Is the steering shaft a known issue? Yes.
Will the recall fix it? Maybe.
In November 2012, Toyota announced a Safety Recall of the “Steering Intermediate Extension Shaft” on 04-09 Prius. Another supplier problem, this time regarding metal of “insufficient hardness”. The steering column is a series of metal parts, slipped together over splines; the splines can wear out, resulting in loss of steering control. Click here for a video clip of the problem (also embedded below).
Though the explanation is nearly identical, the latest recall (C0T) is different from the one for 04-06 Prius (60C) that started in June of 2006, involving the upper linkage of the steering column (top of picture, above).
This time around, the “remedy” is a bit complicated; the suspected part must be inspected by the dealer and, based on the results, may be replaced. Exact language from first page of the Letter to Dealers:
The “inspection results” are not whether the part is worn or damaged.
Replacement depends on whether the bolt hole has a “countersink”, according to the Technical Instructions issued to dealers, T-CP-C0T-A510-D. Explanation of the countersink on page 6:
If the shaft is flush, then just the bolt is replaced. If the shaft has a countersink, then the shaft and three bolts are replaced. The replacement shaft also has a countersink; it’s the metal they’re after, not the design.
FROM LG’s POINT OF VIEW:
Luscious Garage has seen these shafts strip on several vehicles, countersink or no. We keep replacements in stock (part number 45221-47041; countersink shafts are 04001-41212). This problem is far, far less common than the inverter water pump or the combination meter. To my knowledge we’ve only seen wholly stripped spines (the all-out failure scenario) on commercial vehicles (taxis, and most recently a car used for Lyft); we’ve repaired many that were noisy (developing looseness in the column) before the part actually failed (also taxis). I can only think of one private owner who had a suspicious noise, and when we removed the rack to check the shaft, it was tight. The problem turned out to be in the u-joint.
On all problem cars, the bolt on the shaft has been tight. I’m not sure what replacing bolts is about.
For folks deciding how to react, this information is key: unlike the inverter water pump or the combination meter, your steering is NOT going to suddenly fail. You will feel and/or hear something well in advance, and with increasing suspicion. Further, while the dealer may replace the shaft if it happens to qualify, you have a 50% chance that it will not qualify (page 2 of Technical Instructions). (It’s my opinion that the recall will ultimately expand to replacing all units, regardless of design, at which point it makes more sense.)
Not to discourage you from taking your car in. Just don’t panic.
The Lyft car (pic right, vids below) was towed to a local dealer first, and was declined repair under the recall. At first this did not make sense to me, until I read the details regarding the difference in the shafts. (This one happened to be flush.) According to Toyota’s website, the recall has not been performed on that car (you can check your own VIN here), so perhaps they didn’t even look.
It’s not clear what Toyota will do with an actual problem, if the part doesn’t qualify or they deem the vehicle a nuisance.
This car was a salvage title, and many taxis are salvage. (All cars, salvage or no, qualify for recalls.) As the dealer claimed, perhaps something was reassembled wrong, which caused the problem (not weak metal). (The dealer also diagnosed the steering rack broken.)
Upshot: stay tuned for the next episode. For customers concerned about this problem, Luscious Garage checks steering as part of regular service; if you prefer to come in sooner, just let us know. It only takes a minute and would be free of charge (just like floor mats).
If you do need a replacement shaft, the part runs $125-$177, depending on the design (countersink or flush). We charge $270 labor round trip to remove and replace the rack, and center the steering wheel as needed. Total with tax $406-$462.
Videos and pics below. Facebook album also available here…
Recent Intermediate Shaft Failure, Parts I-III:
View of stripped splines:
View of splines on new shaft:
View of input shaft to the steering rack, splines OK:
View of steering rack and column linkage, outside vehicle (for reference):
View of linkage under the dash:
In November 2010, Toyota announced a “Limited Service Campaign” (number A0N) to replace inverter water pumps on 04-07 Prius. The reason, they stated, was the possibility of an air bubble getting stuck at the pump, reducing flow and causing the inverter to overheat. (PDF of the Technical Instructions issued to dealers, T-CP-A0N-A510-D, now obsolete)
In November 2012, Toyota announced a formal “Safety Recall” (number C0U) to replace inverter water pumps on 04-09 Prius (all model years of the second generation). The reason now: the possibility of a manufacturing defect that can cause the pump to stop or short circuit. In the case of a short, the car will shut down, “which may increase the risk of a crash.” (PDF of the Technical Instructions issued to dealers, T-CP-C0U-A510-D, current)
The remedy for both is the same: replace the water pump. Click here for video of the replacement (also embedded below). More information in an earlier blog:
If you’ve already had your pump replaced under the Limited Service Campaign, then the “recall” is retroactive, you won’t get another. If you’re not sure whether you’ve had it replaced or not, check this page on Toyota’s website:
Luscious Garage has replaced many such pumps, some more than once, on all model years of second generation Prius. Failed replacements suggest that the new pumps are not improved.
