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My 2001 Hybrid Battery needs to be replaced

Discussion in 'Gen II Prius Technical Discussion' started by titus37, Nov 26, 2007.

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  1. titus37

    titus37 New Member

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    I have a 2001 Prius with about 122,000 miles on it. I was told by the dealership today that the hybrid battery needs to be replaced and it will cost $3,700.

    Here's my story. :)

    About 2 months ago I did not drive the car for about 4 days. When I cranked it up, the turtle light came on and I could tell the car wasn't accelerating right. After reading the manual, it seemed like the hybrid battery was low on power and after driving for a while, everything seemed fine. This happened a couple of times that day, so I took it into the dealership to have them check into it. Unfortunately the dealership totally mis-diagnosed the problem because no error codes were thrown by the turtle light problem. I didn't let them do any repairs, and the problem seemed to go away. Occasionally when I'd first start up the car, I could tell the hybrid engine seemed a little weak, but the problem went away after a few minutes of driving.

    Fast forward 2 months. Last week, I was driving and the master hybrid warning came on. I was far from home and the car felt like it was driving ok, so I drove on home. It was Thanksgiving week and life was busy, so I drove around with the warning light for few days. On Friday night the Prius decided to revolt. I was driving on the highway when suddenly the car downshifted to a low gear and the parking break light came on. I couldn't get it out of the low gear, nor could I get the parking break light to go off even after pushing and releasing the break, so I pulled off the road and shut off the car. When I re-started, the parking break light went off and the car was driving fine again. This same problem happened three times that night, but I managed to make it home. The next day I drove it up to the dealership. I ended up stuck in traffic and the car started acting really funny. The gas engine would shut off like it normally would when the car is stopped. Then after 2 seconds, it would crank up the gas engine and begin charging the battery. After 2 seconds of charging, the gas engine would shut off again. As I watched the battery charge on the screen that shows the car's energy flow, I could see the charge fluctuating wildly. This repeated itself as I freaked out in traffic, but fortunately when I'd start going again, the car would drive pretty much normally.

    So, today the dealership tells me that the hybrid battery needs replacing.

    I just thought I'd share my story.

    I love my Prius. Besides needing a new catalytic converter, which seems to be a common problem, it has been very reliable so far. I talked to the sales guys tonight to compare fixing vs. buying a new one. They're not going to give me a whole lot for a trade-in, so it looks like I'm going to replace the battery. Hopefully we won't see any other major repair for a while.

    *edit* Sorry. I think I posted this in the wrong area.
  2. omgitsroy326

    omgitsroy326 New Member

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    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(titus37 @ Nov 26 2007, 11:14 PM) [snapback]544541[/snapback]</div>

    how much would they give you for trade in ?
  3. hobbit

    hobbit Senior Member

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    Did you ever have SSC 40G, battery rework done on it? Might be
    corroded interconnects, not the battery modules themselves.
    .
    _H*
  4. omgitsroy326

    omgitsroy326 New Member

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    also are they 100% sure that it's the battery? I'm not prius tech , but it could be the senor for the battery.

    I mean if the sensor was off in telling you that the battery has depleted all it's energy then it would make the car act like it had no battery.

    I read bout the taxi cab guy who got like 240,000km on his car and never replaced his battery... dealers want your money... well i guess you'll know when they fix the problem and it continues to be the same issue.

    It's really easy for someone to say... let's replace the engine ($1300 plus in labor/one day of work) as opposed to let's clean the fuel injector ($50...half and hour in labor)
  5. tochatihu

    tochatihu Senior Member

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    titus37, if by chance you did not purchase the car new, the Toyota shop can search by VIN and see if the SSC 40G mentioned above has been done.
  6. efusco

    efusco Troll Slayer Staff Member

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    As stated above, sometimes a "simple" (relative term) cleaning of terminals will fix the problem. If not replacement used batteries are often available on ebay for as little as $500. More than likely a used one would last the life of the vehicle.

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/Toyota-Priu...sspagenameZWD1V
  7. titus37

    titus37 New Member

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    Thanks everyone for the quick replies! This is definitely our worst nightmare as Prius owners.

