August 11

2006 Toyota Prius, High Voltage Battery Repair



Mark: Hi, it's Mark from Top Local. We're here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best auto service experience. 22 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. That's important because it's not just some guy's giving it to them. It's their customers saying they're the best. We're talking cars. How are you doing Bernie? 

Bernie: Good. Very good. 

Mark: So 2006 Toyota Prius the follow on episode. Oh my God. The high voltage battery had a problem. What was going on with this vehicle? 

Bernie: Yeah. So last a podcast, I guess we talked about the inverter replacement and how there was a warning light left on, on the dash. We, again, scan the vehicle computer, and found a code for the high voltage battery pack. Not really surprised considering the vehicle had sat for a year. It already had some inverter issues previously and who knows really, you know, the full extent of what the car needed. And, you know, the inverter replacement was a step along the journey of getting the car back into shape. So not really surprised when we found some issues with the high voltage battery pack. 

Mark: So what tests did you do? 

Bernie: A scan tool will do an awful lot to give information on these vehicles. So we connected our scan tool. Initially there was a code that, and I can't remember the number, because I didn't write it down but is it basically generic high-voltage battery failure. Cleared the code because I thought, you know, we want to see something more precise. So we cleared the code, drove it for awhile. And then we actually got some better information and said, cell block eight becomes weak, which was a good bit of information. Because then we knew that the issue was in cell block eight.

So I'm going to show some pictures of just what we can see and on our diagnostic tools and just, you know, this is a good bit of information. So there's our Prius once again, you saw the shot in our last podcast. 

2006 Toyota Prius, High Voltage Battery Repair
2006 Toyota Prius, High Voltage Battery Repair
2006 Toyota Prius, High Voltage Battery Repair
2006 Toyota Prius, High Voltage Battery Repair

This is the code we got P3018, battery block, eight becomes weak. And road testing it, our scan tool, we're able to actually put it into graphing mode. There's 14 battery blocks. We can actually look at all of them and see the voltage fluctuation. Now the voltage change in these battery blocks depending on whether you're going up a hill or down a hill, whether it's regenerative, braking. Regenerative braking, the voltage will go up because it's charging the battery. When you're going up a hill, of course,  you're really. giving it, it's going to drop the voltage down because it's taking power away.

But being a hybrid, only a certain amount of voltage fluctuation will occur, and energy taken out of the battery pack or given to the battery pack and the internal combustion engine and computers regulate all of that. But the key is consistency between the battery blocks.

And you can see here, red arrows, battery block V01. This battery is in good shape and kind of represents what the other ones are doing. You can see a voltage fluctuation, 17.26 to 16.79. And if you look at the battery block eight, which had the problem fault, you see those the 17 and a half, a little higher, but much lower 15.16 volts.

And the wave form should be pretty much the same between battery blocks and you can see sort of in this area here, a change. And again, this isn't very much, it looks like a lot, but we're dealing with a smaller mountain range, so to speak then this one here. So, I mean, there was a change, but a different voltage range.

I've got one more picture here too that has even a little more fluctuation. 

So we've got a, you know, high of 17 point almost nine to 14.7. so again, major fluctuations in this battery pack and much less than the other, basically it verifies as a problem in this battery block here. And this is all inside the battery pack. 

This is the kind of data and information that's available. Of course it takes a while to learn how to read all this stuff, but it's there if you look for it on a good scan tool. 

Mark: So armed with that information. What did you do next?

Bernie: We knew of course, problem's in the battery pack. I mean, that code alone was enough to say so, but we like to verify things and get some details. There's really a few options and I presented them to the client. So we can get a brand new battery from Toyota. That's the best option. We could get a used battery, not a bad option, but of course, used is used. And 2006, you know, I mean the best we could probably get is a battery pack that's a little over 10 years old, which is getting old. 

There are some aftermarket companies that rebuild batteries. The word on the street, we've never used one, the word on the street is that they work and they're often problematic. And you'll probably have some issues going on in a couple of years, which, you know, they are cheaper than the Toyota battery, but not enough I think, to justify the cost.

Then of course, there's the option of actually taking the battery pack apart and repairing the cell blocks. Which is complicated, time consuming, doable and cheaper, but not as reliable. You never know when the next cell block is going to go bad. Those were the options that we presented to the client.

Mark: So lots of pros and cons to all of the options. What did the client do in the end? 

Bernie: She chose to do the new battery from Toyota, which made sense. And I don't like to steer people in a certain direction, but I do like to provide some expert advice. And her, you know, choosing to put a brand new inverter in, it would be kind of silly to put a used battery or a lesser quality replacement option.Having that new inverter and a new battery, you can never predict the future, what's going to happen with the car, but based on odds and what normally happens, there's probably going to be nothing that goes wrong or very little that goes with this vehicle. Especially the hybrid system for that the next 10 years, if you go with a new battery. So she opted to do that. It wasn't cheap, but that's kind of the way we went. 

