My Experience. When the dealer says a new HV battery is required - don't believe them!

Discussion in 'Gen 2 Prius Care, Maintenance and Troubleshooting' started by cbourque, May 26, 2011.

  1. cbourque

    cbourque New Member

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    When it comes to the Prius and the Hybrid system I'm like most people - absolutely love the vehicle and admire the technology behind it but know nothing about the mechanics of it all.

    Well, two weeks ago I brought the Prius in for the problem with all of the warning lights on the dash board turning on. This problem.

    Well, the dealer said the error codes were POA80 and P3022 and stated the "hybrid battery needed to be replaced." The price tag? $3700! Yikes!

    Well, being in the market for a minivan anyway I opted to sell the Prius rather than fix it. The buyer turned out to be a guy that rebuilds hybrid batteries. He shipped me some battery cells and then flew in from out of state to pick up the Prius, fix the battery and drive it home. Well it was a learning experience for me that most Prius owners should be aware of.

    First I learned that in truth there is no such thing as "A HYBRID BATTERY". Instead there are actually 28 battery cells. Think of it this way. Imagine you have a really really big flashlight and it takes 28 battries in order to operate. Well each battery is a cell. If the flashlight stopped working you wouldn't need to replace all 28 batteries would you? No - you just need to find the bad battery(ies). Well it is the same with the Prius.

    Well, in the Prius each of the 28 battery cells holds a charge of about 7.9 volts for a total combined output of 220 volts. I watched as the buyer of my vehicle took the battery out from under the rear seat, opened up the case and tested each cell. Sure enough one of the cells was putting out 6.1 volts while the rest were all in the 7.86 - 7.92 range.

    Well, he proceeded to take one of the good cells that he shipped me, put it in place and put everything back together. VOILA! The prius was as good as new.


    The lesson learned?

    Well the dealer wanted to charge me $3700 to do a full battery replacement (that means all 28 cells). The truth is that I only needed one cell replaced.

    Did the dealer know this? Absolutely!

    When I showed the Dealer service report to the buyer he pointed out that the report showed the following...

    "Scanned vehicle and found codes POA80 (Replace hybrid battery pack) and P3022 (Battery block 12 weak)."

    Well, a "battery block" is composed of two cells. In turn battery block 12 was the one that needed a cell replacement.

    So, the dealer wanted me to pay a whole bunch of money for work that I did not need - and they knew it. If I had known what I know now I could have just found the bad cell myself and purchased a rebuilt or salvage cell and done the work myself. It was easy work. Nothing but a ratchet, screw driver and multimeter. Start to finish it took 4 hours.


    But I have no regrets. I still got more than trade-in value and I made a quick sale. Plus I learned a lot which will help in the future. There are still 2 more Prius in the family.

    Lesson Learned #2

    If you live in Houston don't bring your Prius to Joe Myers Toyota (but I'm guessing that most Toyota dealers would have done the same thing).


    Also, the guy that bought the vehicle rebuilds batteries.

    http://www.hybridbatteryrebuild.com/


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  2. seilerts

    seilerts Battery Curmudgeon

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    I don't know of any dealers that will repair a hybrid battery in this way. There might be the rare technician with intimate knowledge who will make the repair suggestion. But it will be a great business for independent shops. Note, it is easy but cautious work, since you still have over 100 VDC at your fingertips. Also, without reconditioning the remaining cells, the lifetime of the repaired battery is shorter.
     
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  3. Hal W

    Hal W New Member

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    Did he wear those black rubber gloves at any time during the removal? I'm thinking of the safety aspects here. Is this a over blown issue or is it just like changing flash-light batteries? Hal
     
  4. efusco

    efusco Moderator Emeritus
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    While you can replace individual cells, as was done here, it is definately not recommended, particularly in an older battery pack. Unbalanced cells, those of a different age, can destabilize the entire pack. It is not "good as new", it is temporarily patched up and functional, but likely will have a very short functional life. That is why Toyota doesn't allow dealers to replace individual cells that way.

    Indeed, even in your flashlight example, it is better to replace all batteries than just the one that's gone bad.
     
  5. spiderman

    spiderman wretched

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    Just curious, did the guy say how much a reconditioned cell/block costs?
     
