NHTSA Monitors Toyota Prius Brake Complaints
2010 Toyota Prius

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has recently received a few dozen complaints about the 2010 Toyota Prius’s braking performance. The Prius owners are complaining about a feeling that the car lurches forward when hitting a pothole or other uneven surfaces.

Some drivers believe the problem results when the system makes a transition from regenerative braking, which helps to recharge the hybrid battery, to conventional braking when more aggressive stopping is required. The system is calibrated to use one kind of braking or the other for optimum braking performance and maximum efficiency. The calibration and sensors are apparently not responding well to potholes and bumpy roads, and thereby producing an unpleasant driving sensation, and a safety hazard for pedestrians.

Robert Becker, an unhappy owner of a 2010 Prius, told The Detroit Bureau website, that he experienced a “loss of braking power or braking momentum when hitting a pothole, manhole cover, or the like. This requires the driver to press down again harder on the brakes to slow or stop the car,” said Becker. Other drivers described it as a feeling of losing control for a very brief period—less than a second.

Reports about the braking issue come during a time when Toyota’s longstanding reputation for high quality is coming under question. The company recently recalled nearly 4 million vehicles, reportedly because some floor mats used in Toyota Priuses and other vehicles were forcing down the accelerator pedal, causing rapid uncontrolled acceleration. These incidents could undermine the reputation of Toyota vehicles and hybrids as very safe vehicles. In August, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave “Top Safety Pick” awards to the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight, based on front, side, and rear crash testing.

NHTSA has not yet opened an official investigation into the 2010 Toyota Prius braking issue. Toyota is aware of the complaints, but says that it’s too early to speculate about the cause or, if required, a possible remedy.

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  • Dennis Dai

    Yep … I experienced the very same thing several times as described in the article with my 2010 Prius.

  • Mr.Bear

    Its strange this is in the 2010s and not any of the other years. What’s different about the 2010’s regen braking?

    And while they are at this, can they fix my 2009’s brake fart?

  • veek

    Based on a sample size n=1, my wife and I have never knowingly encountered this kind of situation in 3 years and nearly 40,000 miles on our Escape hybrid (which has a similar system to Toyota’s) … and we need to use the brakes to avoid banging into plenty of potholes, rough patches, icy spots, etc. where we live!

  • Anastacia

    I did have braking issues but it was not related to hitting a pothole or the like. I was reversing and then noticed a jerking sensation. It lasted for about 2-3 seconds. I purchased my 2010 Prius August 2009. I have had the experience maybe 3 times.

  • Dennis Dai

    My wife had the same experience as you but I am not sure how long it lasted for her. 2-3 seconds seemed quite long … the jerking forward I experienced lasted maybe about a couple of 1/10th of a second.

  • Ben

    I’ve owned my 2010 prius since June when they came out and have also experienced this braking issue several times. It’s very unnerving especially when you’ve been rear ended 3 times within 4 months!

  • Ken Zino

    Thanks for the accurate summary and link back to the original piece. A lot of other sites have just been running our piece verbatim with no attribution. Again thanks for your fair use practices. In my view it increases the credibility of your site.

  • Robert K

    I drive a late 2006 and have always experienced this issue which the dealer sluffed off as normal. All that is required is a moderate bump and the electric traction cuts out while the friction braking continues but leaves you with the feeling that your stopped power has been reduced. I can compensate for it but would be best if it worked correctly.


    i have a 09 PRIUS I have a complaint with the Battery my car
    was dead no signs of life and it was just six month old i was unsure of the hybird mechanism and called the TOYATO service dealer to come and get it they towed it to their shop and informed me if it
    was my fault i would pay the cost and quess what they determined it was my fault and the reason was ” I had left the passenger side visor light on ” well me and my husband checked this out and if your visor is up position the light could not be on!
    we called them on it and they changed their story three times
    and would not admit to anything we paid $416/batter default
    i have bad feeling with a dealership wont hold to their standards

  • Paddy

    I have a 2002 model Camry XLE that has always done this exact same thing. I try to avoid braking over manholes to avoid this experience. It only happens when you have to brake suddenly.

  • marco

    This issue happens in all cars that the effecty of the abs

    The difference is that is prius is not the abs that holds the breaks but the traction system that c.

