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5 Things I Learned About Toyota Prius After A Deep 1 Year Study

I have been writing about Toyota Prius for a solid year now. Here are 5 things that I have learned that everyone should know about.


Writing about the Toyota Prius was not something I ever imagined myself doing. I also never thought I would have owned a Prius either, but here I am, killing it.

I now have a fascination with hybrid and electric vehicles, and my Twitter handle shows that. I have taken to calling myself the Hybrid Guy and for a good reason. Working and learning about hybrids is now all I do.

Since I have started writing for TorqueNews, Prius has been on the forefront of my mind. I want to share with everyone today five things that I have learned about Prius that will hopefully help you with yours.

Thing One: Hybrid Batteries
Wow, I have learned a lot about hybrid batteries. I have learned how they work, what causes them to fail, and if you should replace the battery or recondition it.

Early on in my quest to know Prius, I was 100% certain that reconditioned batteries were the way go. You can fix a battery for less money and still have a great driving car. However, many other things need to be taken into consideration.

2004-2009 Toyota prius hybrid battery

First, if you are not mechanically inclined, repairing your battery should not be done. As a professional, I can see where many people could easily make mistakes and ruin the repair or hurt themselves.

Second, not every battery is a good one to repair. Replacing one module that has a bad cell in it is not a proper repair. Many people think this is the solution to all their hybrid battery problems, well it is not. Replacing one module without proper balancing in the battery is like playing whack-a-mole. You may have fixed the issue right now, but you will see the problem "pop-up" again.

Third, take the time to understand that batteries are an investment in your time. If you are someone who does a lot of driving, the last thing you want to worry about is your battery. A new one costs more, but you will get another ten years out of it. A "like new" Prius for $3000 (if you have taken care of yours) is a great deal.

The thing with batteries that I have learned is this. There is no one right way, but there is a right way for you. It comes down to what your plans are with the Prius and how long you intend to keep it. My opinion is that if you want to keep it forever and just drive, put a new battery in it. If you like to have a hobby car, keep fixing your battery.

Periodic maintenance is also something you need to consider. For more information on that, check out this other story here, where I explain it in depth.

Thing Two: Not All Prius Are Created Equal
I have owned 7 Prius over the past year. All of them were purchased with varying issues. I bought them to learn and find answers to help the Prius community. Each Prius has had a unique story, and each one had left my life in far better condition than when it was received.

I know now that Generation 2 Prius is tough to kill, Generation 3 Prius gets praise for fuel economy but has the most issues. Generation 1 Prius was the testbed for Gen 2, and Gen 3 was the testbed for Gen 4.

2017 Toyota Prius Prime Plug in Silver

Each Prius Generation has its own set of challenges. Gen 1 Prius did not come with a boost converter, electric A/C pump, or with a hatchback. It was the slowest of all but still a very reliable machine.

Generation 2 Prius improved significantly and established the Prius name. Gen 2 improvements were a boost converter, smaller and lighter hybrid battery, more power, an electric A/C pump, new body design, and a list of other options. Gen 2 is still a crowd favorite today and one of the most popular due to how durable it is.

Gen 3 Prius, was a rising star that aimed to give us another fantastic machine. Gen 3 has been a let down for many Prius owners with issues like head gasket failure, EGR clogging, electric water pump failure, and other things. Gen 3 Prius was an improvement for things like handling, acceleration, and fuel economy, which drew many people to it. Though it is no Gen 2, Gen 3 still sells for a reasonable deal.

Gen 4 has seemed to be an improvement on all the Gen 3 has had issues with, but time will tell as owners put more time and use into them.

Thing Three: These Cars Are Super Easy To Work On
As an automotive professional for the past 15 years, I can tell you that Prius is a straightforward car to work on. That is one reason I keep buying them. The problems that Prius does have are not unique to each car individually. The issues they face, most all of the others suffer too. That means there is loads of helpful information out there when you do have a problem.

Toyota Prius Trouble codeP0A80 trouble code? There is a fix for that. P0A93, P3000, P0420, P1211? Yes, all of those are common codes that are easily fixed. Many can do their repairs right at home and save.

While Prius is easy to work on, some people should not attempt ever to touch a car. If you are unsure about yourself working on your Prius, please stop, get help.

