Thursday, March 11, 2010

More from the Toyota files

James Sikes, the driver of the runaway Prius in San Diego the other day may have had ulterior motives. Are we about to see a repeat of balloon boy?

And since I'm on the subject: I had occasion recently to rent a Toyota Corolla, with which I did a couple of experiments to see if the brakes could overcome the engine. I don't want to get too specific about my methodology, but suffice it to say the experiments took place on a wide open stretch of freeway where there was no danger. It should come as no surprise that the brakes were easily able to slow the car down even at full throttle. It wasn't even close. And, of course, shifting into neutral slowed the car down instantly.

But there was one very peculiar incident: on one one of my test runs (I did several) when I pressed on the brake with my left foot while holding down the throttle with my right, the brake did not respond normally. It felt much stiffer than usual. The brake pedal did not depress as far as it normally does. And the brakes did not seem to engage; the car continued to accelerate. I immediately took my foot off the gas, whereupon the car slowed down and the feel and operation of the brake returned to normal right away. I was not able to reproduce this, and in fact I can't be completely sure that I'm recalling the details correctly. The entire episode lasted only a second or two. But it surprised the hell out of me at the time.

This was a brand new 2010 Corolla. It had about 500 miles on it.

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