    In my 2006 we felt it on holes when breaking softly.

    No lack of safety occurs.

  • charles

    I have noticed that same effect when braking over while rolling over a change in road surface or uneven surface. Feels like the car is sliding on ice but only lasts a second then the brakes hold again. Is this serious?

  • charles

    mine is a 2010 also with this problem

  • Anonymous

    Good point marco.

    I think we all need to realize there are often complaints about ABS when it engages while braking. I remember the first time I felt ABS kicking in while driving a van on an ice patch. It was a little scary. This could be a similar feeling drivers are experiencing.

  • Richard G.

    Try to avoid Pot Holes. My cars bucks and jerks every time I hit a bump or pot hole. Remermber, It’s a Hybrid not a Monster truck…..

  • Jim H.

    I am interested in purchasing a new Prius this Spring. I was wondering if those speed bumps in parking lots can affect the braking system.

  • jsg

    It’s amusing to hear this reported as an issue specific to the 2010 Prius. It’s been a problem much longer than that. My ’06 Prius has always exhibited the same issue — and it’s counterpart, the drastic loss of acceleration when hitting similar uneven surfaces, including, for example, when pulling out into the street from a gas station. Since you can’t turn these systems off, the only workaround is to get used it, and anticipate when it’s going to be a problem, so that you can back off the brake or accelerator, manually, in order to avoid it happening in an uncontrolled fashion.

    And I know it’s not just me, because a colleague of my purchased, and then quickly traded in an ’07 after deciding he wasn’t willing to mess around with the issue.

    There’s clearly a design defect with the traction control and ABS systems. I’ve driven plenty of other vehicles with ABS and traction control, and I’ve never come across one that exhibits such sensitivity, and such a significant backoff.

  • Red Cloud

    My 2010 Prius brakes fade all the time. The dealer says I’m not using the car correctly. What? I’m getting rid of this death trap and buying a 2010 FUSION. Sure I’ll lose money but I’ll be safe. OH WHAT A FEELING!!!! My mother in law also has the same problem. You save the environment by not driving this car. You also save gas. Hey Obama, Buy this messed up car company!!!

  • R Brett

    I have experienced this about half a dozen times with my 2010 Prius, and it is rather startling when it happens. At least two of the times it occurred while braking over rough pavement.

  • Mr.Bear

    Losing acceleration on is the traction control kicking in. I find that to be a bit buggy and potentially dangerous when it kicks in on dry pavement. But the lose of breaking still has me stumped why it is so much in the 2010 and not in the other precious cars.

  • John Bilodeau

    About a year ago, Iwas going about 10mph ona curvy,bumpy dirt
    road with my 2007 prius. The car satarted to pickup speed steadily.
    I applied the brake ashard as i could. this didn’t help. I made quick decision, pressed the start button to kill the engine and applied the emergency brake to stop the car. If Iwas on the highway, I would have been a dead duck.

  • Allannde

    John Bilodeau

    I also own a Prius (’06) and your reported experience needs clarification for those who may be concerned by reading it.

    First, the engine could not have stopped unless you held the start button down for at least three seconds. Once the engine is stopped, any brake will work and the foot brake is better because it can be released when needed.

    Second, if this experience happened a year ago and has not been repeated since, perhaps there is an explanation other than a malfunction of the car such as a slipping floor mat.

    There are small problems and big problems. I do not find it helpful to label ALL problems as big problems. It would be a terrible shame to seriously damage a good car company by irresponsible reporting of a bad experience.

  • caroline

    I bought a 2010 prius in September and this issue has occurred multiple times. I had a 2004 prius for 5 years and loved it- no braking issues. If I hit a pothole or drive on brick roads, I have had this happen. I took it in to the dealership, they checked the car and said it was fine. They also had not heard complaints about this issue either. So glad to hear this has happened to others so I know I’m not crazy!

  • Anil

    I had similar issue this week and took the car to dealship and they just told me there is no issue. I experience very hard braking even at 15 MPH. braking like 60 MPH and while taking a U trun on a railway crossing it jerked forward inspite of applying brakes. Total loss of control. What can I do about it now?

