Should you rebuild? Keep reading. What are the prices? Click here.
Second generation Prius are going the way of their predecessors: getting older. And with age comes hybrid battery failure.
When an HV battery officially “dies” (sets trouble code P0A80) depends on both age and mileage (i.e. use), but its predictability depends on other factors still: frequency of driving, length of trips, and temperature. In short there is no way to calculate exactly, but probability trends with age and mileage.
LG’s shop experience thus far has been in the extremes: first generation, privately owned Prius (all age) and second generation taxicabs (all mileage). Any first gen Prius (2001-2003) is prone to a battery failure at this point (they’re all over 10 years old) and second gen Prius taxis over 200,000 miles are equal candidates. But taxis’ ability to prolong battery life depends on cooling system operation; in turn we clean HV battery fans on taxis all the time and include fan checkups for private vehicles in our 60k/120k mile service.
As for privately-owned gen 2s with P0A80, we’ve seen a couple 2004/2005s just out of warranty (151k) and this week, currently awaiting repair, a 2005 with 260k. (Stay tuned for quantitative analysis into the future.)
What should you do when the battery eventually fails?
The more Gen 2 battery failures occur outside of warranty, the louder online discussion becomes. The car is far more popular (and mainstream) than its freshman predecessor, and its perceived immunity to problems is correspondingly high (witness the cacophony regarding HID bulbs).
And just like HIDs, the frenzy is driven by price: if brand new packs were $100, everyone would just buy one. But they are currently $2588. It’s no surprise folks are trying to figure out a cheaper way.
Originally we rebuilt Gen 1 battery packs for the same reason. After three years, the era of successful rebuilds has come to an end, and not without significant effort to prove otherwise. For more on the annals of HV battery rebuilds, read the previous blog:
Note that these are rebuilds using Gen 2 modules. In other words, the supply chain and success level directly correlate to second generation Prius looking to rebuild, using the same parts.
As the hope for Gen 2 battery rebuilds grows, consider the following:
1. Gen 2 modules are all getting older
2. The ability to match modules is complex, and often imprecise
3. The extra labor to rebuild a pack could instead go towards an entire replacement without issues
Thus Luscious Garage strongly recommends replacing faulty HV packs with:
1. used packs (already matched and assembled at the factory), freshly salvaged and of lesser age, OR
2. brand new packs from Toyota
Once used packs are no longer reliable, we will only recommend factory replacements, just as we do now with Gen 1 Prius.
Already there are manuals available to purchase and download describing how to rebuild Prius (and other Toyota-based hybrid) battery packs. Smart, creative folks tend to drive these cars, so it’s no surprise they are proactive about alternatives.
If you’re repairing your high voltage battery in your garage, out of curiosity, fun, or financial pressure, then this blog does not pertain to you.
If you’re a customer looking to a professional repair shop, we do not recommend battery rebuilds for second generation Prius, given the known issues. When you pay us for advice, it must hold for the long term as a reliable repair. And financially speaking, the long term cost of rebuilding multiple times is higher than an entire replacement.
Batteries are wear items; they will all wear out eventually, just like brakes and tires. And the repair is no more remarkable than that of brakes or tires: just replace. Individuals will have success with rebuilds, and they will tell their story. But the community of hybrid owners (that is, the probability of success) is greatly favored by entire pack replacements.
For prices on Gen 2 Prius battery replacement, see:
Categories: Repair »
Luscious Garage does a lot of work on the Prius, and by “a lot” I don’t mean every other day or so. I mean the vast majority of the cars we work on, and on some days, every car.
Among taxis, that focus is even more sharp. SF taxicabs are nearly all hybrids, and the vast majority of owner-operated cabs (about half of SF’s taxi fleet, or 750 cars) are Prius. These are also our customers.
For 18 months we have operated a second-shift, overnight (9pm to 5am) seven days a week, dedicated to hybrid taxis. We currently employ four technicians on night shift alone. This means that at least 56 hours of every week LG services Prius running nonstop in one of the most challenging urban environments, on top of the 50 daytime hours serving those privately owned.
