Federal investigation closed after Toyota Highlander and Highlander Hybrid steering wheels fell off.

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Toyota Highlander Steering Column Recall Unnecessary
Federal investigation closed after Toyota Highlander and Highlander Hybrid steering wheels fell off.

— A Toyota Highlander steering column recall is allegedly not necessary after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration closed a federal investigation into 2008-2013 Toyota Highlanders and Highlander Hybrids.

The investigation was opened after Toyota Highlander drivers complained their steering wheels fell off when the upper steering columns separated from the lower columns while driving.

NHTSA found the problem occurred if adjustments were made to the steering wheel position (tilt and/or telescoping).

The investigation was opened in May 2018 into about 730,000 Highlander SUVs, but NHTSA upgraded the probe in November 2018 to focus on allegations of steering wheel separations from the lower steering columns after using the tilt and/or telescoping mechanisms.

Toyota reported it had not found any defect of the breakaway capsules or the steering components and had not identified any trend or pattern in the isolated cases it identified.

Those cases consisted of three "rare" reports of steering column separations.

But after upgrading the Highlander investigation, NHTSA learned about 14 incidents involving complete separations of the upper steering columns from the lower steering columns. Six occurred while driving and one involved a minor crash.

There have been 16 additional incidents reported where the steering columns dropped from the dashboard mounting brackets.

Toyota issued a collision repair information bulletin in November 2018 (CRIB 192) to let technicians know to inspect the steering columns and shear capsules when making repairs after any collision.

NHTSA closed its Toyota Highlander steering column investigation based on these findings:

  • The vehicle crash history appears to contribute to the known failures.
  • Steering column separation tends to occur when operating the tilt and/or telescoping function after the two shear capsules have separated.
  • Testing shows field-used shear capsule performance did not degrade over ten years of exposure.
  • The overall low rate of occurrence since the updated manufacturer notification to repair documentation.


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