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Brake Malfunction Prompts Recall of 250,000 Honda Vehicles

Mar 15, 2013

Honda Motor Co. has issued a recall on nearly a quarter-million vehicles worldwide due to a malfunctioning brake system that applies pressure to brakes even if a driver doesn’t touch the pedal.

According to a The New York Times report, the recall was initiated by consumer complaints when some Honda owners petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to investigate this potential problem with the vehicles. The Honda owners said in their petition to the federal safety agency that their vehicles experienced “unexpected braking of varying duration, including several allegations of rapid decelerations from highway speeds to near stop in highway travel lanes.”

The action includes about 183,000 vehicles sold in the United States: About 101,000 Honda Pilots, 60,000 Acura MDX’s, and 21,000 Acura RLs in the 2005 model year, as well as another 800 2006 Acura MDX vehicles. Worldwide, the recall involves 250,000 vehicles. Honda told the NHTSA that it does not have any reports of accidents or injuries that were caused by any of these vehicles stopping unexpectedly or slowing more than a driver intended, according to The New York Times.

Honda indicates in its recall action that a problem exists with its Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) feature, or the electronic stability control. This system helps a vehicle adjust itself when it notices either the front or rear of a vehicle veering in a direction different than the angle of the steering wheel. The VSA applies slight pressure to the brakes to bring the vehicle back into alignment. Either a defectively manufactured electrical capacitor or a ground bolt that may have been loosened may have prompted the recall, The New York Times reports.

Honda says, “In either instance, unexpected brake activation could increase the risk of a crash,” according to a report from Agence France-Presse (AFP). The defect could occur on its own or when a driver applies the brakes to any of the affected vehicles and “the amount of brake force applied could exceed the driver's intended input.”

Vehicle stability controls are available on many makes and models of vehicles sold today and were implemented when safety tests showed that drivers often fail to fully apply the brake pedal during an emergency. These systems are designed to help drivers put full pressure on the brakes during these scenarios, according to The New York Times report.

The recall came about in an uncommon manner, The New York Times reports. One Honda owner took advantage of a little-used NHTSA defect petition that was filed in April 2012. Rather than just filing a complaint with the federal agency, the Honda owner said she found 38 complaints of unexpected braking in their vehicles, too, and at the time she filed the petition also complained that NHTSA had not opened an investigation to that point. In October 2012, NHTSA began its investigation into the matter and ramped that up in February 2013 with an engineering analysis that ended with this recall.

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