2009 Ford Escape Hybrid, HV Battery Recharge
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. And we're talking hybrids today. How are you doing Bernie?
Bernie: Doing well.
Mark: So Ford Escape, 2009 hybrid had a problem with this high voltage battery. What was going on with this vehicle?
Bernie: Yeah, so the vehicle was towed to our shop in a no start condition. The owner had left the vehicle sitting for a while. Found the 12 volt battery had drained completely. So he'd replaced it. That restored power to the vehicle, when you turn the key on things would light up on the dash, but the car still wouldn't start.
So at that point, he'd figured maybe the high voltage battery discharge or something else is wrong. Had it towed to us and we had to look at the vehicle.
Mark: So what testing did you do next?
Bernie: Well, of course, looking at the high voltage battery was the next thing. The internal combustion engine starts through a motor generator unit and that's powered by the high voltage battery. So on most hybrids, you need a good state of charge in the high voltage battery. Has to be at least above the minimum acceptable amount. To crank the engine over.
So next test of course was to scan for codes. We found a few for high voltage battery issues, along with looking at the scan tool data for the battery indicated the state of charge was at zero.
So, that was a clue that the problem lie either in a defective discharge battery or defective battery, one of the two.
Mark: So without a decent state of charge in the high voltage battery via electric motor generator, won't start the combustion engine on the vehicle.
Bernie: Exactly. And this is true for most hybrids or there are a few older generation, I'm thinking Honda's that actually have a starter motor, so they can start. All Prius's they all have to have a high voltage battery to start the vehicle.
Mark: So how do you charge a high voltage battery?
Bernie: Yeah. Well, so you need a special charger. We bought a specialty unit from a person I've done some training with. In this case of this vehicle, we have to remove the battery from the vehicle to access, you know, open the battery pack up to access some connectors where we can actually charge the battery.
It's a very slow charging process. We had it on for a couple of days. It puts a very minimal amount of current into the battery. It's not a fast charge. We just put enough in there to get the cells balanced out and put enough energy in so the vehicle will start. And from there, the motor generator unit will take care of the rest of the charging of the vehicle.
Interestingly enough, on a Ford Escape, if you have one that's a 2008 or earlier, there's actually a capability to charge the high voltage battery with the 12 volt battery system. There's a switch. Can't remember exactly where it's located, but if you look in your owner's manual, you'll find it.
You can switch that up and it'll divert power from the 12 volt battery to the high voltage battery and charge that battery up enough so you can start to vehicle. A very smart idea, which they decided to discontinue in the 2009 model year. Makes for a much more expensive process to fix after 2009.
I guess they assume that the cost of the charger was too high versus how often this battery would potentially go dead. So interesting choices they make as manufacturers, but this is what we work with.
Mark: When you were mentioning high voltage, how high a voltage is that battery pack?
Bernie: It's around the 400 volt range. It's funny how fast my memory fades sometimes. Cause I remember looking at this voltage gauge and seeing what it was. I do remember that when we started the process was that 255 volts. That was too low on the scan tool that we have that 255 volts red, zero state of charge.
So clearly the battery was not dead. The 255 volts is way below the threshold of what the vehicle needs For the motor generator unit to work? I think when we finished, it was like up and around the four, four 50 volt range. It certainly wasn't fully charged when we put it back in the car out probably would have taken a couple of weeks at the rate we charged it or at least a week. It was , sufficient to start the vehicle. And then we had the, drove it to get things going from there.
Mark: Like all batteries, it gets slower. The charge increase slows down the closer you're getting to full. Drastically close you're getting to full. So this is, this is obviously not at that kind of voltage. This is not a charger you can just apply it at your local auto repair place.
Bernie: No, no, because all those charges are 12 volts. At most 24 volt charging system is what's found on trucks and the odd Toyota Land Cruiser. That's the only vehicle I've ever worked on 24 volts, but trucks have 24, but that's far below what we need.
So this is actually a specially built charger. The whole idea behind this charge, actually was not just to charge the battery, but because it puts a very low rate. It puts only a half an amp current maximum into the battery. It can be used to balance the cells out in the nickel metal hydride battery pack.
Sometimes an older, especially older Honda's the cells go out of balance and, there's issues with the vehicle. If you charge it, you know, with this charger, it'll actually rebalance the cells because it's putting everything in at a very slow rate. So that's kind of the design behind it, but very handy for these kinds of issues where it's either what do you do with the vehicle? Get a new battery pack, which is a lot of money, huge amount of money. Not worth it for the value of the vehicle.
Mark: So this isn't a service that's available at every auto repair shop. You gotta be trained in high voltage electrics, basically in vehicles to be able to do this. Do you have any pictures?
Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.
Bernie: Yeah, I do. I do. You're getting tired of hearing me talk? Yeah, the answer is yes. I mean, I know of only one other shop around the greater Vancouver area that does a lot of hybrid work that I'm sure has one of these chargers, but I don't know of anyone else who does. I'm not even sure what the dealers do.
They may have something. I know Toyota's. You know, their dealerships didn't even have chargers, you know, in this kind of situation, they'd have to send some tech rep out from Toyota if your Prius ever went dead. So, you know, if you have a Prius, we can resurrect it. If the battery is decent.
