2016 Prius - 129,000 - Worth it? Brake issues?

Discussion in 'Gen 4 Prius Main Forum' started by Grub, Sep 1, 2021.

  1. Grub

    Grub New Member

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    We've been looking to get a car for our daughter to use to commute to work and college in town. The Prius comes up as one of the safest cars with good gas mileage, so it looked like the perfect car at first.However, we can't afford a new one.

    There's a 2016 with 129.000 miles, service record, and may be in great shape. Is it worth taking to a Toyota dealership to do a pre-buy inspection, or should I find a different place perhaps?

    One big red flag I see with hybrid and electric cars, and in particular the prius, is that the brakes are reported to have failed, especially on the 2010, but even all models. I also realize that each car has issues...but the brake issue seems to be enough of an issue to be a concern. What are your thoughts on this? Would replacing some of the braking system help prevent this?

    Thank you!
     
  2. kevinwhite

    kevinwhite Active Member

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    I think you may be misinterpreting the reports.

    Many hybrids an electric vehicles with blended braking (combining friction braking with regenerative braking) have an unusual feel and some people mistakenly think the brakes have "failed" when in actual fact it is just the transition form regenerative to friction braking. This was especially noticeable on slippery surfaces. It did take Toyota a few years to get improve the transition to the current design.

    I think that there were an extremely small number of those where there was an actual failure.

    When you apply the brakes lightly only regenerative braking (to put energy back into the battery) is used but as you press harder or if the car gets to a low threshold in speed the friction brakes taking over. On my 2006 Prius, at that point it would occasionally feel as if the car was sliding, when in fact it wasn't. I can't say I've noticed the same feeling on my 2017 Prius at all.

    It is notable that Tesla does not use blended braking at all - regeneration occurs when the throttle is released but the brake pedal only controls braking and there is no extra regeneration.

    kevin
     
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  3. JohnPrius3005

    JohnPrius3005 Junior Member

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    Hi Grub, I own 4 Priuses and I love them. Primarily for the gas mileage. But (and I may get a lot of flack for this) I cannot recommend a used Prius to anyone who is not VERY DIY savvy, or has a very close friend who is very Prius savvy as a mechanic and who will work for "almost free" and put your issue on the front burner. In my humble opinion they are extremely complex cars with many more things that can and do go wrong with them compared to a non-hybrid. Although any used car can and will develop problems (even new cars develop problems but while the new car is under warrantee the impact of these problems on one's life is more or less mitigated by getting a free loaner while your car is fixed), the problems Priusses have are more complex and difficult to solve. As evidence of this you can browse this forum and look at the various problems people seek assistance with, and the variety of suggestions they receive, many from highly knowledgeable, very experienced people. My own solution to this, since I rarely have bought new cars, is to own multiple vehicles so I can fix one when I can get around to it and I'm not stuck for transport. It's a little tough in today's used car market to find a decent used car from a private seller at a reasonable price. And dealers, especially used car dealers...well, good luck! My best advice is to ask around your circle of friends and family until you find someone trustworthy who wants to sell their car. Good luck.
     
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  4. Grub

    Grub New Member

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    I don't know if I'm misinterpreting the reports. There are hundreds of NHTSA reports, many of them describing an issue where the brake pedal goes down to the floor and there are no friction brakes. Multiple reports of crashes because of this as well, mainly at lower speeds at least...but still some stories of people going faster and having it happen.

    There isn't one particular issue, but a couple different issues that stand out: Brakes hitting the floor and not working and brakes not working after going over bumps. Because it also appears to be intermittent, sometimes without any codes or warning lights, some drivers report that the shop and Toyota investigation doesn't find anything wrong...so they are left with simply nothing. For the few fatal accidents...how would we even know if there had been a brake failure?

    There were recalls for the 2010 model, and recalls for the 2016-2017 models. Toyota will also replace other model year brake parts AFTER a brake failure if there is a particular code. There's also a class action lawsuit for the hybrid braking issues.


    My concern was that there seemed to be many more reports of this than other makes, and even mechanics who have reported issues.



    However...there are also Toyota Corollas and other models with brake issues too. It's not that I don't understand how all cars will have some failures, but that it seems that the Prius and hybrid cars have more brake issues based on the NHTSA reports. In particular, some years have been worse...but it may also be an issue with time and use, so as older gen 3 prius cars get used there may be more reports.

