Toyota Prius: Problems & Solutions

Karen_SKaren_S Member Posts: 5,092
edited March 2014 in Toyota
Talk about any Prius problems and share solutions here.


  • little_pogilittle_pogi Member Posts: 149
    My sister's 01 Prius suddenly quit on her while she was driving on the freeway 2 weeks ago. The momentum made her safely glide to a stop on the side of the freeway. It just wouldn't move and had to be towed to a Toyota dealer. Two weeks later, the car was finally fixed. The bill showed that the Hybrid ECU, Inverter, and the Transaxle had to be replace for a total cost of over $15,000. The basic warranty had exprired but all of these components were covered under the hybrid warranty of 8 years or 96000 miles. The dealer also provided her with a free service car while the Prius was being repaired. Her out-of-pocket expenses, zero dollars.
  • badgerfanbadgerfan Member Posts: 1,565
    I can see in the future a lot of used Prius's (or is it Prii?) on the market with 95,999 miles on them or seven years and 50 weeks of age (whichever is less)! That is one whopper of a repair bill if you have to pay it yourself.
  • lscarrolllscarroll Member Posts: 2
    May 15, 2004, I purchased my new 2004 Prius -BC package (had no choice on option package, since this was the only Prius on the lot for sale).

    Enjoyed my car (loved the navigation system) for two days, when on the third day while driving, I received a "VSC" problem message. I immediately took it to the dealer where I bought it, and thats where it has been for almost 2 weeks. Today is May 23, and tomorrow they think they should have it back to me.

    The VSC problem message seems to have been only the tip of iceberg. Diagnostics unvealed 6 more issues. All this had lead the dealer replacing the trans-axle and inverter, both high dollar items. I was told the inverter was shorted, and the transaxle caused it... I hope this is just a fluke and replacing the transaxle/inverter will fix it.
  • maxvokmaxvok Member Posts: 1
    Since getting my car 2 months ago, I have been driving mostly 20-40 miles
    stretches twice a week in daytime and once 200 miles on one day. Last Friday,
    after 3 days in my garage, I could not open the locked doors and to use the
    manual key. Indoor light was very dim and starting was impossible.

    Talking to my dealer's mechanic he could not explain the reason and suggested to
    call Toyota's emergency service in the Netherlands. Mechanic mentioned that
    while my car was 2 weeks in their showroom prior to delivery, they had connected
    the battery to a charger to avoid that it would be drained while being inspected
    by the many customers. Anyhow even if it had not been fully charged, I would
    expect it to be OK after 800 miles driving. He also said that the capacity of
    this battery was very limited (does anybody know how many kW, cannot find it in
    the specs) and that leaving the lights on for 10 minutes could cause it. But
    this did not apply to my case as I did not notice anything abnormal 3 days
    earlier driving without lights and power is completely shut off, including
    interior light, when I lock the doors.

  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaMember Posts: 31,450
    It does not sound like Toyota has addressed one of the original problems with the Prius. My understanding is you cannot go off and leave your car for two weeks and expect to jump in and take off. I have read complaints of owners where the dealer told them letting the batteries discharge just by non-use could void the warranty. This is unacceptable in my opinion. Most people take vacations and leave the car parked in the garage for a couple weeks or more.
  • eheadingeheading Member Posts: 26
    We have a 2003 Prius, that we leave in our garage for as much as 3-4 months without touching it. At the advice of our Toyota dealer, when we leave we disconnect the 12V battery in the trunk from the car wiring (I actually added a little knife switch to do this). Then I keep the 12V battery on a small trickle charger. I do nothing with the nickel-metal-hydride batteries.

    When I come back home, I reconnect the 12V battery and take the car out for about a 30-45 minute drive per the dealer instructions. I have never seen any effect of the storage however. The car starts right up after it's hibernation, and I see no effect on the fuel economy indicating that the batteries are depleted.

    It works just fine this way.

    Ed Headington
  • john1701ajohn1701a Member Posts: 1,897
    It has been interesting watching this "Urban Myth" grow.

    There is no issue with the auxilliary battery. Non-use for several weeks isn't a problem, it won't void the warranty either. Like any car with a security system, there is a constant drain. But Prius now provides an off button, so pushing that before leaving for vacation prevents a drain. And the 2004 auxilliary battery is bigger, so you can go even longer than in the past anyway.

