2010 Toyota Prius Check Engine Lights
Peter Neilson's picture

Why "Code Clearing" Does Not Fix Your Hybrid Problem

If you have a master warning light, check engine or any other type of warning light in your Toyota Prius or other hybrid cars, you will want to know this. Simply clearing the check engine light is not going to solve your problem but only make more. Here is why.
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We have all been there at one point. Driving around minding our own business and the check engine light turns on. That pesky light is responsible for nervousness and anxiety.

Our first instinct is to get the light turned off because then the problem will go away, right? Wrong. I want to dive into why you need to take that extra step and ask your car what is going on. But, first, we need to learn a few things about our onboard computers.

Why Do We Have Onboard Computers?
Our modern automobiles are more electrical wiring than you think. Just about everything you use in your car is somehow part of an extensive network of wires and computers.

These systems work together and "talk" to let one another know that they are either OK or not. When one system finds a fault outside of its parameters, the check engine light is illuminated.

2005 Toyota Prius Fuel Economy Consumption

We have onboard computers to help with many different things on our cars. For example, computers control the A/C, windows, engine, transmission, and many other things.

Computers, for the most part, are far more reliable and can last longer. They also allow us to do more with our cars than ever before. Do your kids like watching movies in the van? Thank computers. Do you and your significant other enjoy two different climates? Thank computers.

We have them because of the demand we, as consumers, created. The issue is when these systems fail, it can be a veritable nightmare to solve.

Why Clearing The Codes Is Not Going To Solve The Issue
When a code is set, it can be due to a computer, but often times it is due to a fault in a particular system. A system that does fault tells you, the driver, "Hey, I have a problem, and I need help."

When we ignore that issue by shutting off the check engine or other fault, it does not mean the problem magically disappears. And suppose you are clearing an engine malfunction. In that case, you will also reset the computer monitors. Unfortunately, that means your car will not pass a smog test until it has been driven long enough for the systems to run an internal check.

Toyota Prius trouble codes with code reader

So, if you think clearing the light and going to get a smog test will happen on the same day, think again. You are only creating more issues for yourself because, more than likely, the problem still exists.

What To Do About A Check Engine Light That Keeps Coming Back
If you drive a hybrid like a Toyota Prius and get a trouble code for the battery pack, you are only hurting yourself.

The light comes on because you have an issue, not because it wants to. Your car only knows what it is programmed for and nothing else. Whether it is a lousy hybrid battery, an oxygen sensor, misfire, or whatever else you have going on, get the repair done.

Conclusion
I cannot overstate how simplified this article is about checking engine lights, especially for cars like Toyota Prius.

If you are experiencing car problems, you must, and I repeat, must get your codes retrieved from your car before you can ever have a clue to what problem you are facing.

If you need to get an introductory reader for your car, look at this article here about what one I use and carry with me all the time. It is better to be safe than sorry, everyone, and I hope you do not ignore that check engine light.

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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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