  6. seilerts

    seilerts Battery Curmudgeon

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    They run anywhere from $20-$40. A couple people sell them on Ebay. To a point, I agree with efusco. If you just replace one bad module, there is no guarantee that the other module of the block pair won't have issues, as it could have been overcharged several times by the battery computer. But, if a block pair is replaced with newer modules, then the battery ought to be as stable as the next weakest pair of modules. If the bad module was a fluke, then it could be many years or tens/hundres of thousands of miles until the next failure.
     
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  7. cbourque

    cbourque New Member

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    To reply to a few of the posts above.

    1) High voltage work - With 220V at your fingers that is a concern but there is an orange breaker type plug that disconnects the battery. Once it was out of the vehicle he did not need or wear gloves.

    2) Concern over unbalanced cells - The guy that did the work was aware of that concern. He was careful to replace and rearrange the cells so that the voltages between blocks and cells were nearly identical and balanced.

    3) How much does he charge? - I'm not sure but he is a member of PriusChat and I have made him aware of this forum so check back soon and he should reply. Also he sells a booklet that is fully illustrated that gives step-by-step instructions for what he did.
     
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  8. cbourque

    cbourque New Member

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    And just another point...

    Concerns over longevity of this approach versus full battery replacement noted - but given a choice between trying this approach for $30 in parts and 4 hours of DIY labor versus a $3700 bill what is there to really lose? As mentioned above the worst-worst case scenario is that this approach works for a few thousand miles and then causes other cells to fail. Assuming that is actually what happens what is really lost? The dealer would have replaced all the cells anyway?

    So, in a worst case scenario you are out of pocket $30 and a few hours of time.

    Also as noted above, in a best case scenario this fixes your problem for another hundred thousand miles.


    Weighing pros and cons it is a no-brainer. Just my opinion.
     
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  9. efusco

    efusco Moderator Emeritus
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    I think that's a decent point.
     
  10. cyclopathic

    cyclopathic Senior Member

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    have to agree 100% they quoted full battery replacement.

    Actually the worst case scenario, you'll have to open it again and replace another cell. Even with all cells replaced 28*30=840$.
     
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  11. bisco

    bisco cookie crumbler

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    nice write up and pics! thanks for the good info. hopefully, this will become more common place as more shops gain experience.
     
  12. krelborne

    krelborne New Member

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    Thanks for the writeup. This was very informative. I agree that replacing a cell or two seems to make more sense than scrapping the battery altogether.
     
  13. Hal W

    Hal W New Member

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    I would hope this becomes the way of the future. I believe Honda is using reconditioned packs. Things are changing slowly. Reinvolt is doing this and some others. Good post, and thanks. Hal
     
  14. seilerts

    seilerts Battery Curmudgeon

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    This is a dangerous practice. With the service plug AND cover removed, you still have two points of high potential: the ends of Modules 1-9, and the ends Modules 10-28. The latter can be over 150VDC. Yes, it is not the easiest thing to electrocute oneself, but it can happen. It is important that anyone working on one of these batteries at least be aware of this, as the buyer undoubtedly was.
     
  15. cbourque

    cbourque New Member

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    Wave of the future in deed.

    Besides the economical cost savings think of the ecological cost. Each battery cell is a hazardous chemical. Replacing and/or refurishing just the ones that are bad make sense for the environment. And after all, is that why some of us bought a Prius in the first place?
     
  16. usbseawolf2000

    usbseawolf2000 HSD PhD

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    Just want to add clarification.

    The HV battery has 28 modules. Each module has 6 cells. There are total of 168 cells. It is not possible to replace each cell without damaging the module casing. That's why he replaced the module.
     
  17. KK6PD

    KK6PD _ . _ . / _ _ . _

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    Ahhhh, no. I bought it only because it got +400 miles for >8gal of gas.
    I also thought the technology was cool!
    Thats all.......
     
  18. cbourque

    cbourque New Member

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    2 people like this.
  19. cbourque

    cbourque New Member

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    Thus proving my point that I know nothing about the mechnics of the hybrid :)
     
  20. SageBrush

    SageBrush Senior Member

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    Each to their own. If I end up in this spot I'll use an independent like Seillerts. I'm a middle-ground kind of guy.
     
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