Some Hybrid history and information

The first hybrid, Honda's 2000 Insight, is still the fuel economy leader. Though considered ugly by some (don't say that to an owner or a fan; they love the look!) this two-seater, 1800 pound, aluminum body car can crank out 60 mpg. It was discontinued in 2006 due to low demand but it has proved to be a reliable car, if a bit unpractical for a family. It features the basic configuration of a parallel hybrid. The gasoline engine is very small for good economy, but the electric motor bolted to the back of the gas engine provides extra power for acceleration. The braking and decelerating provide what is called regeneration; that is, the electric motor becomes a generator that will recharge the hybrid battery. The electric motor also provides for high speed spinning of the motor for starting and allows for the function of idle stop, meaning the engine will shut down at a stop sign, saving fuel and emissions.

Toyota's first and highly successful Prius, 2001 to 2003 body style. Toyota engineers got it right from the start. This car will run on electric power only up to about 25mph if you accelerate very gently. This design seems to have taken hold as the model to follow. It incorporate all of the characteristics described in the Insight above, but is far more sophisticated, with two electric motors that work through a planetary gear set in the transmission instead of being bolted right to the engine. The beauty of the Prius is that it will suffice as a family car, even though the trunk space is a bit limited due to the size of the battery pack. Gas mileage claims vary, but 40-45mpg seems to be a believable number based on reliable testimony. Our Prius hybrid has very high miles, 198,000, and the average mileage for the last 7000 miles registers at around 42mpg. The series-parallel hybrid design allows for maximum fuel savings in around-town driving with minimal hybrid repair or hybrid battery repair.
Note: Our Prius had the ORIGINAL BATTERY until December, 2011 and we replaced it as a precaution, not because it had failed, so some of these will go the distance and the time. If you are interested in buying a used Prius, we can give you good data on the condition of the battery.

Realizing that Toyota had done them better by producing a practical family car in their Prius 4 seater instead of the two-seater Insight, Honda reacted by coming out with the Civic Hybrid in 2003. Its hybrid design concept is very similar to that of the Insight. I considered buying one of these cars new for my wife back in 2004, but opted instead for a used, very low mileage 2000 Accord. I was unimpressed with the power offered by the constant variable automatic transmission used in the Civic hybrid, though it was smooth in its operation. Fuel economy on the Civic hybrid is good, but not as good as the first Honda hybrid, the Insight, and generally a bit lower than the Prius, but not much. Like the Prius, these cars have been very reliable with out the need for much hybrid repair.

The 2nd generation Prius, so familiar to us now, has outsold every other hybrid by a large margin. This model added some luxury and a distinctive body style to the Prius, as the first body style was built around the Toyota Echo. It also added an electric air conditioning compressor so the vehicle could shut off the engine even if the AC was on. Our 2002 Prius has only a belt driven compressor for the AC.

Our 2004 Prius is also a high-mileage vehicle with 130,000 miles. It gets about 45mpg around town and similar on the road at 70mph. If I am not in a hurry, and slow down to about 60mph, I can increase the mileage to close to 50mpg. In a recent trip to visit my granddaughter in Southern Idaho, we averaged 43mpg over 1900 miles, driving between 70-80mph with a pretty stiff headwind both directions.

The Ford Escape hybrid, released in 2004 as a 2005 year model, borrows many of the features of the Toyota Prius. In fact, I've been told that Ford paid for the use of over 100 Toyota patents in the design of their hybrid Escape. I know of one automotive trainer who drives an Escape hybrid. He reports an average fuel economy of 30mpg.

Toyota added the Camry to its offerings of hybrid vehicles in May of 2006. It offers somewhat better fuel economy as compared to the standard Camry and more luxury and power as compared to the Prius. This car has been very successful for Toyota and is the number two best selling hybrid in the US.

Like the big SUVs at the end of this page, the Toyota Highlander is in a class of its own. Released in 2006, it strikes me as being the wealthy environmentalist feel-good-while-enjoying-luxury vehicle. With a price tag of well over $40,000, any savings on gasoline is eaten up by the cost of the vehicle. As a four-wheel drive, this vehicle boasts THREE electric motor/generators, with the rear drive being entirely electric. The vehicle uses extremely sophisticated technology and is priced accordingly.

Nissan is a bit of a Johnny-come-lately in the Hybrid game, and if fact the 2007 Nissan hybrid drivetrain is all Toyota, with the exception of the engine, which is a Nissan. This car is very comparable to the Camry hybrid, but with the larger size in the future owners may need to consider hybrid battery repair because of the size and latency of the technology.

