Sometimes car companies do go the extra mile…

Late last year, Toyota and Subaru announced a recall on the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ over power steering issues.

TOYOTA WAS FIRST WITH ITS recall statement, which makes sense as a touch under 15,000 cars were affected, it said: “due to an improper wire harness layout, there is a possibility that the electric power steering harness may interfere with the instrumental panel lower cover which contains the driver’s knee airbag on Australian specification vehicles.”

“If this happens, there could be an electrical contact failure which may result in the loss of power steering assist. A warning light would then illuminate on the dashboard along with a short audible warning whilst manual steering would be maintained.”

Subaru followed this by saying: “It is important to note that even if the power assistance for the steering is lost, the vehicle retains manual steering capability. Nevertheless, Subaru Australia has decided to carry out this recall out of an abundance of caution, following notification from the factory, Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI).” More than 3000 cars were affected.

Now, for those living in Australia, this wasn’t an issue. You simply made an appointment with your local Subaru or Toyota dealer and then had the recall work carried out free of charge.

But, what if you live in Fiji and had privately imported the only BRZ in the country? Well, ahem, first up, you contact Practical Motoring. And that’s what airline pilot, Prashant Singh did. He’d read about the recall but his local Subaru dealership wasn’t able to help as it didn’t actually import and sell the BRZ in Fiji, just the Outback, Liberty and XV. They didn’t make the sale, see… so it was a case of mothership to the rescue.

Following an email from Practical Motoring to Subaru, a solution was found. For free. And it shows that sometimes car companies do go the extra mile. Have you got any stories of a car dealership or company helping someone out like this?

Subaru told Practical Motoring: “Our Chief Engineer, Hiep Bui, contacted the local Subaru dealer (Shreedhar Motors Limited) in Fiji and put customer in touch with them. Hiep also arranged for the relevant parts and work instructions to be shipped to Fiji”.

But there’s more to the story. See, unfortunately the power steering in Prashant’s BRZ did fail and the subsequent loss of power steering forced him into a kerb. Low speed and a loss of power steering are not a good combination. The recall work has been fixed, but now the steering wheel is locked in one position, because Subaru Australia, who has been helping the local dealer diagnose the issue, believe the steering rack has been damaged… it is sending parts from Australia to assist because the damage occurred because the power steering failed… classic cause and effect. And good on Subaru for stepping up to help this customer out.

So you know, the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ have a mechanical steering system, so, even with a failure of the electrical power assist system the cars can still be driven. That said, the steering will become much, much heavier to the point of being almost impossible to turn at low speeds. Hence, Prashant’s accident.

The 86 and BRZ are also noted for having their power steering overheat under stress, noticeably slow-speed, tight motorkhanas where there is a lot of very quick steering work with no respite. The owner’s manual even makes a note of this potential for overheating – the solution is simply to wait for the car to cool which doesn’t usually take very long.

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Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober