TORRANCE, CA - Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. announced it intends to conduct a voluntary safety recall involving approximately 373,000 MY 2000-2004 Toyota Avalons sold in the United States because the vehicle's steering lock bar might break under certain conditions.

This action follows a July 29 announcement made by Toyota Motor Corp. in Japan.

 Because of improper casting of the steering lock bar, which is a component of the steering interlock system, there is a possibility that a minute crack may develop on the surface. Such a crack may expand over a long period of repeated lock and unlock operations, and eventually the lock bar could break. If this occurs, the interlock system may become difficult to unlock when stationary.

If the vehicle is steered to the right with sufficient lateral acceleration, a broken and loose lock bar may move toward the steering shaft. If the engagement hole in the shaft happens to line up at the specific time the broken lock bar has moved, this could cause the steering wheel lock bar to engage, locking the steering wheel and increasing the risk of a crash. 

"Toyota is continuing to work diligently to address safety issues wherever they arise and to strengthen our global quality assurance operations so that Toyota owners can be confident in the safety of their vehicles," said Steve St. Angelo, Toyota chief quality officer for North America. 

As part of the recall, Toyota will replace the steering column bracket on involved vehicles. This procedure will take about two hours to complete, depending on the dealer's schedule.

Toyota will notify vehicle owners of the recall by mail beginning in late August. They can bring their vehicle to a local Toyota dealer for replacement of the steering column bracket at no charge.