Of the Prius taxis we currently service (as of this blog), the majority are over 200,000 miles. Many are near or have past retirement at 325,000 miles. Some of our oldest customers are already half way through the allowable term of their second Prius taxi.
In short, we are highly familiar with the patterns of Prius taxi repair. Transaxles failing from every angle, HV batteries down to the last electron. Engine side, we regularly see blown head gaskets and oil consumption up to 1 quart per day. Combination meters, warning lights, wiring trouble of any flavor. Double salvage vehicles. Every trouble code in the book. Prius with critical problems layered on top of tolerable problems that have been going on for months.
Not to mention the incessant parade of bad headlights, tires, brakes, struts, radiators, wheel bearings, and water pumps. Between both day and night shift we see between 40-60 cars every day, of which the vast majority are Prius. Of those cars, easily a third are Prius taxis, with high demand for auto service.
It can be hard to tell, looking at a website, how much work a shop performs, or how much they truly specialize. While our services differ between private and commercial Prius (they have inherently different priorities) our taxi service affords us exceptional expertise into vehicle failures, a kind of Prius proving ground. Many times private owners have expressed their respect and appreciation for our taxi service, not only because it speaks to our unbiased focus on hybrid repair, but because it means we can handle anything.
Having read this far, let me reward you with my point: Prius taxis are common in San Francisco, and increasingly common elsewhere, because they are strong, safe, and economical cars. They are not always easy to understand, but the repairs themselves are straightforward and the parts accessible (it is a mainstream car with a mainstream parts supply). All cars break, hybrid or no; I am not suggesting hybrids are more vulnerable. Quite the opposite: if they weren’t suitable as taxis, you simply would not see them being used as such, and the fact that they are speaks volumes.
As taxis are increasingly Prius, the more Prius (and hybrids in general) are accepted as worthwhile technology, rather than a flash in the pan. This is a call to mechanics to get trained, as taxis do not frequent the dealer. Further, these are the cars that need your help the most.
On a visit to Boston last fall, I witnessed mostly Camry Hybrids at the airport taxi stand (and grilled my driver on repair shops in the area). Besides Toyota hybrids (Prius as well as Camry and Highlander), LG also sees a lot of Nissan Altima Hybrids and Ford Escapes (fewer Fusions right now, but the wave is coming). The Prius taxi may be especially popular in Northern California given the plethora of privately owned ones. I do get calls from taxi fleets/shops across the country (Chicago, Orlando, Denver, Houston) wrestling with oddball problems, desperate for a tip (half the time I’ve never seen the problem myself, which speaks to regional issues and the caliber of taxi shops to fix problems). The Prius V may be perfect as a taxi, or maybe not. It doesn’t have to be Prius for the overarching emphasis to be true.
As a shop owner, technician, and environmentalist, I am proud to see hybrid cars in commercial use and provide them fleet-grade, no-nonsense repairs. There is an industry cramp surrounding change that often manifests in customer punishment (“you bought something different so now you have to pay”); capacity in that new thing validates elevating prices (since customers have little choice). At bottom, our taxi service keeps us honest and aware, and proves we are not prima-donnas. Indeed, we can handle anything, and at a competitive price.
Categories: Repair »
Certified B Corporations are a new type of corporation which uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.
LG began the certification effort today, with help from Ryan of Honeyman Sustainability Consulting, completing our first Impact Assessment. We scored 63 points (see results below) which is a remarkable baseline. The minimum to certify is 80 points, already putting us close based on our current business practices.
The next step is reviewing the areas ripe for improvement. The lowest hanging fruit will be documentation, tracking, and setting goals, getting away from the casual approach we’ve taken until now. This is the merit (and inherent rigor) of B Corp certification: it forces a business to formalize its positive efforts.
Our first goal is to reach 80 points on the Assessment, and receive the certification, in honor of our 5 year anniversary (celebration set for September 15th of this year).