It’s not clear whether the recall will coincide with an updated pump that does not have the manufacturing defect. Based on past experience with recalls (or until they announce otherwise), if a part fails a second time, Toyota’s warranty is one year. In case the repair is not paid for by Toyota (or you simply prefer us to do it), Luscious Garage will perform the job for $244, including tax and labor. We stock the most up-to-date factory parts available.
Your Prius is on: you can shift into gear and drive; the turn signals work; the center display is on, accessories functional. But most everything else on the dash is black. WHY?
The “combination meter” (a.k.a. “instrument panel” or “cluster”, the thing you’re looking at in front of you) is bad. There are several electrical components in the circuit board that control how it “powers up”, and they fail. Lacking the ability to power up, the display goes black.
Before last month, Prius owners past 36,000 miles needed to pay to fix this problem (i.e. outside of warranty). This is no longer the case. Toyota has extended the warranty coverage to 9 years, unlimited mileage. Read/download the Toyota document here.
LG chronicled this problem almost four years ago, including YT vids and an explanation of symptoms:
Prius Dead Dashboard dated January 13th, 2009
A year ago we found someone who could repair them (for less cost and greater reliability, or so we thought):
You can see how our understanding of the problem has improved over time (originally we suspected spilled coffee). We’ve also gained a lot of experience and can report that repairing the bad circuit board only works for a while, sometimes not at all. Now we no longer offer repairs, only replacements. And even of brand new replacements ordered from Toyota (and programmed by Toyota) we have seen problems (evidenced by another video on YouTube):
Like the Inverter Water Pump “recall” (issued two years ago, see related blog), this is a huge benefit to Prius owners. The problem is absolutely common, meaning that if you own a Prius, you can expect to have your dashboard go out sometime within 9 years.
If Toyota covers it, it saves you $450 for the part (current price from Toyota) plus whatever labor ($120, or one hour, at Luscious Garage). The dealer will need to special order the unit, to have it programmed with your current odometer, which takes two days (for ones we’ve recently ordered) or longer depending on the backlog. Maybe Toyota will come out with a gizmo to allow dealers to program in house. (It can be done “manually”, but requires soldering to the board.)
Unlike the Inverter Water Pump, your dashboard will not cause the car to shut down. However it can complicate turning the car off (i.e. the car will seemingly NOT turn off), which has its own safety concerns. (You have to hold down the power button for three seconds, which will do a safety override and put the car into accessory mode; from there you hit the power button two times quickly to turn the car off.) This is no doubt why Toyota is extending coverage, to avoid a forced recall by NHTSA.
Like the Inverter Water Pump (and HID bulbs before them) Toyota is dancing with common problems and the prevailing notion that their cars should not break, ever. The previous is an “Limited Service Campaign” (don’t call it a recall!), this one a “Warranty Enhancement”. Both company statements speak of Toyota’s “care about the customers’ ownership experience” and their commitment to “outstanding quality and value”.
All of these campaigns (headlight bulbs, inverter water pumps, now combination meters) are a detriment to independent service providers (i.e. Luscious Garage) as a lost opportunity for sales. It also places another burden on us to provide documentation for folks seeking reimbursement (even letters, signed by me, for those who paid cash). We have repaired and replaced countless numbers of these units over the years.
But this is a burden we willingly accept in order to service hybrid vehicles. All of the aforementioned documentation and explanation is how we express our expertise, which ultimately leads to other repairs, not covered by Toyota. And we are certainly here to help you when the dealer inevitably takes the opportunity to sell you additional work (that you may or may not need), that’s not free.
Categories: Repair »
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 »