  • SG

    I have a 08 Prius and I have the same problem of losing control when breaking over a pothole or uneven surface.

  • Jack D.

    I am a retired California Peace Officer with over 26 years of driving at work, in countless numbers of cars and trucks, as well as having attended, God knows, how many, “Driving Schools” and I as well as my wife have had the SAME EXPERIENCE with our new Prius.
    Last month, my wife brought this issue up with Toyota Of Marin’s Service Department, where we purchased our car, she was NOT told of this known problem, reported by other Prius owners but she was told, “SHE WAS NOT BRAKING RIGHT”
    WE have begun to take notice, while driving, where the pot holes and washboard road conditions are … in case we need to hit he brakes!
    Today, when I was driving the Prius, I almost rolled into cross traffic when stopping on un uphill grade!

  • Leah

    I have a 2009 prius that I’ve had since April of last year. I had a few instances where hitting potholes would “knock out the braking system” (best way to describe the feeling) and one instance of where my car jerked forward into traffic after coming to a complete stop. Since those two instances I never had another until I got into an accident in December. I was going 15mph on a bumpy street in Boston and when I went to apply the brakes- they didn’t respond. I tried pushing down on the brake gradually, pressing as hard as i can, and pumping. NO response. I ended up rear ending the car in front of me. No one on this chat or Toyota can tell me it was “user error.” I even had a passenger in the car that couldn’t believe what was going on. I have yet to hear back from Toyota about the car and can’t wait to get rid of it if they don’t do something about the car’s brakes.

  • Isabel

    I have this problem with my 2005 Honda Civic Hybrid – no accidents though, just a sense of nervousness going over that pothole – conditioned myself to deal with it. I reported it to the dealership and they assured me there is no problem with the brakes.



  • Leon

    I have a 2005 Prius and now have noticed since I moved to a climate that has cold weather and rain with some ice.My prius starts to lurch forward just for a second or 2 buts its scary,I want to take it in but I wonder if they will even have time to see me with all the recalls

  • evaderci

    So relieved (and now unnerved) to have read this article. I thought I was losing my mind in my new 2010 Prius. I had an earlier model and experienced the loss of traction over uneven surfaces, but not with straight braking. Now, with the ’10, I have SEVERAL times felt the car seemingly “take loft” for just a second or two when braking. I also had the same issue in traffic as another reader when I went to immediately and FIRMLY step on the brakes and the car did not stop. I ended up rear-ending another car. Sure, it was less than 15 mph, no one was hurt and I only have some minor surface scratches, but I was convinced it was “the car’s fault.” Try and tell that to your insurance company. And it doesn’t have to be on an uneven surface. Have not been in love with this car like I thought I would be.

  • Corner D. Potholes

    I have a 2008 Prius, and routinely experience this exact phenomenon. It happens every time I drive this certain section of road with a slight downhill slope, and rather sharp right curve. There are a lot of small potholes and rough patches on the curve, and every time I hit that spot, braking slightly for the downhill slope, the brakes release, then grab very hard. It does feel like you’re going to lose control. Even though I’m only going about 15-20 mph around the curve, it’s an unsettling experience.

  • Lea Deesing

    I have a 2010 Prius and have put 20,000 miles on it since June. I live in the mountains and chalk the strange braking sensation (when on ice) up to the ABS system. I’ve driven other cars with ABS and it reacts similarly. HOWEVER, I do have a problem when slowly backing up (and sometimes forward) on a slight bumpy slope, such as coming out of a gas station. My brakes totally lunge/jerk for about 5 seconds, which causes sudden whiplash to everyone in the car. I reported this to the dealer in Redlands, California and they said it was “normal”.

