It was a brief decade ago that the modern “check engine” light emerged. Though it looked the same, it fronted the second generation of “on-board diagnostics,” a.k.a. OBD II. With OBD II came a standardized format for stored codes (formally known as “diagnostic trouble codes” or DTCs in tech jargon)—five digit hexidecimal codes, to be exact. P0301 is now known as “Misfire Detected Cylinder #1.” P0455 points to the gas cap. There are hundreds more.
Hybrid owners are advanced in their automotive fluency, both because their cars are high tech and owners themselves are more interested. But the cars have done their part to up the ante. With the popularity of the Prius comes a newfound warning indicator more ominous than “check engine:” a red triangle fondly known as “the red triangle of death.” Not only that, owners must negotiate a secondary level of diagnostic trouble codes, “information codes” also known as “INF codes” or “sub-codes.” Without this data, the DTC is too vague to properly (or efficiently) diagnose.
Witness the dreaded P3009, for instance. Generally it describes a voltage leak (short) somewhere in the Toyota hybrid system. People often worry about the high voltage wiring being chaffed somehow, causing this code. It’s better known on the Gen 1 Prius, whose undersized drive motor is prone to fatigue (and eventual failure). The failure aspect often comes in the form of the P3009.
High voltage spans the length of a hybrid, from battery to motor-generator. So how do we know where to find (and therefore fix) the problem? Help comes in the form of information codes. I’ve copied the first page of the 18 page instructions pertaining to P3009 on the 04 Prius; note that there are five different sub-codes: 526, 611, 612, 613, and 614. Each points to a different aspect of the high voltage system. The HV ECU quarantines the problem depending on the operating conditions when the leak is detected.
The details and their importance are largely private to the technican in getting the job done. But awareness of Information Codes is essential to the vehicle owner when it comes to warranty disputes or elusive repairs. When multiple people get involved, a DTC alone is not enough to understand the situation. In record keeping it’s now essential to list not only the main codes but any secondary information of importance as well. Who’s to say if and when that information may be needed, and after clearing the code, it’s a guess to say what it might have been.
However improved, the Prius maintains several idiotic features. One is the chronic need to “agree” to use the Navigation system. Ubiquitous to Toyota and Lexus nav, a message reminds you to follow the law and that accidents may occur if you drive looking at the screen. Nevermind that the climate, audio, and information controls are all operated through the same device.
Thanks to CoastalEtech, a company out of Indialantic, Florida, there is relief to this frustrating situation! Their Lockpick system will virtually touch the button for you (pictured, notice no hands), as well as unlock the navigation inputs when the vehicle is in motion! It cooperates with the factory system (rather than replacing it) which means that it doesn’t work 100% of the time, but by in large it restores the impression that you are a rational person in control of your vehicle, rather than the other way around.
Lockpick hardware for the Gen 2 Prius (2004-2007) is in stock and installs for $150.
Trivial? Perhaps, like any advertisement. But not to those who notice. I enjoyed my salesperson at Novato Toyota (ask for Linda!) but I don’t need to promote the experience for the rest of my car’s life.
Typically garish, definitely impersonal, dealer frames are sadly as common to hybrids as carpool lane stickers. Why not recycle them into something better—like a frame with our name on it?
100% PC recycled plastic, we think they’re a real improvement. Rather cleanse your plate entirely? No problem. We’ll gladly take the originals off, no exchange necessary.
Designed by Chuck Sanger
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My love and gratitude to the attendees of our grand opening party last Saturday. We counted over a hundred people—many friends, neighbors, and colleagues—each of whom has played a role in making LG possible. My thanks to Javier Manrique for his artwork and Phil Deal for his “sonic wallpaper”; we are fortunate to have such talented, mature artists supporting our young business. Javier’s work will remain on display through the fall.
Thanks again to those mentioned in my speech—Tami’s sister Heather, for flying from Manhattan to help; Sara Guren, Bow Beeman, and Aparna Bole, old friends who made the trip from Cleveland; Dave Berry, our skillful real estate agent; Norman and Floriana Petersen, the landlords who took a risk with us; Abraham Zavala, our genius architect; Alberto Gonzolez, the reason our building is in such good shape; Pacific Automotive Company, for their parts and also for granting our first credit account; Golden Gate Petroleum, supplier of “green” oil, fuels, and solvents; Evergreen Environmental, our waste management provider, for their commitment to recycling; Barry Zupan of K&L Automotive for his patience and attention; Mike Argo, who sold us most of our second-hand equipment; Richochet Consignment, for our second-hand furniture; craigslist, our source for plants, furniture, electronics, and everything else we’ve collected second-hand; Murat Wahab, our fabulous banker at Wells Fargo Haight St (the first bank in SF to be recognized as a green business); Jean Nelsen, our capable accountant; Maria Do Céu, my mentor and former boss from Out West Garage; Jack Rosebro of Perfect Sky Hybrid Training, for his technical expertise, general advise at all hours, and consulting on sustainability; Paul Cowden of Cowden’s Automotive and Pat Cadam of Pat’s Garage for their advise; Cobra Creative, our total source for web and brand work; Chuck Sanger, designer of our first poster; the San Francisco Electric Vehicle Association for allowing us to host their meetings; Calcars’ Felix, Randy, and Ron for their enthusiasm and allowing us to host their most recent conversion; Cindy Choi of OEMTek and Rob Protheroe of Plug-in Supply for working towards our goal to have a plug-in kit available by the first of the year; SF Green Cab for choosing us for their fleet account; Dane Golden for his recent article for Wired.com; Jamie Lynch of KGO for the recent interview; The Heather Gold Show, for choosing us as their latest venue; and last, my dear Tami for her passion, creativity, and love.