A DEALERSHIP ALTERNATIVE FOR YOUR HYBRID
Are you looking for hybrid repair in Berkeley? Do you need a good mechanic to figure out what’s wrong with your Prius and repair it on the first visit? Or maybe you just need routine maintenance for your Toyota hybrid.
Art’s Automotive is a great Prius repair shop. And of course, we work on all of the other Toyota hybrids, which are rapidly becoming more popular, such as the Camry Hybrid, RAV4 Hybrid, Highlander Hybrid, the Avalon Hybrid, and the Corolla Hybrid, which so far hasn’t sold very well. Most people seem to choose the Toyota Prius instead.
Plug-in hybrids are also getting very popular, and we do diagnosis and in-house repair of on-board charging issues.
We also service and repair some of the Lexus hybrids like the CT200h, UX250h, RX400h and RX450h, and a few others. However, we don’t service all Lexus models.
Does that mean we don’t service Honda hybrids or the Subaru hybrids? No, we work on Honda and Subaru hybrids as well, and we have factory scan tools and all of the equipment for those as well. However, compared to the Toyota hybrids, Honda and Subaru barely sold any hybrids. We’re expert Prius mechanics because the Toyota Prius is what sold the most units, and that’s what we have the most experience with.
WHY NOT THE DEALER for hybrid repair?
Why not take your hybrid to the dealer? Aren’t they the experts? Well, first, it’s not “the dealer” it’s “a dealer”. Each dealership is an independent entity, just like independent garages.
Some Toyota dealers are great. Some of them are OK. And some of them are just plain awful.
I teach hybrid repair at Contra Costa College and many of my students work for dealerships. Sometimes a student will come in and teach me something new they’ve learned in training, which is really cool and makes me proud to see them learning and sharing.
Other students aren’t having such a good time. I had one tell me their dealership was discouraging apprentices from attending training because they would get an increase in pay as they became certified in different areas.
Can you imagine the culture at a dealership like that? A policy like that is so short sighted and misguided. I certainly would never want my car to go to a place like that!
To be clear, not all dealerships are bad, and there are many very skilled hybrid mechanics working at dealerships. However, dealerships tend to be more expensive than independent shops, and you’ll need to do your research before selecting one. If you’re looking for a Prius mechanic that charges fair prices, you might want to consider having us do your Toyota hybrid repairs instead.
EXPERIENCE IN HYBRID REPAIR
Just because some dealerships are bad doesn’t make Art’s Automotive good. So, why should you bring your hybrid to us? What makes us such a great hybrid repair shop?
One reason is that we’ve been doing this for a very long time. We’ve been repairing Japanese cars in Berkeley since 1980, and servicing hybrids since 2002 — just 3 years after the Honda Insight was first sold in the US.
I suppose it’s possible we’ve been doing a poor job of it for the last 18 years, but I don’t think that’s the case.
LEADERS IN THE INDUSTRY
As I mentioned, I teach hybrid repair at a local community college. I also helped write the ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) L3 test for hybrid competency that is used worldwide.
In addition, I’ve done technical writing for several publications, including publications distributed by two Japanese auto makers.
I also have sat on community college advisory boards and participated in NATEF (National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation) accreditation audits.
I’m not the only person at Art’s that has an impressive resume. Chris is also a published automotive tech writer, writing for Nissan TechNews magazine. He has also worked with ADM (Automotive Media Data) on a training video.
Plus, we have six ASE certified Master Technicians, and everyone here has been trained to work with what the automotive industry considers high voltage.
HYBRID TOOLS AND EQUIPMENT
The most important tool for repairing hybrid vehicles (or any vehicle for that matter) is a factory scan tool. Any car made in the last 5 years is going to have at least 20 control units connected on different networks. A generic OBDII scan tool connects to one control unit and can only access about 20% of the information on that one control unit.
Without a factory scan tool, any Prius mechanic will be lost and all he’ll be able to do for you is waste your money trying to figure out what’s wrong. Even some basic maintenance can end in serious problems if attempted without a factory scan tool.
FACTORY SCAN TOOLS
We have a factory scan tool for every make we repair, several for some of the more popular makes like Toyota. We do most hybrid diagnosis from the driver’s seat these days. Not while driving the car, but by pouring though the data recorded by the car’s control unit both before and after the problem occurred. Without a factory scan tool, you may as well use a Magic 8 Ball for diagnosis.
HIGH VOLTAGE hybrid battery CHARGER
Some Toyota hybrids can discharge the high voltage battery pack if the gasoline engine won’t start. Not even the dealerships had a charger in their tool kit in the early days.
We commissioned a high voltage charger, which we still have and use to this day. If you’re interested in the story, you can read the story in PDF format here in an article I wrote for Master Technician Magazine back in 2010. Master Technician Magazine is now gone, but the publishers are still going strong — http://automotivetechinfo.com/
We also have equipment for testing for isolation faults, which are a relatively common problem with hybrid vehicles. All automotive high voltage systems are isolated from the body of the car for safety. If a high voltage system shorts to the body of the car, a self-diagnostic routine will usually catch it and set a P3009 or P0AA6. (Here’s another funny case study with P0AA6).
Often, the computer disables the car for safety once it has come to a stop. The car will not start again until the trouble code is cleared from the computer. The car is actually still safe to drive with an isolation fault, but a mechanic would be in a bit more danger while repairing the car.
