Toyota Prius: Problems & Solutions



  • bobo44bobo44 Member Posts: 1
    I own a 2002 Prius with 39,000 miles. For the last year I've had this problem:

    With the engine cold, start the car. Engine runs for a few seconds and dies. I can usually re start the engine on the next try and drive to work. Of course all the engine warning lights are on. After the car starts successfully three more times, the warning lights go away and the display returns to normal. I've had the car into the deal and they couldn't find anything wrong since the engine codes has cleared by the time they got the car. The frequency of occurrence is increasing. Has anyone seen this problem?
  • ahurstahurst Member Posts: 2


    I'm sorry to hear about your troubles. I have a 2004 and now have over 20,000 miles (33,000 km) on mine. I have had none of your problems and have been generally very pleased. Unfortunately it sounds like your vehicle may have been a victim of Toyota's push for more volume when the backlog of buyers was at it's worst. Yours is the first such story I've heard. If I were in your position, I would be starting talks with my dealer and Toyota about a replacement, lemon law or not, Toyota is successful because they have generally done the right things to maintain a reputation for consistent, reliable, well built vehicles - yours is clearly an anomoly. Good luck.
  • cericceric Member Posts: 1,092
    You should leave your Prius overnight with Toyota dealer and have them try it in the morning. If they can't fix it three times, then you can claim Lemon Law protection.
  • findirfindir Member Posts: 2
    I am very sorry to hear of your experience. We purchased our 04 Prius in January 2004 (our first Toyota) and now have 12000 miles on it, with no problems whatsoever. We have taken it from CT to Fla and back, and use it as a daily driver, and other than oil changes/tire rotations, it has required nothing. We would not hesitate to buy another one, and I too believe your experience is an anomaly.
  • engin2engin2 Member Posts: 8
    My wife drives our '02 Prius around town, mostly short trips like shopping,etc...We live in the SF Bay Area. She parks her car outside. The car only has 17K miles on it. Last week she couldn't start it because dead battery. The warranty expired just two months passed three years' coverage. After jump started car and took same to dealer, I was told these gel-type batteries don't last much longer than that. I had the shock of my Toyota life. The dealer contacted Toyota and they gave me a heavy duty upgraded battery on a good-will gesture, no charge. Though I appreciate their PR move, I've never paid more than $100 for a good, 6-year warranty battery in my entire life. This new battery only has two years' warranty on it. However, I still had to pay over $200 for new installation kit to accomodate the new battery.




    We're a family of devoted Toyota cars in the pass and my wife's '93 Tercel's battery lasted over 8 years, never dies and starts every single time.


    Now We're beginning to have second thoughts about our '02 and '04 Prius that costs an arm and leg just for run-of-the mill item replacements. The heavy duty battery itself would have cost me over $200.


    Would anyone out there who may have similar starter battery problems share some light and experiences on this. It would be much appreciated as we may end our relationship with Toyota hybrids. Thank you in advance.
  • stevewastevewa Member Posts: 203
    Methinks your dealer is blowing smoke.


    We have 55000 miles on our '02 and have had no problem with the 12v battery.


    It's critical that the car be run for at least 30 minutes (without turning the key off) every week or so to allow enough time to recharge the 12v battery. While the HV battery can recharge very quickly the 12v battery is recharged at a slower rate to prevent it from overheating. It's not necessary for the gas engine to be running, but the key must be in the "on" position so the inverter's battery charger function is running. Your owner's manual should have something to say about this.
  • tempusvntempusvn Member Posts: 119
    "Now We're beginning to have second thoughts about our '02 and '04 Prius that costs an arm and leg just for run-of-the mill item replacements. The heavy duty battery itself would have cost me over $200."


    The Car Giveth and the Car Taketh Away


    Yeah, the 12v battery is one of the things in the Prius that is more expensive, and touchier than in other cars.


    But, by the same token, there are some things that you either have to do regularly or can expect to do at least once over the life of a regular car that you don't have to worry about with the Prius.


    The Prius is very good on brakes. So, you don't have to do that brake job every 35K miles. Maybe you'll do it at 100K, maybe not :)


    The Prius doesn't have a transmisison per-se, so if you're someone who keeps cars a long time (like me), it's nice not to have to sorry about the huge cost of modern transmission repairs.


