2001 Prius transmission failure

Discussion in 'Gen 2 Prius Main Forum' started by Peter Gazzinia, Jun 1, 2007.

  1. Peter Gazzinia

    Peter Gazzinia New Member

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    I'm wondering if anyone else has experienced a complete tranmission failure on the early Prius. While I was driving about 50 mph on I-395 coming out of Washington DC, every warning light I have ever seen came on. Suddenly, I had no power, except accessories, and had to let the car coast to a halt. Had it towed to Ourisman Toyota in Fairfax, VA, where I had regular service done on schedule for past six and a half years. Car now has 72,000 miles on it; never had a problem with it. Service manager called yesterday and said transmission had to be replaced, cost would be $6,500 to $7,000, and transmission warranty was only 60,000 miles. He said Toyota district manager would be in on Monday and that Toyota might cover some or all of it, and it was a good thing I had met all regularly scheduled service at the dealer. Has anyone else had this problem with the tranmission on the early Prius and, if so, what did you do?
     
  2. michigan

    michigan New Member

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    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(VAFairfaxHybrid @ Jun 1 2007, 04:14 PM) [snapback]453533[/snapback]</div>

    I have experienced the same problem. My 2001 Prius just hit 100,000 miles. I have had the car serviced regularly since its purchase in June 2001. I was driving on the interstate when every warning light came on. The dealer says the transmission is going out. I'm debating whether it makes sense to replace the transmission on this car. I can't help but wonder what other unusually expensive repairs lie in the near future.

    Any advice?
     
  3. fan-atic

    fan-atic New Member

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    1. The Prius doesn't have a transmission. Do you mean the Hybrid Synergy Drive? Transmissions are complicated. The HSD is dead simple from a mechanical standpoint.

    2. I thought the HSD was covered for 100K miles.

    3. Has your car ever had a recall for the software on the HSD? There was a recall in 2003 or 2004. Symptoms sound similiar...
     
  4. tochatihu

    tochatihu Senior Member

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    From 2001-2003 Toyota called it a power split device but I see no reason to object to the term transmission. I guess the 60 k warranty was correct also. Unf. you must disregard comments strictly related to the 2004 - newer hybrid synergy drive.

    There have been some trans replacements. The best way, perhaps, to get Toyota involved in the cost is to phone 800-331-4331, get case numbers (both of you) and do some firm/polite nagging.

    F'rinstance, you communicate with the world's largest Prius internet group and 1000s of Prius owners (plus many potential ones) are watching to see how well Toyota supports this vehicle.

    I am aware of no current compilation of these replacements, but it could be done from the Prius Chat, Prius Online, Green Hybrid, and Yahoo toyota-prius group archives. It seems hard to get someone to volunteer to do such research though.

    Some are changing their transmission fluids at 60k (or much shorter) intervals, and tests suggest this should not be regarded as a 'lifetime' fill. Either of you did change fluid earlier? If you had it tested now, it might buttress you claims with Toyota. In any case it would reveal more about Prius maintenance.

    All I have for the victims. Good luck and please describe your progress.

    All other readers, please consider that you *might* be able to prevent/postpone this heartache by timely maintenance of the transmission fluid.
     
  5. michigan

    michigan New Member

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    Thanks for the information and advice. I will definitely pursue this with my dealer. I have no idea whether the transmission fluid has been changed at all, but I have taken this car to the dealer for every suggested maintenance in the book. So if it should have been changed and wasn't, then it's the dealer's fault. I'll go back over all my records and check on it. And I'll look at the other sites you suggested to see whether anyone else has had this problem.

    Have you heard of any other expensive problems with these cars as they hit 100,000 miles? I've always liked this car but am considering going back to something with a proven track record, as I really cannot afford such expensive repairs. I realize that all cars have issues as they age, but a transmission at this point seems unreasonable. I was really hoping to get at least 200,000 miles or more from this Prius and am disappointed. Any thoughts?
     
  6. donee

    donee New Member

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    Hi All,

    I would consider the motors and wiring in the Transmission case (MG1 and MG2) to be part of the HSD system, and should be under waranty to 100 K miles. But, I wonder if Toyota does, or if this is a Dealer snafu? They see the problem inside a transmission case, and assume its a transmission waranty item ? Hmm. If the problem is a motor or wiring fault, I would push Toyota to cover it.

    As there are no bands or clutches, the transmission parts in the transmission case should last a very long time, with proper lubrication maitanence. Possibly the chain failed ? But you would have heard something rattling if that happened.
     
  7. Winston

    Winston Member

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    I realize the OP is very old, but I would like to know exactly what "failed". I conventional automatic transmissions, the clutches fail from overheating or age. There are no clutches in the Prius transmission. In a manual transmission, the synchros fail and some bearing might wear out and get noise. There are no synchros in the Prius but of course there are gears and bearings. Maybe the whole planetary gear cage broke?

