— Alleged Toyota Prius steering column problems won't be investigated by federal safety regulators, but it took seven years for that decision to be reached by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
All the way back in January 2013, NHTSA received a petition from the owner of a 2005 Toyota Prius requesting a defect investigation concerning the upper couplers of the steering intermediate shafts on 2004-2009 Toyota Prius cars.
The petition was based on an inspection of the 2005 Prius that allegedly showed wear and corrosion on the splines at the base of the steering column.
The petition said this indicates partial engagement to the upper intermediate shaft coupler, a steering column linkage problem the petitioner claimed must have been there since the car was built.
To determine if the alleged Toyota Prius steering column problems were a safety concern, NHTSA reviewed the steering system of the 2005 Prius, the repair history, possible consumer complaints about the cars, warranty claims and any service history.
Investigators determined the 2005 Prius had been recalled in 2006 to fix a steering problem, something that was done before the car owner had any problems with the Prius.
NHTSA found evidence the car had the steering column and system incorrectly reassembled by dealer technicians during work performed for the 2006 recall.
NHTSA also found that out of more than 600,000 Prius cars, only 25 complaints about the steering columns had been filed over an eight year period, a very low rate of related complaints. In addition, no Prius steering column defect trend was observed after two previous steering safety recalls were issued by Toyota.
Regulators say any formal investigation likely won't find a defect related to the condition described by the petitioner, therefore the petition to investigate 560,000 Toyota Prius cars is denied.