Ps!

toyota
prius
steering
lights

#1

[Background: I drive what I’m told is the first Prius purchased in the state of Nebraska - a first US edition 2001. Bought it new, and love it. When we needed to upgrade from our 1991 Previa in 2007 we bought our second Prius - a 2008. We still own the Previa, which is the kid’s car, and my occasional truck.]

On a recent drive from Omaha to Boulder, the Power Steering Warning symbol came up on the display screen about 300 miles into the drive. After a few moments the screen announced “problem resolved” and the warning symbol went away. This happened several times, over the next hour or so, but then it came on and stayed on. At that point as I pulled off the interstate to stop I noticed that the power steering was indeed out. I called my home dealer to find out what dealers might be on route, but at that point (Omaha to Boulder) there was only Boulder. I asked if it was safe to drive without damaging the vehicle. He said he thought so, and I continued on to Boulder. When I started the car up again, no warning signal, and it didn’t show again for the rest of the trip. I took it in to the dealer when I got to boulder. They told me that the Rack & Pinion was going out, but was still functioning. Also, One of the front struts was blown and dry. Given the estimate for driving it, and more assurance that I wasn’t hurting anything by driving it, I continued to drive it during my week in Boulder, and then drove it home at the end of the week. I didn’t see the warning light again until about 300 miles into the trip home. Then it came up and resolved itself several times over a period of about an hour or so before it came up and held. When it did, I had no power steering. I pulled over, shut off and restarted the car. No signal. Power steering. I drove home. Haven’t seen the signal since. All this week - no warning. Took it in to my home shop, and they’re not sure what’s up, but the “codes indicate” I’ll probably need to replace the rack and pinion soon.

92k miles on a first (U.S) release Prius. Questions: (1) Do you agree with the diagnosis? (2) Why only after long drives? (Thinking back, I believe it did this last year on a drive to Nevada, but always resolved itself, so I never considered it an issue) (3) Do I replace the assembly before it fails, or wait, hoping I’m near a dealer when it does? (4) do I need to put in a new assembly (about $3000) or should I see if I can get a used one. (5) Or should I trade it in on a new one quick while the light’s not on?


#2

I’d join a Prius specific board. I’m sure that you’re not alone. It’s obvious that the dealers you consulted are clueless.

I’d tend to let this fail in service to truly determine the validity of the claim. Sure, it can be an inconvenience, but even a car rental and tow isn’t much of a loss liability where the wager is $3000 in assured costs with no definite assured remedy. For all you know it’s an electrical/software issue.


#3

I started posting and then realized we’re talking about a Prius. I don’t know what they’re using for a power steering system, hydraulic or electric, so I’ll abstain.


#4

I did a bit of research. Prius uses an electric power steering system.
http://www.aa1car.com/library/steering_power_electric.htm

This must be an intermittant electrical problem. This is one of the very rare times you’ll hear me suggest going to the dealer shop. I’m not trained in their system, as I’m sure many others aren’t, but the dealer techs will be. Sometimes specialized knowledge really is a good thing.

Sincere best.


#5

I don’t agree with either of the mechanics you saw. When a power steering system is "electric, I believe its a hydraulic system with an electric pump instead of a belt driven pump. If that is the case, I’d say your problem is probably with the pump, but it may be built into the rack and pinion.


#6

Your Prius may be part of a recall which effected the early 01 Prius.

Defect Summary: VEHICLE DESCRIPTION: PASSENGER VEHICLES. INSUFFICIENT ELECTRICAL CONTACT CAN OCCUR IN THE TORQUE SENSOR THAT CONTROLS THE POWER ASSIST OPERATION OF THE ELECTRIC POWER STEERING GEAR BOX. THE TORQUE SENSOR COULD SEND IMPROPER ELECTRICAL SIGNALS.
Consequence Summary: IF THIS OCCURS, THE POWER STEERING WARNING ICON WILL BE DISPLAYED ON THE CENTER PANEL, AND THE DRIVER COULD EXPERIENCE HIGHER THAN NORMAL STEERING EFFORT DEPENDING UPON VEHICLE SPEED.
Corrective Summary: DEALERS WILL REPAIR THE ELECTRIC STEERING GEAR BOX.