stuck. brakes are much stronger that the engine,"

Shows how much you know about cars....when the throttle is wide open, an engine doesnt make vacuum, the power assisted brakes are run by guess what, VACUUM! so you have zero assist for your 200 sum horse camry V6 tugging you along wide open.

"placing the engine in neutral may ignite the engine"

And Another "i have no clue about cars" Theres this magical thing called a Rev limiter, you can bounce off that thing all day with a newer car and it wont even wince, there set much lower than dangerous.

The thing is, they have adjustable pedals and there set at strange angles so the mat goes forward and contacts the bottom of the pedal and pushes it down, its not going under the pedal, thats the problem.

DPR

I have a 2009 RAV 4, 6 cylinder. In a very recent incident the brake did not win over the accelerator. I do have the thick all weather mats-but I believe somehow when I moved foot from accelerator to depress brake my foot was on brake but also caught the accelerator. I pushed hard on the brake and the brakes were clearly engaged--but my car accelerated. Luckily there was a stopped car about 10 feet in front of me--I'm very lucky to have hit a car instead of of a pedestrian. I've heard of people hitting the gas instead of the brake--I've never heard of someone hitting both break and gas at the same time. Whether it's the design of the car or that I'm an idiot--I sure as heck don't want it to happen again. I really like the previous post that discussed that some cars will be designed to have the brake always over ride the accelerator. Would it be possible to retrofit my Rav4 with this feature--or is this something that can only be done on future models that are specifically set up for this feature?

Rick

I bought a 2009 Yaris with plastic floormats installed over the fabric floormats, which clearly say not to put any other floormats on top of them. Also, the accelerator and brake are too close together, and the accelerator is wedged in a corner, I can only push it with my toes. Toyota is going to suspend production of 65,000 vehicles a month to fix a floormat problem? Seems insane to me, how did GM lose to these guys?

Mary

Sorry to mention this but, I bought a 2005 corolla and I have had this issue for ever. The floor mat issue. I keep taking my ankle and sliding the mat down away from the pedal. Interesting, just last weekend I mentioned this issue to my brother...

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