One of the duties I perform at RepairPal is to monitor new vehicle recalls and provide summaries that help explain them in everyday language. These summaries are then posted on our website to help provide a better understanding about why the affected vehicles have been recalled and what will be done to remedy the situation.
The other day, a recall was released concerning Toyota floor mats and unintended acceleration. While Toyota received a lot of bad press a year or so ago for this same issue, this new recall was mostly ignored by the news media. It did remind me however of the seemingly never ending issue of unintended vehicle acceleration.
The first time I remember hearing about unintended acceleration was back in the mid 1980s—the accused was the Audi 5000. It was designed with accelerator and brake pedals that were slightly more to the center of the driver’s footwell, and a bit smaller than most American drivers were used too. This made drivers more likely to press the gas pedal when they thought they were pressing the brake pedal. After years of testing, no mechanical fault was ever discovered and the final explanation ended up being “pedal misapplication.”
All of the bad press associated with this issue put sales of Audi vehicles in a tailspin that took ten years to recover from. The eventual fallout from these much publicized incidents is the “brake/shift interlock” system found on all of our late model vehicles.
If pedal misapplication (or pedal mixup) is the most common cause of unintended acceleration, then next in line is a floor mat resting on top of the gas pedal. This is the issue that Toyota has been dealing with lately. In order to combat this concern, the original equipment floor mats in our late model vehicles are secured in place with some type of retainer. However, these retainers can become loose or damaged, or floor mats without retainers can be installed in any vehicle.
For one reason or another, floor mats can and do move. If the driver’s mat moves far enough out of position, it can end up on top of or underneath the gas and/or brake pedal. A floor mat resting on top of the gas pedal can cause the pedal not to release when the driver lifts his or her foot and the vehicle may continue to accelerate, unintended. Just as dangerous, but much less publicized, is a floor mat stuck under or on top of the brake pedal.
The floor mat can also get stuck under the gas pedal. As a technician, I can’t remember how many times I drove a vehicle where the customer was complaining of lack of power, only to find the floor mat wedged under the gas pedal restricting its travel.
As you can see, it’s in your best interest to keep an eye on those floor mats. When you are the driver, you should take note of the position of the floor mat each time you enter the vehicle. It should become second nature to glance down and the check the mat, and it only takes a second to slide it back into its proper position when necessary. Perhaps you will save yourself from some “unintended” consequences.