A group of researchers from the Center for Advanced Life Cycle Engineering at the University of Maryland have discovered that the use of tin plating for components used in Toyota’s electronic engine control system including, accelerator pedal position sensors (APPSs), could be the culprit for some of the recent and tragic problems with their vehicles. For those that are not familiar with the problems associated with lead free tin plating, there is a strange phenomenon of tin whiskers growing which occurs over time. The EU and other countries have completely banned the use of lead in plating materials for electronic components sold in their countries, with the exception of space and military applications. These whiskers can cause shorts, bridge leads, cause leakage, etc. It appears that when making the decision to allow some industries to continue to use leaded parts they left a few important ones out. The automotive industry and many other products that can cause bodily harm or death if uncontrolled should be able to continue their use of leaded parts. Tin whiskers can take years to grow so we may start to see an increased level of failures since the program to eliminate lead from components is now in it’s 5th year of existence. To read more about this interesting study please see this link.