Some Toyota Camry and RAV4 owners have reported their car doors catching on fire, apparently from a power window switch. Federal safety regulators are investigating reports of fires in the driver's side doors of 2007 Toyota Camry sedans and RAV4 crossover SUVs.
The probe could affect as many as 830,000 vehicles, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said last week in documents posted on its website. The vehicles have not been recalled.
The fires appear to start in the power window switch in the door. Six fires have been reported to the agency, but NHTSA has no reports of anyone being hurt. The agency said it started the investigation this week.
Toyota said in a statement that it is cooperating with NHTSA in the investigation.
Most of the fires were minor with damage limited to the doors, but a Camry was destroyed in one case, according to complaints filed with NHTSA. Several owners reported that they were afraid to drive their vehicles because of the threat of fires.
In one case, on Nov. 19, 2011, a Camry owner reported seeing flames coming from the door immediately after starting the car. Firefighters were called, but the car was reported destroyed, the complaint said.
A RAV4 owner reported that in August of last year, the master power window switch caught fire, burning a hole the size of a dime. The owner had been having trouble with the power window since July of 2009. "I was so afraid to drive that fire trap, I traded it in for a new car," the complaint said. "The RAV4 was paid off. Now I have a car loan at 19.9 percent."
Toyota's reputation has taken a hit over the past three years due to a string of huge recalls that have ballooned to more than 14 million vehicles worldwide. Millions were recalled for acceleration problems, and Toyota replaced floor mats that can trap gas pedals as well as pedal assemblies that can stick and cause cars to take off by surprise. But after an exhaustive probe, U.S. safety regulators, aided by NASA engineers, could not find anything wrong with Toyota's electronic throttle controls.
In December, the 2012 Camry received a five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the agency's top rating.
Here's the lesson to be learned from this story: If you see or smell smoke or fire from within your car, shut off the car and get out of the car immediately. DO NOT open the hood of the car--this will give a fire more oxygen to burn and can result in severe burns to you or people around you. Call the fire department immediately.
If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.