Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Prius Hybrid Servicing And Maintenance

A few myths to dispel about servicing your hybrid vehicle.

1) Toyota service centres knows best.

This would be the perception. Who would know if Toyota don't especially if they don't? The fact is that hybrid vehicles still only form a small part of our vehicle fleet. As such service centres only have very limited experience in dealing with Hybrid vehicles. On top of this when it comes to the Hybrid battery very little is known and most service centres ignore this area completely.

2) The Hybrid car is very complicated and difficult to service.

This is the paradox. Even though the hybrid combines 2 propulsion system, servicing is actually much easier. The only maintenance for the  ICE (internal combustion engine) are the spark plugs, the oil change, oil filter, air filter and coolants for the ICE and the inverters. Most people can do this themselves except for the oil change. On the plus side the oil change can be done at longer intervals as the ICE is not used as much or as hard and often the oil remains a golden colour without carbonisation for months.
There is nothing to service or maintain on the EV ( electric vehicle ) side as nothing is accessible to the owner for maintenance. However once a year it is recommended that the vehicle be sent in for a HEV battery equalisation. This procedure balances all the cells in the battery pack and recalibrates the battery computer for charging and discharging parameters of the battery pack. This procedure can only be done with a technician familiar with the use of a S2000 scanner. Only this scanner can do the job and The Battery Clinic is equipped and has the technical expertise to do this.
One more thing to take care of is to check on the 12 volt battery. This battery powers the computer system. It needs to have a good capacity. The CCA ( cold cranking amps ) is not important but it needs to have a good charge holding capacity.  If you see that the dash is a little dim when you turn on the ignition it is probably time to change the battery. As Ah is more important than CCA it is probably better to use an AGM battery.

3) I can't do it myself.

Yes you can. Reiterating the above again you can perform what you are capable of and manage what you can't.
a) Change engine oil and oil filter - Let your mechanic do this. You will only be charged for the oild change and nothing else. Possibly when you renew your warrant of fitness.
b) Spark Plugs - These cost about $6 each at the auto shop and you can change them yourself for a total of $24. You can of course change them when you do the oil change.
c) Air filter possibly at WOF time again. This may cost $60 and you may not need to change if they are not clogged. The mechanic may just do a blow out.
d) Coolants you could top up yourself. Just remember that there are 2 cooling system and both reserviour levels have to be checked.

The point of this all is that other than the above there is nothing else for you to do. Don't be fooled by $600 - $1000 bills for service. They are not justified as there is nothing to do other than the above. The brake pads don't wear out as most of the time EV braking takes place to recover the energy to charge the batteries. Brake pads last for as long as 10 years or more, Tyres would possibly be changed more often mainly because people run Hybrid vehicles more ( distance ) as they are cheaper to run.

I have personally reconditioned the HEV battery and serviced the ICE in a 1998 hybrid vehicle that has done more than 250,000 Kilo meters and believe me the vehicle still runs silent and smooth with good power and acceleration.

It is always a wonder to me how these cars keep going after so much abuse and lack of maintenance. Most fail because the HEV battery gives up. However if you look after the vehicle and let a capable technician check on the HEV battery annually at least, this car will be working for you for a long long time. The battery clinic can look after your HEV battery. We charge $300 for our equalisation service which you should do possibly once a year. You do the rest.

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