1. Autos
Send to a Friend via Email
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Maintaining Your Hybrid Vehicle

By

2007 Toyota Prius - Maintain your hybrid vehicle

2007 Toyota Prius

photo © Toyota

Sometimes it helps to get the basic questions out of the way before you dive into the technicalities. We get lots of the same questions about hybrids over and over (Don’t hybrids cost a lot to maintain? Aren’t the batteries expensive to replace? Are hybrids safe to drive?) So if you have these and other hybrid questions burning in your brain, pop on over to our hybrid FAQ corner and put your mind at ease.

Hybrids differ little from regular vehicles when it comes to routine maintenance items. Other than the systems that control the on-board storage batteries and the additional electric drive motor, routine maintenance for hybrids follows pretty much lock step with your father's Oldsmobile. Follow our routine vehicle maintenance schedule to make sure you have all of the basics covered.

If operated as designed, full hybrid vehicles have the ability to shut off their internal combustion engines and operate on the electric motor only under certain conditions. (e.g. low speed maneuvering and light cruising). Needless to say, the engine doesn’t work as hard resulting in reduced wear and tear. Hybrids also often employ regenerative braking systems that both charge the batteries and reduce wear on brake components.

So What’s the Difference?

Well, much of the drive train is different. Because of the way that the internal combustion engine, the electric drive motor and the transmission are mated together to work more or less as an entity, a malfunction in one component can affect the way the others function. Serious troubleshooting, diagnosis and repair of this system is best left to professionals.

Maintenance tip:

You can check the transmission fluid, change out spark plugs and fuel and air filters, but delving much deeper does require specialized training.

Sophisticated Electronics

The complex electronic modules that control the electric drive motor for both propulsion and regenerative braking can generate enormous amounts of heat, so those often have their own dedicated cooling systems.

The battery control modules regulate both charge and discharge rates as well as the state of charge of the entire bank. To operate consistently under all conditions, these systems will often employ both heating and cooling systems.

Maintenance tip:

When performing the regular maintenance on the engine cooling system, remember to check the individual hoses, pipes and clamps as well as any additional filters that may be used on the motor and battery cooling/heating system.

Be Safe - Beware the Orange

Hybrids generally are equipped with dual voltage systems. Though most of the electrical system is safe standard 12-volt, the drive motor and related components operate well in excess of 100 volts. The safety threshold is low and narrow, an electrical shock with as little as 50 volts can prove fatal. To warn technicians and operators of these high voltage circuits, the cables are wrapped in a bright orange casing. To safely maintain and repair these components, the system must be de-powered, a task that is absolutely best left to trained technicians.

For routine maintenance on your hybrid vehicle, see our General Routine Maintenance for Alternative Fuel Vehicles.


Check out some other great Alternative Fuel Vehicle Maintenance articles.

The Alternative Fuel Bible: Find Answers to Your Fuel & Vehicle Questions

More Hybrid Information:

Hybrids 101
Why is electricity an alt fuel? How exactly do mild, full and plug-in hybrids work? Plus FAQs about hybrids.

Hybrid Buying Guide
Check out the photos and test drives of current hybrid models, plus the lowdown on up-and-coming models.

Hybrid Tax Credits & Rebates
They go hand-in-hand: reduce your taxes and greenhouse gas contribution when you buy a hybrid vehicle.

Learn More at Hybrid Central.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.