General Motors entered the Hybrid field in 2006, with the 2007 Saturn Vue Hybrid. (Actually, they had a vehicle before this one, a Chevrolet pickup, but it was only sold to fleets and I have never seen one on the road so I don't discuss it here.) GM decided on a low cost, low tech strategy. As seen in the photo, or rather the drawing above, the Saturn Vue uses what is called a BAS system, or Belt-Starter-Alternator system. It is basically a heavy duty brushless electric motor/generator that is attached to the motor in the same way an alternator would be. Unlike the other hybrids, this one uses only 36 volts instead of 144 volts and up on all other imported vehicles and the Ford Escape. Also unlike the others, the Saturn Vue (and later Saturn Aura and Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid) is built on the same assembly line as the standard Vue. GM likes to call this a 'mild hybrid' due to its limited differences from a standard, non-hybrid vehicle. While the fuel savings are modest, the difference in price from a standard vehicle is also modest. I don't know anyone who owns one of these vehicles so I can't give any accurate estimates about the fuel economy.

This is the 2008 Chev Malibu that uses the BAS mentioned above. I have heard reports of over 30mpg on the non-Hybrid Malibu, so it is likely that the Hybrid model will be able to improve on that number. Once again, the benefit is available at a very reasonable additional cost, and from a service standpoint for Phil's Auto Clinic, there is very little additional tooling needed which in the end means less hybrid repair and or hybrid battery repair to be exact.

These two monsters are in a different ball game all together as compared to the GM Mild Hybrid offerings. The GMC Yukon and the Cadillac Escalade are what we call 'Strong Hybrids', using extremely sophisticated technology. The benefit is some very significant fuel savings as compared to non-hybrid full-size SUV's. For me the question is whether or not the public is willing to pay a huge price for the expensive hybrid option and when it comes time for the hybrid battery repair on these larger vehicles the hybrid repair is also not as affordable because of the size.

Hybrid Battery Repair

Installing the high voltage battery in a Honda Insight
A hybrid vehicle uses two power sources to move the vehicle. Hybrids consist of a combination of an internal combustion engine and one or more electric motors. Hybrid vehicles have become widely popular in recent years due to their excellent fuel economy. Our Auto repair shop has become dedicated to offering vehicle owners top of the line hybrid repairs.

Phil's Auto Clinic in Hemet has been offering top of the line auto repair since 1984. In more recent years we have become expert professionals in hybrid battery repair. Hemet residents know the technicians at Phil's know their stuff when it comes to hybrids, battery service or otherwise. We are certified and trained to handle all major and minor repairs on all types of vehicles including hybrids.

So, can a Toyota Prius hybrid battery, Honda Civic hybrid battery or a Honda Insight hybrid battery actually be successfully repaired rather than replaced? In the case of the Toyota, much depends on mileage and plans for the vehicle. Individual battery cell replacement is certainly possible. At issue is how long the rest of the cells will last and what drives the answer to that question is the miles and age of the vehicle, plus the type of driving it has been doing. In the case of the Honda, we have not found it to be prudent to mix old and new cells in the packs. Therefore, we only recommend replacement of ALL cells in the Honda packs.

As a certified NAPA AutoCare Center, Phil's Auto Clinic offers the personal feel of a family owned business while still being able to offer the benefits of an established entity. Our dedicated mechanics understand the importance of having your vehicle running at its best that is why we treat each vehicle as if it were our own. It is important for vehicle owners to trust their mechanic. Phil's Auto Clinic offers a sense of personable gratification to customers who bring in their vehicles.

Whether your vehicle requires an auto repair or you need hybrid battery repair, come on down to Phil's Auto Clinic today or contact us.

Prius Hybrid Transaxle Repair

Do you have a master warning light on in your Prius? Does your car have a 'juddering' feel when you take off from a stop' That's the big triangle that comes with some kind of a message on the display panel. If you have this message, and a scan of the codes in the hybrid vehicle computer shows a code P3125, sub code 237, or a code P3009 (High Voltage Leak) Toyota's diagnosis will almost always be that the transaxle needs to be replaced. On the 2004-2009 Prius, the code will often be P0AA6 (Hybrid Battery Voltage System Isolation Fault) which sounds like a bad battery but it is more often in the transaxle. Often on the 2001-2003 Prius, the charge for this comes close to exceeding the value of the car. If you get this diagnosis, please give us a chance to see if we can save you considerable money by just replacing the electric motor components in your transaxle that have failed. Some pinpoint diagnosis is required and not every transaxle is repairable, but most are. It might be the difference between repairing your car versus junking it.

Our repair reduces the cost by replacing only the electrical components that fail. Below the procedure is outlined. First, the inverter is removed to gain access to the upper transmission mount.
The inverter is the component that fills up about half of the engine compartment under the hood. The unit is cooled by coolant and the same cooling system as the transaxle. The coolant must be drained before removing this component.

