You save the world with your hybrid car. What happens, though, when your hybrid fails you? When the hybrid battery that makes your car clean decides to take a dive, what do you do?
You have to figure out if you need a new hybrid battery or if you can repair your existing one. Even if you keep your car on a regular maintenance schedule, your battery can still die.
Keep reading to learn what to do when your battery malfunctions.
Before Your Hybrid Battery Dies
Before your battery quits, you should do a few things. Always keep a regular maintenance schedule This will prevent as many you from experiencing as many preventable problems as possible.
Find a Mechanic with Hybrid Car Battery Experience
You should always use a mechanic with hybrid expertise. You can find such a mechanic at a hybrid service center. Do not have an average mechanic work on our car.
Hybrids battery repair, in particular, requires finesse and the right education.
Even car companies understand this. For example, in the early twenty-first century, when hybrids were becoming the norm, Ford sent thousands of mechanics to training to work on the hybrid Escapes they were rolling out at the same time. Honda and Toyota did the same thing for their mechanics who worked on hybrids.
Check Your Warranty
Know the warranty on your battery, if you have one. Hybrid batteries have warranties that go by years and miles. For example, the 2020 Toyota Prius has an 8-year or 100,000-mile warranty.
If you have a good warranty, you may not have to worry about if you need to repair or replace the battery. The warranty will cover you and pay for the new battery.
Signs You Need Hybrid Battery Repair
When everything works well, you do not think about the signs that your battery needs help. But when things begin to go awry, you should know what’s going on.
If you see decreased gas mileage, you may have a battery problem. Your hybrid battery saves you fuel, so if it’s misfiring or not working, then your engine is relying more on your fossil fuel source than the electric battery, and you’ll find yourself at the pump more often.
If you’ve noticed decreased power, your battery may have a problem. Since the battery is your power source, it’s the first suspect when you lose power.
Your dashboard lights might also indicate a problem. Trust those lights and take your car to an experienced hybrid battery repair center right away.
How a Hybrid Car Battery Works
To best understand if you should repair or replace a hybrid car battery, you first need to understand how the battery works.
The most common hybrid battery is also known as the IMA battery or the hybrid battery “pack.” The battery actually consists of several individual battery cells. These cells form modules that work together to supply the necessary voltages for your car’s power needs.
Hybrid car batteries will contain a range of packs from 120 to over 240 individual cells.
The combination of these cells makes diagnosing battery problems a real challenge. You have no way of knowing whether one cell is bad or many have quit. Additionally, you cannot pinpoint the bad cells or the good cells that will soon be going bad.
Often if your dash lights come on, up to 80 percent or more of the cells are going bad and need to be replaced.
Even if your battery has just one failed cell, you cannot easily single out that single bad cell.
The complexities of a hybrid car battery are what make it so expensive to repair. Hybrid mechanics understand these batteries, but they still need time and experience to find the particular cell that has gone bad.
As a result of these challenges, the idea of hybrid battery repair is a bit of a misnomer. Often you can find reconditioned batteries instead of new batteries, and that’s the next best thing to a repaired battery.
Repair or Replace?
Time is your best test to determine whether you should repair or replace a battery.
New batteries should last around 7 years. If you have a battery that is over ten years old, you most likely have a worn-out battery. If this old battery quits, replace it.
If you have a battery that has less than 6,000 miles on it or is less than 7 years old, then you should look into hybrid battery reconditioning.
What is Hybrid Battery Reconditioning?
Hybrid battery reconditioning is a process that aims to recondition the battery and reverse the aging process. When a technician reconditions a battery, he uses deep discharging to combine the charging and balancing process. This breaks down down the crystal formations and voltage depressions that have already formed in the cells of the battery.
Some companies have now attempted to develop a process where they recondition a failing battery. They take the battery apart and exercise each cell on special equipment. This equipment then restores the cell’s ability to store electricity.
Reconditioning methods differ from traditional repair methods because they involve methods that help coax the battery back to life. On the upside, when a technician reconditions a battery, he can see the true picture of a battery’s health because he takes the battery apart.
Repair is Not a DIY Job
If your hybrid battery is showing signs of failure, seek professional assistance. Both repairing and replacing a hybrid battery costs quite a bit of money, but trying to fix it at home will end up costing you more.
Warning: High Voltage
Hybrid batteries contain a deadly amount of electricity. If you do not know how to work on them, you could end up with a serious or fatal injury.
The combination of higher voltage, strong current, and high amperes that could potentially run through your body will cause the damage that should make you wary of handling a hybrid battery on your own.
Hybrid car batteries typically produce between 100 and 300 volts of electricity. However, the newer motor-generator units produce up to 650 volts of electricity. To put this into perspective, humans have died of electrocution with as little as a 42-volt shock.
