Toyota on Tuesday admitted it is voluntarily fixing 1.3m vehicles in North America for engine oil leaks but denied the campaign was a recall because it did not affect safety.

“It is what we call a service campaign,” Toyota spokeswoman Mieko Iwasaki in Tokyo told AFP. For the past five months, she said, “we’ve been carrying out repairs step by step, sending letters to owners and dealers.”

The company had first informed North American dealers and car owners of the campaign in October and launched its third phase last week to voluntarily repair the defect, a crack in an engine hose. In an email statement sent to the news agency in Tokyo, the company said the problem “may cause oil to leak from the VVT-i oil hose producing abnormal engine noise and the oil pressure light to illuminate”.

“This is not a safety recall, and submitting a Defect Information Report to the (US) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is not required.”

The Toyota spokeswoman said the company had already repaired the oil leak problem in 342,200 Avalon, Camry and RAV4 models and 374,000 Lexus ES350 and RX350 vehicles in the United States at no charge to owners.

In the latest phase of the US campaign started on 22 February, she said Toyota wrote to owners and dealers of 128,800 Avalon and 89,000 RAV4 vehicles, asking them to bring their cars in for the one-hour repair job.

“Separately in Japan we announced in October the repair of 45,000 vehicles for the same cause. The models include the Harrier and Estima,” she told AFP.

Harrier is the domestic version of the RX and the Estima is the Japan market equivalent of export Previa models.