The Recall Notice

My step-daughter Michelle and I were visiting on the phone in May when she surprised us with this: “We received a recall notice for our van. Guess what? Something is wrong with the park shift lock!”

My head quickly shifted to a scene in our driveway five years ago. Our three-year-old grandson Jacob had climbed into the van behind the driver’s wheel and succeeded in releasing the park shift lock. The van rolled forward on the incline while Jacob steered it toward his father and grandfather who were standing next to the greenhouse. Jacob’s dad ran toward the van, opened the driver’s side door, and mashed down the emergency brake at the last second. Jacob’s grandfather, by crab walking sideways and pushing against the van’s hood, managed to get out the way just before the van stopped against the edge of the greenhouse.

“Dad, I was driving!” Jacob shouted.

With a catch in his voice Grandfather mumbled, “Once I was run over by a bicycle but never before by a van!”

Dad didn’t know whether to be relieved or angry. “Jacob, what were you doing? How did you get your foot on the brake? Are you okay? I told you not to get in the car!”

We tried to sort it out. Jacob didn’t appear to be precocious. He was just a little feller with an adventurous spirit. Maybe he stepped on the brake pedal and moved the shift lever. His dad thought perhaps he himself had failed to put the car in park, not that that idea made sense.

Since no one was injured, we breathed sighs of relief, rebuilt the edge of the greenhouse planter, and admonished Jacob for climbing into the car to pretend drive. The incident joined other family lore about mishaps and unsolved mysteries.

Note, we never once wondered if the vehicle had a faulty shift lock. See how trusting we are about auto manufacturers? Since we average 15,000 miles per year in our Toyotas, Acuras, and Hondas, we need to feel safe in them. Safety recalls happen to other people.

But here it is, published in September 2013, the answer to an oddity which could have turned deadly had circumstances shifted slightly: a steeper incline, a locked driver’s side door, a crippled grandfather. Five years had passed between our incident and the recall notice. In our denial we had failed to report the incident and thus are a bit chagrined by our naïveté.

Toyota Announces Voluntary Recall of Certain Sienna Vehicles

September 26, 2013
TORRANCE, CA September 26, 2013 – Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. today announced that it will conduct a voluntary safety recall involving approximately 615,000 Sienna minivans from Model Years 2004-2005 and 2007-2009 to address problems with the shift lever assembly.

Because of the potential for damage to the shift lock solenoid installed in involved vehicles, there is a possibility that the shift lever could be moved out of the “P” position without the driver depressing the brake pedal. This could result in a vehicle roll-away.

All known owners of the subject vehicles will be notified by first class mail to return their vehicles to a Toyota dealer for replacement of the shift lock solenoid with a new one.

Detailed information is available to customers at and by calling the Toyota Customer Experience Center at 1-800-331-4331.

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