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At LI Toyota dealer, long-awaited repair done in a snap

Brian Haas, a service technician at a Toyota

Brian Haas, a service technician at a Toyota Dealership in Riverhead, N.Y., checks out his recall repair with a computer. (Feb. 5, 2010) Photo Credit: Photo by Ed Betz

It might take months or even years for Toyota to live down the embarrassment of its biggest-ever recall, but it took master technician Brian Haas only about 15 minutes in a service bay at Riverhead Toyota Friday to make the required repair on one of the 2.3 million cars involved.

Working with a socket wrench, a thickness gauge, a pointed pick, a flashlight and, ultimately, a laptop tester, Haas, 32, of Mattituck, began by disconnecting the battery of the 2010 Camry. Then he unplugged an electrical connector and removed the two bolts that hold the assembly to the firewall. He laid the assembly on a workbench, opened it and measured the space for one of several shims of various thicknesses that Toyota provides, then slipped one between the top end of the pedal arm and a stop.

He replaced the cover, reinstalled the assembly into the car, plugged the connector back in, reconnected the battery and tested the accelerator with the laptop to make sure the accelerator was sending the correct commands to the engine computer. Finally, he said, "The voltages are in the correct range, so it's complete, done, that's it."

The 18-bay Riverhead shop is one of 10 on Long Island where mechanics have begun installing shims into eight models affected, including most 2007 through 2010 Camrys and all 2009 and 2010 Corollas made in North America. Toyota also is recalling 5.3 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles to reshape and later replace accelerator pedals to avoid mat entrapment, including 2.1 million of those involved in the accelerator recall.

Toyota might also have to recall its 2010 Prius hybrid cars in the United States and Japan for a different problem - owner complaints of erratic braking performance. Toyota says it also is investigating its Lexus HS 250h hybrid, which is mechanically similar to the Prius.

In Nagoya, Japan, on Friday, Akio Toyoda, the carmaker's president and chief executive, bowed and told a news conference, "I would like to take this opportunity to apologize from the bottom of my heart for causing many of our customers concern after the recalls across several models in several regions."

Toyota halted sales Jan. 26 of the vehicles involved in the accelerator recall and also shut down the U.S. assembly lines producing them. Production of the cars is scheduled to resume Monday with repair parts or new accelerator assemblies. Cars in dealer stock can be sold as soon as the accelerator repair is done.

The shim Haas installed has the effect of increasing the space between two internal components of the assembly - not visible without further disassembly of the accelerator - that Toyota says are prone to sticking to each other. That sticking can make the car difficult to slow or stop.

Haas' supervisor, service manager Michael Hamill, says he is scheduling 10 or 15 of the recall repair jobs a day - to leave manpower available for other repairs and to assure he doesn't run out of shims.

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