    On the 04 at least, the entire exhaust system is Stainless Steel, so hopefully I won't have to visit MIDAS for that either. On my other cars, living in the Salt Belt, the most you can expect to get out of mufflers and such is 50K.


    Taking a look at the big picture, I think it's likely that it's quite likely the Prius lifetime repair/maintenance costs for things that wear out may be less than other cars.


    But yeah, the Battery is a potential annoyance :)
  • energyschildenergyschild Member Posts: 1
    I purchased my 2005 Prius in November of 2004 after waiting 8 months from the day I ordered it. So far after 1,800 miles I love the car. The only thing that bothers me is the milage is lower than promised. I'm averaging 35 to 55 miles per gallon & seem to get better milage on the open road. I'll be happy to get 40 to 45 mpg. I understand the Toyota dealer that provided my car gives outstanding service. I certainly hope to get many miles of trouble free driving from my Prius. I do have an automatic transmission.
  • engin2engin2 Member Posts: 8
    A BIG THANK YOU for that suggestion. I'll certainly keep that in mind and try and see if my battery works the same way as yours. You may have save me from defecting to Honda!

    I thought I've checked my manual, but found nothing about the subject. I have a stinking hunch that maybe Toyota just wants to sell more after-market items.


    Again, a BIG THANKS!!!
  • jebsterjebster Member Posts: 6
    Hey! Got a '05 and, although pleased in general with the car (av 48MPG - 500+ Miles per tank) I have a terrible issue. The CD player wont display titles of songs!


    Seriously, anyone know what it takes to get titles to display? I've not gotten it to work on any CDs, either store bought or self-burned. Is there some format my CD burner needs to use?


    Also, anyone know what the letters RDS on the CD player stand for? (I have a type 1 system, no changer)


  • tigertaletigertale Member Posts: 1

    I'm in the market for a Prius and was able to test drive one today. Loved it, except for the somewhat obstructed view out the back window. Has anyone found it to be a problem, or is it something you get used to? Any advice about working around it? Thanks!
  • ruking1ruking1 Member Posts: 19,826
    Yeah, actually there is a pretty solid way to work around it. Yes most folks have thir mirror array adjusted incorrectly. Basically it involves adjusting your side mirrors and rear view mirror.
  • cobicobi Member Posts: 2
    I have an '04 Prius with 9,800 miles. I seemed to get better mileage before cold weather set in. Has anyone else noticed this? Thanks!
  • tempusvntempusvn Member Posts: 119
    All cars get lower mileage in cold weather. It's just more noticeable in the Prius.


    Lots of factors can contribute to lower mileage in the cold.


    1) Check your tire pressure. Your tire pressure will drop as it gets colder and if you don't keep checking it and compensate, you will wind up running on under-inflated tires, which will kill mileage (and may be unsafe).


    2) See if your locality uses oxygenated (Reformulated or RF) gasoline in the winter. This gas formulation contains less energy and results in lower mileage. This alone can drop mileage by 2-3% minimum and more in some cases.


    3) Cold air is denser than Warm air, making it harder to push the car through and decreasing mileage.


    4) The Engine takes longer to reach operating temperature, and cools off faster due to cold air over the radiator, meaning it must run more often. Lots of people block a portion of the radiator in winter to cut down on this effect.


    5) The Engine is also providing your cabin heat, so it has to keep the coolant hot for you too.


    6) The Engine is also keeping the catalytic converters up to effective temperature, so even if the engine is warm, and you are warm, if the catalytic converters cool off, the Prius will run the engine to heat them back up. Remember, the Prius is tuned to minimize emissions, not maximize mileage. It will sacrifice mileage if necessary to keep the emissions system working at peak performance.


    7) The HV battery gets cold too. It's warmed by cabin air, and by charge/discharge cycling, so it won't be as efficient initially either.


    8) Short trips that don't let anything warm up will be even worse on mileage in the cold than they are under normal conditions. Gasoline doesn't combust as efficiently in a cold engine, so there's a double hit for short trips, which are bad enough even in warm weather.