  • shado4shado4 Member Posts: 287
    > Like any car with a security system, there is a constant drain. But Prius provides an off button, so pushing that before leaving for vacation prevents a drain.

    Huh? Sounds like if you press the off button, the security system will be disabled. Is this true? (If not, your statement is really vague!)

    I'm not sure I would like to leave a new Prius in an airport parking lot with a disabled security system!
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaMember Posts: 31,450
    Sounds like they have addressed the problem. Actually the locked parking lot I leave my vehicle in requires you to disable the alarm system. So that would not be a problem for me.
  • little_pogilittle_pogi Member Posts: 149
    Last January, I went on a 3 week vacation with my Prius left in the garage. The alarm was set. I've read about the aux battery going low on charge when the car is not used for a while. I was worried this might happen when I return from my vacation. Upon my return, the car started with no problem at all. My next vacation may take a month. We'll find out then if the Prius will have some problem starting.
  • stevemstevem Member Posts: 1
    In nov, 03, a few weeks after buying our new prius in Albuquerque nm, we drove it to Denver. Big snow storm Sat., drove fine through the snow; very cold that night, it would not start in the battery at all. I call all the toyota emergency numbers, they finally send out a generic tow guy, we jump the prius, which does respond, but with all warning lights on. I am able to drive the car about three blocks at 5 mph, then wife and daughter have to get back, they drive another car..I am assured by alb toyota that everything will be taken care of ( denver toyota and nat'l toyota are closed...)the car is towed/carried to the local dealer (I had suggested carrying it and me back to Alb); I fly home.
    Over the next few days I speak with several people, and when all is said and ( not much) done, I am told that the car was out of gas. I tell then there is no way the car could have been out of gas, please try to find the real problem ( it must be something to do with snow build-up underneath, melting /freezing) They insist all I needed was gas. I explain how and why this is not possible....I talk to alb. and nat'l toyota,...I fly up to denver to get the car...I demonstrate that the car had at least 5 gallons when it quit by filling it right there...I retrace my trip back south, filling up where I had filled up going north. Again, this shows I had at least 5 gallons when it quit...I wrote long detailed letters to denver, alb, and nat'l toyota asking for re-imbursement for my out of pocket costs( not even my meals or lost time) dice, even a nasty letter from the john elway toyota attorneys.
    When the first recall came out, I took it in, figuring that this was related to my problem...the mechanic said that the ecu had already been I have received another notice...
    I am pissed..does anyone have an idea re what might have happened? who to talk to?
    Thanks for your patience, stevem
  • oldboyoldboy Member Posts: 59
    I was considering buying a Prius, but not any more. Long waiting lists, dealers profiteering, and some really major mechanical problems as reported on this site. Not for me. My next car may well be a diesel, once we get decent fuel here in the USA.
  • quasar4quasar4 Member Posts: 110
    --The following is a quote from Goss' Garage of Motorweek that I think you'll find on point... still have to keep the battery fully charged, and heres where people make a huge mistake. They kill their batteries through overcharging by using a battery charger. No matter how small the battery charger, it can destroy the battery through overcharging. --Pat Goss, Motorweek

    ...for more helpful hints on battery care (including unhooking the battery) go to Goss' Garage. He's talking about vehicles like snowmobiles, boats, etc., that sit in storage for long periods of time (2-3 weeks does not qualify as a long storage time), but still it may be useful.
  • well_informedwell_informed Member Posts: 34
    I was considering buying a Prius, but not any more. Long waiting lists, dealers profiteering, and some really major mechanical problems as reported on this site. Not for me.

    That's right.

    My next car may well be a diesel, once we get decent fuel here in the USA.

    That will be 2006.

    By that time, hopefully you will have a much wider choice than the 4 unreliable VWs (Golf, JEtta, beetle and Passat) diesels offered here, and the amazing Mercedes 320 CDI (if you have the $50,000 they charge for it, and if you DO the many miles a year it takes to justify a Diesel).
  • well_informedwell_informed Member Posts: 34
    Is the issue of many Prius and other Hybrod owners complaining, and even thinking of SUING,

    TOyota and Honda for their EPA MPG claims, that are utterly unrealistic.

