The internet is a wonderful place where you can find information anything you can imagine. And if you can imagine it, chances are good there’s a how-to video out there. From knitting to baking brownies to home repair to changing the oil on your car, you name it, you can learn how to do it online. But there are some things that should be left to the professionals. Complex things, like mold remediation or repairing the battery on your hybrid car.
About Hybrid Car Batteries
Before getting into why you shouldn't try to repair or replace your hybrid car battery on your own, here is some background information about hybrid car batteries.
- The Toyota Prius has two main battery packs: a high voltage battery (known as the traction battery and made of nickel-metal hydride) and a low voltage battery (a 12V, similar to that in most cars).
- The high voltage, or traction, battery in the Prius powers the electric motor. It then, in turn, receives power from a generator when recharging (through regenerative braking, rolling to a stop, etc).
- The high voltage battery is not like the rechargeable battery you might use in a camera or cell phone. It’s actually made up of 28 modules which contain six individual Prismatic NiMH cells. If a hybrid battery ever needs to be reconditioned, these are the cells that can be individually assessed and either replaced or repaired.
Generally, Toyota Prius batteries are made to last a long time. In California they’re under warranty for 10 years or 150,000 miles. And some reports have found that a Prius can last well over the 150,000 miles on its original battery. Most likely if your Prius was manufactured in 2007 or later, you shouldn’t experience any problems. But if your Prius was manufactured before 2007, you could be right on the cusp issues arising.
Signs of Hybrid Battery Trouble
As we’ve mentioned previously some signs that you might be experiencing issues with your hybrid battery are:
- Decreased gas mileage
- Decreased power
- Dashboard warnings
If you’ve experienced any of the above symptoms, you might have done some research and found that hybrid battery replacement could cost thousands of dollars. With that sort of price tag in mind you might be tempted to try to figure it out for yourself. After all, there are YouTube videos and online tutorials showing step-by-step instructions. There even detailed DIY hybrid battery repair videos for sale on Amazon.
Hybrid Battery Replacement – Don’t Try this At Home!
Even if you’re handy around the house and good with cars, here are some reasons why you should never attempt to access and fix your hybrid car battery yourself.
While it’s not the volts themselves that can be lethal, the higher the voltage, the stronger the current (and higher the amperes) that run through your body and cause damage. And a hybrid car battery produces between 100-300 volts of electricity. And it as little as 50 volts can cause a lot of harm. Toyota has gone to great lengths to protect people from the potential harm a battery can cause. They've put it in an insulated metal box underneath the passenger seats where it’s much less likely to get damaged by an accident. It’s labeled as “high voltage” to alert anyone who might come in contact with it. And the cables are insulated with heavy-duty plastic casings. The voltage is as safely contained as it could be. Which makes you think, maybe don’t go touching it?
Let’s say you found some instructions about how to reach the Prius battery pack. You open up your car and get to it. Now what? How do you know what’s wrong and why the battery isn’t working properly? Professionals have expensive technical equipment that they use to diagnose hybrid battery problems. The equipment gives them data and readouts, which they have been trained to interpret. It tells them which cells are not working like they should. Aside from the diagnostic equipment, hybrid repair professionals also have highly equipment that will help them “fix” the problem with the malfunctioning battery cells. To properly diagnose and fix your hybrid battery problem, you'd have to spend a lot of money to get the necessary equipment. And then you'd need to learn how to work it, how to understand the data it provides, etc. That's an investment in time, money, and effort for one car battery.
Possible damage to your car.
If you haven’t been trained in how to diagnose and fix a hybrid car battery problem, then there is a good chance that you could not only hurt yourself, you could hurt your car. You’ve spent a lot of money to buy your car, you've spent money to maintain it, why risk your investment just to save a few hundred dollars in hybrid battery repair? Think about this: simply disconnecting and then reconnecting the battery is a massive undertaking. There are many connection points that all need to be carefully removed before you can even take the battery out of your Prius. And then they have to be put back correctly or the car won’t work. Wrong connections could very well brick your car.
The Bottom Line
Even if some articles and videos you find online make it seem like repairing your own hybrid car battery is a piece of cake, don’t jump in with both feet. Just because your battery is showing signs of wear doesn’t mean it will cost you thousands of dollars to get a brand new one. There are other ways to get your Prius battery fixed and working like new again. Taking on the task of doing it yourself is not the safest, nor most cost effective, option. Before you buy yourself a pair of electrical gloves, take your Prius in to a trusted professional to have it assessed. You can save yourself time, headache, and possible electrical burns, if you do!
Lead Image Copyright: flybird163 / 123RF Stock Photo