    If you think your mileage drop is way out of line, get your dealer to check, but a drop of 5 MPG or more when going from 80 degrees to 20 degrees isn't surprising depending on all the possible factors.
  • cobicobi Member Posts: 2
    Thanks for the great info! Come on warm weather!
  • stevewastevewa Member Posts: 203
    QUOTE: Hey! Got a '05 and, although pleased in general with the car (av 48MPG - 500+ Miles per tank) I have a terrible issue. The CD player wont display titles of songs!


    ANSWER: Audio CDs don't normally contain the title and artist information. There is an exception, some CDs have a "CD-Text" logo which indicates they can provide this information on the display, but not many CD players support it. Your PC can display the titles because it looks at the CD and based on the tracks and times it looks up the info on the internet. Since we don't have internet in our cars yet, that doesn't work on the road :-)


    RDS is a system that sends short text messages from FM radio stations to your receiver. Many FM stations use this to display song titles and artists which you can see on your display when you bring up the audio screen. It also can indicate the "format" of the radio station which can allow you to categorize all the stations in your radio, but many stations change format often enough that the format info in the RDS stream may or may not match what the station actually airs :-).
  • pmichaels1pmichaels1 Member Posts: 4
    Thank you for your message. I had thought about this occurring because of the desire to get more cars out. I think it's an anomoly as well, though there was a Wall Street Journal in Fall '04 talking about some difficulties Toyota is having in maintaining the culture of quality throughout the world. But I wouldn't expect this to happen in the plant where the Prius is manufactured.
  • pmichaels1pmichaels1 Member Posts: 4
    Thanks for your reply. Glad you are having a good experience with your Prius. I loved my '01, so I'm a little envious.
  • stephanestephane Member Posts: 1
    Go to your dealer ask if your vehicle is included in the VIN break for TSB that is ther to resolve this issue.


    There is a redesigned "filler neck" to address the issue you are having. Only if your VIN applies if it is after counter measure you already have the latest part. If in that case you may have a defective gas tank (the tank is made up a metal body with a rubber bladder that expands and contracts, it may be defective).

    Consult with your dealer.
  • rab2rab2 Member Posts: 1
    Ironically, I replaced my 2002 Prius starter battery today! I have 24K miles on mine. I had problems with the started battery while it was under warranty (late last year). If I did not drive the car for over 4 days, I found my battery dead. This year, I left for a week (and had to charge the battery), left again for 4 days (and had to charge the battery) and finally gave up.

    I told the dealer that I had had the problem while under warranty, but to no avail. The new, heavy duty battery cost about $165 plus an additional $130 for the mounting kit. Then, yet another $60 to install it. So, consider yourself lucky that you only paid $200.

    I have a 2005 Prius on order. I hope it already comes with a heavy duty battery.

  • rfruthrfruth Member Posts: 630
    Does the `02 Prius even have a starter motor (the `04s sure don't, they use the big traction battery to start the ICE) as for telling the dealer you had a problem early on was it acknolged in writing ?
  • stevedebistevedebi LAMember Posts: 4,098
    "Does the `02 Prius even have a starter motor (the `04s sure don't, they use the big traction battery to start the ICE) as for telling the dealer you had a problem early on was it acknolged in writing ?"


    The 2004 Prius certainly does have a secondary battery, and I'm under the impression that the vehicle won't start without that battery working.


    Anyone out there ever started the 04 Prius with a dead secondary battery?
  • rfruthrfruth Member Posts: 630
    Did I say or imply that there was no secondary battery ? Didn't mean to cause there is and yes both need to be in good working order for the Prius to operate normally but back to the original post that said they replaced a 2002 Prius starter battery for $ 165+130+60 which would be a real sweetheart of a deal, not for the 12 v though which could be considered the starter battery...
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaMember Posts: 31,450
    not for the 12 v though which could be considered the starter battery