    Instead of 60 and 68 mpg, owners routinely get at best 40 and 50.

    the EPA test favors the Hybrids.

    It is NOT a reallife measurement of your hybrid's mpg, but a lab test, whose numbers are arbitrarily adjusted, to add insult to injury.

    It is high time that EPA adopts a thorough and accurate ROAD TEST to provide MPG numbers.

    Maybe it can Copy EUROPEAN Regulations, that require FOUR Numbers

    1. City Driving

    2. COuntry Road driving (usually gets the best MOG by far, at a constant 90 kmph)

    3. Highway driving at 120 kmph (75 or so miles), a far more realistic number than the EPA's cooked Highway mileage assuming 55 mph!

    4. A COMBINED MPG based on the 3 above at different percentages, typical of average usage.
  • usbseawolf2000usbseawolf2000 Member Posts: 759
    When you come into "Toyota Prius Owners: Problems & Solutions" board, what do you expect to see? Judging reliability just from this is not an objective view of Prius.

    "the EPA test favors the Hybrids."

    EPA numbers might be less accurate for hybrids since real world mpg number can vary by a large amount(33mpg-86mpg for Prius). Is the design of such technology to be blamed? I don't know about you but I would want a car that can dynamically adjust performance or fuel economy depending on my driving styles. In the future hybrid models, I want to see preset buttons to adjust performance/fuel economy so the car can transform with a touch of a button and it can be done on hybrids. Picking mpg numbers from two extreme ends to make your point is as valid as cherry picking.

    EPA numbers are also less accurate for SUV and trucks. If you do the math, percentage or margin of error is in the same ball park for hybrids and big cars. Should SUV and Truck owners also sue the manufacturers?

    I agree with you in EPA to come up with a more accurate test.
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaMember Posts: 31,450
    EPA numbers are also less accurate for SUV and trucks

    I can only speak for the 3 Chevy PU's and one Suburban I have owned. The mileage on the window sticker was right on. The U.S. government gave a lot of special treatment to Toyota on the Prius. Such as no roll-over testing. And it appears they allowed them to over state the mileage to get people to buy. That is what it looks like to me. In spite of the 86 mpg graph on the other thread. Laboratory gas mileage does not get it in the real world.
  • well_informedwell_informed Member Posts: 34
    You can Dismiss the alleged 86 MPGs for the Prius.

    THere will be no Onwer, no matter if he or she drives it like there is an egg between hisor her foot and the pedal,

    that will get a Cumulative, LIFETIME MPG of even the advertised 60 mpg, let alone 86 mpg.

    Instantaneous MPG's are almost meaningless.

    I can drive the car downhill and get 199 mpg. Who cares.

    I have driven the Honda Insight with 5th gear at 35 mph on the highway, real slow, and saw a pitiful 66 mpg (vs the alleged 68 mpg doing 55 mph! of EPA),

    AND the instuments showed that this was Draining the BAttery at the same time.

    That is not 66 mpg, that is cheating.
  • well_informedwell_informed Member Posts: 34
    Could you give us a few numbers on your Prius?

    1. How many miles you have driven it,


    2. What is the Cumulative MPG you have achieved? Average, over the entire time you owned the car, or the entire lifetime of the car, if there were previous owners?

    3. Do you have a manual transmission?

    Thanks a lot in advance.
  • tempusvntempusvn Member Posts: 119
    Well, your post belies your name, since no Prius has a Manual Transmission, hehe.

    But for the record, I just passed 5K miles in my '04.

    It's my everyday every-errand car, as well as every day commuting in Washington DC. I live downtown, and my mileage is probably 1/3 'city' and 2/3 'highway'.

    My current lifetime MPG is 52.5, but my last 5 tanks have all been between 57 and 62 MPG.

    Since it's so young and the breakin tanks were lower (Lowest tank ever was 46 MPG), I have fairly high hopes for it in the long run. It's only getting better as it matures :)
  • tempusvntempusvn Member Posts: 119
    Well Informed?