Okay. Pictures, there's our Escape Hybrid , still dirty from when it was brought into the shop. What else have we got here? Let's have a look under the hood. So there's the view under the hood. There's the internal combustion engine under this nice hybrid cover here.
The motor generator unit's located underneath here. The interesting thing, I wasn't able to take a picture of it. There's a lot of space back here. The way that the Escape is designed, a lot of them have V6s. So there's a lot of room and back in the engine compartment here. Surprisingly with the complexity of a hybrid there, but there's a lot of room. Anyways, these are a couple of the major components of the vehicle battery pack.
Mark: Is this a four cylinder?
Bernie: It's a four cylinder. Yeah. I can't remember the size of the engine off the top of my head, but you know, it goes good. I mean, drive it it's it's decent. Of course. It's got the boost of the motor generator unit while you're driving. So you have like two power plants moving the vehicle forward. So you don't need a, a humongous engine where it works well.
This is the battery pack. This sits in the back underneath the cover. As I said, we have to remove this and then take all these screws off of here and inside this area here that are kind of moving the mouse over.
This is where all the battery cells sit. There's a number of electronic modules and pieces as well. This was the service plug. You can switch the power off to the vehicle through this plug here and, you know, it's a critical part in any time servicing the vehicle, you switch it to this position, it basically cuts the power to the rest of the vehicle, so it's important.
But one thing that does happen is once you take this cover off, of course everything's live inside, so you still have the full voltage available to do nasty things should you ever touch anything. You gotta be careful around these things.
Here's a bit of scan tool data. So after we put the battery in, took it for a drive, this shows the state of charge. I went out for a long drive just to see, probably about 10 miles type of drive. This is the start of the drive.
So this is after we put the battery pack in and ran the vehicle for awhile in the shop, 44% state of charge and that kind of fluctuates. But after, again, this is a critical thing. Like when we started the process that says state of charge zero, so we knew something was going on. There's a lot of important data that we can see here on this, like the battery pack, integrity pack. Okay. I'm not certain how it determines that, but you know, of course, if it wasn't okay, that would be an indication, was time to change the battery.
This is that same sort of data, but we can put it into graphing mode on our scan tool. Apologize for all the weird lines here. But you can see this is after a long drive the battery's now up around the 59, 58% state of charge, but did it go as high as 62? So it fluctuates depending on if you're driving down a hill with your foot on the brake, then the charge starts going up quite a bit. Could probably charge the battery up to 80% pretty easily if we just had a long enough hill.
What else have we got here? Oh yeah, then the dash. So there's a couple of features on the instrument panel that you'll find on an Escape Hybrid that you won't see on the non-Escape. There's a charge and discharge gauge. If you boot the gas pedal really hard with the internal combustion engine and the motor generator unit driving you, this gauge will go way up in this direction. If you're kind of just cruising along normally it'll probably be around this part here, maybe even in the mid range.
And once you put the brake on and the charge goes into the charge range. This situation here, this will show you whether the engine is actually running. So of course, once the internal combustion engine starts, the RPM gauge comes on. Say stopped at a light where it just switches the engine off, you can see the sort of state of charge of the battery. the thing required an oil change too. So that's a service where we've still need to do. And there's our picture show.
Mark: So you mentioned a high voltage batteries can become discharged on other hybrids as well.
Bernie: Yeah. I mean, any battery will discharge over time. You know, it's an important thing to make sure that you start your hybrid every once in a while. The times we're in right now with COVID some people have parked their cars, they've left them, or they're not driving very often. Critical. If you have a hybrid, make sure you get out there, start it up, drive it around a little bit. It's very important because otherwise, , it won't start and high voltage battery is dead.
Of course we can, can definitely get it back in a state of charge that you can use the car, but it's an expense you'd probably want to avoid if you can.
Mark: And how are these Ford escape, hybrids for reliability?
Bernie: Pretty good. We don't see a lot of them because there aren't a ton of them around, but so far they've been pretty good. They're actually built the same, it's the same platform, not the same platform as a Prius, but same type of design.
I think the quality of the materials and part components are pretty good. So you know, underneath the vehicles, very little oil leakage from the engine. It's a 169,000 miles to the U S model well car. So that's a fair amount of time and the vehicle ran really nice.
So, I'd say, yeah, it's pretty good. If you do need a battery pack, they are expensive to buy new. There are ways to fix them for less money, or even there are some good used packs available as well.
Mark: So there you go. If you're looking for some service for your Ford Escape Hybrid or any kind of hybrid in Vancouver area, the guys to call her Pollock automotive, you can reach them at (604) 327-7112.
To book your appointment, you have to call and book ahead. They're busy. They're really busy right now. Everybody's getting ready to travel this summer. Little local tourism. You can check out the website. Pawlik automotive.com. There's hundreds of videos and articles on their repairs of all makes and models of vehicles. Pawlik auto repair is the YouTube channel.
Of course, thank you for watching, listening to the podcast. We appreciate it. Leave us a review on Apple podcast. If you are enjoying what we're doing, if you're grooving on what we're doing, what we're laying down. Thanks Bernie.
Bernie: Thanks Mark. And thanks for watching. It's always a pleasure.