Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Repair and Reconditioning The Prius Series 1 Battery

First Signs of Trouble

If you own or just purchased a Prius Generation 1 ( 1997 - 2000 ) chances are that the HEV battery is at the end of it's service life. The first indication will be the appearance of the turtle every time you want more power. It will flash on and off after the battery gets charged up.

The turtle is not always a sign of HEV Battery Problems

Appearance of the turtle means not enough power for your intended driving condition ie going uphill or accelerating. This could either be from the ICE ( Internal Combustion Engine) or the EV ( Electric Drive or the HEV Battery ).
To eliminate the ICE
1) Check the spark plugs - there should not be any carbon around the points
2) Make sure the coils are working - faulty coil will show up in the spark plugs
3) Make sure the air flow meter is in good condition if in doubt, replace . (this is most important).
4) Check that the 12 volt battery is working correctly. It needs to be able to hold a good charge.

The HEV Battery Will Need To Be Recondition

Any weakness in the ICE will soon manifest itself in the HEV battery. Continued call for more power from the battery will reach a point where the input and output power is more than the battery can handle. At this point the CPU puts up the triangle ( C2579 ) to protect the battery. In this mode the input and output voltage is clamped.
Note : The triangle can also be put up for other reasons. If it is not the battery the triangle can be cleared by resetting the computer. ( Remove the negative terminal from the 12 volt battery wait 10 seconds then reconnect. Turn the ignition on and if the triangle is gone it is not the HEV battery. However if the problem still exist the triangle will reappear. If it is the battery the triangle will not clear. Trouble code C2579 can only be removed with the S2000 scanner.

Your HEV Battery is like your tyres, they wear down, and sooner or later have to be retreaded or replaced. Since replacing is no longer available, reconditioning is the only option.

How Long Can A Recondition HEV Battery Last ?

The reality is that without a good HEV battery your hybrid car is scrap metal ! We charge NZ$1500 to recondition the HEV battery. We provide 1 year return to base warranty. For the warranty to apply you must also replace your air flow meter which we can supply for NZ$300.
We started reconditioning the HEV battery since 2007. The first one done 3 years ago is still working in the same car. To date we have reconditioned more than 150 HEV batteries.
Over this period we have learned much and improved our techniques on reconditioning the HEV battery. Our process was finally perfected when we managed to obtain an S2000 scanner from Japan. This enable us to quantify the state of our reconditioned battery from the Delta and State of Charge readings. We can also clear all fault codes and perform cell equalisation.
We test drive the reconditioned battery in a similar vehicle. VB cell voltages must be equalised. No turtles should appear after a 10 KM test drive. It is rested for 2 days and then rechecked for self discharge. Only after passing these exhaustive test will we consider this battery reconditioned.

A couple of know issues will still affect the battery. One is fault codes resident in the car computer. These are in the Hybrid and ECU section of the vehicle system. If not cleared with the S2000 some hurtling may result. Another problem is a high voltage leak. This will appear as a fault code with the triangle displayed initially but will normally clear itself out after one or two days. Without access to the vehicle we depend on the owner to get these problems fixed if they are present.

How To Get Your Battery To The Battery Clinic In Auckalnd

If you are in Australia you can either get someone to remove the battery or remove it yourself with these instructions. You will need to send the whole pack to us with the battery computer intact as we have to calibrate the computer to the battery pack with the S2000.
We have an arrangement with Jet Worldwide to transport the battery between Australia and Auckland. This is their contact.
Our contact in Auckland is Duane or Lisette they will handle all the custom declarations and documentation. The process is easy with them. If not the shipment could be held up for various reasons at either end.
When you are ready to have your battery collected, email us ( thebatteryclinic@xtra.co.nz ) your address for collection and we will forward the same message to Duane at Jet Worldwide. They will make the arrangement to collect from your address. They will also return the battery to your address when it is completed. We will include their freight cost in our invoice
The cost of shipment from Australia to Auckland and back is approximately NZ$850. ( Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane ) Charges may change and would be more expensive from other states. You could ask for a quote. We do not add any margin to freight charges.

How Long Does It Takes

Organising the shipment over often takes some time and may encounter some delays as the airline may offload the battery until they have space as they may consider the battery hazardous goods. We will complete the job within a week.
To save time we could arrange invoicing and payment early so that it could be sent to you as soon as it is ready.

What If The Battery Fail Under Warranty

Our warranty is solid, and we will repair free of charge under warranty no questions asked, but getting the battery to us is at your cost. Until we are able to arrange representation in Australia this is the best we can do.

Longevity Of The Prius Generation 1

It is true that these tubes are no longer available from Panasonic. At the Battery Clinic we break up the tubes and re weld good cells to make a new tube. After capacity rebuilding and cell equalisation these rebuilt tubes should last many years.
Worst case scenario these tubes are available new from China. They are slightly smaller and fairly pricey but can be adapted for use. We have this option should the situation arise.
As for the vehicle itself, if you have been fortunate enough to drive a Gen 1 car in good working order, you will know how powerful and smooth it is for a 1500 cc vehicle. See this blog on how good this vehicle is.
Not much goes wrong mechanically with this car. We recently reconditioned the battery of one that had done more than 250,000 Kms. It was still running smoothly and silently. We will be able to keep the battery going for as long as this vehicle can get a warrant of fitness.
Also in the pipeline are a DC to DC converter solution to increase it''s EV range and possibly to also make it a full EV vehicle. A full EV has limited range. This one has the best of both world if we can successfully make the conversion.
You could say that this vehicle is future proof against obsolescence.
We hope that this assurance will help the Generation 1 Prius keep it's value.

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