by Sara EisenbergContributions from Carolyn Coquillette, owner of Luscious Garage
list goes on, with new hybrid vehicles being introduced—and
familiar models being offered as hybrids—nearly every year.
Hybrid vehicles are no longer the wave of the future. They are
here and they are widely used, for personal vehicles, taxis,
delivery vehicles, ride-sharing and more.
We spoke with Carolyn Coquillette of Luscious Garage, a hybrid
specialist in San Francisco, California, to get the scoop on
hybrids. There are some differences between hybrid and
exclusively gas-powered vehicles, but one thing remains the
same—both types of vehicles require regular care and maintenance
to stay in peak running condition.
While some hybrid drivers will only visit the dealer
for service, any shop can actually work on hybrid vehicles—no
special certification is required. Coquillette says, “There’s
nothing you can’t do with the appropriate tools and training.”
Adding hybrid vehicle maintenance and repair to your shop’s
offerings can expand your customer list and your car count.
There may be a misperception that hybrids require less
maintenance but Coquillette says, “Even though hybrids are
reliable and require little repair, they are still machines and
need regular upkeep and some TLC.” As with all vehicles, there
are factory recommended services at set intervals, ranging from
oil changes to replacing spark plugs. Recommended maintenance and
service procedures are included in ALLDATA Repair, along with
Technical Service Bulletins outlining known issues and fixes. The
Toyota Prius is the most common hybrid on the road, so the
information below is based on the Prius.
Coquillette notes that although many people are
concerned about replacing the hybrid vehicle battery, which can
cost thousands of dollars, it isn’t commonly needed. “It’s an
once-in-a-lifetime larger failure and doesn’t happen as often as
people think it does.” However, there are two specific areas that
shops working on hybrids should note: the frequency of changing
transmission fluid and maintenance of the hybrid battery fan.
Transmission fluid should be changed every 30,000 miles on hybrid
vehicles—and it’s a pretty standard replacement procedure, just a
different interval than exclusively gas-powered vehicles. The
battery fan is a more interesting element. Inspecting and
cleaning the fan isn’t included in the standard
factory-recommended service for all vehicles. Toyota notes that
“high-use” vehicles under certain conditions should have fans
checked—conditions like being driven for more than 15 hours a
day, six days a week, with more than 50 back-seat riders per day.
It sounds like taxis are the only vehicles that need the fan
checked…but Coquillette says there’s another situation to
Dust and debris from normal driving can clog the fan, but the
biggest culprit may be pet hair. Prius drivers who regularly
transport their pets in the back seat may find their battery fan
is clogged much faster than other drivers. This is because the
battery cooling fan is located in the rear of the Prius and does
not have a filter. It can become clogged and stop working, which
results in the battery overheating and shortening its life span.
Coquillette recommends inspecting and cleaning the battery
cooling fan every 60,000 miles as part of a standard service, or
as a stand-alone service to prevent issues.
There are a few common repairs for shops to be aware
of when working with hybrid vehicles. The most common, according
to Coquillette, are tires, headlight bulbs and water pumps.
Hybrid tires have lower rolling resistance than standard tires
and since hybrids tend to be driven regularly, the tires don’t
last as long. This is especially true with taxis or delivery
vehicles. If your shop sells tires, it’s a good idea to have
inventory, or easy access, to hybrid tires.
Headlight bulbs on many Prius models are High Intensity Discharge
(HID) bulbs and, unlike Halogen bulbs, may flicker or be
intermittently inoperable as they near end-of-life. Water pumps
may be a more common issue because the Prius has two water pumps:
one each for the gas and electric motors. ALLDATA Repair includes
the testing and replacement procedures and important safety
precautions for both issues. If you are not a current subscriber
of ALLDATA Repair you can still access this from the
OEM-accurate information with a Free Trial, simply click here to get started.
For shops interested in learning more about hybrid vehicle
repair, visit the Luscious Garage website. Coquillette posts
videos on YouTube, blogs and shares a variety of information
about hybrids and repairs. Also, check out what ALLDATA Repair
has to offer for hybrid vehicles. Submit a Library Request if you
don’t see what you need, or call ALLDATA Tech-Assist for
one-on-one advice from experts. We’re here to help you.
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