It is no secret that cars, like humans, age. We begin to see sagging in places we do not want, we also see more cracks and wrinkles in other places too. Sometimes repainting, or a little body work can go a long way, though it may not be quite enough. We still have to consider all the other things that made our Prius as quiet and comfortable in the beginning and why it has changed over time.
First thing that you need to understand is that if you drive any car daily, you are going to get used to it. No matter what you think you know about the car, you will have tuned your ears and body in to the way it sounds and handles. So remember above all, these little things that may seem like they are an issue could have been there the whole time.
I usually notice things after I have driven a newer car then come back to mine. I hear all the differences in the noise level, ride quality and comfort. I developed over time a sense of what to do about these things that seemed to bother me, and put together 3 tips you can use to help your Prius feel new and exciting again.
Tip 1 - The Right Tires
In a previous article 3 Top Tire Brands You Should Consider For Your Toyota Prius, I talk about what makes a tire a good one. One of those characteristics of a good tire is that it has a comfort layer built into the tire. This comfort layer helps reduce tire to road resistance as well as keep the noise level down inside your car. Tires are a major contributing factor to the way your car sounds and feels on the road. Inexpensive or poorly made tires, not only wear out quickly, but when they do, noise levels increase dramatically and ride comfort takes a short walk off a tall cliff.
I personally love Michelin tires with “Green X” technology, and when I am on the hunt looking for a good deal I usually end up learning more about other brands of tires as well that offer similar quality for a better price. Check out the article as mentioned above for more details on what you should consider putting on your Toyota Prius as well.
Tip 2 - Quality Shocks/Struts
Much like choosing the right tires, choosing the right shocks and struts can be a huge process. Luckily for you, I am here to help guide you through that. Toyota does not mess around when it comes to ride quality. Though, just like all good things, they have their limits. So, what do you do when it is time to replace your shocks and struts? Plus, what are the differences between the two? I get these questions all the time from students, family and friends.
My first response is that struts are an integral part of the vehicle as where shocks are not. Typically, struts are a unit consisting of a shock, spring and mount that allows the entire assembly to me mounted in the car as a structural piece. A shock on the other hand, it simply a single unit that does not provide structural integrity, just manages ride quality.
The other question I get is what ones should I buy. “I went to the dealer and they wanted $2000 to replace the shocks on the car, I do not have that kind of money.” Most people typically do not have extra money to throw around, which is why the aftermarket makes so much on people that have a lot less to spend. If I am going to be honest, Prius owners, myself included are cheapskates.
It is important to note here that you need to look at the overall cost to benefits ratio when purchasing a quality set of shocks/struts for your Prius. For instance if you want the same ride and handling you had when the vehicle was new, you would want a similar shock/strut that came on the vehicle. What most do not know is that Toyota does not make their suspension pieces.
Over the years Toyota has partnered with Bilstien, and KYB, big names in suspension, to produce the quality ride dampeners that we all know and love.
So, tip number 2. If your Toyota Prius came out of the factory wearing a set of Bilstein or KYB shocks/struts you can find the same model part online for much cheaper. In a previous article, 3 Secrets To Cheaper Maintenance On Your Toyota Prius I point out other cost saving ways you can get a more cost effective mile out of your car by knowing what parts to buy and what to look for. The same idea goes for purchasing quality shocks.
Trust me, this is one place where you do not want to go the cheap route, even if you are a penny pincher. Cheap shocks are like cheap tires and we all know how that will turn out. Save money in the long run and do it right.
Tip 3 - Aftermarket Sound Enhancement
The Toyota Prius has a very large amount of plastics built into it. This is to help reduce the weight of the vehicle to allow for great fuel economy. This also allows for lots of extra noise as well. Even though sound engineers found the spots that made the most noise, we still get used to hearing loud noise due to advancements in sounds technology.
A great way to help your Prius feel newer is to cut down on the noise that it has. Standards in noise acceptance have changed over the past decade and are still advancing today.
The great news is that you can update your older Prius to sound like a newer one. Companies such as Dynamat, Kilmat and others have been producing a noise, vibration and harshness material for quite some time now. Originally, it was designed to improve sound quality inside the car for really bangin’ stereo systems. Though as those music junkies have aged, they have found that a quieter car is much more their speed.
Whatever you choose to do to your Toyota Prius is totally up to you. I hope that you have found some help in aiding you along that road of how to keep it on the road and functioning as close to new as possible.
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Peter Neilson is an automotive consultant specializing in electric cars and hybrid battery technologies. He is an automotive technology instructor at Columbia Basin College. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Automotive Service Technology from Weber State University. Peter can be reached on Linkedin and at Certified Consulting