I've got some pictures of the inside of the battery, just to show some interesting, you know, it's just interesting stuff to look at if you ever want to see what goes on the inside of the battery. So this is the high voltage battery pack. This is the new Toyota battery pack. There's a number of items, wires, cables, the computer, a  hybrid computer, connectors, a number of items that need to be transferred from, from the old battery pack to the new one. The power cables that go to the inverter, bolt in right here.

2006 Toyota Prius, High Voltage Battery Repair
2006 Toyota Prius, High Voltage Battery Repair
2006 Toyota Prius, High Voltage Battery Repair
2006 Toyota Prius, High Voltage Battery Repair
2006 Toyota Prius, High Voltage Battery Repair

This is what it looks like in the back of the vehicle with the hybrid battery out. These are the main power cables that connect up to the inverter. And the battery pack sits in this area back here. And that's the fuel tank in this area here. 

Mark: That's kind of towards where the backseat is?

Bernie: Yeah, it's under the backseat.

Mark:  And then this is a nickel metal hydride battery. 

Bernie: It is a nickel metal hydride battery. This is what the battery looks like when you take the cover off. So this is what's inside the battery pack. It's not just a big lob of battery, but individual cells connected together to form blocks. And a block in this case is actually two batteries put together, that at least on the scan tool, when it says block one, it'll be and I'm not sure actually I should know this stuff, but number one is on end of the battery going all the way to 14. And so, this is the other interesting thing that happens to a lot of these batteries. They end up getting corrosion on the, the bus bars. They're connected together with some copper bus bars. You can see all this ugly green greenness, none of this and corrosion should be there.

I've got a slightly closer shot as well. Again, you can see some of the festering and corrosion. And so full disclosure, I mean, these, you can replace these bus bars. You can clean these up, that may have actually solved her problem. But that it's time consuming. There's no guarantee that after we would have done all this work and it would have been a fair chunk of money that they would have solved her problem.

So again, in anything car repair related, you got to kind of valuate what's the time worth? What are you charging the client and what results are they going to get in the end? And with a brand new battery pack from Toyota, it's a hundred percent guaranteed to work. So, whereas this is, it might work and it might not.

And you know, if you have a backyard type of operation, you want to service it, certainly something you could do. Something I might fix up myself if I had my own car, for sure. But, you know, I can afford the time and not charge myself money. So again, it's just a choice.

Mark:  Not something you can just spray contact cleaner on and fix up though. 

Bernie: No, exactly, definitely not. There are, you can buy these bus bars. I have sources of them. You can probably even buy them on the internet. It's a common issue and common repair. And it's a very distinct possibility that it might be why that code is there, but there's still a lot of, it could be the battery block is bad. And after 14 years and sitting, is not good for these batteries. Leaving them sitting, you know, it can cause problems. 

Which brings me to the point, I know we've talked about it, you know, especially with these pandemic times, you may have have a hybrid car that's sitting around, don't leave it, sitting. Start it up, run it, move it around. Get some juice flowing in and out of the battery. It's very, very important. Otherwise you'll probably be faced with replacing this.

And Prius batteries are the cheapest ones around. Other hybrids, they just go up a lot from there. 

Mark: So overall, the inverter was an expensive repair, the battery was not an inexpensive repair. A lot of money spent on this for a 2006. Was it worth it? 

Bernie: Well, I think so. I mean the mileage on this car, wasn't extremely high.  And you know, it's always a choice in fixing cars. I mean the amount of money that was put into this probably certainly exceeded the value of the car, but now there's a perfectly good functioning car and it's a car that hasn't been sent to the junk yard. A lot of times we just think of our own personal cash outlay. But you know, when you think about it in a broader sense, you know, it's a car that's still usable. It's probably got a good least 10 years of good life left in it without a lot of huge expense. And that's an important thing. 

It's an individual choice for people. I've had people have these strange formulas where, Oh, that repair is half the value of the replacement cost of the vehicle, so I'm not going to do it. I'm going, I don't know. You just got to make your choice. 

Mark: So there you go. If you need some service on your Prius, keep it running or any hybrid, call the experts in Vancouver Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at (604) 327-7112 to book your appointment. They will check your car out. They will test it. They will repair it the best way possible according to your instructions. Check out the website or the YouTube channel Pawlik Auto Repair, hundreds of videos, articles, all makes and models of vehicles, all kinds of repairs. Thanks for watching. We appreciate it. Leave us a review. Thanks Bernie. 

Bernie: Thanks Mark. Thanks for watching.

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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