Archive for prius

Toyota Prius “Check Hybrid System”

Posted in Uncategorized, cars with tags , on July 13, 2018 by marksun

Late June 2018, the Check Hybrid System light came on on my 2010 Prius while I was away in Portland, and the Prius went into a safe mode.  D used the Rav until she joined me then 6/28,  we got back from Portland. I drove it down to the shop (car starts, drives but has no power and only low gears) –  had my mechanic Suhn check it out … “hybrid – no can handle Pete.  It’s a hybrid.  What do you expect and this kind of shit is going to happen. I hope you’re not completely screwed.”  Old school mechanic.  He’s right that a battery will need to be replaced.   This is not a battery,  but it’s a hybrid system component and more importantly, these things are fucking crazy expensive.   Mainland retail an IPM transistor kit is $1400.  Servco Hawaii – $2400!  Just for the part!  Suhn hopes it’s not a battery and hopes that I’m not in for $10,000 in repairs.  Look of concern, “Is it worth it?”

I told you so taste’s a lot like shit.

But you know, the internal combustion engine unit, now the ICU, as we knew it is already gone. Fuel injection, computers, turbo, Sterling cycle engines, multiple cooling systems,  Suhn will know it’s time to retire when every car comes in with a 400V battery pack,  or stuffed with computers, sensors, servos, actuators and no driver.

The golden age of transportation is over.  Getting around is going to cost you.

I look on Internet, known problem with transistor kit, IPM and recall.  Meanwhile,  Allstate Auto Club phone #, call in the tow to dealer – an operation that took three hours.  After hour check in.  6/29 the bad news – it would be at least two weeks before Dealer Service could even look at the car.  I talk with Customer support dude Kris – and he helps me devise a strategy – namely try other dealers while he keeps his guys away so they don’t run diagnostics on my car and charge me $120.  Phone calls, Windward Toyota can  give me an appointment for July 5, only 6 days away!  Servco Mapunapuna doesn’t have an appointment available until August!  I call in a  tow to Windward Toyota 6/30.  At least Servco to Servco I don’t have to be in Mapunapuna.  The Tow drops the car before I get there, which turns out to be just fine.  Is the car under a recall for the Intelligent Power Module (IPM)?  – Spencer, the service guy checks records – negatory.  I leave empty handed but with a 5 July appointment. Timeline a bit suspect here for this weekend…  Spencer is a good guy and makes a loaner car available to me on Friday 6/31 – we pick it up on Saturday.  Phone call, they had run diagnostics – the bad news, it’s gonna cost $3000 to repair.  Holy shit!

July 5, nothing.

July 6 call from Spencer … “uh the  mechanic is backlogged, maybe by July 10?

July 10 nothing.

July 11 late – OK it’s ready.  Great!   Can I pick up to morrow.  No problemo.

July 12.  I return the loaner at around 1100.  I get the bill and pay $2660 with MasterCard.  I drive home.  Same old Prius, nothing special ain’t it.

July 12: Home.  Lets find the books.   I find an undated doc clipped in:


And here’s the link now that I know the magic word: ZE3

The shop repair record shows  diagnostic  P0A94.  I find the smoking gun.

Why didn’t I find it earlier? Go Fish.  So like I fully expected the dealer to have this record tied to each vehicle they sell in their database.  This of course, turns out to be totally wrong.  Reading carefully, this wasn’t a recall, but a Warranty Enhancement Notification ZE3 and it’s on the customer, me, to keep track of, not the dealer.  I email this to Spencer.  Spencer is all over it, calls me back.  Good news : this repair will not cost me any money.

I will get my $2660 back!

But first, they have to put in the “right” parts.  Servco needs the car back to fix things up.  Sigh.  The saga continues.  But I have the car back,  I have spent no money since my autoclub covered the tows, and the dealer will not charge me for the defect!

It should go without saying that everyone I dealt with really wants to help.  Insurance ( Allstate ), Servco Toyota …  They are super busy and get a lot of crap from the public so it pays to be respectful and nice.  It doesn’t always go according to plan – stay calm, let the process work, and present actionable facts.

Lessons learned…
1) know your warranty.  You may have to produce documentation because the dealer will not have it.
2) for the warranty, you are stuck with the dealer!  There may be a hybrid repair shop but they cannot do warranty work.  They may be faster and cheaper however.
3) negotiate a loaner vehicle immediately!  Only a dealer will have them.  No small shop can do it.  You may have to wait.  There are several dealers in town.