    A poster last year paid $300 for the 12 Volt battery in the Prius. It does seem high, but it is a Toyota. They did not get to be the highest profit automaker giving cars & parts away.
  • doyle99doyle99 Member Posts: 1
    I live in the northeast here (NJ) and do most of my driving between Jersey City, Newark and Manhattan. A lot of the posts I've read here are from folks in warmer climates. Does anyone posting on this board drive in the tri-state area and what if anything have you noticed about the Prius' ability to handle the hot / cold seasons? Also, I was thinking that having a Prius would be great for all of the city driving that I do, but after reading a lot of these posts, I'm questioning the mileage claims by Toyota. One other comment... I swear by the STP gas treatment stuff. When I bought my 89 Caddy about 6 years ago, it got 6.5 MPG. After using the STP treatment for about a year, I got 14 to 15 mpg in the city, and between 25 and 28 mpg on the highway (great for a land yacht). Anyone use any fuel additives in the Prius? If so, did it help?
  • amdcjamdcj Member Posts: 3
    I had a 2004 Prius for 6 months. I had a problem with the accelerator assembly. Toyota tried to fix it 5 times. I had to invoke the lemon law. Symptoms: As a accident evasive action I had to change lanes abruptly and accelerate full to go with the flow of traffic in the left lane. There would be a "Thump" and the acceleration would go the power of "IDLE" speed. This nearly caused two accidents as the car behind me did not see any brake lights but I was effectively braking hard. Once this happened the car would only go a maximum of 37 MPH! Toyota says the "codes" indicate the accelerator was in an "invalid position"! I checked all the forums and no one else had ever reported this problem. As a result of the lemon law I will be receiving a new 2005 Prius next week and of course will try "the maneuver" before accepting delivery.It seems to me that this would have come up with many other Prius drivers but since there was no reference in any forum I feel confident that it was truly just a lemon car. Other than this the Prius is my favorite car ever!!!!!!! 44-48 MPG average.
  • kemaxkemax Member Posts: 1
    I have a 2004 Prius,1 year old, and a month ago I could not get the audio system to work. Not the radio, tape, or disc player. When I go to audio I get "Audio Off" , and no matter which button I push, I get nothing. I took it to the local Toyota dealer, who said I needed a new system, which they ordered. It arrived 2 weeks later and they installed it, but when I tried it, It still did not function. They said that they would have to contact Panasonic for their technician to come and fix it. In the meantime the car sat on their
    roof for 2 more weeks with the dashboard torn apart. After two weeks they said that Panasonic does not have the part, and will have to backorder it from Japan. They did put the dashboard together,about 1 hour, and I now have an audio quiet car to drive.
    Has anyone else had that problem?
  • mcr1mcr1 Member Posts: 4
    I assume the Prius he ordered has the Automatic unlock feature. This feature is constantly using battery power to communicate with the Key Fob.
    You can deactivate it by a switch under the steering wheel. This will greatly reduce the cars need for electricity. From what I was told by my dealer, The car may still need to be jump started.
  • mcr1mcr1 Member Posts: 4
    It does take some getting used to. But it is fine for me now . (I have had mine for a year, Not that it took me that long)
    I actually find the "A" pillars are more distracting. They are so big and slanted it is hard to see into a turn. But I still love mine
  • mcr1mcr1 Member Posts: 4
    YES!!! I will loose a little from 20-35 degrees
    (maybe 2-3 mpg: I get 38mpg as compared to 41mpg overall)
    But when it gets down to 0 to 10 degrees. I got barely 30 mpg. This was mostly city, but even when I got on the Highway, it did not pick up much
  • mcr1mcr1 Member Posts: 4
    I have found that my MPG drops significantly when temps get to 0 to 10 degrees.
    I normally get 41mpg i was getting 30mpg during that frosty weather in January
  • md_sailormd_sailor Member Posts: 6
    I was driving home last week in my 04 Prius, watching the mpg reading creep up to 48.0, when I stopped at a stop sign. Immediately after starting up, my dashboard lit up with multiple failure warnings, including "VSC", the red triangle around an exclamation point, a yellow circle with exclamation point, etc. The car continued forward, but just on battery power. Since I was only 2 miles from home I decided to continue, and made it into my driveway by coasting the last 1/2 mile.

    The car then stopped and would not move forward. I turned it off and read some of the manual. After a few minutes, I pressed the "ON" button and this time the gas engine started, although the mass of warning lights stayed on. I got the car into the garage, where I left it running to charge the battery (garage door open of course). While I called Toyota, the car stopped.

    After having it towed on a flatbed to Toyota the next day, the car was fixed by reprogramming the ECM (engine control module). So far there is no explanation from Toyota for the failure, I'm trying to work my way up to someone who actually knows something about the computers. My confidence in this car, and Toyota, was badly shaken by this incident.

