ConsumerWatch: Prius Part Susceptible To Melting?

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This file photo taken on June 5, 2009 shows a factory worker checking an assembled Prius hybrid vehicle in its final stage of the assembly line at Toyota Motors' Tsutsumi factory in Toyota, Aichi prefecture. After a year in which Toyota's worst ever crisis saw the recall of millions of vehicles, a wave of lawsuits and a record fine, the troubles of the world's largest automaker are far from over. AFP PHOTO / FILES / TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA (Photo credit should read (Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP/Getty Images)

This file photo taken on June 5, 2009 shows a factory worker checking an assembled Prius hybrid vehicle in its final stage of the assembly line at Toyota Motors’ Tsutsumi factory in Toyota, Aichi prefecture. After a year in which Toyota’s worst ever crisis saw the recall of millions of vehicles, a wave of lawsuits and a record fine, the troubles of the world’s largest automaker are far from over. AFP PHOTO / FILES / TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA (Photo credit should read (Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP/Getty Images)

(KPIX 5) – We’ve heard that too much sun can be bad for your skin…well, what about your car? Connie Chu thought she’d been the victim of a hit and run when she walked outside and saw the warped spoiler on her Toyota Prius.

“I thought someone hit me,” said Chu.

It turns out it wasn’t cause by an accident. The plastic spoiler looked like it was melting. Chu contacted Toyota and the automobile manufacturer determined the damage was caused by sunlight reflecting from energy efficient windows near her parking space.

“I said ‘no!’ But this is the manufacturer fault,” said Chu. “It’s not caused by the consumer.”

But this is not an isolated case. KPIX 5’S ConsumerWatch heard from Heather Patron last year, about damage to the side view mirrors on her Prius.

“I’m positive that this window is what’s causing the damage to my car,” said Patron. “The side view mirror was melting. Anything that was plastic on the car was melting.”Robert Hart, a scientific engineer at the Lawrence Berkeley Lab explained to KPIX 5 how this type of damage happens.

Hart said a normal window reflects anywhere from 10-13% of the sun’s rays.

But the reflective coating on newer Leed certified windows magnify sunlight much more strongly. The energy efficient windows reflect up to 40% of the sun’s rays.

Hart said when the outside temperature is cold; the pressure within a double pained window creates a concave piece of glass, which magnifies the suns ray. That magnification, combined with just the right sun angle and the high reflectivity of energy efficient windows, produce a beam of light strong enough to melt plastic.

And it’s not confined to the plastic used to manufacture some car parts.

Most of the reported cases involving melting plastic are not ‘automobile’ related and have been reported to have taken place on the east coast. Many of the incidents have involved large areas of melted vinyl siding on buildings.

In a statement released to KPIX5 by Toyota, the automobile manufacturer said:

“Concentrated solar reflection was causing damage to the spoiler of our customer’s Toyota Prius. Damage to plastic materials from concentrated solar reflection is not a new phenomenon, nor is it confined to the auto industry. We worked one on one with our customer to address the problem, and are pleased we were able to arrive at a mutually agreeable solution. “

Toyota has replaced the spoiler at no charge to Chu.

(Copyright 2013 by CBSicon1 ConsumerWatch: Prius Part Susceptible To Melting? San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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