When my daughter was in Chicago for a visit, she and her husband left for the five hour ride home, but within a few minutes she called saying the car would not go faster than 15 miles an hour. Instead of using the electric motor, the car would only run on the gas powered engine, which is meant only to get the car moving, then it is supposed to automatically switch back to electric. We had her come back, while we looked into a fix.
After much research, it seemed that one or more of the battery cells may be dead. I called many repair shops in the area and only two would attempt a repair or replacement, but they had over a month wait period to get the car serviced. Plus they wanted anywhere from $2500-$5000 to fix or replace it. Being the adventurous type, I decided I would watch some Youtube videos and do it myself. I have become a pseudo-expert on many topics from Youtube.
I enlisted the help of one of my employees, Mike Wszalek, who is much more technical than me and we proceeded to study all the info on Prius battery repairs and how to get to it. “This is going to be easy!” I said, as Mike punched me for cursing us by saying that out loud. As it turns out, of course, the battery is located beneath many layers. First step, remove the seating and trunk area.
We were extremely meticulous about the order and placement of bolts removed so we could put them back in properly, the next step was to remove the battery, that big red thing in the photo. This is way bigger and heavier than both of us realized.
Thanks to the numerous Youtube videos, we managed to get the battery out and removed the cover. There are so many battery cells to remove and test, it was daunting. Plus we were both a little worried it would explode if we accidently shorted something, or kill us both.
We removed each cell individually from the bus bar and tested it’s voltage. Only two of them were out of minimum voltage limits, so we were surprised that this caused any type of issues in the first place. I went on eBay and quickly found refurb cells that were guaranteed to work. It took a few days to receive them, and we replaced the dead cells, which was fairly easy. The last task was to close up the battery and re-install it in the car.
We managed to get the car back together, by mounting all parts back in the reverse order that we removed them. The big test was to start up the car and let it run for awhile to charge the battery. I took it around the block a few times and no issues. The car was driven back home and everything was back to normal. Would I do this again? Yes, but only if someone paid us a small fortune. This was a highly technical repair that had many risks. But overall I feel that I helped my daughter save at least $2500.
Total repair cost = $45 for replacement cells.
Total repair time = About 10 hours.