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2009 Toyota Prius drifts left

Dear Friends,

I have a brand new 2009 Toyota Prius Touring Package B.

When I drove the car home after picking it up at the Toyota dealership the car pulled dramatically to the left. I had to pull down on the right side of the steering wheel to keep the car straight on the road. I drove it this way for about 800 miles. I have taken the Prius into the dealership 6-7 times over the past six months. They alined the car, switched the front tires, alined it again, installed a new set of tires, switched those front tires and although the car does drive a little straighter the problem still persists. The car is still under warranty but they don’t seem to have the technical skills to fully resolve the problem. Also the service manager is not as happy to see me when I show up for another appointment. This is my first Toyota, I have bought Hondas in the past, and I have $30,000.00 invested in a new car that does not drive straight on the highway.

Another note: I just returned from Germany and drove on the autobahn in a Toyota at 94 miles per hour and it drove straight down the road. So I know Toyota can make cars that drive straight. Help!!!

Warmest regards, Vern Iverson

763-441-1322 home

763-245-3072 cell

Have them check the brake system, including the parking brakes. A dragging brake will cause pulling to one side.

And keep all your copies of the shopp orders. They’re obligated to repair this under warranty even if it goes on forever. It’s unfortunate that they don’t have the knowledge necessary. This one should not be “rocket science”.

Post back with how you make out. We care.

Take it to a independent auto shop that has a state of the art alignment machine, and have it checked. These machines can even tell if the cars frame is out of spec. Get the printout, and If anything is remotely out of spec, go back to the dealer with printout in hand.

Thanks for the idea. I know they have not looked at this yet. By the way, I have a very positive relationship with the service manager and he has been helpful. But I think it is wearing thin with each appointment. The service manager was in chicago this week with a person he call a “Technical Field Specialist” from Toyota. He said he was going to talk to him and maybe have him come to Minneapolis to see the car for himself. Well, we will see what happens Monday when I call. Thanks again for the idea.

Mountainbike has given you very good advice, but I want to add that you need to educate yourself about the terms of the Lemon Law in your state. If you do not find a brochure outlining the Lemon Law in your glove compartment, go to www.carlemon.com for the details.

The provisions vary somewhat from state to state, but in most states a dealership gets three tries to correct a problem. After that, you should be eligible for a settlement under the terms of the Lemon Law. The settlement terms also vary, from an identical replacement vehicle to a full refund, including tax and license fees. Of course, if you do not notify the manufacturer that you are filing a complaint under the Lemon Law, then you will likely continue to be in the situation that you are in currently. Why you have not pursued this avenue is beyond my comprehension.

Just as an example, a friend of mine had persistent (but random) starting problems and strange electrical problems on his '08 RAV-4 after the dealership installed a genuine Toyota factory remote starter system on the vehicle. (Knowing how problematic these things can be, I made sure that he did not buy an aftermarket brand, as these would not be eligible for Lemon Law coverage. And, yes, I do go the extra mile to foresee problems and avoid them.)

The dealership twice reported the usual “unable to duplicate symptoms, no codes present”. After the second repair attempt, I drafted a letter to Toyota’s offices in California, using my best legalese, and throwing in quotes from NJ’s Lemon Law, as well as the statute’s number. In other words, I let Toyota know that we (I ghost-wrote it for my friend) knew the terms of the law, and I politely reminded them that a new vehicle would be due if the third repair attempt was unsuccessful.

Well, shortly thereafter, my friend received an extremely polite phone call from the Toyota regional technical field specialist, and an appointment was made for this Toyota corporate person to inspect and repair the RAV. On the appointed day, we arrived at the dealership, the Toyota technical rep greeted us, and he introduced us to a Japanese engineer from the firm that supplies the remote starter units to Toyota!

The Japanese engineer was actually the one who correctly diagnosed the problem, and the Toyota corporate technical guy was the one who performed the repairs that day, despite the dealership’s inability to do much of anything on the previous two repair attempts. Three months later, the RAV is still running perfectly, so I know that they did repair it properly. Incidentally, I requested and received an invoice stating that the original installation had not been done correctly by the dealership!

Do you think that an engineer would have been sent to the dealership if I had not kicked it up to the corporate level with the threat of legal action under the terms of the Lemon Law? Of course not.

It is absolutely amazing how the motivation to repair an ongoing problem on a new car suddenly surfaces, and it is amazing how an ongoing problem can suddenly be resolved, when you simply use the legal means that exist.