Here the Toyota Prius transaxle has been lowered enough to remove the back plate. You can see the burnt spots on the windings of the electric motor which in this case caused the high voltage leak code but no other symptoms. This car drove and operated fine but had the master warning light illuminated.

The motor windings and rotor are removed and replaced. The magnets in this motor are very strong. It takes two technicians to install the motor windings because the magnets want to pull the rotor back out of the transaxle.

Potential problems with Toyota Prius transmission repair: There are other parts in the Toyota Prius transaxle that may fail. We have had two transaxles that suffered a bearing failure in the planetary gear set after the electric part was replaced. Fixing this requires transmission removal and tear down. Parts are available to fix the failed bearing. The other alternative is installation of a low mileage used Toyota Prius transaxle.

Insight Battery Repair

We have new (rebuilt) and used battery packs available. This trickle charger keeps used batteries in top condition, ready for installation. Our rebuilt battery packs use ALL NEW cells, unlike Honda's packs that only replace bad cells.

Among the many hybrid vehicles that are available today, the Honda Insight still holds the record for the very best fuel economy. My own Honda Insight has a lifetime fuel economy of 58mpg. Though sold in limited numbers, it is a popular commuter car with Los Angeles vehicle owners. I recently found out that replacement batteries from Honda are NOT new, but rebuilt using a mix of new and old cells. In other words, Honda replaces only cells that have failed.

New battery in my 2000 Insight. Average mileage is more like 58mpg but an 8mpg improvement over the old battery
The electric motor of the Insight is complicated and requires special equipment and knowledge. Your technician needs to know how to properly perform Insight battery repair. Phil's Auto Clinic is dedicated to helping hybrid owners with diagnostics of IMA system lights and if necessary, with their hybrid battery repair.

Since 1984 Phil's Auto Clinic has been providing vehicle owners honest and professional vehicle repair and service. Every technician is ASE certified and is dedicated to helping their customers leave their shop with their vehicles in better condition than when they came in. Being a family owned business has allowed Phil's to offer a personable approach to vehicle repair. We are a certified Napa Auto Care Center, thus allowing us to operate as a family owned business, but offer the benefits of a nation-wide warranty program and support network.

Hybrid vehicle tires (Low Rolling Resistance)

Those of you who own a hybrid vehicle probably know by now that tires for these cars present different problems as opposed to a conventional car. Front tires wear out at twice the rate of rear tires and buying the less expensive conventional tire will often knock several miles per gallon off the fuel economy.

I have a tire I'd like to recommend, the Cooper GFE tire. We can install a set of these on your Prius for under $500 out the door. I am running them on my own 2004 Prius and so far I am very pleased with the very quiet and stable ride, with no deterioration in fuel economy.

This Cooper tire has low noise and good handling characteristics.
If you are less concerned about optimum fuel economy, we have several other tires that will meet your needs of less money, though they are not of the low-rolling-resistance variety.

Saturn Hybrid battery Repair

Even though Saturn hybrids are not as common as other hybrid vehicles, there are a number of them out on the road today. GM orphaned the Saturn line-up by discontinuing production during their 2009 bankruptcy and bailout, and GM technicians are no longer trained in the service of the Saturn Hybrid. So it is more than important to make sure your Saturn is in the right hands. Though quite different from other hybrids, the Saturn is gas-electric powered. Not only does it run on gasoline, but it also uses a special battery with a heavy duty belt-driven motor-generator. Early Saturn hybrids had a recall issued on the hybrid battery and very few of them have failed since. However, a mechanic has to be familiar with this vehicle in order to properly repair and service it.

Phil's Auto Clinic offers top of the line Saturn hybrid repair, Los Angeles residents should know and appreciate this. We are a family owned business and are dedicated to offering honest and professional services. Each technician is ASE certified and has the necessary experience that is required for Saturn hybrid repair. We are also a certified Napa Auto Care Center which allows us to offer the personal feel of a family-owned business while still providing the benefits of a nationwide warranty and support network.

Ford Escape Hybrid Repair

Along with all of the other hybrids on the market, the Ford Escape Hybrid Los Angeles has become widely popular. It is a mid-sized SUV that was introduced to the U.S. market in 2004. Similar in technology to the Toyota Camry Hybrid, it is a mid-sized SUV that get fuel economy around 35-38mpg on the highway, almost as good as the Camry and Nissan Altima Hybrids. Just like any other hybrid, it takes a very skilled person to repair it. Ford Escape Hybrid repair is something that a technician has to know inside and out in order to repair it properly. Phil's Auto Clinic offers top of the line Ford hybrid repair. The certified and experienced technicians work honestly and efficiently in order to get you and your vehicle back on the road safely.