Those who can work on them, like me, love Prius even more. They are inexpensive repairs for what you get in the end. Each Prius I have purchased, I have been able to fully repair to 100% excellent working mechanical condition for a few hundred dollars. If I can do it, you can too.

Thing Four: Do The Math
Okay, what do I mean by doing the math? I mean that sometimes Prius owners feel they can save even more money by having a non-hybrid repair place fix their issue. Sometimes that is a great option; other times, it is not.

If you are taking your Prius to someone who does not understand hybrids, you are probably better off repairing it on your own. I have seen far too many people try to save a buck and end up with more problems by taking it to the wrong type of mechanic.

Toyota Prius brakes For instance, if the Toyota dealer charges $250 for brake pads that will last 200,000 miles, that means you are paying 0.00125 cents per mile to drive on those OE factory brakes. In other words, the upfront cost may seem like a lot of money, but in reality, it is not.

The same can be said of other services as well. The point here is that a good technician that understands hybrids is worth the money. If you do not trust your dealer, check your local listings for a hybrid only repair shop near you. I bet you would be surprised to find one.

Thing Five: Pay Attention To How Your Prius Ages
Okay, so what do I mean by this? Well, Prius has a few things that happen over time. For instance, if you are checking your engine oil (which you should be doing at least every other fill up), you may notice the oil level drop. This oil level decrease should set off a red flag to you that it is time to flush your engine and restore it. See this story here for more details.

Fix oil consumption with BG products

Watch your fuel economy also. If you notice that your Prius has dropped from 45 mpg to 40 or less, it is probably time to see what your hybrid battery is doing. Keeping a close watch on an aging battery will keep yours from being stranded unnecessarily.

Maintenance is more than oil changes. Your brake fluid, engine/inverter coolant, transmission, and spark plugs are all essential items that need to be taken care of. Check your owners' manual to see what interval Toyota recommends having these services performed.

Owning a Prius is excellent. After a year of possessing all of them that I have held, I will keep buying them. They are cheap to maintain, easy to work on, and get fantastic fuel economy. The best part I can buy a $300 Prius, put a few bucks in it, and drive it for 100,000 miles with little to no issues and still sell it for more than I paid.

I plan on reporting on Prius and other hybrids for the foreseeable future. I hope that everyone who needs help will reach out and ask the questions they need to be answered. That is why I am here to help the community of Prius owners. I have learned a lot more than all of this too. I did not want to make this story so long that no one would read it. So in all seriousness reach out to me if you have an issue, I am happy to help.

Until next time everyone, thank you and have a great weekend. 5 Top Trouble Codes In Toyota Prius And A Sure Fire Way To Fix Each One

strong>Watch this Toyota Prius truck with a cute little bed and click to subscribe to Torque News Youtube for daily automotive news analysis.

Peter Neilson is an automotive consultant specializing in electric cars and hybrid battery technologies. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Automotive Service Technology from Weber State University. Peter is also an Instructor of Automotive Technology at Columbia Basin College. Peter can be reached on Linkedin and you can tweet him at The_hybrid_guy on Twitter. Find his page on Facebook at Certified Auto Consulting. Read more of Peter's stories at Toyota news coverage on Torque News. Search Toyota Prius Torque News for more in depth Prius coverage from our reporters.


Stephen Greenberg (not verified)    June 21, 2020 - 2:21PM

I have owned two Prius' (gen 2 and 3), but no longer do and it is for this issue only: they have proven, in my experience, to not be safe nor convenient in the winter. Living in Cleveland, with variably cold and icy winters I spent one too many days not being able to pull out of the driveway because the snowfall had been more than 8", essentially freezing the car in place; needing a tow truck to pull it out. There were too many times when I hit the brakes and the car slid into the intersection. Luckily I was never hit by oncoming traffic. I had a small child and the turning point for me was going up a relatively steep grade across a railroad track and the car didn't have enough power or traction and we slid back down the hill as a train approached. That was it for me. I traded in for a Subaru and although the mileage was half, at least I felt safe. This year, after having too many mechanical issues with my Outback, I actually began thinking about an AWD Prius as an option. I even approached my dealer in Cleveland with an arrangement to test-drive one in the snow; but alas, they never received one to try it out. Even now there are none in stock. Perhaps Toyota decided the Prius was not suited for the wife drives a Rav4 Hybrid, and perhaps that's an option; but the Prius for me will always be one of the least safest vehicles I've ever driven.