    I hope we find out exactly what failed.
     
  8. michigan

    michigan New Member

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    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(Winston @ Sep 4 2007, 01:30 PM) [snapback]506853[/snapback]</div>

    I spoke with the service department manager today and was told the problem was "overheating of the electric motor" in the transmission. I will go there tomorrow, try to get more specific details, and post them. The manager told me that the warranty on this part is only 60,000 miles, though there are several other things that are covered to 100,000 miles (battery, battery control unit, inverter, & control module). I'll also call Toyota tomorrow. I know nothing about cars, so I appreciate all the input you folks are offering. Thanks.
     
  9. C.RICKEY HIROSE

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    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(michigan @ Sep 4 2007, 08:53 AM) [snapback]506736[/snapback]</div>
    Hello Michigan.

    Sorry to hear about your Power Split Devise incident. Hope Toyota can intervene and pick up the tab for you.
    I have many customers of mine driving the 01~03 Prius and the highest accumulated miles in one of them is 185 thousand miles. No problem although.. He has been doing the PSD fluid flush every 60k miles or so according to him. So 70k miles seems very low for the PSD to fail. Please let us know as to what caused this early mileage failure.

    Good Luck.
     
  10. Winston

    Winston Member

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    Thanks for getting back to us.

    So, it sounds like they consider the motors to be part of the "transmission unit". I would think that you could just replace one of the motors. Hmmm.
     
  11. jk450

    jk450 New Member

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    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(VAFairfaxHybrid @ Jun 1 2007, 05:14 PM) [snapback]453533[/snapback]</div>
    It's probably not a "complete transmission failure." The transaxle is usually replaced as a unit because individual parts aren't, for the most part, available. You need to know the trouble codes and sub-codes to determine what part of the transaxle failed, if indeed it did.

    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(fan-atic @ Sep 3 2007, 04:47 PM) [snapback]506416[/snapback]</div>
    Yes, it's a transmission. It transmits torque. More exactly, it's a transaxle. Hybrid Synergy Drive is a marketing term that refers to Toyota/Lexus hybrid powertrains with boost converters, i.e. 2004 and later.

    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(fan-atic @ Sep 3 2007, 04:47 PM) [snapback]506416[/snapback]</div>
    Really? Describe how it works, then. No fair pointing to websites - let's see how you would describe it.

    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(tochatihu @ Sep 3 2007, 08:39 PM) [snapback]506518[/snapback]</div>
    No. The power split device (PSD) is a specific component within the transaxle. It weights about five pounds, and for 2008, it's still called a power spit device. However, it would be more accurate to call it a torque split device. That's how Toyota engineers refer to it.

    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(tochatihu @ Sep 3 2007, 08:39 PM) [snapback]506518[/snapback]</div>
    Not so fast - let's first find out what caused the fault. I agree that it is prudent to change the transaxle fluid at 60K, but I haven't seen any transaxles that were destroyed by degraded transaxle fluid. P3009 codes, sure. But a fluid change fixed that.

    Have you disassembled any NHW11 transaxles and found otherwise? I would like to hear about them.

    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(michigan @ Sep 4 2007, 07:47 PM) [snapback]506988[/snapback]</div>
    It could be a temperature sensor: one of them is hard-wired into the motor windings, and none are available separately. You buy a transaxle if you need a new sensor. They are normally VERY reliable.

    Ask which motor has the problem. If it's MG2, ask why they don't just replace it separately. It's available; $2700 list plus labor and diagnosis, if I recall correctly.

    Again, if the trouble code(s) and sub-code(s) are available, that will be helpful.
     
  12. michigan

    michigan New Member

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    I asked the service department for a print-out of the problem. It says: "Code P3120/P250, followed flow chart and found the transmission running hot. Tested transmission and found it overheating internally and beginning to fail. Recommend to replace the transmission assy."

    Your thoughts?
     
  13. jk450

    jk450 New Member

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    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(michigan @ Sep 5 2007, 05:28 PM) [snapback]507514[/snapback]</div>
    Well, without the scan data (which the dealership probably won't share and may not have saved), I can't give an ironclad diagnosis. However, the code and sub-code indicate one of the MG2 temperature sensors has been reading hot, and (hopefully) the dealership confirmed this by looking at the actual fluid temperature is some other way.

    The excessive heat can be caused by a low fluid level or low pump rate. Fluid degradation has to be really bad to make this happen. I haven't seen that happen yet.

    However, it is possible that the O-ring on the pickup tube has failed; I do know of one example where it appeared to be incorrectly installed at the factory, and the unit failed at about 80K. However, the only way to determine root cause for sure is to tear down the unit.

    As I had mentioned in an earlier post, MG2 is available separately. However, if it is replaced, new shims have to be installed, and it can take weeks to get those from Japan. Additionally, it takes a really knowledgeable tech to rebuild that unit. So you may save a bit of money by having it rebuilt rather than replaced, but you'll probably be waiting a while.
     
