In another blow to the automaker, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has reportedly received more than 80 complaints of problems with the power steering in 2009 and 2010 Toyota Corollas. Toyota and NHTSA are investigating the complaints, which could result in a possible recall.
The complaints reported by owners describe the car wandering at highway speeds and being difficult to control. Here are some quotes from owners who submitted their complaints into the NHTSA database:
“On the hwy it is as though the wind is blowing hard and blowing the car all over the place.”
“My 2009 Toyota Corolla steering wanders around the road and makes steering difficult and tiring.”
“Since day one, I noticed that driving highway speeds, the steering feels very loose. It takes two hands to constantly try to keep the car to go straight. The closest sensation would be like hydroplaining.”
“While driving on expressway/roads the vehicle will make a surprise pull to the left or right. One thing to note when turning the corner the steering will not recover straight.”
The Corolla was redesigned for the 2009 model year and received a new electric steering system. Based on these types of complaints, the problem could be caused by this system, or by the car’s tires or wheel alignment. Since the issue seems to be consistent, rather than intermittent, in the vehicles reported, it could make it easier for Toyota to find a remedy quickly.
According to Toyota, 296,874 Corollas were sold in the United States in 2009. Including those and other 2009 and 2010 models sold in other calendar years, the 80 reported complaints works out roughly to one in 5,000 vehicles with the reported steering issue. Of course, there could be more drivers experiencing the problem who have not reported it to NHTSA.
When we tested our 2009 Corolla, we didn’t notice any problem with the steering. The Corolla did well in our tests, delivered very good fuel economy of 32 mpg overall, has had above-average reliability, and earned a very good overall safety rating, based on our dynamic tests and both government and insurance industry crash tests. If car buyers have reservations about purchasing a Corolla, the Honda Civic and Hyundai Elantra are good small-car alternatives.—Liza Barth