    I talked with the service guy and he's looking up whether the SSC 40G re-work has been done. I also asked him to be absolutely sure they've checked the interconnects and sensors. Is there any technical information I should be asking for to determine whether they've done that?

    Getting a used battery is definitely tempting, but I know from my everyday rechargeable batteries that as they sit around without a charge they could get weak. I don't think I have any way of knowing how reliable a used battery will be.

    omgitsroy326, the sales guys wanted to give me $6,500 minus the cost of the repair, so $2,800
  8. omgitsroy326

    omgitsroy326 New Member

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    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(titus37 @ Nov 27 2007, 07:55 AM) [snapback]544641[/snapback]</div>

    don't know how it is in your state, but ... try another dealer for a second opinion.... dont' tell 'em you visited another one.. (assuming they don't share database) Again ... they will milk you for ever cent you got...
  9. bwilson4web

    bwilson4web 03 and 10 Prius

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    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(titus37 @ Nov 26 2007, 10:14 PM) [snapback]544541[/snapback]</div>

    How quickly must this vehicle be returned to service? (aka., your only ride)
    It is at the dealers right now?
    Do you have any interest and a place for 'Do It Yourself' repair?

    There are two, used NHW11 batteries for sale on Ebay at $700 and $1,400. I have one and some spare modules. Send me a PM if you want to try a "do it yourself." However, you may want to contact "Galaxee" and see if they are interested or able to offer another approach. You're less than an 8 hour drive from Huntsville and we can PM about the logistics depending upon what approach you want to take.

    Personally, I think the $3,700 is actually, $.03/mile, not that bad of a deal if you are able to keep the old battery. The converter is another issue. But in life, we usually get to pick two from:
    1. Good
    2. Fast
    3. Cheap
    The dealer will give you Good and Fast. If you do it with some help, you get Good and Cheap. If you do it alone, Fast and Cheap. Your choice.

    Bob Wilson
  10. kocho

    kocho Member

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    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(titus37 @ Nov 27 2007, 07:55 AM) [snapback]544641[/snapback]</div>

    As a new owner of an '02 with about 118K miles myself, the battery is on my mind as well. My cat converter seems to be failing as well and throwing regular P0420 codes (which I have been resetting so far with my code scanner, planning to get a "new" cat off a junked Prius when a good one becomes available in my area).

    Keep in mind that a "bad" battery does not simply mean all of it is bad or that it has been discharged too much and is beyond salvage. It could and most often would mean that just a few (or even only one) element in it is bad and. Based on some very recent posts at the Yahoo PTS (Prius Technical Stuff) group - such bad elements can be successfully replaced at a fraction of the cost of a new battery and using junk yard parts.

    So, if you can confirm that the battery is the cause for your car and identify the bad cell in the battery, then getting a battery off a junk yard is a very good option IMO at this age/mileage. You can either swap the entire assembly if it is in good condition, ot pick a good cell to replace the bad in your battery. I hope I don't have to go thru this myself, but if I have to some time in the future, this would be the route I plan to take (or trade it in while it is still running reasonably well without penalty for repairs that may be unjustifiably pricey)...



    IMO these folks should be able to replace a single bad cell in a battery if that is the cause. I read somewhere that Toyota has now approved this approach. $6500 is not that bad for a trade-in value if it was not for the $2,800 deduction they asked... If you can patch the battery to a working state, then you can try the trade-in route again - you would not be having the problem and should be able to get your full trade-in value.
  11. bwilson4web

    bwilson4web 03 and 10 Prius

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    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(titus37 @ Nov 26 2007, 10:14 PM) [snapback]544541[/snapback]</div>

    Ask the dealer to give you a listing of voltages of each battery cell group. They can do this with their scanner. Just ask them to jot down the individual voltages.

    Ask the dealer if they can get a refurbished battery pack now that Toyota has established a battery recycling center in the USA. If they don't know what you're talking about, check back here. There was an announcement in the past 2-3 months about a Toyota battery recycling service and this may require escalating the request through the Toyota regional support.

    Also, ask the dealer if they would install a user provided, used battery. The usual answer is "NO" but sometimes this is negotiable.

    Finally, PM me or galaxee if you decide to "do it yourself." We can talk about your options based upon the availability of a work area, time and materials.