  14. michigan

    michigan New Member

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    Toyota has agreed to kick in some money toward this repair, bringing the cost down to $2,900. I have never had any other problems with the car and have always enjoyed it. Do people feel it's a reasonable gamble to put that much money into this repair on a car that has 100,000 miles on it? Help! Or should I just sell it/trade it in? I really can't figure out what to do!
     
  15. jk450

    jk450 New Member

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    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(michigan @ Sep 5 2007, 08:18 PM) [snapback]507621[/snapback]</div>
    If it were my choice, and I really liked the car, then I would get the work done. Do remember that the car will be next to impossible to sell with a malfunctioning transaxle.
     
  16. tochatihu

    tochatihu Senior Member

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    Michigan, well if this offer is as good as it's going to get, you will have to do some assessing.

    I presume that you have had no success in convincing them to consider replacing MG2 alone as jk450 poposed? As I understand the posts here, your MG2 is not known to be the one overheating. In my experience (and supported by a few others' observations) MG1 heats more under heavy loading. Anything further on that?

    If not done already, this seems like the right time to drain the T IV fluid and remove the sump pan and see the degree of particle accumulation down there. Perhaps it will be relatively clean (there are images 'good and bad' posted elsewhere on the web to compare). If so , and if there is any chance that the $2900 offer would 'remain open', I'd certainly be inclined to replace the fluid and do some more driving.

    Having this problem repaired would make you no more or less likely to experience different Prius problems later. They are quite rare overall. However I understand that this is not great solace to one already looking at a large repair expense. If it were me and funds were available, I would spend the money and take the chance.

    As far as selling, after repair I'd guess it to be worth about $10 k. What you get offered in trade 'as is' would certainly be worth knowing. I have seem some quite ill salvage Prius sell for $5k and regard that as the 'value floor'. But as I say above, I would not favor selling unless the numbers you hear are quite different from these.

    The possibility of replacing with a complete assembly from a salvage dismantled vehicle has not yet been considered in this thread. You might see what LKQ online and their competitors are selling it for. Ask the Toyota shop if they would do the R&R and at what price. Then, perhaps all the options are on the table in front of you, and let the hard decision making begin.

    Good Luck Michigan.
     
  17. clintd555

    clintd555 New Member

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    Does the 2004 and beyond use the same transmission? Does the factory recommend changing the fluid? If I bought a used Prius, how will I know the fluid has been changed regularly? Hmm
     
  18. jk450

    jk450 New Member

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    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(tochatihu @ Sep 6 2007, 12:30 AM) [snapback]507773[/snapback]</div>
    As I previously mentioned, the code is for the one of the MG2 temperature sensors. And MG2 fails more often than MG1. But keep in mind that MG2 replacement entails other difficulties, as I had outlined earlier.

    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(tochatihu @ Sep 6 2007, 12:30 AM) [snapback]507773[/snapback]</div>
    The car was towed in. I am guessing that it is still not driveable, unfortunately.
     
  19. tochatihu

    tochatihu Senior Member

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    clintd555,

    The basic design is not changed, but there have been several modifications. Toyota has not officially advised the owners to change the fluid; only to assure the correct fill level. However among Prius owners there is a growing interest in precautionary fluid changes, and analyses of the used fluids have all shown varying degrees of degradation and contamination. At least one independent hybrid repair shop (Art's) recommends 60k mile interval. Basically, there is nothing else we can do as owners to promote the longevity of this system, other than fluid maintenance.

    It would be no simple matter to wholly attribute a failure to poor fluid condition. However, in the absence of a certain electrical cause (shorted or open winding), it would be difficult to rule it out.

    With a used vehicle, you'd ask! Most probably it would not have been changed, but we can hope for better in the future. I have suggested previously that used buyers might make their purchase contingent upon a satisfactory fluid analysis, but so far no one has apparently taken that approach.

    For Prius drivers in general, I see no cause for alarm. Just review the subject and decide when/if you will get a fluid change. If moved by the spirit to improve our understanding, have the used fluid analyzed and contribute info to that slowly growing data base.
     
  20. pkamm

    pkamm New Member

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    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(VAFairfaxHybrid @ Jun 1 2007, 04:14 PM) [snapback]453533[/snapback]</div>
    I have a 2001 Prius (91K) that started humming yesterday. Today, as I was driving it to the dealer, the warning light appeared. The dealer said that it was the transmission failing, and that it would need to be replaced. I asked how soon. He said 3-3-3: could be 3 hours, 3 days, or 3 months. Not very helpful. The cost for replacing is $4800.

    As suggested here, I called the 800 number and complained. I received a case number and was told I would be receiving a call from a manager by Monday. When I mentioned participating on this site, they were quick to get my information and give me a case number.

    I'll keep folks apprised of my progress here.

    Thanks for all the great advice!
     
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