Car companies understand the dangers of average car users handling their batteries, so they go to great lengths to protect people from harm. Most battery hybrids have an insulated metal box under the passenger seat because the passenger side is less likely to sustain damage in an accident.
Companies will also put “high voltage” alert labels on the battery to warn anyone who may come into contact with the vehicle. Battery cables in hybrids have heavy-duty plastic casings insulating them as well. All of this precaution should lead one to understand that messing with the battery on your own could cause catastrophic results.
Special Mechanics with Special Tools
Professional mechanics trained to work on hybrids have special, expensive tools required to service a hybrid vehicle. Just disconnecting the battery takes these tools. When you look at your battery, you will see a variety of warning stickers for a reason.
Even if you find a youtube that shows you how to reach a hybrid battery pack, you do not have the proper diagnostics tools to determine if the battery is working or not.
Professionals will have the diagnostic tools that give them the data and reports they need to determine what’s wrong with the battery. The data can pinpoint the malfunctioning cells. Hybrid battery mechanics also have the tools needed to fix the problem.
If you want to fix your battery on your own, you need this expensive equipment and the training to know how to use it.
When Repairs Cause Damage
Know also that battery repairs, like all repairs, have a lifespan. The mechanic will only fix what’s wrong, so if something else happens with your battery, you may find yourself back in the shop again.
However, if you attempt to fix your car at home, you run a higher risk of damaging the car, and potentially yourself, rather than fixing it. Your hybrid most likely cost you quite a bit of money. If you want to protect your investment, you will go to a mechanic rather than a DIY website on fixing a hybrid battery.
Voiding the Warranty
Some articles and videos make car repair look simple. They will use words like “just” and “only” when saying what you need to do to get your car back up and running. You may walk away thinking you just need to buy a pair of heavy-duty electrical gloves as your only repair tool.
But repairs are not as simple as those articles and videos look. You can easily end up sabotaging yourself with your thriftiness.
Battery repairs can void a warranty. Double-check your warranty, even your extended warranty. If you choose to have your battery repaired rather than replaced, you may void the entire warranty.
The price of a new battery also may lead you to attempt to find a less expensive solution. But a malfunctioning battery does not mean you automatically need a new battery. A professional mechanic with the right diagnostic and repair equipment will tell you what you need to know.
What Does a Hybrid Battery Cost?
Hybrid batteries are the lifeblood of the hybrid itself. They’re what set the hybrid apart from a fossil-fuel burning vehicle. So, of course, they will cost more than a typical car battery.
If you have to replace your hybrid battery, expect to spend anywhere from $1,000 to $8000 depending on the car.
These are the basic numbers for the actual battery:
- $3,000 to $8,000: the cost of a new hybrid battery
- $1,500 to $3,500: the cost of a used hybrid battery
- $1,500 to $5,000: the cost of a rebuilt hybrid battery
- $1,200 to $1,800: the cost to have a hybrid battery tested and reconditioned
Hybrid Repair Labor Costs
Your hybrid will cost more on top of the cost of the actual battery. Normal car batteries take a few minutes to change, but hybrids require more time and expertise.
Thus a complete hybrid battery replacement with parts and labor will range from $1,700 to $9,000.
The batteries themselves will vary in cost depending on the manufacturer and the type of battery. Each hybrid has a battery built for that car’s specific needs.
Three Types of Batteries
There are three types of hybrid batteries on the market right now: lead-acid, nickel-metal hydride, and lithium-ion.
Older hybrids will use sealed lead acid or SLA batteries. SLA batteries rank high in toxicity compared to the other. These older batteries are also quite heavy, which makes them less fuel-efficient for the electric motor.
Nickel-metal hydride or NiMH batteries have begun to replace lead-acid batteries. They’re not as heavy or as toxic as a lead-acid battery.
However, experts are now labeling NiMH batteries as potentially carcinogenic. The mining process for nickel, thus, has become hazardous. As a result, countries have begun to close nickel mines, making the metal more difficult to find and use.
Newer hybrids will use Lithium-Ion, or Li-ion, batteries. Li-ion batteries have the least toxicity of the three batteries. Car companies have begun to research the idea that a working hybrid car battery could use the same kind of power we see in laptops and MP3 players.
Lithium-ion batteries cost quite a bit in the past. However, because of their non-toxic nature and flexibility of use, manufacturers are producing more lithium batteries than in the past. More quantity means their prices are now going down, making them more affordable.
To Repair or Replace, That is the Question
You chose a hybrid so you could save money and save the world from pollution. So when your hybrid battery decides to tank, take a breath. You still have choices.
When you’re trying to figure out if you should repair or replace your battery, look at all the angles. The one choice you should not waver on is who you will go to for repairs. Choose an expert in hybrid battery repair and replacement so you can get your hybrid back on the road again.
To get your hybrid moving from the curb to the road, schedule an appointment with us.