    Ask the dealer
  12. Bob Allen

    Bob Allen Captainbaba

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    Titus37:
    Thanks for an interesting and informative post. You are right in describing this problem as a potential nightmare. One lesson to be learned (I'm a flight instructor) from this problem is NOT to launch off into traffic if the battery array/warning lights, etc. are giving you any reason to suspect something wrong that could leave you stranded in the middle of a four lane road, or, worse, have the car quit altogether while driving the freeway. As a flight instructor, I come across numerous accident records in which the pilot launched even though there was indication of possible oil/fuel or mechanical problem that would suggest caution and a check out before taking off. Granted, the possible negative outcome could be far worse in something that flies, but the Prius is too complex to expect an easy roadside fix or an easy interpretation of dashboard readouts.

    I don't mean to be critical of what you did; I think we all tend to be slightly casual about our cars because they are generally so reliable. Conventional cars are understood by many more people than is the Prius, and a set of jumper cables is usually all the driver of a conventional car needs to carry in the trunk. I get slightly paranoid about my dependence on technology I don't fully understand and have no tools or abilities to fix. I would probably not have bought a Prius if I didn't already trust Toyota's R&D and quality control.

    Best of luck getting your baby on the road again. Let us know how it all turns out.
    Bob
  13. titus37

    titus37 New Member

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    I finally heard back from the service department. The SSC 40G work on my car had been done. They say they've checked for corrosion and checked the sensors and it's definitely the battery. I asked about swapping individual cells, but the dealership isn't interested in doing that.

    I'll try to get the voltages from each cell group.

    Bob, you nailed it with the Good, Fast, Cheap conversion. Unfortunately I don't have a particularly good way of getting to work without the car, so it looks like I'm going to have to pick Good and Fast.

    I really appreciate everyone's input. If it was more convienent, I'd definitely give the Do-It-yourself approach a try. I like to tinker with stuff, but I don't know much about cars. I plan on keeping this Prius for a while, so maybe next time I can take you guys up on the offer of help.

    So, I should ask to keep the old battery? How should I go about selling it, and how much is it worth?

    My catalytic converter is also throwing those P0420 codes. So far the reset trick has been my solution too.
  14. efusco

    efusco Troll Slayer Staff Member

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    They should offer you some sort of credit for the old battery, if they won't then you should ask to keep it if you have somewhere to store it...I bet someone here would love to take it off your hands to fiddle with.
  15. galaxee

    galaxee mostly benevolent

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    eh, we tried getting the $200 (or whatever it is now) bounty for the old HV battery we had from the local dealer and the parts dept said "say what?" eventually, we got a flat "no" and were happy to have FireEngineer take it off our hands :)

    dunno what the value of a dead hybrid battery would be, honestly. but if you paid for the replacement, the old part is yours to request back.

    we're in durham should ya need anything, the only thing we don't have is the toyota scan tool.
  16. Bear68

    Bear68 Member

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    Just a little FYI.... The SSC 40G was designed to be a "band aid repair" for one simple thing. The Master Warning light coming on with a code for battery leakage.HV battery electrolyte was leaking from the positive terminals of the individual cells. The ECU would then determine that voltage was leaking from the cells to the case by following the trace of corrosion. The Special Service Campaign involved replacing the bus bars which were corroded from the electrolyte, cleaning the corrossion and electrolyte from the cells and adding a little "maxi-pad" below the positive terminals in order to catch the future leaks of electrolyte. It also involved adding an "Elmer's Glue" like substance to the top of the bus bars over the positive terminals which was supposed to flow down around the terminals and help seal the cells.

    It worked.

    As far as it went.

    I have had occasion to disassemble three batteries which had been "modified" a while before. The positive terminals were well sealed. Now the electrolyte was leaking from the negative terminals.

    As much as I love working for Toyota and love Hybrid technology.... I gotta say... SSC 40G was a fool's errand. In my opinion, the bean counters decided that sealing the cells would correct the issue long enough for most of the first gen vehicles to run through their normal life span and wind up either wrecked, dead due to other issues, or otherwise sent off to the junkyards. I really don't think they expected such a high number of them to keep going. I also don't think they even expected to sell nearly as many as they did. Things just seemed to kind of snowball.