  • Andrea

    I bought my 2010 Prius in July and have had the same exact experience you describe several times. I took my car to the dealership in December and left it for a week with them to give them time to try to replicate the problem. When I went to pick it up, they said they had indeed managed to replicate the problem and that there was nothing wrong with the car. They said it was just the “heel assist” brake function kicking into action. “Heel assist function?” I asked. They said that it is a special new feature in the 2010 that helps you brake when your car is on an incline. But this strange lurching and hopping has never occurred when I’m on an incline but on a fairly level surface. They kept assuring me though that what I had experienced is normal and not a safety concern. Both my father and my husband who have been passengers with me when this has happened think the dealership response is absurd. There absolutely is a problem, but at least I had been assured that there was no safety issue. However, just a few days ago, while driving on a curvy, single-lane mountain road, the car suddenly lurched and skidded as if I had hit a patch of ice (except the road was dry and it was a sunny warm day in Southern California). I was totally shocked. There was an oncoming car and luckily I was able to jerk the car back into line. I didn’t connect this issue with the brakes and thought maybe I had run over an oily patch on the road, but now after reading about the experiences of other drivers I think this is perhaps part of the same problem.

  • Uncle Sam

    But it is such a green machine. Why can’t you global whiners accept a tiny bit of fear on behalf of saving 2 nanovolts and the planet?

  • mw

    I have a 2008 and have noticed this phenomenon several times. It occurs when the car is on a slight downhill usually, or where the road is a little uneven. It is very short, like you are slipping forward a few feet.

  • Jeri

    I have a 2009 prius that the brakes just stop when going over a bump like a pot hole. For a couple seconds you have no brakes. I hope more people come forward so they are aware it happens in more than just the 2010 models.

  • David S.

    With 10K on a 2010 Prius since July, I’ve experience the ABS slip/shudder while braking on rough pavement, although it’s not appreciably different than other ABS vehicles i’ve driven (US, Asian and European).
    This is a factor with ANY ABS system, but does sem abit touchier with the Prius than others. I chalk it up to an idosyncrasy of the car and plan/react accordingly. Oddly enough this seems to be less of an issue with higher tire pressures (max inflation).

    The Prius (and other hybrids) are very sensitive to tire pressure, driving habits etc., much more so than other cars.
    Not much of an incovenience (for me at least) to get 55+ mpg rain/shine summer/winter.

  • asm_ny

    I have experienced something like this in our 2005 Prius. The sense of slippage happens rarely, and is always fleeting — just enough so that I’ve always doubted that it wasn’t just my imagination. But I’ve experienced it braking over potholes (there’s one particular spot in my town where it’s happened several times), or, on very rare occasions, at the bottom of a very steep hill (more worrisome). It’s easy to compensate for, but worth noting.

  • Richard Roth

    Two weeks ago I was driving on a 4 lane road. I was driving slowly because there was snow on the road. There was no one in front of me. As I approached an intersection the light turned yellow and I applied the brakes slowly then forceably. My 2010 Prius slid downhill in a straight line and reached the intersection after 3 cars passes across in front of me. I narrowly missed the 3rd car as I slid completely through the intersection. There was some snow on the ground but nothing that would cause the braking distance to be so long. I parked the Prius as soon as possible and have been driving our Subaru unless the conditions are excellent.
    The Prius is also regularly jerky in braking.

  • Angela C. Sparks-Stuller

    I experience the braking issue described in the article with my 2010 Toyota Prius that I bought in June 2009 from Kings Toyota in Cincinnati, Ohio. Almost every morning on my drive to work on Tennessee avenue in St. Bernard, I hit a pothole, going at a speed of maybe 30mph or less, as I pull up to a stoplight at the Paddock intersection. When I hit the pothole, I always feel this ~1 second time when it feels that my brakes are not engaged, and I am instead moving forward. When I continue to push on the brakes (and since I am accustomed to this now), I always manage to stop for the red light, but it feels that if a pedestrian or car were close enough that I would not be able to stop as quickly as I would like to, so I am fairly worried that it may lead to an accident.

    Also, today, once I heard the public news reports made in the US by the NA Toyota execs admitting the Prius braking issue, I called my Toyota dealership to see what I should do. They scheduled an appointment, but when I went in an hour ahead of the scheduled closing time for an appointment I scheduled with them earlier that afternoon, they turned me away into the increasing snowy weather conditions. I nearly had an accident on the way home at a 4-way stop, when a very similar issue of not being able to brake quick enough occurred. I put all of my weight onto the brake, and just nearly avoided hitting the bumper of the shiny blue car in front of me at the stop sign. I called the customer service relations manager at the dealership and waited on the phone for ~2 hours to finally get through to the Toyota customer service line to report what I had experienced with the brakes. After telling me that it was a known/reported issue and not offering any advice except to “avoid potholes without swerving uncontrollably,” the contractor on the other end of the phone finally agreed to take some information to document the case.

