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Toyota Repair/INADVERTANT PRETENSIONER ACTIVATION

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Question
WE HAVE A 2003 AVALON. IT HAS OCCASIONALLY DISPLAYED A BLINKING AIRBAG WARNING LIGHT. IN OCTOBER 0F 2012 MY WIFE WAS DRIVING ON THE FREEWAY AND HAD THE SEATBELT BEGIN TIGHTENING DOWN ON HER TO THE POINT SHE HAD TO PULL OFF THE ROAD AND RELEASE THE SEATBELT. IT TIGHTENED DOWN TO THE POINT SHE COULD NOT RECONNECT THE SEATBELT. I TOOK THE CAR INTO THE TOYOTA DEALER WE BOUGHT IT FROM. I KNOW I TOLD THEM THE AIRBAG LIGHT WAS FLASHING AND THE STORY OF THE SEATBELT TIGHTENING AND THAT IT WOULDN'T WORK. THEY SAID A SCAN SHOWED A PROBLEM WITH A SIDE AIRBAG, REPLACED THE SEATBELT MECHANISM AND RESET THE AIRBAG LIGHT FOR $500.  THE AIRBAG LIGHT HAS CONTINUED TO FLASH INTERMITTENTLY. I WE RECEIVED THE UPCOMING RECALL NOTICE CONCERNING THE SRS IN MARCH. I TOOK THE CAR IN TO THE DEALERSHIP AS I WAS TIRED OF NOT KNOWING IF WE COULD TRUST THE AIRBAG SYSTEM. THEY DIAGNOSED THE PROBLEM AS A DEFECTIVE SIDE AIRBAG, NOT SUBJECT TO A RECALL NOTICE, THAT IT WOULD COST $2039 +TAX. I ASKED HOW THE VEHICLE COULD NOT BE APART OF THE RECALL PROBLEM GIVEN THE INADVERTENT PRETENSIONER ACTIVATION OF 2012. THEY SAID THERE WAS NOTHING IN THE RECORDS ABOUT A PRETENSIONER ACTIVATION. I POINTED OUT THE 2012 EPISODE. THEY SAID THE COMPLAINT WAS THAT THE SEAT BELT WOULDN'T WORK AND THAT THEY FOUND IT JAMMED. NO PRETENSIONER MATTER AND HENCE NOT AN ISSUE.

I HAVE NO DOUBT I DESCRIBED THE PROBLEM MY WIFE ENCOUNTERED BUT I PROBABLY DID NOT USE THE WORD 'PRETENSIONER'. WOULD NOT THE PRETENSIONER ACTIVATION HAVE SHOWN UP IN A SCAN OF THE COMPUTER IN 2012?  WHAT SHOULD BE MY NEXT STEP IN GETTING THIS RESOLVED?

Answer
Hello, the pretensioner is part of the seatbelt retractor assembly, it is designed to lock the seatbelt in the event of a frontal collision by igniting a small explosive charge similar to the air bags, once this happens the seatbelt is locked and can not be released which means it has to be replaced, the tensioner does not make the seat belt tighter it just locks it into position, I assume this is what happened to your wife. Your next step, since this sounds like it is going to be too involved for me to help with, is to either get another dealer involved for another opinion and then if necessary call Toyota's customer service either by phone or online and log a complaint  

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Ted Ritter

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I have more than 28 years experience as toyota technician, I will be able to answer most questions related to the Toyota product line up to the present year models,I am located in the US but welcome questions from other regions of the world. When asking a question please provide specific information: year,model, engine,transmission information. Provide as much information as possible including a brief repair history if possible. I have been a volunteer here for more ten years an have answered over 16,000 questions helping Toyota owners with their problems and save thousands of dollars without any compensation, some of my answers are published on many other websites including google and various automotive forums. DONATIONS ARE VERY MUCH APPRECIATED, IF YOU HAVE RECIEVED HELPFUL INFORMATION PLEASE MAKE A DONATION. AS OF TODAY (JULY 22, 2014) ALL REQUESTED GRAPHICS, ILLUSTRATIONS, DIAGRAMS, PHOTOS, WILL REQUIRE THE MINUMUM DONATION UP FRONT.

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