    On the other hand, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Toyota has shown a more then reasonable amount of interest in keeping First Gen owners happy. If you can arrange a chance to speak to the district rep and give them a little bit of stroking, they just might be able to offer some assistance.....

    I have seen cases where HV batteries were covered under warranty. Possibly they might offer partial warranty. You pay labor and Toyota buys the parts.
    It can't hurt to ask. Remember folks, the dealers are NOT the enemy! Yes, we do look your cars over hard and try to upsell work. That is how we make our livings. But, we also get paid from warranty. In all honesty, there are times when it is easier to do warranty work and get lower hours flagged than to deal with some owners who seem to arrive in the service drive loaded for bear and spoiling for a fight. I spend hours a day driving cars and writing estimates that quite often then leave for the local "shade tree" where my diagnosis is used to repair the car with aftermarket parts. Sometimes I get paid for my diagnosis time, sometimes I don't. That, as they say, is life. At the end of the day, I can drive my Tacoma home and know that my wife's Highlander will bring her home safely. I also know that if I ask my district rep for some help on my own vehicles or on the behalf of my customers, I can expect a fair chance of him listening and if he can, I know he will help. This is the relationship my dealership has worked very hard to grow ad develop.

    I shall now step quietly down from my soapbox with a final bit of advice...... "You get more flies with honey than with vinegar."

    I wish you the best of Luck, Titus.
  17. tochatihu

    tochatihu Senior Member

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    The Toyota (new) policy to offer rebuild batteries was reported here:

    http://www.theautochannel.com/news/2007/09/23/063663.html

    But I have not seen anything official on it directly from Toyota. Titus37, you need to start discussing things with Toyota customer experience at 1-800-331-4331. Good luck and please continue with the detailed reports.
  18. titus37

    titus37 New Member

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    I just wanted to say, "Thanks," again to everyone for their support and assistance. I'm still somewhat in shock over having this happen. I'm not afraid to admit that I've been a hardcore, vocal advocate of how great the Prius is, but having this happen has shaken my faith a little bit. I bought the car back in 2001 knowing that I'd probably have bigger costs in the long-term because of the new technology, but it's always difficult to have things actually happen. heh heh. This is what we dread the most. :unsure:

    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(Bear68 @ Nov 27 2007, 08:36 PM) [snapback]544979[/snapback]</div>

    Do you have any recommendations on how to ask about speaking with the district rep? At this point, I'm happy to talk with anybody.

    Thanks, tochatihu, for the Toyota Customer Experience number. I'll give them a call tomorrow.
  19. bwilson4web

    bwilson4web 03 and 10 Prius

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    I forgot to mention you might be able to use the car as collateral for a repair loan. Certainly it is worth asking your banker. I think up to 80% of the Blue Book value should easily cover not only the battery but also the catalytic converter. . . .

    Just a thought.

    Bob Wilson
  20. hobbit

    hobbit Senior Member

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    Sounds like it's gonna be a dealer fix, but as I started reading the
    thread I was thinking "fixit party in Charlotte!" with Bob and
    galaxee/DH and me [on my way to FL] all converging on the car and
    little grey rectangular things flying through the air and setting up
    a "let's clean those terminals *again*" assembly line.
    .
    If it's any help, during one of the tech-training weekends we opened
    up a Classic pack that had had 40G done to it and as bear68 implies
    can happen, it was corroded *again*. We took acetone and actually
    managed to soak off all the old sealant goop, and shined up all the
    copper strips and terminal posts and put it all back together. What
    we didn't have handy was some Stabilant-22 to add, which would have
    probably helped on longevity of the yet-again fix. But the car was
    pretty happy when we were done.
    .
    Let's face it, chemical batteries are happy when they're clean. If
    the posts on your ol' 12V got corroded, you'd want to clean them
    off and resurface the contact areas and tighten 'em up, right? Same
    could easily apply to HV batteries, there are just more points.
    Anyone thought about pulling all the interconnect bars and then just
    *hosing down* the pack good and hard like is often done with the
    battery tray under conventional 12V? Except for base vs. acid, the
    cleaning effect should be beneficially the same.
    .
    But in this case, the right thing to do is load-test all the modules
    [charge and discharge] to see what's really going on.
    .
    _H*
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