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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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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.