    Um, the EPA Combined rating for the Prius is 55 MPG. The 60 you quote is the 'City' Rating.
  • well_informedwell_informed Member Posts: 34
    "But for the record, I just passed 5K miles in my '04. My current lifetime MPG is 52.5, "

    That makes sense, and it is quite good. That is th efigure that people should use for accurate MPG stats.

    the fact that you live in a warm location, in the DC area, helps. Still, it is well below the 60 city and the 55 highway EPA estimates. If EPA was acurate, and given your mix, you should have 58.3 mpg.

    maybe you would do better if TOypta offered a manual transmission, like Honda does (hence my freudian slip.. not dueto misinformation)

    I have fairly high hopes for it in the long run. It's only getting better as it matures :)

    That is true for all cars, both their performance and the MPG improves a little after a year or so. See Car and Driver long term tests.
  • tempusvntempusvn Member Posts: 119
    >the fact that you live in a warm location, in the DC area, helps. Still, it is well below the 60 city and the 55 highway EPA estimates. If EPA was acurate, and given your mix, you should have 58.3 mpg.

    The EPA City is 60, Highway is 51, Combined is 55. So by your math I should be getting 54. Since I've been exceeding that every tank for the last two months, shouldn't be a problem. As you say, it may be different in Winter, but, remember the EPA test are done in 'warm' conditions so thats the same for every car.

    >maybe you would do better if TOypta offered a manual transmission, like Honda does (hence my freudian slip.. not dueto misinformation)

    The Power Split Device (Prius doesn't really have a Transmission per-se) is the core of the whole HSD system. Given the way the Toyota system works, a Manual transmission really isn't possible, or desirable.
  • well_informedwell_informed Member Posts: 34
    While I was almost joking about the manual, and it is true that one can design an automatic that can be as fuel efficient as the manual on the highway, for example, usually that will mean that the car will have poorer acceleration and performance.

    A manual allows the driver to get good mpg and have performance when necessary by downshifting.

    I guess manu-matics that allow you to shift the auto manually can produce the same effect.

    I'm due to my dentist at 2 pm for a tooth cleaning, but I'll be driving to the DC area myself on monday, part of a 4-day business tip on the East Coast.

    My old Accord coupe 5-speed is rated 31 highway. but I routinely get 32-37 mpg.

    Even if i am the only person in the car, it still beats all alternatives, even rail and discount airfares, by a mile if you drive. Plus you do not have to be packed like a sardine, as on planes, but relax comfortably, put it on cruise at 75 mph, and hear some good book on tape or music.
  • eprupiseprupis Member Posts: 30
    I live in SC and have 4K miles on a 3 month-old Prius. With mixed city and hwy driving plus a 1000 high speed trip to Va I have a real life mpg of 51. The Prius is livelier than my '98 Catera and the smart key is awesome but navigation destination is too difficult to program and directions are not always the best. The GPS and accompanying map have proved useful on occasion. eprupis
  • usbseawolf2000usbseawolf2000 Member Posts: 759
    "Instantaneous MPG's are almost meaningless."

    85.7 MPG is the average from driving 967 miles, obviously not instantaneous. The person who achieved it drove at suburban speed. This is not how most people drive but the result speaks for itself what the car is capable of achieving.


  • usbseawolf2000usbseawolf2000 Member Posts: 759
    "A manual allows the driver to get good mpg and have performance when necessary by downshifting.

    If you have to downshift and wait for power delivery, is it still considered performance?

    Why even have a transmission? Go back and ask yourself the question why a transmission was even invented? Wasn't it to overcome the engine's inability to delivery "suitable" power to the wheel in most driving situations? HSD powertrain in Prius can contiously vary power output in a great range that it does not need complex traditional multi-gear shift(disturb) transmission. The result with HSD is shiftless undisturbed power delivery to the wheel at all time.

    I will not repeat the explanation again and again because some readers get annoyed. I am going to have to forward you to usbseawolf2000 "Honda Accord Hybrid vs. Toyota Camry Hybrid" Apr 17, 2004 6:08pm. It has a full explanation of the design difference between Honda IMA and Toyota HSD as well as transmission or the lack of it.

