Little spiders cause big recall problem for Toyota

Toyota is recalling 870,000 vehicles over an issue caused by spider webs.

A problem with an air conditioner part could cause airbags to deploy unnecessarily. The automaker says there could also be a loss of power-steering force.

The vehicles involved are model year 2012 and 2013 Camrys, Venzas and Avalons, including hybrid versions of those cars.

Owners will be notified by mail to take their vehicle to a Toyota dealer where the necessary work will be performed free of charge.

Grand Strand auto mechanics say the spider web problem may sound like a Halloween joke, but it's no laughing matter.

John Nottestad of Mason Tire and Auto Service in Pawleys Island has been working on cars for more than 25 years and knows just how touchy a car's airbag sensor can be.

He's seen what can happen when the airbag goes off at the wrong time.

"You don't want it deploying when you're going down the road. It could cause a major accident or you out of control of the vehicle," Nottestad said.

Nottestad says a car's condenser circulates air conditioner coolant through the system. That causes condensation, which is supposed to fall harmlessly onto the ground.

But apparently on certain Toyotas, spiders can get up inside the condensation drainage tubes, clogging the tubes with their webs.

That causes the water to drip onto the airbag sensor instead of the ground, short circuiting the sensor.

Nottestad says over the years he's witnessed some strange things show up inside an engine, but spiders causing an airbag deployment is a first.

"I've seen a snake get up inside of a dash and die and have problems with the odor, but nothing where it would cause something to back up and get water into a sensor that could deploy the air bag."

Nottestad says he's heard of other things clogging drainage tubes, including leaves, sticks and pine needles, but never spider webs.

Funny as it sounds, he says Toyota owners affected by the recall should take the problem seriously and make sure their cars get fixed.

Toyota says it knows of only three unexpected airbag deployments caused by the problem.