    Before this incident, my Prius ran perfectly for 12,900 miles. Summer mileage is 48 to 52 mpg, winter is 40 to 46 mpg. Mileage is much better in warm weather.

    Has anyone gotten a real explanation for similar failures? How many 04 Prius's have had the same problem? I see a few others at post #40 here.
  • md_sailormd_sailor Member Posts: 6
    My 04 Prius went for an oil change, then ran roughly. Mileage was reduced a little, but since it was also colder I did not attribute it to anything else.

    Now, after taking the Prius for service, (see post #134) it turns out that the service technician put nearly a QUART TOO MUCH OIL in the car! According to the service manager, this will make the car run roughly.

    Always check the oil level yourself- it is critical to proper performance of this car, and unbelievable to me until I saw it happen that the service person could be so careless.
  • kornklankornklan Member Posts: 29
    Does anyone out there have any problems with the smart entry system? When I use it to open the drivers door, only that door unlocks. I then have to unlock the other doors from inside. However, when I use the smart entry system to open the hatchback, all the doors unlock. I thought that all doors should unlock when you use the smart entry system to unlock the drivers door.

    Is this the way the system is supposed to work or do I have a problem?
  • tempusvntempusvn Member Posts: 119
    "When I use it to open the drivers door, only that door unlocks. I then have to unlock the other doors from inside. However, when I use the smart entry system to open the hatchback, all the doors unlock."

    That's the default programming. If you use SKS to open the Passenger Door or Rear Hatch, all the doors will unlock.

    If you use it on the Driver Door, only that door will unlock.

    The defaults can be changed using just the key fob to program it I believe (some default changes require the scan tool).

    I think the instructions are in the manual.
  • kornklankornklan Member Posts: 29
    Thanks for the info. I'll try it and let you know how I make uout.
  • stevewastevewa Member Posts: 203
    Yep, I only give the service people 3.5 quarts of oil for this reason. One time I gave them one of those 5-quart jugs of Mobil 1 and they just poured the whole thing in there.
  • gs80gs80 Member Posts: 10
    MD_Sailor -- the same thing happened to me yesterday in my 04 prius with 8750 miles. I was driving along and suddenly the Red Triangle with exclamation point and yellow cicle with exclamation point came on. My speedometer also went blank (disappeared from the dashboard). I pulled over and called Toyota service. An hour later I got a tow truck. I could not get the transmission into neutral -- it would not move from park and I could not get the car to power off. During the wait, I also got error messages on the MSD about the brakes not working correctly and then the display flashed about two-three minutes and then went dead. We got to the dealer and luckily one of the sales guys was there. He could not figure it out, but said he'd seen several come in like that. When the tow truck driver was backing the car off the flat bed, there was a popping noise and the car seemed to reset itself -- and seemed to be working fine. I left it at the dealer and will let them look at it today. I'll keep everyone posted.
  • amdcjamdcj Member Posts: 3
    I have received my new 05 Prius (Option Pack 6 with leather interior) lemon law replacement. I tried "The maneuver" (see post 128) a dozen times and could not get it to fail. Maybe it is the addition of the VSC that option pack 6 has (my old Prius was an 04 Option Pack 3). The Navigation system in the new car is awesome. Right now I am a very happy Prius owner. 48-51MPG
  • hybrid2hybrid2 Member Posts: 1
    My 2004 Prius had the same problem that you describe. It has 24,000 miles. It also was towed and I have also lost confidence in this car. I have also not had a real explanation for this failure. The car was reprogrammed and we'll see how it goes.
  • rembelskirembelski Member Posts: 3
    we are having a problem with a reflection on the front windshield of our 05 prius at night-it is not subtle and the dealership says it has not heard of this but says it will try to follow up-they also suggested i try to contact toyota and i am not sure what to think now
  • tempusvntempusvn Member Posts: 119
    "we are having a problem with a reflection on the front windshield of our 05 prius at night"

    Do you mean the Dash Lights reflecting off the Windshield?

    First thing to do is find the roller knob to the lower left of the steering column (IE the Dash Light Dimmer) and turn it down.

    In it's upright and locked position, the dash lights will be on full, even when you have the headlights on.

    If you roll it down, the Dash lights will be on full when your headlights are off, but will be dimmed when you have the headlights on.