You have been “Mr. Nice Guy” for too long, and it is time for you to take the bull by the horns and to get a resolution for this problem that (to use my verbiage from the letter that I wrote) “substantially and materially affects my ability to operate this car safely”.

So, educate yourself, and take action. If it worked for me and my friend, it can work for you!

I will do that if all else fails. The reason is I will have to pay for this service. Even if I keep a receipt Toyota may not reimburse me for it. But I will try it if they can’t fix it. Thank you.

I have to be carful because of the warranty from Toyota. They would love to invalidate the warranty for any reason.

Don’t waste your money on an independent mechanic when the car is both under warranty AND eligible for Lemon Law coverage!

So on any of these visits to the dealer have you been given, or seen the printout of the alignment? How would you know if the dealer is not hiding something serious without having a second unbiased opinion?

I Don’t Have Access To 2009 Prius TSBs (Technical Service Bulletins) . . .
. . . but, I have found an 11 page Toyota technical service bulletin for the 2008 model year Prius that covers “VEHICLE PULLING TO ONE SIDE”.

It walks technicians through troubleshooting this condition (flow charts) and discusses methods for determining whether the pull is caused by alignment or tires and includes checking for dragging brakes or a tilting vehicle. Have you looked and/or measured heights to see if the car is tilting?

It focuses heavily on tires and alignments and I presume a TSB was used by the dealer, but I have no proof that it was followed. I don’t know if one applies to 2009 models. I would ask if a TSB flow chart was used in diagnosing and repairing the vehicle.

Since this TSB exists, I’m guessing that your’s is not the first Prius that “pulls”.

CSA

Even if the dealership has ignored those TSBs, if the OP will simply utilize the appropriate terminology–Lemon Law–in a carefully-drafted letter to Toyota’s offices in California, the corporate folks will make sure that those TSBs are utilized.

Trust me–Toyota does not want to have to give the OP a new car or to refund his money. All he has to do is to send an appropriate letter (via certifed mail, return receipt requested) to Toyota corporate, and the motivation to reference the available technical bulletins will suddenly emerge at that dealership.

I predict that, if the OP does as I advise, he will either get his Prius repaired properly, or he will get a settlement under the terms of the Lemon Law in his state.

Yes I have two print-outs of the alignment. Each one is with in the “green” specs. It seems to me that there is a range of “in-spec” according to the print-outs I have. Now my question is does the Toyota service department have trained technicians that can adjust the specs to stop the pull. Another issue is does the alignment equipment have sufficient fine graduated adjustments to move the specs. to the required range to resolve the problem?

Can you send me a web address with the 2008 TSB “vehicle pulling to one side” information. I would like to have that on Monday when I see the service manager. Thanks

Alignment problems can be tricky. I’ve even heard that when the automobile is chained down in transport on the truck, a suspension part can become bent. Years ago, I did business with a man who ran an alignment shop. He once showed me his appointment book and there were appointments that had been made by almost every dealer in our town and some chain tire shops. It seems that if a customer complained enough, the dealer took the customer’s car to this man’s shop when the dealers’ alignment technicians couldn’t get the car right.

um ya not sure if youve heard of jeff dunham or seen spark of insanity but “did you know that if you stick your hand out the window the vehicle will tuuuuurn?”

Could you send me a web link to the TSB? Thanks

It is very difficult for a car maker to invalidate a warranty. They can not cover a specific item with just cause but never the entire warranty.

This kind of defect is harder to press through using the lemon law which vary state to state. The vehicle is drivable and useable. Educate on your local ones but I would work hard with Toyota on getting this resolved.

You really dropped $30k on a prius?

How would you know if the dealer is not hiding something serious without having a second unbiased opinion?

Since this one should qualify under the lemon law, who cars if the dealer is trying to pull a fast one. In the end the car must be fixed or replaced/money returned etc.

Yes I added a few up-grades and that total includes all the taxes, shipping charges, dealer prep and license plates.
Thanks for the advice.

Caster must be equal on both sides in front or the car will pull to one side or the other even with correct camber and toe. Caster is considered unadjustable on most cars now with struts and a single lower A frame type front suspension (MacPherson struts) but I don’t know what construction your Prius has. Is your dealer providing camber and toe measurements within spec but not caster for each front wheel?

Possibly your dealer does not know how to adjust caster if it is the problem. I have a quick and dirty way to do it at home but professionally, I would think that a good body shop would have the hydraulic bending equipment needed.

My quick and dirty way to do it at home requires that it be done right the first time as there is little room for a retry as it involves elongating the strut mounting holes at the tops of the shock towers. This may not work with a vehicle if there is no room to move the strut over a little within the shock tower.