We have a tool typically called a “megger” or “megohmmeter”. Both of which are sort of like “Kleenex” — a brand name that’s become the most commonly used term. The generic name is an insulation tester. Anyway, we have a couple of these.
Using an insulation test meter, we can trace and then repair the source of the high-voltage leak.
ELECTRIC MOTOR TESTING
We also have equipment for motor testing, which is uncommon for dealerships and extremely uncommon for independent shops.
One of these tools is the milliohmmeter, which measures very small resistances such as motor stator windings.
The other tool is a tool called the AllTest Pro (not pictured). This is a tool that measures impedance (the combined effect of resistance and reactance) as well as being able to test permanent magnet rotors.
KEEP YOUR WARRANTY INTACT
One of the big fears people have is losing their warranty coverage. Many dealerships will play on this fear and imply (but usually not say outright because it’s not true) that taking the car to an independent will void the warranty.
To maintain your warranty, you’ll need to do the service outlined in your maintenance guide. You can’t skip items or do them late. If you use cheap parts and they cause a problem, then the manufacturer isn’t responsible for the repair.
However, any licensed repair shop can do the maintenance on your car. As long as they do all of the required work correctly with quality parts, your warranty will remain intact. We look up the maintenance items on the manufacturer’s website so there is no doubt the car is getting at least the minimum required to maintain warranty.
Optional hybrid service
Sometimes we will recommend additional service based on our experience with a particular vehicle. Or we will recommend additional service based on our opinion in general.
However, we don’t try to confuse the two. If a maintenance item isn’t required by Toyota, we’ll tell you that it’s our opinion, not a Toyota / Honda / Subaru requirement.
The hybrid transmission fluid in the picture to the right was 45K old. Toyota says hybrid transaxle fluid never needs to be replaced. We disagree.
The fluid should be bright red and translucent. When transmission fluid is dark purple, brown, or black, it’s not good anymore.
Regardless, we’ll let you know which items are required for warranty and which items are things that we here at Art’s recommend. It’s your car. You can choose your own maintenance philosophy and we’re not here to bully or guilt you into doing things our way.
A HYBRID MECHANIC FOR BATTERY REPAIR
We repair more Toyota Priuses than any other Toyota hybrid. Most shops can perform basic maintenance services and simple Prius repairs. But what if your Prius needs a more difficult repair or you need an expert to diagnose an electrical problem.
Hybrid battery reconditioning
A quick word on hybrid battery reconditioning. If a giant like Dorman can’t get it right, nobody else can.
I talked to Dorman engineer at SEMA. His program sounded amazing. Automated battery cycling, sorting, grouping, balancing and robotic filing and retrieval. Very cool!
But even if they manage to sort out the failures due to loss of isolation, the best possible outcome is a battery with less capacity than new. All batteries lose capacity over time. Why buy a rebuilt battery made up of old cells?
Hybrid battery cost isn’t too bad, at least for the Prius. In fact, a refurbished battery is usually about the same price. Why bother?
Do you need a hybrid battery?
Does your Prius really need a battery repair? We’re experts in hybrid battery repair and hybrid battery replacement, but also, more importantly, we know what we’re doing when it comes to diagnosis.
Given hybrid battery replacement cost, it makes sense to find a hybrid auto repair shop that can do more than just pull a trouble code and hope. A battery trouble code is only the starting point for battery diagnostics, not the conclusion.
For instance, if you consider a Prius hybrid battery code P0A80, the code description is “Replace hybrid battery pack”. And that’s where some hybrid techs stop. “Well, the computer said to replace the hybrid battery.”
However, if you read the service information, that’s not what Toyota expects a certified hybrid technician to do! There are additional checks to make sure the code wasn’t caused by the battery control unit or wiring.
WE DO ALL SORTS OF HYBRID CAR REPAIR
Electrical motor diagnosis, no problem. Inverter malfunction? We’ve got it covered.
When it comes to hybrid cars, we’re very comfortable. Problems with plug-in hybrid chargers. We can figure out what’s wrong for you.
Hybrid diagnosis and repair is what we know best. You don’t need to go to a Toyota dealership for hybrid repairs.
We can also repair what others can’t, and that includes Toyota service centers. We do advanced electrical repairs like combination meters in-house in a single day or fix your Prius odometer when it gets stuck at 299,999 miles. If you’re looking for a Prius mechanic who has experience and a Prius shop that has the necessary expertise, look no further.
A Hybrid repair shop in Berkeley
We’ve been servicing and repairing hybrids in Berkeley since 2002. When we first started fixing hybrid cars, there weren’t many other hybrid shops. Many mechanics were worried about high voltage and hybrid safety and refused to do hybrid service and repairs. Many shops referred hybrid vehicles to us.
It was nice to get the business, but I always wanted other auto technicians to see how similar hybrid vehicles are to conventional vehicles. It’s one of the reasons I started to teach hybrid repair. Over the last 22 years many repair shops changed their views on hybrids.
Now there are some good local hybrid mechanics with shops nearby, and we’ll even refer business to them when we’re overloaded. So, we’re no longer the only competent alternative to dealerships. However, we hope we’re the one you’ll choose.
If you were searching “hybrid repair near me”, we hope you’ve found this persuasive. If you’re still on the fence, check out some of the articles below.