Dave (not verified)    March 7, 2021 - 11:39AM

In reply to by Stephen Greenberg (not verified)

I'm curious if you have been using actual winter tires on the car .
I have as 2013 Lexus ct200h basically a Prius-c and I live in Western NY, an hour south of Buffalo.
We get serious snow here and I drive 20 mi to work on country roads and have never really had an issue. But I do run snow tires every winter. .

Noel Anthony Haughey (not verified)    December 16, 2021 - 3:49PM

In reply to by Stephen Greenberg (not verified)

Not many cars are suited for the snow ! I've seen all kinds of cars and trucks stuck in the snow all at the same time - everyone was stuck and couldn't move - I was in my Prius and was able to maneuver out of snow easier than any other vehicle that was stuck in the snow but I got out and worked my way back to my destination -- I love my Prius cars -- they are fun to drive, cheap on gas and the radio sounds great ---

Noel Anthony Haughey (not verified)    December 16, 2021 - 3:51PM

In reply to by Stephen Greenberg (not verified)

Not many cars are suited for the snow ! I've seen all kinds of cars and trucks stuck in the snow all at the same time - everyone was stuck and couldn't move - I was in my Prius and was able to maneuver out of snow easier than any other vehicle that was stuck in the snow but I got out and worked my way back to my destination -- I love my Prius cars -- they are fun to drive, cheap on gas and the radio sounds great ---

Frank Kelly (not verified)    June 21, 2020 - 4:33PM

Hi Peter, I bought a new 2010 Prius 2 (Gen. 3) that I put 200,000 miles on. You're right about the gas engine needing replacement. That happened at 170,000 miles. To Toyota's credit, they paid for 80% of the cost. I replaced the electric battery at 173, 000 miles with a used battery that had 40,000 miles. In Jan. 2019 I donated my Prius to and bought a used 2014 Prius V with only 15,000 miles. I like it a lot even tho I lost about 8 mpg from the 2010 2. The ride is better and it sits a little higher so I don't get scrapes underneath on speed bumps and driveways. I was wondering if you know of any problems I should watch out for with the Prius V. I'm hoping my next car will be all-electric like the Kia Niro or Chevy Bolt. thanks, Frank

Grant (not verified)    June 21, 2020 - 5:34PM

I'm currently driving a 2014 Prius even though Toyota refused to honor the warranty for my 07 model. It was driving only on the ICE which on was 79 hp (golf cart), but Toyota said the battery manager was amazingly still able to function. Long story- I purchased a battery myself to enable safe driving again.
P.S. even cheep brake job last since Prius uses regeneration.

Charvak Karpe (not verified)    June 21, 2020 - 6:17PM

You write that the transmission needs to be cared for, check the owner's manual. The manual says it's a sealed lifetime unit. Which is correct?

Peter Neilson    June 22, 2020 - 1:01PM

In reply to by Charvak Karpe (not verified)

Lifetime is a ploy used by the automaker into getting the consumer to think that it never needs service. This is a dirty lie. Sevice your transmission at least every 100k if not sooner. I do mine every 60k. Fluid is cheap, the transmissions are not.

Carlos Castellanos (not verified)    June 22, 2020 - 12:28AM

Yes Peter!
What are we going to do about the thieves going around and stealing our catalytic converters off from our vehicles? It’s costing us $2500 dollars from Toyota dealer to get another one, but I am thinking I wouldn’t be in this spot if the place that are giving these crooks money... ask where are they getting all these cats from???
I am here in the Bay Area, California and crooks are hitting all Prius’s like it’s nothing.

We need a law to pass for this scrap metal places start asking for ID and finger prints for these crooks to get money, cause this is some BS.

This is the 2nd time in 7 months they got me!!

Upsettingly yours,

Carlos Castellanos

Gareth (not verified)    May 15, 2021 - 2:22PM

In reply to by Carlos Castellanos (not verified)

There are aftermarket parts you can install to make it harder to steel a catylitic converter, but theft will always be a risk if you drive an vehicle with an internal combustion engine.

Carl Huffman (not verified)    January 11, 2022 - 2:42PM

In reply to by Carlos Castellanos (not verified)

In the news the was cat thief who died under a Prius..... btw, my mom's Prius had it's cat stolen, very expensive to replace....

