Prius Solar Panel Failure

Discussion in 'Gen 3 Prius Main Forum' started by LibertysSon, Oct 11, 2012.

  1. LibertysSon

    LibertysSon New Member

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    · I bought a 2010 Prius 3 in 2010 and now have abut 63000 miles on it. I love this car. I have had no mechanical problems except one that made itself known just past the 36 month warranty period.
    I noticed that my solar driven cooling fan wasn't working this summer. I thought the fan had maybe died but then I looked at the solar panel and saw that green copper corrosion caused by long term moisture infiltration had shorted out the solar panel and it was unable to produce electricity anymore.
    I had the Dealer look at the panel and by looking at the panel from a ladder he ascertained that the moisture infiltration had reached all the way across the panel to the rear as evidenced by the green corrosion of the wiring in the panel.
    Now this just didn't happen overnight, but most likely, moisture had been infiltrating the panel for several years. There was no moisture visible in the pane, just the evidence of long term corrosion throughout the panel. What I am saying is this. These panels were manufactured by an outside vendor for Toyota. If made properly, a solar panel should be hermetically sealed. Most solar panels normally have a useful life of 15 years. This panel was defective the day it was made and it just took 3 years for the corrosion to infiltrate deep enough to disable enough of the solar cells to render it inoperative.
    The reason I tell you this is the solar option is an expensive option($2000 replacement cost) If you are still in your warranty period I would suggest having the panel inspected for corrosion before you experience a failure. Once you know what to look for you can examine it yourself. Much like a hermetically sealed double pane house window there will be some clouding of the glass panel where the moisture has infiltrated. In my case the infiltration appears to have been going on for years before total failure. Since it is tinted and part of the roof design you won't notice the subtle changes in the color unless you inspect the panel closely. In conclusion, these panels should be waterproof and sealed during manufacture. If any moisture infiltrates by means other than from damage it is a design and/or manufacturing error. [​IMG]


    Oct 11, 2012 (1:23 pm)
    · Well, Just got off the phone with Toyota Corporate. Basically they told me that they will give me $750 towards my repair of $2000 for the defective solar panel on my 2010 Prius. I told them I was surprised that they weren't at least offering to supply the part and I could pay for the labor(about $350) for repair as most all other car manufacturers would have done. Even Ford has been known to do this. Sadly, It appears Toyota's customer service quality is well below Ford's. I guess Toyota has made a corporate decision of "Buyer Beware". If Toyota installs a defective part in your new car and you don't find out until 9 days after the 3 years warranty is up it is just to bad for you. Even if it was defective before the warranty expired. Amazing! It is disappointing to see this attitude from a company I thought was known for quality and great customer service. I asked them if I could appeal the decision and was told "No, I would have to pursue a remedy outside Toyota". In other words hire a lawyer or file in small claims court. What a craven answer. I hope you folks don't have any problems with your Toyota after the paper warranty is up. Toyota appears not to care about or understand their customers. I t has become , in my opinion, a company run by bean counters and Lawyers. I like my dealer and had planned on making Toyota my car of choice for the future , but after this experience I think I won't be buying any more of their cars. [​IMG]

     
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  2. jppicks

    jppicks Junior Member

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    I thought the warranty was 3yr/36000 so if you have 63k I believe the warranty expired awhile ago. I could be wrong either way that is no good. Sorry to hear they weren't more helpful
     
  3. F8L

    F8L Protecting Habitat & AG Lands

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    Thanks for the heads up. I will keep an eye on mine. Sorry you had to experience this. :(
     
  4. LibertysSon

    LibertysSon New Member

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    Ok, let me explain further . There are written warranties and implied warranties. A good example is a company can honor implied warranties when they understand the defect existed at the point of sale or in the basic design of a part.
    A personal example was in 1986 I bought one of the first Ford Taurus' . I had it for 80K miles. Back then they had only 12k mile warranty. At 13 thousand miles my Alternator got fried and failed. Replacement cost was $375 for a new alternator. A lot of money in 1986 , equivalent to $ 770 in today's inflated dollars. Real experience and history is that most alternators last for many many years in most all automobiles. I sold my 1994 Honda Accord with 140,000 miles on the Odo with the original alternator. The second alternator on my Taurus was running strong at 80k miles when I sold it.