    I only saw one user who posts a lot on this forums who said the brakes will fail and need to be replaced at some point with a basic search, but I wondered if there were more.


    Thanks for the feedback. :)
     
  5. alanclarkeau

    alanclarkeau Senior Member

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    Brakes - generally not an issue - but then, anything can fail, even a humble pencil.

    It was one of the things which inspired me to buy mine. I knew people who had had similar sized cars and had to do a full pad/rotor change at 50,000 km (Vauxhall/Holden Astra was one of the worst). Talking to a TAXI driver one day, he commented that, beside the fantastic fuel use, his biggest love of the car was that it just kept going, with routine servicing. His had done several hundred thousand kms on the original brake pads/rotors - something he'd never experienced before on "conventional" vehicles.
     
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  6. Grub

    Grub New Member

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    Thanks for the feedback! :)

    That's part of why I still consider a prius. It seems taxi drivers and prius cars used in fleets wouldn't be used as much or we would see more brake reports from those uses. Honestly, reading reports of common issues makes me not want to drive. I feel bad for anyone who has a brake or airbag malfunction. Even our Subaru has had a recall and users report the airbag not deploying. :(

    We passed on this particular prius. It was in pretty great shape with service records, but it did have some body damage and when asked, the owner was a bit dismissive...saying "I don't remember"...and that his wife said it was hit while she was in the store. Could have happened, but the damage was visible with some scrapes and mismatched paint. It didn't look too bad...but it was also red, which wasn't my daughter's first preference. She saved up money and so she should get something she likes. :)

    I took her down to try an accord as well and she really liked how it drove. It was at a dealership with ABS lights on, brake light coming on, and the odometer needle moving all over. lol I think the salesman was a bit embarrassed and disappointed with his service team. I'll wait to buy from a private owner, but that might be a while.

    I'll keep an eye out for more of the prius cars. One aspect I didn't like was the rear window and blind spots. Other than that, it actually drove pretty smooth!

    Thanks for the feedback!
     
  7. Mendel Leisk

    Mendel Leisk Sand Pounder

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    A good way to ensure brake longevity is to follow Toyota’s in-depth inspection recommendation. To be fair it’s VERY low key, but at least in the States it “appears” to be tri-yearly or 30k, whichever comes first. That would at least entail pulling the calipers off the rotors, cleaning, inspecting, and relubing all contact points, checking rotor against specs, and as often as not a slide pin clean and relube.

    The sense I get though, is that both dealerships and owners go a little blind on this, mutually enabling amnesia.

    This isn’t exclusive to hybrids btw.
     
  8. dig4dirt

    dig4dirt MoonGlow

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    If you have to ask if you should buy a Prius......buy a Corolla
     
  9. jdenenberg

    jdenenberg EE Professor

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    There are two easy periodic brake maintenance items for Prius brakes:
    1. Periodically get up to 25 MPH, put your Prius in neutral (disables regeneration) and lightly step on the brakes to clean rust off the rotors (the rust is from disuse)
    2. about every two-three years have the "slide pins" lubricated so that the calipers can center themselves which promotes even friction pad wear.
    My 2004 Brakes lasted 12 years and 288k miles (the life of this great car).

    JeffD
     
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  10. privilege

    privilege Active Member

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    excellent advice
     
  11. Mendel Leisk

    Mendel Leisk Sand Pounder

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    I don’t recall a single recall for just 2010 model year. There was some mechanical revision for 2012 (intake manifold and EGR valve), and part-way through 2014 (pistons/rings) but most recalls encompassed all years.

    Candidly, you’re blowing up the brake “issues”. There are a few maintenance gotchas, but for most part they’re quite dependable.

    For me the most worrisome component in the brake system is the accumulator/pump whatever they’re called: there have been a rash of failures, and the cure is costly and labour intensive.
     
    #11 Mendel Leisk, Sep 2, 2021
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2021
  12. ChapmanF

    ChapmanF Senior Member

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    In passing, you have noticed and touched on one of the big weaknesses of the NHTSA database: the same weakness as in pretty much any unmoderated collection of complaints as reported by customers who have different experiences and who perceive and describe them in different ways.

    There are really three big categories of brake issue there. You've captured two of them: one category of floored-pedal-no-stoppie reports, and one category of momentary-whoopee-feeling during moderate braking involving a bump, manhole cover, or other road irregularity. The category you left out is the loss of braking assist, either incipient (very frequent runs of the hydraulic pump) or for real (warning lights, long beep alarm, high pedal that is hard to press but slows the car).

