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How I Made $2500 On The Most Hated Car On The Internet

From junkyard relic to road-ready gem, discover how I transformed a battered 2005 Toyota Prius into a reliable ride, proving its undervalued potential.

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If you have followed me for any length of time, you will know that I have built my reputation as a The Hybrid Guy by taking and repairing broken hybrids. I have learned all the systems that make these cars work and function one by one. I have a soft spot now for the Toyota Prius, not because I am a huge Toyota fan, but because they are one of the most hated cars on the internet. 

The Toyota Prius is an eco-friendly gas-sipping saint to those who know about these cars, but for "car guys," they are not that. I learned to embrace what is unique about these cars, and because of that, I now have a skill that serves me and others well. 

Taking on this challenge to bring a salvage car back to life was not easy, and it was super risky, but I did it anyway. I did it because I know how well-built these cars are and to also prove that anything is possible. 

This is my story about an $800 Toyota Prius brought to me dead on arrival and what I did to get it road-worthy again. 

Chapter 1: The Unlikely Hero

In the forgotten corner of a local junkyard, amidst the sea of neglected vehicles, lay a 2005 Toyota Prius – battered and bruised. It did not run and barely had enough power to read any codes stored in the computers. It was perfect. This is the car I was looking for to test how much I have learned over the past 5 years of working on hybrids and push myself to the limit of what is possible. But could I fix the Prius for a reasonable price and still make a profit? I was willing to find out. $800 and a tow truck later, I had a dead-on-arrival 2005 Toyota Prius that needed a lot of love. 

Chapter 2: The Diagnosis

My initial assessment confirmed my fears and hopes in equal measure. With its 265,000 miles, the Prius was a shell of its former self. The HID headlights were useless without working ballasts, the blower motor was dead, and the tires were beyond salvation. The main issue is that the high-voltage battery needed to be functional. With a good HV battery, you can test the car to see if it starts, so I had no idea if the gasoline engine was even good, and given the car's current condition, that made me really nervous. Many other issues needed to be dealt with; however, I saw the potential for complete revival.

Toyota Prius failed sensing harnessChapter 3: The Revival Process

Armed with tools, determination, and a budget of $1100, I began the meticulous process of bringing the Prius back to life. First, I tackled the HV battery - the heart of the Prius. Reconditioning it was a task that tested both my patience and skill. I found the main issue was the previous owner had destroyed the wire sensing harness and that 7 of the modules in the pack were shot. I rebuilt the assembly, bought a known good saddle, and voila! The battery was working again. The best part was that I could finally start the car to see what else it needed. With the battery installed, the little Prius went into "Ready," and the engine fired up. It was quiet and smooth. I could then breathe a sigh of relief; the biggest hurdle was now complete, and I could move on. Next, I addressed the body damage. The hood had a massive dent, but a quick trip to my local auto wrecker (huge shout out to Pasco Auto Wrecking) fixed that quickly. The headlights required new ballasts and light bulbs, which Amazon had in stock ready to ship. 

I replaced and repaired numerous other small items as well, such as the horn, hood latch support, a new key, and other interior things that were missing or broken. Everything worked out until I had to battle one final challenge. 

Chapter 4: The Electrical Challenge

The challenge of repairing the blower motor was very time-consuming. I did not have a repair manual or wiring diagram to show me anything about the blower system; I only knew it didn't work and that I was getting 1.3V input when I needed at least 12V to get it to run. 

Toyota Prius blower motor not working

After tearing up the entire dash, I could locate the issue, which was more than one problem. On these Gen 2 Toyota Prius cars, the blower motor resistor can go out and cause the blower to stop working altogether. Usually, this is fixed with a replacement of the resistor. However, the previous owner had no experience with electrical components and put in a higher amperage fuse than normal. This promptly fried the power wire to the blower circuit, thus shutting it down entirely. Once I discovered the issue, I repaired it promptly and got the blower working again. Finally, I could take this Prius for another maiden voyage. 

Chapter 5: The Transformation

After countless hours of hands-on work, the transformation was remarkable. Once the most hated car on the internet, the Prius stood proudly, ready to take on the roads again. Its resilience and adaptability through the repair process highlighted why the Toyota Prius is an excellent candidate for such projects – easy to work with and robust in its engineering.

It was a challenging task. I poured hours into ensuring everything was working 100% and the car could safely drive the 700 miles to its new owner in another state. Even though it is not the best-looking Prius I have ever repaired and sold, it certainly now has my stamp of approval to be a solid car. 

Chapter 6: The Reward

Selling the car for $3620 was not just a financial gain but a testament to the possibility of turning a disregarded vehicle into a reliable and trustworthy machine. The buyers, looking for a safe and dependable car for their kids, were overjoyed with the Prius. Their satisfaction was a reminder of the impact of such a restoration. This story also illustrates the durability of the Toyota Prius and how well-engineered they are. 

Conclusion: The Underestimated Champion

This journey with the Toyota Prius was more than a simple car repair. It was a narrative of transformation, resilience, and the underestimated potential of a car often mocked and dismissed. With its new-found life, the Prius is a testament to the idea that with skill, effort, and patience, even the most forlorn vehicles can be given a second chance on the road.

Thank you for embarking on this journey with us. Together, let's continue exploring, discovering, and unlocking new horizons. You can stay tuned for more captivating content to fuel your curiosity and inspire your imagination.

We appreciate your readership and look forward to you joining us on our next adventure. Until then, keep dreaming, reading, and coming back for more!

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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 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 reporter. 

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