The Toyota Prius is a fantastic car, according to many drivers. Prius owners are typically very satisfied with their purchase, and the high-tech hybrid appeal has only grown with the increasingly greener market. However, people became more concerned about the hybrid’s safety record after a Californian driver’s Prius lost braking control on the highway.
Prius owners need not worry too much about an incident like this realistically happening to them, but even if the statistical likelihood is low, knowing what to do in the event of an emergency like this one is an effort that could potentially pay off at some point in the future.
How to stop a runaway Toyota Prius
Step 1: Hold down the brake pedal. Even if it isn’t working at first, keeping it depressed may activate it after a while. Alternatively, lifting up on the brake and pressing down again may loosen up whatever’s causing the issue.
Bear in mind that it should only be considered a “runaway” situation if the braking isn’t working and the accelerator is active without help from the user.
Step 2: Shift into Neutral. In the case of a stuck accelerator pedal, manually shifting the transmission into Neutral can suck the juice out of the runaway momentum.
Your car’s emergency brake isn’t just there for parking on an incline; true to its name, it is specifically there to be used in situations where you regular brakes give out.
Because it’s a relatively uncommon issue however, a driver may not think to use it in the midst of the issue. Case in point: the driver with the reported runaway Prius needed to be instructed explicitly by the police after calling 911 to use his emergency brake. This is a testament to the fact that a vehicle is only safe to drive if its owner knows how to properly operate it.
Step 3: Turn off the engine. After you’re able to slow the car down with the emergency brake or shifting it into neutral, you should try to turn off the engine.
Shifting off the ignition may not work if your car’s accelerating, but the emergency brake should be able to draw you down to a manageable speed. When you emergency brake, you should make sure there isn’t a car right behind you that won’t have ample time to evade you.
- Tip: As you fix the runaway issue, stay every bit as aware of your surroundings as ever. If the car is accelerating, it’s important to activate the emergency brake as quickly as possible. In the case of a collision, faster speeds will increase the danger and lethality risk exponentially.
Potential causes and explanations
Contrary to the physical friction of conventional braking systems, the Toyota Prius uses an electric alternative called regenerative brakes, without the typical friction wear. Regenerative brakes reverse the electric motor to slow the car down.
While there are benefits to the regenerative system, Toyota received flak for glitches in their cars’ safety. The more recent the model year of your Prius, the more likely it is to have had the kinks in this system worked out. Nonetheless, if there is any question as to the risk of your regenerative brakes, you should contact the manufacturer.
Toyota has issued recalls on a number of their vehicle in order to solve what is euphemistically labelled “unintended acceleration.” While the Prius wasn’t listed in the first recall, it’s since been added to the roster. Subsequent recalls have been issued to address the problematic regenerative brakes, as well as a tendency for the floor mat to get stuck under the accelerator pedal.
Avoiding a runaway situation in the first place
Your model year may have been offered a voluntary recall to fix some part of it. The 2007 model year has been particularly susceptible to issues regarding unresponsive braking. If you have received a voluntary recall at any point in the past, it is strongly recommended to take the manufacturer up on their offer. A recall can come at great expense to the automaker that issues it, so the problem they want to fix would be obviously significant enough to bear attention.
Although it may sound like a simple fix (and it is!) removing the floor mat from the driver’s side can eliminate the risk of getting it stuck beneath the accelerator pedal. Again, this issue was found to be especially prominent with the 2007 model year Priuses.
In addition to any Prius-specific recalls, it’s a good idea for any vehicle to be taken in for a mechanical checkup at least annually. Any issues you notice with your braking or transmission should be looked over at the earliest convenience. As a modern car, your Prius’ ECU (engine control unit) will register ODB-II trouble codes if the onboard diagnostic system detects an issue. This should result in an illuminated trouble code indicator on your dashboard. A trouble code will report a specific diagnosis of the problem, and may give some explanation if your car has been experiencing problematic symptoms. Ready to learn more about your Prius? Find out how to turn your Prius into a temporary generator, how to disable the reverse beep, and how to sync your cell numbers to your car.