    It's worth remembering that loss of assist is pretty much an opposite experience of floored-pedal-no-stoppie: when you lose assist, the pedal stays high and requires a lot of effort to press, but your effort is transmitted to the brakes and slows the car. In a FPNS, the pedal goes down easily and your effort is ineffectual.

    What often gets lost in discussion is that those are three very different things, and there is nobody moderating the NHTSA database to sort like with like. It gets worse in the lawsuit you mentioned, where the way the complaint is written really shamelessly muddles up those three issues. The problem with the NHTSA database isn't malicious, it's just what happens with an unmoderated web site for customer complaints. But the problem with the lawsuit is worse; it's hard to picture presumably competent lawyers conflating three different things that badly unless their strategy is let's bamboozle a jury.

    When you look at the three categories, they're very different.

    Momentary whoopee, moderate braking on a road irregularity

    This one's a quirk that every Prius generation has always had. It was one of the first things other members here on PriusChat kindly explained to me years ago when I bought my first Prius. It is reproducible and predictable and you can go find some bumpy road and get used to how it feels, which is still great advice for any new Prius owner, because it does startle drivers who have never heard of it. It's a consequence of Toyota's way of blending regen and braking with one pedal; a car like a Tesla, with regen when you release the go pedal, and a brake pedal that only brakes, has no similar quirk.

    Even though all Prii back to the earliest generations have had it, early 2010s got a lot more complaints about it. I don't know how much of that was an actual change in the algorithm, and how much was that the Prius really went mainstream by then and had a lot of new drivers who just bought it as a car, didn't frequent sites like PriusChat, and got none of the good advice we get to learn how it feels before being startled. In any case, there was enough of a stink that Toyota did declare recall A0B, which applied only to 2010s and upgraded the firmware, making it feel less alarming I guess. With the upgraded firmware, it feels about the same in my 2010 as it always did in my 2001.

    Loss of assist

    This is a problem of slow onset, where initially the hydraulic pump will run unusually often. As it progresses, warning lights will appear, and at an advanced stage, the warning lights are joined by a long beep alarm. The long beep means that the assist pressure is too low, and the pedal will be noticeably high and hard to press. Pressing it hard will brake the car though.

    Two causes can both contribute to this one: internal leaks when hydraulic valves fail to seal completely, and fatigue of the pressure accumulator bellows intended to keep the nitrogen gas and brake fluid separate. Sometimes you see posts written as if it's always one of those causes or always the other, which is wrong; either one can cause pretty much the same observable symptoms, and they are both things that can happen. If all you know is you're having the symptoms, you don't know which one has happened to you.

    There was a known bad run of accumulators with an identifiable reason for leaking nitrogen early, and those were replaced in recall D0H. That doesn't necessarily mean that others can't eventually wear out much later in the car's life.

    The hydraulic leaks involving internal valves are the big issue that the warranty extension ZJB is about. It's also what the NHTSA investigation DP 19-004 was about. Worth noting: the petition for investigation came from the same guy behind the lawsuit that tries to muddle all the issues and causes up together, but there at least was somebody at NHTSA with enough on the ball to read through that and say "um, yeah, we'll title this as an investigation into solenoid valve wear."

    The guy withdrew his petition in August 2020, so NHTSA closed the action last January, which disappoints me, because I was looking forward to learning something real about the valve issue that wasn't just handwaving. I don't have any scoop on why he withdrew the petition. I have not recently looked back at the status of the legal action. One interpretation could be that the petitioner expects better results from muddling up three different things in front of a jury than from working with NHTSA investigators who might understand what they're looking at. But I'm not always that cynical.

    Floored-pedal-no-stoppie

    These make by far the smallest fraction of the reports (unless you also lump them together with people who experienced the bump whoopee and complained "ZOMG my brakes completely failed!"). And you would want them to be the smallest fraction, because they're obviously the most dangerous. And though it's a small number of reports, it seems to be enough there could be a real thing there. I haven't seen any official explanation for those yet. I have a possible explanation of my own, but it's still speculative so far. It makes enough sense to me that I have, a couple times now, gone through a Techstream long-form brake bleed if I notice what sound like increasing squirty noises when applying the brakes.
     