    I look forward to Toyota and the NHTSA’s results of the investigation on this, but in the mean time, Toyota needs to work on (1) being sure its dealership employees are aware of the issue it announced, and (2) should help consumers find a safer driving situation in the short-term until investigation results are available (in my opinion).

  • Amy

    Unfortunately, I have experienced this problem in my 2008 Prius. It mostly occurs when I brake hard while driving over uneven ground – like bumps or potholes. The ABS shudder/loss of traction that I have experienced is not NEARLY as bad as it was with my 2004 Chevy Cavalier (which every Cavalier owner that I have ever met has said to have experienced), but I’m still disappointed to find that I’m dealing with the same thing with my Prius.

    I love my Prius, and I love owning a Prius. This problem could not convince me to buy an American car, or any other car for that matter. I just hope they find a solution soon.

  • D ave

    Following Isabel’s comment from a week ago, I’m also getting what sounds like the same braking problem with a 2005 Civic Hybrid (IMA).

    Hit a pothole or patch of rough road, and the brakes just “disappear” for a couple of seconds…

    Does anyone know if Honda are looking into doing a similar recall??

  • bbould

    My 2006 Prius has always done this too (rough road braking issue). I could never get anyone to listen to me eitherl, so I just live with it and plan accordingly on certain roads. I think we need to inundate the safety commission. They need to know that it isn’t just a new model issue. What’s really stupid is, that Toyota should know this!

  • bbould

    I agree with you. It has to be a design defect, and it has to be in earlier models as well. I have experienced this ABS issue right from the start with my 2006 Prius.

    Let me ask you all this question. Have you ever had the scary experience of not being able to stop your car in the rain? I mean a light rain, with some wear on the road, I’m not talking about potholes here. I am talking about where there has been heavy traffic and the road has those little bumpy fissures near stoplights etc. My son had a bad accident while driving our 2006 Prius when the car was brand new. He was over 200 feet away from the next car and he was traveling 30 miles an hour in a light rain when he came around a curve in the road and traffic was moving slowly after being stopped at a red light. He had plenty of time and space to stop. My daughter was only 10 at the time and still remembers her brother’s panic cry “It won’t stop, oh my God, it won’t stop. We’re going to hit them”. Now how many seconds does it take to say that phrase? He slammed into the back of a minivan. Thankfully the kids were ok, but my daughter still refuses to ride in the Prius if it is raining. She begs me to buy a new car all of the time.

    Now I know I am going to have a lot of people say…oh he was hydroplaning or that the road was slick from the oil. No. ABS is not supposed to work like that. Not at that low of a speed. I know of someone who has a 2005 Prus that had an accident that happened in almost the exact same way too. In both incidences the police wouldn’t believe the drivers when they said they were NOT driving too close. Please if you have any experiences like this LET’S LET PEOPLE KNOW! I have been driving cars for over 30 years in all kinds of weather with all kinds of braking systems. I have to say, I feel the Prius brake system is definitely unpredictable and hazardous.


  • Alma

    I have a 2009 Prius and I’ve experienced the same issues described for the 2010 Prius since the day I bought it (in November of 2008). I see that many people are descirbing having the same issues as the 2010 Prius but I don’t see anything on the news about it and I don’t see it being recalled by Toyota. Should I file a formal complain?

  • squareblock

    This might be a surprise to some of you here. I have the exact same problem of braking while going over bumpy surface (e.g. pot holes). What’s interesting here is that I have a FJ Cruiser, which is not a hybrid. This problems has been experienced by other FJ owners (documented on online forums). After I learned of this problem on the Prius, I’m convinced the cause is NOT related to the electric motor (braking). I think it is how the traction control algorithm.

  • Nancy

    I have had the same ABS / loss of control issue described in this forum with my 2006 Prius. It is more likely to happen in cold weather (by which I mean cold for Los Angeles), and also more likely to happen when I go over a bump as I am going uphill or turning. I compensate for it by keeping a good distance away from cars in front of me. I told the dealership about the problem eons ago but they were unable to reproduce it. I just called the Toyota dealer to see if this is something they can fix, and was told that they only had a recall for the 2010 cars.