Los Angeles residents have been trusting Phil's Auto Clinic since 1984 to keep their vehicles running properly. Phil's is a family owned business and pride themselves in providing honest and professional repair and maintenance services. You guaranteed to get only an ASE certified technician. Phil's is also a certified Napa Auto Care Center which allows them to keep the feel of a family owned business, but offer the benefits of a nationwide warranty and a respected support network.

Prius Repair

The Toyota Prius is a full hybrid electric hatchback vehicle and Phil's Auto Clinic is your one stop shop for Prius repair. San Jacinto and surrounding areas have used Phil's Auto Clinic as the dealership alternative for Prius repair since 2008. Prius repair requires a very skilled hand. It is important that your mechanic be certified and trained in Prius repair. Since the Prius is propelled by battery as well as gasoline, it is also important that your mechanic know the ins and outs of the Prius battery so that they can repair it properly.

Phil's Auto Clinic technicians have expertise and training in the following specialty areas specific to the Prius hybrid:

  • Transaxle Service and Repair. See page on Prius transaxle repair for more detail.
  • Prius battery repair or replacement with rebuilt units. See page on Hybrid battery repair.
  • Prius Air Conditioning: Since the Climate Control is done through the Prius Multi-Function display, diagnosis and repair of the air conditioning system can be significantly different than a typical car.
  • Prius cooling system: The THS (Toyota Hybrid System) has two separate cooling systems; one for the gasoline engine and another for the hybrid-specific inverter and transaxle. Service procedures are different and there are as many as three different electric cooling pumps and an electrical switching valve that complicate the Prius cooling system. We know these systems very well and are competent to troubleshoot and service them.
  • Prius Emissions system: Smog checks start in mid-2013 on all hybrid vehicles that were formerly exempt. The Prius emissions system has many additional components since the car is rated a PZEV (Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle) beginning in 2004 (Gen 2). Phil's is your one stop shop for repair of check engine lamps.
  • Prius brakes: The Prius braking system, even in the 1st Generation Prius, is very complex due to its system of recharging the battery while braking. Even the usually simple job of brake bleeding is much more complicated on the Prius. Phil's has the tools, training, and expertise to get the job done right. The brake linings themselves typically have a very long life.

San Jacinto Prius owners trust Phil's Auto Clinic for all of their Prius repair and Prius battery repair. Phil's offers certified and experienced Hybrid technicians. Because we have made a specialty out of repairing hybrids, we can often suggest cost saving ways of getting your Prius back on the road without compromising safety or performance. We have been repairing vehicles and offering vehicle maintenance since 1984. As a family owned business, you get an intimate setting and personable approach to vehicle repair. We deliver honest and professional service and repairs. Phil's technicians are ASE certified and only use today's top of line equipment. Phil's Auto Clinic is also a certified Napa Auto Care Center. Our mechanics understand how important your vehicle is to your daily life and making sure that is runs correctly and properly is important. We work with you every step of the way making sure you understand what is going and how much it is going to cost. We do our best to get you the best prices available.

Honda Hybrid Battery Repair

New battery in my 2000 Insight. Average mileage is more like 58mpg but an 8mpg improvement over the old battery.

Hybrids vehicles are a vital part of reaching the goal of preserving our natural resources, i.e., burning less gasoline. With many of us trying to 'Go Green' to safeguard the environment for our children, hybrids are the perfect car to work toward this goal. Honda hybrids were introduced in the early 2000s and come in several different models, including the Insight, Civic, and Accord. When it comes to repairing or servicing a Honda hybrid it is important to take your vehicle to a technician who is experienced and certified to work on them. Hybrids tend to be more complicated as compared to conventional vehicle with more sophisticated electronics. Since they run on a combination of battery and gasoline power, your technician needs to be experienced in Honda hybrid battery diagnosis, service, and repair. Los Angeles vehicle owners are constantly on the go and their vehicles need to always be working to the best of their ability. That is why Phil's Auto Clinic offers top of the line Honda hybrid battery repair.

Since 1984 Phil's Auto Clinic has been offering Los Angeles top of the line, honest and professional vehicle repair and service. Our family owned business is ASE certified and uses today's top of the line equipment. We are qualified to work on foreign, domestic and hybrid vehicles. Phil''s is a certified Napa Auto Care Center and with that we are able to still provide the atmosphere and feel of a family owned business while being backed by the benefits of an established national auto company. Our personable technicians understand what an important part your vehicle plays in your life. It is our job to get you in and back out on the road safely. We treat each vehicle that comes into our shop as if it were our own. You can always count on Phil's Auto Clinic to be there when your vehicle needs us most.