    That said, obviously logic and common sense shows that this Taurus had a defective alternator well before the warranty expiration date. The norm was well set and known by everyone. Ford understood this and agreed that the failure was premature and it must have had a defect. So, in good will and with great customer service, they offered to supply a new part and only have me pay the dealer his labor charge for replacement.

    Another good example was the problems with Inverters on 2006 Lexus RX Hybrids. They have a written warranty of 100k on Hybrid parts and systems. Yet 100's of inverter failures(a $10,000 cost to fix) were replaced by Lexus on 2006 RX400's well after the mileage and time limit on the warranty had expired. Some were replaced on cars that had passed 150,000 miles! Lexus realized they had a problem and a defective design and began a silent recall which later finally became a real voluntary published recall. All defective inverters on 2006 Lexus RX400's were replaced free of charge. Lexus is a company that understands loyalty and costumer service.

    One final note, Solar panels normally have a guaranteed life of 15 to 25 years. This panel failed in about 2 and 1/2 years and showed long term corrosion that meant it had been infiltrated by water for years. Solar panels are hermetically sealed and should never leak unless they are damaged or defective. Bottom line is, Toyota introduced a new technology and installed a defective solar panel. They don't seem to care and don't feel responsible.

    Sadly, Toyota will slowly lose market share to companies that provide better deals and much better customer service. It won't happen overnight but it will happen. I regret it, because I thought I was starting a brand new relationship with a great car company. I love my dealership. I really like my Toyota car. But, they chose not to back up their product with a reasonable response to my problem. Regrettably, unless something changes, this will probably be my last car from Toyota.
     
  5. cwerdna

    cwerdna Senior Member

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    Sorry to hear about that. :( Thanks for the heads up though.

    I guess if I'm in the market for a Prius, I'll probably stay clear of the solar roof. I too would hate to pay extra for a feature that fails so quickly and is so expensive to repair.

    It's unlikely I'll be in the market until Gen 4, unless my Prius gets totaled/stolen.
     
  6. Texas-Prius

    Texas-Prius One more Prius to fight terrorism

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    I have the solar roof, and while I didn't purchase my Prius until late August (when most of summer had already past), I've enjoyed coming back to my car and having a fan circulate air from the outside, which has made it much more comfortable getting in to, and helps the AC to not to have to work as hard when you turn it on.

    All of that being said, with the increase in weight and the high price tag of that fan, it is way, way overpriced. I'm sure this has a lot to do with because it is a new convenience that no other vehicle has right now, and I accept that. Twenty years ago I would have laughed and said that it's absurd to pay that much for a solar fan (I think Wal Mart sold one that you put on the window for $30). I'm a little older now, and think it is fun to have such a convenience, although I always think in the back of mind, "wow, if this thing ever breaks, it's going to be expensive to repair". If it ever does actually break outside the warranty, I strongly doubt I will repair it...unless the cost was to come down to a few hundred dollars.

    I sure do like telling people about the solar roof and how I am capturing energy from the hot sun to cool my car when it is parked in an open parking lot (startup time is 10+ minutes after exiting the vehicle, trees can not be blocking the sun, and little, to no clouds) ...but it's still cool! (no pun intended)

    - TP
     
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  7. jaymac

    jaymac membore

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    That solar roof and fan is a cute gimmick (and its entertaining). Plus..... it looks almost as cool as that black vinyl wrap ! But really..... I like the moon roof most of all. I'll be checking that solar panel for leakage periodically from now on. Thanks for the heads up !
     
  8. David Beale

    David Beale Senior Member

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    Regardless of mileage, it's clear the panel failed early on, and even if it didn't, mileage would have little effect on causing the failure.