  • Ingrid

    I have a 2006 Prius. This problem has happened to me about 5 or 6 times-I have owned the car about 8 months. It is frightening; the last time it happened I had my children and their friends in the car. I went through a stop sign, laying on the horn and praying I would not get hit (and I was driving at a low rate of speed.) Another time I went partly through a red light and again had to lay on the horn because the brakes did not hold. I have almost rear ended the car in front of me more than once. I immediately then took it to the dealer and was told the same thing you were told. I refuse to drive the car again. Toyota needs to hear from us. File a complaint ASAP if you have not done so already. I will not wait until I hit a pedestrian or get broadsided.

  • Rebecca Redlinger

    I have the same problem with my 2009 Prius. I go over uneven or pot holes in the road and for just a few seconds my car felt like I was driving on black ice. I recently was in an auto accident due to no braking power. I was pulling into a parking space when my car lunged forward. My foot was already on the break as I was pulling into the space to stop. I pressed harder on the break when it lunged and it shot forward over a parking cinder block then when over the block ( brakes not working ) then lunged forward hitting a building. This all took place in about 4 sec. Thank God the building stopped me. I had the car towed to Toyota and wanted a full diagnostic because of the failure in the car. Guess….they report no problems. The car and building will be repaired by my Insurance. I will NEVER drive that car again. When the car is repaired I will tow it home. I will not sell this deathtrap to another human being. I will have to eat the 20,000 I owe on it. Ford…Here I come

  • Ana Jay

    I have the same problem with my 2010 Prius. It feels like for just a couple of seconds you are skidding on ice when you run over an uneven surface. Second problem is that when the car is in drive, when you hit the breaks the ABS light comes on. The ABS light goes off when you release the break and accelerate. Was at dealer today for this and bringing it back for them to look at it during the week. Third problem has been resolved but been at the dealer three times. First time they couldn’t find a problem. Had a experienced a sensation like when the master cylinder is gone and it appears that the brake pedal goes down lower suddenly. The breaks do work, but, for a split second you don’t think they are going to because the break pedal seems to get lower and lower. It threw a code the third time this happened and the dealer service dept said that the car needed a software update which they did and I haven’t experienced this problem anymore.

  • Robert S

    I just test drove a 2010 on 12/31/10 and experienced this when we hit a small pot hole slowing down to turn back into the dealership, it did last about 1-2 seconds, it was like I took my foot off the break for that time. I had read about this on Consumer Reports but it did not specify what was wrong with the breaks. Consumer Reports rates the breaks on the 2010 with a big black dot which is far worse than average. The dealer claimed to have no idea about it. However we in fact did experience this issue while on our test drive. It caught me off guard and it did make me a bit concerned. At least now I know what Consumer Reports was referring to. I did purchase the car, but I hope Toyota address the issue as I could see it causing a problem in certain situations. Hope I don’t regret my decision, I think I will discuss this further with the dealer when I pick the car up tomorrow.

  • Ron Lopez

    Yes, this happens to us quite often here in Brooklyn, NY. Usually going downhill, and usually when the car hits a harsh bump. The car seems to lurch forward and we have to press hard on the brakes to quickly slow it down. It happens in the same spot near 4th Avenue, Brooklyn. Just thought it was normal for the car so I never really questioned it.

  • Ron Lopez

    Yes, this happens to us quite often here in Brooklyn, NY. Usually going downhill, and usually when the car hits a harsh bump. The car seems to lurch forward and we have to press hard on the brakes to quickly slow it down. It happens in the same spot near 4th Avenue, Brooklyn. Just thought it was normal for the car so I never really questioned it.

  • Deborah Ogg

    My husband and I purchased a Prius new in November 2010. We live in the north of Scotland, UK, where the roads are very often very hilly and surfaces uneven due to the bad weather. The momentary loss of braking when going over uneven or rough roads has become a serious issue for us to the point that we now wish we had chosen a different car. I think Toyota has been so engrossed in the technology of producing a ‘green’ efficient car it has paid less attention the basic safety needs. I am beginning to feel a bit like a “crash test dummy”….

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