Thursday, March 11, 2010

We Loved Our Toyota... And Now I Don't Even Want to Drive It...

I have to say, I'm a little nervous about our car these days. It just hit it's second birthday and when we bought it in 2008 it was a dream come true.

And it was a necessity.

For those of you who don't know, Paul commutes around 600 miles a week to school (about 300 miles each way) plus the 20 or so miles each day going to and from work (not to mention our trips to "the city" to stock up on supplies... those are 100+ miles).

When we bought the new car we had just sold my Volkswagen Beetle, after putting thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars of repair in it. I can honestly say that I have some very bad feelings about VW's after that experience because in the course of a year my fairly new Bug needed a new water pump, a new oil pump, a new head gasket, and quite a few other fixes. It only had around 60,000 miles on it, but was no longer under warranty. It was insane.

So when Paul and I went car shopping we had a few important requirements. We needed a car that got great gas mileage for all the driving he does. And it needed to be reliable. I should note that our income was a bit more back then and after crunching the numbers, researching and going on a test drive we made our decision:

A Toyota Prius.

I remember thinking about how reliable and dependable Toyota's were. The words "good quality" went through my head too. But dependable and reliable and safe were really huge selling points. After owning a few lemons, buying a Toyota seemed like a wonderful idea. Fast forward to the present...

It seems that we were very, very wrong...

I had a long conversation with Paul today explaining my experimentation with shifting the car into neutral while driving (I tried this on a straight flat part of the dirt road). After watching the ABC special with the college professor who says that it's an electrical short I decided to try his fix, shifting into neutral, to see what happened.... I want to be prepared if our car takes off and can't be stopped!

I tapped the shifter into neutral and nothing happened. I did it twice and it worked. Then I tried it again and it took six taps. After quite a few tries I figured it out. Since the shifter, like every other part of the car, is electronic and computerized, it has to be held in the neutral position if you shift while driving. Otherwise the car acts like I accidently bumped the thing and keeps on driving. So, to shift into neutral while driving the Prius I have to hold the shifter in the "neutral" position for two or three seconds. Which would be very, very scary with a car suddenly accelerating. And it's not something you would have time to figure out in an emergency.

Minutes after I told Paul about this, the weatherman on our local station explained the exact same thing (he apparently has a Prius too).

Before this whole Toyota-disaster we'd talked about buying cars in the future, after Paul's done with school and we were so happy with the Prius we were pretty sure that our future cars would be Toyota's. That's highly unlikely now.

I just hope that they stop lying and pretending it's the floor mats soon and fix the actual problem... Although at this point I will probably very likely still be skeptical and a little nervous even after they say that they've figured it out and it's all "fixed."

Once trust has been destroyed it's not easy to get it back. I think Toyota is going to discover that in the coming months and years.


  1. How scary! You and Hubby be careful!

  2. It sounds as if you have it figured out now. Just imagine holding it in neutral & braking. Practice imaging that. See yourself driving different places, different scenarios, then hold it in neutral & brake. Do this many times a day. Above all, get the recall fixes done.

    You have a much greater chance of being struck by lightening. Greater chance of being hit by someone yacking on their cellphone. Even a much greater chance of falling asleep at the wheel.

    Please don't let yourself fall victim to the media hype. Ask yourself, why has this become such a big deal RIGHT NOW? Is it really a coincidence to happen just as the BO takes over GM?

    We drive a 1985 Corolla. It still averages 30mpg. It looks lousy. Rust, dents, little cosmetic flaws, minor mechanical inconveniences, but the silly thing won't quit running. So, if in spite of all my good advice you still worry about your Prius, then let's trade. You can drive 'ol reliable, and I will drive the Prius. :)

  3. I've been a bit nervous about Toyota now too. My car is older (1999 Corolla) and it's been a great commuter car...but when it kicks the bucket I may get a Honda instead.

  4. Good article about this:

    My offer to trade still stands. :) I would even drive our old one out there. After seeing your FB pictures today, I'm sure I would enjoy N.CA. We might have to wait until June though so the wife could come along.

  5. Hi Cliff-

    It's most definitely not my car to give away. :O)

    It's really Paul's car, and I only have to worry about driving it once a week when I go in to Mass and help with the bookkeeping at our parish. And I don't think many people would like the monthly payment that comes along with it. Yuck. I'll be so glad when it's paid off!

    I'm hoping that will be before too long (all depends on the housing thing). And then I'm just hoping someone will buy it next year to pay for our tickets to Italy!

    I like Catherine's Honda idea above though! We actually were going back and forth between the Toyota and Honda when we got the Prius.

    I personally have never liked the idea of a car that's so computerized and electronic. It kind of makes me miss my little 73 beetle (although not the latch on the front trunk that let it fly open on the freeway!). There was actually a chance with that car that a person could figure out what was wrong with it on their own!

    However, when we're finally in a position to buy a car again, I have a feeling it will be a used mini-van!


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