Jump starting the Prius

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on May 6, 2014 by marksun

This morning our approximately 4 year old 2010 Prius 12V auxiliary battery went dead .    In this situation the Prius can easily be jump started.  The correct way is to use the red positive jump point in the engine compartment.  That was not a go because of the way the car was parked and the jumper cables were no where near long enough to reach.

However the battery is in the “trunk”, passenger side  way at the right rear corner.  Lift open the hatchback and the battery is right there.

The key remote would barely work to unlock the doors and the hatchback would not unlock.  To get the hatchback unlocked,  I crawled in via the back seat, reached and found an opening where the latch is and stuck my fingers in to find a small lever that moves with finger pressure.  Move it to the side, and someone on the outside can now open the hatchback.  The 12V battery is on the right of the cargo compartment under a vinyl cover and easily accesible.  I jumped the 12V battery on the positive connection point and  one of the chassis bolts (negative) with my other car battery.

No need to start the car because  the 12V just  powers up the computer.  Start the Prius normally – foot on brake, push the Power button and the car boots (READY) and the Prius is driveable again – just don’t turn it off!

I suspect it would not take much of a battery to jump start the car… probably one amp at 12-14 V would do it.   Any 12V dc source might do it.

Now replacing the battery is some serious expense at about $300.   Battery alone is $300.  Labor another $60.  I haven’t done it and there are a few tricks you need to know …. perhaps I’ll have something to say about this in the future.

You can get after market “Yellow Top” batteries for $165 … If you know you need one (and you do after four years), this is an option. The big problem in Hawaii is that the shipping is about $100.  So the part cost is now $265 – still better than $300 but not by much.  This is a better battery than the original by all accounts.  I’d think about it and start looking around for cheaper shipping or a local source  – in four years or 2018 – omg…


car powered inverter

Posted in house tech, technology with tags , on May 4, 2010 by marksun

If you have a source of 12 V DC power you can run an inverter to power up refrigeration in the house if you lose power.

Costco recently had a nice 1000 watt Xantrex inverter in the store for $30. I had purchased this for use with my Escape hybrid at $65 and thought I got a deal.

Because the DC-DC inverter (replaces the alternator of a regular car) is so expensive on hybrids, I made an adapter that limits the inverter to contributing 100 amps when the inverter is attached to the 12 v battery.  (He used a 100A Fuse assembly on the 12V side  which will blow at about 1200 Watts)

When the power is out , I can run lights, computer, etc off the hybrid. It starts itself as needed to recharge it’s batteries, then shuts off. It is much quieter than my 4000 watt generator, but will not run my furnace motor.

John Sweeny:
“One of the components in the Prius is a specialized DC-DC converter that uses energy out of the drive battery at roughly 200 volts DC to create 12-volt DC. Twelve volts is the “nominal” voltage of a 12-volt power system in the Prius as well as other standard cars; in actual usage the 12-volt system runs from 13.7 volts to 14.4 volts. In the Prius, the DC-DC converter (which is equivalent to the alternator in a normal car) is limited to 100 amps. Power = volts × amps, so in the Prius, we can get a total of 13.7 × 100 = 1,370 watts out of the 12-volt system. From the online forums, it turns out that the internal Prius electronics take about 300 watts, which leaves about 1,000 watts available for external use, and I had a 1,000-watt inverter in my basement.”


Here are some safety tips for readers tempted to try something similar:

1. Do not use an inverter larger than 1,000 watts because this can overload and damage the Prius 12-volt system. Keep in mind that running the inverter close to the 1,000-watt limit could also overload it because the startup power to many appliances greatly exceeds the steady-state power.

2. Follow normal safety procedures when dealing with the Prius 12-volt system. You should feel completely comfortable changing the 12-volt battery in the Prius by yourself before you attempt to make any changes to that system.

3. The Prius is a super low-emissions vehicle with a very efficient catalytic converter. In contrast, a standalone generator lacks a catalytic converter. Although the Prius is less risky than a standalone generator, the exhaust should be routed outside to eliminate the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is extremely dangerous and has no odor.

With the Prius running in the Ready mode, he used this hookup for 4 days to power up a few appliances in the house including refridge and freezer and used about five gallons of gas.  This makes the Prius an efficient emergency power source.

Interview with Sweeney

One of the original articles