  • tedinaztedinaz Member Posts: 8
    Terribly sick of my 2003 Camry XLE V6 (very jerky auto tranny, way under powered, illegible clock, odo, fancy mpg data, etc) I was about to trade for a Prius. any comments on Mazda Tribute?
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaMember Posts: 31,450
    you might slip over to the Hybrid vs Diesel forum. There are a lot of people happy with the VW Jetta TDI and VW diesel in general. and a couple people that really love their Prius.
  • aptosbillaptosbill Member Posts: 3
    I purchased my 04 Prius and just love it... I had an one odd event happen to me and maybe somebody can shed some light on this.. Toyota is stumped. I have about 5K on the milage and as I was pulling off the freeway and slowed to a stop light the car hit the warning lights red excalmation CHECK ENGINE SVC everything went on. Bottom line.. No Gas or gas engine was not responding. I hobbled it back to Toyota under electric power where it went dead about 100 ft from Toyota in Santa Cruz. They got it checked out but had no explanation why it acted that way. Their first question was did I run out of gas? ...Tank was 1/2 full. My only thinking (and this is pure speculation.. is I was right across the street from a Catscan medical center when it happened. Is it possible that I got a dose of EMF waves that hit the car and zapped the computer into thinking I was out of gas? Has this sudden loss of gas engine power happened to anyone else.. Like I said Toyota is stumped.
  • little_pogilittle_pogi Member Posts: 149
    Most likely you might be the 1st 04 Prius owner to experience this problem. It would be nice if you can share with us what the diagnosed problem was and the repair work done by the Toyota service center.
  • tempusvntempusvn Member Posts: 119
    Have you had SSC 40D done?

    In theory it is to correct the ability of the scanner to read error codes.

    But, at least one person has reported that the Prius Tech told them that in fact, the car was also reporting false error codes to itself.

    That person also had the car die with about a half tank of gas, then report to the scanner that it had run out of gas.
  • aptosbillaptosbill Member Posts: 3
    Toyota had no explanation for me... Not much was said other than to keep an eye on it (I assume they reset it in some way? it wasn't in their repair dept more than a few hours... Everyone there was pretty much scratching their head! It hasn't acted up since but I keep getting the Maint. Req. light flashing when I start up and back out. I had it serviced that day and it was about 500 miles under the 5K mark? I'm glad I got the full extended bumper to bumper on it. Toyota advise me to do this due to it's complexity and relatively new enty into the market.
  • aptosbillaptosbill Member Posts: 3
    No, But I will! I keep getting the Maint. Req. light eventhough they serviced it a few weeks ago.... ?
    Thank You
  • john1701ajohn1701a Member Posts: 1,897
    > I keep getting the Maint. Req. light

    So, turn it off already. It's just a light that comes on every oil change interval. It doesn't sense anything other than distance.

    1) With the power on, switch to the odometer/trip-meter to display "ODO".

    2) Power OFF (push the "Power" button).

    3) Power ON, while holding the button for "ODO".

    4) Wait for the reminder light to stop flashing, then release.
  • little_pogilittle_pogi Member Posts: 149
    This instructions by John can also be found at page 122-123 of your 2004 Prius owner's manual.
  • rickaricka Member Posts: 1
    Greetings everyone, this is my first post in your town hall. I have a 2004 Prius with roughly 5,000 miles and until this point have experienced no major problems.

    On the drive home from work tonight the engine shut down while I was accelerating onto the highway from an entry ramp. The master warning light and malfunction indicator lamp came on and the main battery started to drain as I reached 45 miles per hour.

    I pulled to the side of the road, shut off the car then restarted it after several seconds. At this point the engine engaged and started recharging the battery, however, the warning lights remained on.

    I drove the car home because by now the engine seemed to be operating properly, although the warning lights remained on.

    Tomorrow I plan to take the car in for service but would appreciate any insight into what may have caused this problem.

    Rick A.
  • bills2bills2 Member Posts: 1
    I had a similar event with my 2004 Prius in June. I was passing on a 2-lane highway and had to acutely accelerate and move quickly back to the right lane. Alarms sounded; lights went on; I lost power. By the time I was able to pull the car over, I realized that the gas engine had cut out and I was only on battery. The vehicle stability control light was on, as was the red exclamation point! I shut the car off and restarted and it ran fine, although the warning lights remained on for about 4 hours of driving and 2 stops that day(I called the emergency number to be reassured I could keep driving). The car was fairly loaded, weight-wise, but well within the posted limits. I took it in to the dealer and they were unable to replicate the problem nor find anything wrong with the computer check. They felt that the vehicle stability control had sensed a tire off with the emergency maneuver and that it shut off the gas engine so as not to further lose control (I'm not THAT WILD a driver, believe me!). I would be interested what YOUR dealer said. It has behaved marvelously since then and we love it, though we have tried NOT to repeat the above circumstances(!) bills2
  • jonnycat26jonnycat26 Member Posts: 101
    I had the same sudden loss of power with my Prius 300 miles after I picked it up. The dealer had to replace a failed inverter, and I've since gone 3000 miles without any problem.