    If it seems to not be working, check the display settings in the MFD. It's possible to get the "Night Mode" and "Day Mode" of the dash hosed up in there.

    But, odds are it's just the dimmer switch.
  • gb2gb2 Member Posts: 1
    After 13 months &22,500 miles on 04 Prius had to replace Goodyear Integrity tires. I received an adjustment from my car dealer. Shortly after that I encountered a click in front end dash area when going over speed bumps or man hole covers. Nuts on McPherson struts had to be retorqued. Two days to find problem.
  • demos3demos3 Member Posts: 2
    Hi, my parents just bought an '05 Prius (delivered a week ago). Today I was fiddling with the screen and pressed a button that read "Display Off." The screen went dark and I couldn't turn it back on. When my mom pressed the audio button, we were able to see the audio controls, but the screen went dead again in about 15 sec. Plus, I couldn't find a way to undo what I had done -- there was the "Display Off" button but no "Display On" button. Seems like it will stay lit for 15 sec. or so and then go dark. Does anyone know how to fix this?

    Also, the buttons on the steering wheel (and a few assorted other buttons) are extremely dim. When I used the dimmer on the dash (to the left of the steering wheel), it lit up everything BUT these buttons. Does anyone know how to adjust these buttons? (The steering wheel buttons, including the CD changer, the rear defroster, the front defroster buttons and more.)

  • mof1mof1 Member Posts: 6
    I am thinking of buying a Prius, I have a Rav4 which is great in the snow. How has anyone found the Prius in the snow I drive back roads to work, and need something reasonable to drive on bad snowy days.
  • md_sailormd_sailor Member Posts: 6
    Prius is the worst car I have ever driven in snow, my 04 has the "traction control" and it is programmed so that the wheels will not spin any faster than about 3 mph! This is very frustrating when you are in 1" of snow over asphalt and just a little 10-15mph spinning (when the car is not moving) would easily clear away the snow and move the car forward.

    I put the Prius in the garage the minute any bit of snow falls and get into a real snow-worthy vehicle where I can spin all four wheels if I'm on ice (F250 4WD).

    Prius is a great warm weather car, 50+ mpg for me when the temp is above 60.
  • md_sailormd_sailor Member Posts: 6
    I sent a two page letter to Toyota Motor Sales, FAX#310-468-7814. They responded by having someone call me who said that Toyota's message to me was: "wait and hope that it doesn't happen again". They refused to provide a written response to my specific questions about the computer failure, and said that I would only hear from them if they had a recall on the car. My 04 has been flawless since the reprogramming, but I do not have the same confidence in the car since no explanation for the failure was given.

    Please post any similar experiences, Toyota seems to be just burying these failures, but together we can find out how widespread they are.
  • jrct9454jrct9454 Member Posts: 2,363
    Are you using real snow tires, or depending on the OEM Goodyears? If the latter, it is no wonder that the car won't go anywhere in the snow, traction control or no traction control.

    This car is no worse than any other fwd car in the winter IF you put the proper tires on it [one of the earliest buyers, who used to contribute regularly to this forum, lives in Minnesota, and never had a problem]. The OEM GY Intregity tires are a particularly poor choice in snow.
  • cericceric Member Posts: 1,092
    Hi, my parents just bought an '05 Prius (delivered a week ago). Today I was fiddling with the screen and pressed a button that read "Display Off." The screen went dark and I couldn't turn it back on. When my mom pressed the audio button, we were able to see the audio controls, but the screen went dead again in about 15 sec. Plus, I couldn't find a way to undo what I had done -- there was the "Display Off" button but no "Display On" button. Seems like it will stay lit for 15 sec. or so and then go dark. Does anyone know how to fix this?
    You should have pushed the "Info" button again. The screen would come right back and never disappear again. I tried it last night, and it seems to work fine.
  • growler5growler5 Member Posts: 67
    The tires on a Prius are too skinny to give you much traction. You are at a disadvantage even though the Prius is a front-wheel drive and most of the weight is over the front tires.

    That said, if you know how to drive in the snow, you should be fine. Based on experience with a '02 Prius (wife's car) and a '05 Subaru Forester (mine, and somewhat comparable to the Rav4), you'll have to pay more attention to the road conditions and the way the Prius is responding to the white stuff than you would with the Rav4.
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