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Phoenix Hybrid Batteries LLC

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What is he talking about?

The angrily illuminated dash of the malfunctioning Prius has left many feeling fearful/hopeless/helpless.

You don't have to be that way again.

For ANDROID users:

For $12.99, you can get the hardware (I prefer the VeePeak):

and for $6 from the Google Play store, you can get Torque Pro:

If you don't want to pay for the Pro version, there is a Lite version, which works in a pinch.

For iPhone users (again with the VeePeak):

and from iTunes, Engline Link:

Both of these solutions will enable you to read your own codes in minutes and get an idea of what you're up against.

I can't recommend them enough for the empowered consumer.
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A higher mileage Prius frequently burns oil. They don't smoke, but it just gets burned up. Check your oil levels at least once monthly, and make absolutely certain the oil is between the marks on the dip stick.

NEVER over fill.
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Triangle of Death!

Too many times, I get calls from distressed customers with their dash lit up like a Christmas tree. Unfortunately, there are many dozens of things that can make the dash light up in all sorts of ways. The car can't be diagnosed from the dash alone. Yes, lights coupled with symptoms may point one in the right direction, but it's still a lot of guesswork.

The Prius has over a dozen computers monitoring nearly every aspect of the car's function, and it will willingly tell you what's wrong if you just ask the question!

When you see dash lights, drive straight to your nearest O'Reilly and have them check your codes for free. The Bosch brand code readers used by O'Reilly generally do a very good job of reading hybrid codes.

When you go, make sure you get the CODE. Don't just accept the description - they may get that part wrong.

Once you have the code(s), give us a call and we'll have a much more accurate picture of what's wrong!

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Summer is upon us!

Okay, so I'm probably about three months late on that...

While Toyota did their homework with the Prius, there are issues from time to time. I've had two customers in the last month call me thinking their battery had gone bad. Both customers confirmed a P0A93 code. This is the inverter coolant pump, which is unfortunately somewhat problematic on this car.

The 2004-2005 modules had a recall in 2007. This has now been extended to a safety recall for 2004-2009 models. The new part is more reliable, but they still fail from time to time. It's one of those things that may get you at the higher mileages.

Unfortunately, when there is a problem with the hybrid system, the dash all looks the same... red triangle of death, car with exclamation mark, and what feels like half a dozen more lights that usually aren't there.

There is one key symptom that is nearly unique... the A/C will stop blowing cold a moment before the alarms and lights get your attention. This is because the inverter has overheated, and it has shut down the A/C to limit its demand.

You can confirm this diagnosis even without a code reader. Under the hood to the left of the big silver box that says Hybrid Synergy Drive on it, there is a little reservoir with a black screw-on lid. Put the car in READY mode (IN PARK!) and open that reservoir. Confirm that the coolant is at the appropriate level mark and confirm it is flowing turbulently. If it's not very obvious that fluid is flowing, the pump is inoperative.

In this case, the car can be driven for short distances when cold and should be limited to driving to the nearest garage with NO use of accessories of any kind. Toyota sells the part for $130 or so, and someone who knows what they're doing can install it in about an hour. A good price is anything under $300 where the dealer is going to run you about $450.

We're looking at making this a part of our service for $250.

I'm happy to report that both customers were able to get their pumps replaced for less-than-dealer pricing.

Stay cool out there! Keep YOU and your battery comfy!
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But if only one module is bad, why do I have to replace the whole pack? - I hear this a lot.

First, it's rare that only one module is truly bad.  Typically, only one module shows an obvious cell failure; however, when one conducts thorough testing, there are typically 3-7 modules that will likely fail in the near future and are actively contributing to reduced battery capacity and measurable mileage penalty.

Second, customers rightfully have an expectation of warranty and support; HOWEVER, that is inappropriate in this case.  Let me give you an example:

You have a nail in a tire.  You need it repaired.  You take it to a tire store with which you have never done business.  They put it up on the lift. You quickly run in there and put covers over the other three tires. These covers only allow the shop to check tire pressure and verify the correct size of tire.

Let's say they can't repair your tire, but they have a used replacement that will definitely last awhile, and they're willing to give you a 12 month warranty.

Are you expecting the same warranty on the other three tires? No?

The battery is the same... sure, you can see they're the right size, and they all have voltage (tire pressure), but you can't see if they have any wear on the tread... you have 28 tires.  One won't hold pressure (voltage) and is unrepairable.  The other 27 are covered up with only tire pressure (voltage) measurable.

So why should the other 27 modules be covered under any warranty of any kind when one is replaced?  They shouldn't.

If only one spark plug is replaced, should the other three be covered?

If only the left front brake pads were replaced, would you expect the other three wheels be covered?

This concept can be tough to swallow.  The effort required to pull a pack and swap a module is 3-4 hours from start to finish when accompanied by PROPER diagnostics and follow-on testing/driving, plus the cost of the module.  At a shop rate of $75/hr and a $50 module price, you're looking at up to $350.

For $350, the customer feels like they should have a trouble free battery for some period of time, but this is not a realistic expectation.

It's very difficult to reconcile what makes sense with what a customer expects for their hard-earned money and their perception of the problem.

This is why we don't offer this service. We're not willing to take money for something we're not willing to stand behind.  Sure, you can get lucky by having only one bad module and properly install a replacement, but a sound business and satisfied customers are not achieved by luck.

When one factors in all the time involved in a reconditioned pack, we have 16-20 hours of TOUCH time in it.  That's what you're paying for - the time it takes us to thoroughly test the batteries, so we have the confidence to offer an 18 month warranty.

Thanks for reading,

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I really prefer the high road, but as I interact with customers and potential customers, I find what's going on out there appalling. I can identify two major "hybrid shops" in the Phoenix area. I haven't heard anything good about either.

One has two strikes against it... A customer had his THIRD failure of a Dorman battery under warranty... the only thing the shop would do is quote a new battery. On another occasion, the shop just punted and without troubleshooting, they suggested a replacement for nearly $5K (Not a Prius). I assessed that battery, and while it was significantly deteriorated, there were MUCH better options available for far less. Furthermore, the codes had nothing to do with the battery but a safety related system.

The other shop has only one strike against it. However, it's very concerning. The customer informed me he had taken it to the shop earlier this year for reconditioning. Right there on the case, it's marked: "7130mAh 2/1/16." I evaluated this pack, and it's capacity is less than 3,000mAh. One of two possibilities exists: 1) The shop is lying, or 2) the shop is using testing procedures and categorizations that are woefully inadequate for the task at hand. This isn't a situation where one or two cells were weak. This entire pack has deteriorated nearly uniformly across all cells. I question if ANY work was even done.

This is all I do. I don't try to be a one-stop shop. I have a specialized skill, and I'm passionate about it. There is plenty about the Prius that I don't know, but when it comes to the hybrid system and the battery in particular, I'm confident I'm among the best informed. I hope this doesn't sound like bragging/boasting. I have put in the darn time. Close to 1000 hours over the last two years, testing, tweaking and refining my process while collaborating with other organizations to further optimize it.

When you call, you're going to talk to me. When it's time to install, you'll see me. When there's a problem, yep, me again. If warranty service is required, it's going to be me replacing your battery completely free of charge, apologizing and struggling to wait to get back to the shop to find out what could possibly have happened, so I can make sure it never happens again.

I treat you as I want to be treated, and I take this VERY personally. I have 3 children. I also have a lot of adopted "kids" running around in my customer's cars. They don't mean as much to me as my actual children (I'm not totally nuts), but they are definitely a source of pride.

Thanks for reading,

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