    The problem does seem to occur more often during or after any rain (or a car wash too I would imagine).
  • vmccaulvmccaul Member Posts: 27
    We are thinking of buying a hybrid. Specifically the new Highlander 4WD hybrid. We do a lot of driving but our house is at 8500 feet in the Sierras. It is a long uphill drive from town. Will the battery completely discharge on long, steep uphill grades? Also, I have heard of problems in cold this just decreased gas mileage, or does the car have problems starting in cold weather? Any problems with altitude?

    I hope I'm asking these questions in the right place. I just thought Prius owners would have experience with these issues. Would like to get a more fuel efficient 4wd with ground clearance for snow, and the new Highlander has our hopes up. Just don't know if it can handle the conditions we drive in.

    Thanks for any input.
  • azstanazstan Member Posts: 74
    I just got a "recall?" from Toyota offering to change the "Engine Compartment Seal".

    Seems as if 2004 Prius..."on certain early production vehicles''...can trigger the Malfunction Indicator Light and cause a decrease in engine performance. This could happen nafter a carwash or rain.

    I am getting ready to go in for 15,000 mile service and will have the seal replaced then. So far I have had no problems with my Prius which I would expect with a Toyota (having owned 3 Camrys). Quite different from American made vehicles which always seem to have some "bugs to be worked out".

    Has anyone had this seal replaced? How long does it take?
  • pripri Member Posts: 9
    I am only getting 44 MPG on my 2004 Prius (option pkg 9). I live in a flat urban area and drive mostly in the city and I am not a "lead foot".
  • stevedebistevedebi LAMember Posts: 4,098
    Are you using the "B" option when you engage the HSD?
  • vicevervicever Member Posts: 5
    It is good compared to my sentra 1.8s which gets 22mpg and is designed for 28/35. My camry gets 20mpg, and its epa is 23/32. The cars are good in a sense that they both exceed 30 when they are on highway without traffic. BTW my previous 3.8 Taurus wagon(19/29) gets 15mpg. In the begining I thought there were something wrong with the car(tire pressure, sticky breaks...). After a few cars and years, I think these lower numbers are right and to be expected. Although you did not get the boasted EPA, but the Prius are still at least two times better than the cars aforementioned in actual MPG number.
  • removeumremoveum Member Posts: 3
    Less than 15 minutes.
  • little_pogilittle_pogi Member Posts: 149
    Can you give me more information about this seal, where it is located and how it look like.
  • azstanazstan Member Posts: 74
    Cannot give any information about this seal other than what Toyota sent me in their notice:

    "On certain early production 2004 Model Year Prius vehicles, rain or carwash water may seep into the engine compartment from the area at the top of the hood near the cowl. If this should occur, the watr may drip down onto engine components and cause a decrease in engine performance. This will trigger the Malfunction Indicator Light (MIL) to illuminate on the dash, and the engine ECM to store a trouble code and place the vehicle into a "limp-home" mode."
  • azstanazstan Member Posts: 74
    Would someone please expand on this mode...tell me more about what it is all about, how to recognize it, and what I should do?

    Thanking you in advance.

  • linda1linda1 Member Posts: 11
    Well, remember me? I've had my 2004 silver pkg3 since July 1 and had 5 instances of the transmission reverting to N while I was driving - no warning lights, no alarms. I have apx 650 miles and took it to the dealer with the abv prob. at 400 miles. They could not duplicate the prob. and it hasn't happened since. So mileage; I do almost all city driving and have been averaging 30 mpg. All the info I've seen on this car shows city driving higer than highway. The dealer says you don't get the true mpg until apx 10,000 miles! S o, what do you think? Linda1
  • stevedebistevedebi LAMember Posts: 4,098
    30 MPG is way too low. Does the engine cut out when you stop?
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