    The second thing that is clear is Toyota has still not learned about their shortcomings. Regardless whether there was ever any "stuck gas pedals" etc. etc., when you have a customer complaint you evaluate the situation carefully. If the customer clearly is not responsible for the failure, as in this case (service wouldn't effect the failure), and the vehicle in question is -close- to the warranty period, as in this case, perhaps it's best to help the customer.

    Does the US congress have to get involved again!!?
     
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  9. Jonny Zero

    Jonny Zero Giggidy

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    The US congress can't agree on whether or not this feature should work or not.
     
  10. rebenson

    rebenson Member

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    Sorry for your poor experience. Maybe if you report it they will do a recall. If you can figure out a safety recall issue government has foreced recalls back 10 or more years and no mileage cap...
     
  11. WE0H

    WE0H Senior Member

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    Has the car ever had any accidents? Any occurrences where the chassis was flexed severely? Hailed on ever? Anything that hit the panel? Just wondering if there was anything other than normal driving. Like you said solar panels are sealed. I have never heard of one delaminating.

    Mike
     
  12. 2k1Toaster

    2k1Toaster Brand New Prius Batteries

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    Just making sure, you know that Lexus is Toyota... So is Scion. And Diahatsu... and the list goes on.

    It is sucky that they won't fix it for you. But Toyota has been known to go above and beyond in many cases. Like replacing traction batteries out of warranty for free or for labour only costs. For those tens of thousands of miles out of warranty, they pay for half. Like you said with the Lexus (i.e. Toyota) story, it does happen. Unfortunately, not for you.

    I would call up Toyota Corporate again and ask again. I agree it should be covered under warranty. Hopefully next time you call you will get someone more enlightened with science and the process of slow oxidation than the one before.

    Do you have a picture of the corrosion? I am just not seeing it in my head. Usually the way the panels are wired, even a short will only affect a couple cells, essentially bypassing them and lowering the produced voltage by a few volts. A short that produces no output, seems like it should be very noticeable.
     
  13. ProximalSuns

    ProximalSuns Senior Member

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    A reason for leasing and staying within the 36 month warranty on high tech, high repair cost vehicles where expensive to replace or repair items have no long track record of use. In this case, I would not pay to repair the solar panel.
     
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  14. David Beale

    David Beale Senior Member

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    When you return a leased vehicle you are responsible for the costs to return the vehicle to "as new" condition, except for "normal wear and tear". You would still pay for the panel. Either in or out of court.
     
  15. jaymac

    jaymac membore

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    The panel on my car is made by Kyocera. Do you suppose there would be any remedy available through the actual manufacturer of the panel to go along with the offering from Toyota ?
     
  16. RaZa

    RaZa Member

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    I would think it would be a well known fact that if you buy a car with a sunroof (let alone fancy solar panels) that eventually you will be paying someone thousands of dollars to maintain it. this really shouldn't surprise you in any way... also don't expect customer service of any company to bend over backwards to pay for a $2000 3 year old part that is no longer under warranty. Not fair to single out Toyota for this. I doubt even your precious Ford would pay out. It's not a cheap 12 month old alternator after all.

    Solar panels on top of a car? That's buyer beware all day long and something I would never invest $$ in. Sorry you got bit, but you rolled the dice when you bought it. I'm curious how many prius' with solar will make it 10 years with the solar panels and fans still working...
     
  17. JM05

    JM05 Junior Member

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    Is a solar roof a good idea if the car will always be parked outside? I've got too many cars to garage them all.
     
  18. LibertysSon

    LibertysSon New Member

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    Mike, No the car has never been through any trauma or accident event. The amazing thing is the solar panel has no apparent visible defect that would allow you to visually see a pointb of entry for the moisture

    Toaster,
    Yes , like I said, the moisture infiltration has creeped through the solar cell grid slowly until it has wiped out over half of the cells and now the voltage is too low to drive the 12 volt fan.

    Luke
     
  19. WE0H

    WE0H Senior Member

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    Wow no idea then :( Wish Toyota would have just taken care of this one panel and called it a day. More research needed I guess.

    Mike [​IMG]
     
  20. WE0H

    WE0H Senior Member

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    Is it like this guys panel?

    Mike
     
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