The recall affects 447,000 vehicles in North America, as well as 38,000 in Japan and another 25,000 in Australia and New Zealand, said Toyota spokesman Dion Corbett. In Europe some 14,000 vehicles are being recalled along with 10,000 in the Middle East and 14,000 in Asia outside Japan.
There have been no reports of accidents or injuries related to the problems, Corbett said.
Toyota's U.S. sales unit said in a press release that there is a possibility that the outer ring of the engine's crankshaft pulley may become misaligned with the inner ring, causing noise or a warning signal to light up.
If the problem isn't corrected, the belt for the power steering pump may become detached from the pulley, making it suddenly more difficult to turn the driving wheel.
In the United States, the automaker is recalling 283,200 Toyota brand cars, including the 2004 and 2005 Camry, Highlander, Sienna and Solara, the 2004 Avalon and the 2006 Highlander HV. Its recall of 137,000 Lexus vehicles includes the 2004 and 2005 ES330 and RX330 and 2006 RX400h.
The recall notification process varies from country to country.
In the U.S., Toyota will mail owners a notification to make an appointment with an authorized dealer to have their car inspected once replacement parts have been produced in sufficient quantities.
If needed, parts will be replaced for no charge, the company's American sales unit said. Notifications will be mailed starting in January.
In the meantime, if an abnormal noise is heard coming from the engine compartment, the owner is asked to make an appointment with any Toyota or Lexus dealer to have the vehicle inspected for this condition, the release said.