    #12 ChapmanF, Sep 2, 2021
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2021
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  13. FuelMiser

    FuelMiser Senior Member

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    Of course, I only have 45,000 miles on my 2016, but after owning the 2004 Gen 2 and two Gen 3's, I have to say the Gen 4 is the best Prius Toyota ever produced. I would not hesitate to buy a used 2016 with 129,000, especially if service history is available. Of course you could pay for a PPI. I never have, so I do not have any recommendation on using a Toyota dealership vs. an independent.

    As far as the ABS issue you seem to be concerned about, Toyota has improved the performance/behavior as time has passed, so again the Gen 4 is better than earlier models were. Yes, early Gen 2 and Gen 3 Prius' were known for a delayed re-application of braking when the ABS releases the brakes, causing the cars to sometimes slide into a car in front. But, nothing substitutes for actual "in the seat" experience. Without actual experience, the tendency is for the driver to release the brake pedal at the first sign of perceived slipping, thus extending the stopping distance. Drivers of all cars are inadequately trained on the proper operation of ABS, so it would be prudent to have your young driver practice with ABS in a controlled situation, a wet/slippery parking lot for example, early in their driving careers to be prepared when they need it in an actual emergency situation.
     
  14. Colorado Boo

    Colorado Boo Member

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    Well a 2016 isn't all that old....wouldn't be nearly as risky as a Gen 1 or Gen 2 model, for sure. (I'm a DIY guy and I would never consider buying a Gen 1 or 2 and my hats off in respect to folks who are, still, driving them around.)
    A better option might be an older Camry or Corolla or even Avalon or Lexus as you're looking at around 20 years of life as opposed to 10-15 for a hybrid before bigger expenses can pop up, like a need to replace the hybrid (traction) batteries.
    Here's a great video on whether someone shouldn't buy a hybrid from an expert Toyota technician who probably knows hybrids better than all of us. If you do buy it, he has many more videos teaching you everything you'll need to know to maintain it and make it last as long as possible.
     
  15. ChapmanF

    ChapmanF Senior Member

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    The thing sometimes described as "delayed re-application when ABS releases the brakes" or some such (and which really goes all the way back to Gen 1) is more like one step in advance of ABS.

    It happens when you are braking lightly to moderately, and the car is relying on regen to do it (which acts only on the two front wheels), and an unexpected wheel speed sensor input makes the traction appear to be dodgy.

    The first thing that needs to happen is a transition from two-wheel regen to four-wheel hydraulic braking. That has to happen before ABS is even possible, but it doesn't always have to be followed by ABS activation. Just the switch from two wheels to four by itself is a doubling of available grip.

    It feels like a quick momentary drop in braking force, because under any question of dodgy grip, it makes sense to back off the regen braking right away to avoid locking the wheels that steer, but the hydraulic brakes still need a moment to pick up the slack.

    If the switch to four wheels isn't enough and there is still a grip problem, actual ABS action may happen next (and will show up in the ABS history that Techstream can retrieve). Usually that isn't necessary, because the typical event that triggers the two-wheel to four-wheel shift isn't a real traction problem at all, but simply a difference in sensed wheel distance traveled when one wheel goes down a pothole, up a bump, etc.

    Because this only happens during light to moderate braking (in other conditions, the hydraulic brakes are already in play), there is always plenty of reserve braking force if you just press the pedal harder to stop where you had intended to stop. But if a new driver has never been given advice to go drive over some bumps and learn how this feels, it's possible their startle reactions could lead to "slide into a car in front" or whatever.
     
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  16. alanclarkeau

    alanclarkeau Senior Member

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    Precisely.

    The other thing which can happen, if the car detects an "incident" potentially, it PRIMES the brakes ready to apply them if you don't react - but when you do, they work so much better than you expect - like an old CITROEN DS with power brakes, not power assist. Get used to it.

    As @FuelMiser suggested - practise is necessary with an ABS system. Once my tyres are run in, I find a deserted road and hit them hard - just to see what happens. With PRIUS and my previous car, you get a slightly different response if you touch the brake pedal briefly then "floor" it - the response is much more immediate. When teaching my son on an old VOLVO with ABS, I had him do that - hard brake, and the ABS pulsated the pedal (and car) and the natural response was to take the foot off. 2nd time, success. Then repeat on a wet patch of road. Unfortunately, most driver instructors won't do that - it's not required to pass the test.
     
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  17. PaulDM

    PaulDM Active Member

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    There is a whole world of difference between the 2010 and 2016
     
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