Saturday, February 28, 2009

How Good Is The Toyota Hybrid Generation One 1997 - 2000

The number of series 1 having problems with the hybrid battery is increasing because it was designed to last between 8 to 10 years. The car itself is still going strong and it seem a shame to scrap the vehicle. New Zealand can no longer import this as a second hand vehicle from Japan. It is still possible to import this vehicle into Australia.

The generation 1 Prius has the black bumper strip on the front and back bumper. We have always contended that this is one very hardy car. As long as the HEV battery can be kept and maintained in good working condition nothing else major really goes wrong with it. A great car for someone who wants a workhorse and does alot of travelling.You could conceivably recoup your investment just from fuel and maintenance savings in the first year!

How good is this vehicle ?  Well we were offered a 1999 white Prius hybrid this week. The owner had it at toyota for several months and the diagnosis was that the drive shaft and gearbox was broken. The owner rang us and said that the battery was still in good condition and we were offered the vehicle for $1500 transported to our workshop. We accepted the offer planning to retrive some parts from the vehicle.

The vehicle arrive next day overnight from Wellington. It managed to start but there was a cranking noise coming from the engine. We have come across this before and it does not mean that the gear box is shot! It could happen if the coolant to the gearbox is dry. This was not the case. There was oil in the crankcase so that was not it. The engine and 288V error came up. We then changed the spark plugs and air flow meter but the noise was still there. We then changed the HEV battery just in case although the triangle error was not there. It was driveable but was rough. Feels like there a gear was slipping.

We took it down for a scan but no errors were detected except that the timing was a little forward at 13% up to 16.5%. This brought us to suspect that one cylinder was missing. We checked the new spark plugs and sure enough cylinder 2 was clean! OK we got hold of a coil from another vehicle substitute for it and magic of magic the engine ran smooth. Took it for a test drive and the vehicle performed faultlessly. Has done 150,000 Kms but should do another 150,000 easily.

We did not suspect a coil fault in the first place because when the car was driven the electric drive assisted which mask the problem. We did notice that the HEV battery drained very quickly and was difficult to charge up.

This is why it is so important to keep the petrol engine running perfectly. This is not difficult to do at all. Change the air flow meter if there is lack in performance and change the spark plugs every 10,000 Kms. Any loss in power is compensated by the electric engine which cause the HEV battery to fail as it does not get a chance to charge up fully in normal driving.

There was nothing wrong with the HEV battery but it goes to show that not many mechanics including Toyota are able to correctly diagnose this vehicle. our experience is that they don't even know how to service this vehicle correctly. 

So don't give up on this vehicle. I wonder how many of these cars have been scrapped unnecessarily. They are so hardy and not much mechanically goes wrong with it. 

Nimh cells and reconditioning

The voltages between  cells must be within 20% or the ECU will throw up an error message. If the hybrid ECU calls for more power than the battery pack can input/output, a trash battery. If the cell imbalances are more than the ECU can cope with it goes into standby mode and puts up the triangle error code.

This also means you can't mix new cells with old as it will exceed the 20% tolerance. Good used tubes getting increasingly difficult to find to build balanced packs. We have to rebuild good tubes by breaking them up and spot welding the good cells into a new tube and then reconditioning this reconstituted tube to maximum capacity.

The point of this blog is to let all Generation 1 Prius owners know that the battery clinic can now rebuilt the nimh tube from other cells.

With this process we can now make good tubes and ones of better quality than just pure cannibalised tubes. The number of good cannibalised tubes is not high because they have to pass our 100 amps stress test. Rebuilt tubes pass this test easily.

The result of this is that we can keep your Generation 1 Toyota Prius running for many more years into the future.

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