DETROIT – Honda Motor Co. will recall more than 410,000 Odyssey minivans and Element small trucks because of braking system problems that could make it tougher to stop the vehicle if not repaired.
The recall includes 344,000 Odysseys and 68,000 Elements from the 2007 and 2008 model years.
Honda said in a statement that over time, brake pedals can feel "soft" and must be pressed closer to the floor to stop the vehicles. Left unrepaired, the problem could cause loss of braking power and possibly a crash, Honda spokesman Chris Martin said.
"It's definitely not operating the way it should, and it's safety systems, so it brings it to the recall status," he said.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has reported three crashes due to the problem with minor injuries and no deaths, Martin said. Honda notified NHTSA of the recall on Monday, he said.
Honda has traced the problem to the device that powers the electronic stability control system, which selectively brakes each of the wheels to keep the vehicles upright during an emergency situation.
When the device, called a "vehicle stability assist modulator," tests itself when the vehicles are started, it allows a small amount of air into the hydraulic brake lines. Over time, an air bubble in the lines can cause a loss of braking power and require that the pedal be pushed farther toward the floor than normal to stop the vehicles, Martin said.
"Although not all vehicles being recalled are affected by this issue, we are recalling all possible units to assure all customers that their vehicles will perform correctly," Honda said in a statement.
Under the recall, which Honda said it volunteered to do, Honda said that owners should wait to get a letter from the company before scheduling a repair because the parts are not yet available. Letters should go out toward the end of April.
Drivers who fear that they've lost braking power should have their dealer check the brakes sooner, Martin said. The dealer can "bleed" air bubbles out of the hydraulic lines, which should fix the problem until the parts arrive for the final repair, he said.
Honda technicians will put plastic caps and sealant over two small holes in the device to stop the air from getting in, Martin said.
The automaker is still preparing a list of affected vehicles. After April 19, owners can determine if their vehicles are being recalled by going to http://www.recalls.honda.com or by calling (800) 999-1009, and selecting option number four.
The safety recall is Honda's second in the past two months. In February it recalled 952,118 vehicles globally due to air bag problems.
It comes on the heels of Toyota Motor Corp.'s spate of safety recalls that include more than 8 million vehicles worldwide for braking and sudden acceleration problems.
One of the Toyota recalls is a braking software problem that causes the pedal of the Prius gas-electric hybrid to momentarily drop toward the floor.
Ford Motor Co. had a similar software problem with its Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan hybrids. The company told owners of 17,600 cars to bring them in for a software update because a glitch can give drivers the impression that the brakes have failed when they haven't.
The automaker called the repairs a "customer satisfaction program" and said it was not a full-fledged recall.
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