Robert (not verified)    June 22, 2020 - 1:46AM

Hey Peter, nice read. I also enjoy the Prius a lot. I started getting into them when my friend gave me a gen 2 for free because it said it was garbage and didn't work. After a few YouTube videos, clearing codes and changing out 3 modules I'm my garage, I have put over 60K miles on it with zero issues. Gen 2 is a tank. Reminds me of the corolla.

Toni R (not verified)    June 22, 2020 - 1:33PM

I don't think I could find wven a wrecked one for $300! Did you mean $3,000? Even then, there aren't any nesr us that are under $7,000 for one that is running!

Hearher C (not verified)    June 23, 2020 - 5:55AM

I have 265,000 on my generation 2 Prius (I bought it brand new in 2007 from dealership) and I am trying to figure out whether to keep it or not. It has a few issues that I know are going to cost a lot of money. #1 - the catalytic converter is starting to fail and I am having trouble finding an after market one that is legal in California. #2 - my ABS actuator is making a bunch of noise and I’ve had 2 mechanics refuse to replace it due to the fact that it’s hard to get to and they don’t want to put in the labor to do it. #3 - it burns oil and I’m not sure if that’s fixable or what needs to be done. You mentioned flushing out the engine but I’m not sure what that entails. Mechanics are telling me that there’s nothing that can be done. I think it’s kind of wierd that they done want my business. But I was hoping you could give me some direction on this or maybe refer me to a reputable hybrid mechanic in California. Any help is appreciated

Al (not verified)    March 6, 2021 - 7:56AM

My 10 y/o Gen 3 lived’ thru our recent snowstorm, literally burying her’ with snow up to the windows on a chicago side street. The drivers door was unable to be opened due to depth of snow..
Once the passenger street side was dug out, I was faced with how to warm up the car, and myself..
Without direct access to the drivers seat..
My 3 ft long snow brush came into play as I deliberated how to depress the brake pedal and push the start button. I successfully depressed the brake pedal and hit the start button, and it started without hesitation ! This after being snow bound (buried) for three days.! After sufficient warming for both the car and myself, the next challenge was to extricate both from the spot to the heavely
Rutted street..despite only front wheel drive, it took three try’s to gain access to ‘freedom’ !!!
It all depends on the Capitan in Command’ how the exceptionally well made Prius behaves and succeeds in severe inclement weather...

KERRY EBLEN (not verified)    June 11, 2021 - 6:08PM

hi, ive had two used Prius and loved them So now I have a new 2021 and it is not getting the gasmileage advertised. My Toyota tech says it will take 5000 miles before the new Prius get s the advertised mileage. Do u agree

Anthony Murillo (not verified)    September 8, 2021 - 6:44PM

I have a great 2004 prius with 300k miles on it but the car is falling apart. I have an 2007 prius in great shape but the battery seems to be failing. Can I put my 04 battery in my 07 prius?

Dave N Noble (not verified)    October 23, 2021 - 10:38PM

I have a 2010 Prius with 237000 miles on it at around a hundred seventy-five thousand I experienced The clogged EGR system. After spending $1,000 with a Dieter I found a guy who new how to fix it. Unfortunately he is no longer doing work out of his home and I'm looking for another good mechanic who knows Toyota Prius very well. I wondered where you are located I am in Kansas City

Will (not verified)    January 7, 2022 - 8:29PM

In reply to by Waleed Ahmed (not verified)

I wouldn't recommend paying for education. I would do free resources if possible in high school or learn on YouTube. You just need to break it down into systems. It's many small systems working together. A basic electrical understanding goes far you should learn fuses, relays, shorts (especially short to ground) and basic scan tool functions. From there it's an experience thing and a patience and willingness to ask questions. Tires and suspension takes time to quick diagnose but is doable solo. Replacing broken parts is fairly straightforward. You rarely go past timing an engine or swapping a transmission. Tranny's go to trany shop when you remove. Cylinder heads go to machine shops. Engine blocks get replaced. No one replaces pistons. Understanding your brakes and suspension parts, engine wear parts, serpentine belt and items on the belt, scan code reading, basic electrical skills, understanding tire wear, how to change oil, coolant, tranny, diffy, brake fluid, how to do brake lines, how to inspect a car for damage (like electrical problems from wiring in door jam breaking). Having patience, basic set of tools, flashlight is about 95% of your job.

Tldr you will probably save thousands of dollars in your life if you learn basic electrical like fuses, relays and shorts.