The Toyota Prius 2nd Generation (2004-2009)
This in my opinion is the most best hybrid so far. It doesn’t beat the Insight in miles per gallon, but it has a lot more room and a lot of really cool technology. Until Toyota (or whoever) comes out with a diesel, all aluminum & plastic, plug-in version, this generation of Prius will likely continue to dominate the market. It used to be you’d have trouble finding your car in a parking lot if you bought an Accord or Camry. Now you are more likely to need your alarm remote to find out which Prius belongs to you. (well, in Berkeley at least). So far, this generation of Prius has been pretty break-down free. Most problems we’ve seen have been due to previous accidents or errors while servicing.
What can go wrong:
So far, this generation of Prius has been very reliable. Most of them are still under 60,000 miles (as of 07/07). We’ve registered Smart Keys, replaced tires, done alignments, and a bunch of servicing. However repairs have been limited to dead 12 volt aux batteries and crash related problems, such as unplugged coolant pumps, kinked thermos hoses, and an leaking coolant fitting on an MG2.
There is a recall for a software update to prevent the car from shutting down if the driver foolishly presses the power button while driving on the freeway. (It’s actually not that hard to do while reaching for the stereo). Funny, Toyota never came out and said the “stalling” was caused by driver’s pressing the power button, but I’ve tested this theory by first pressing the power while driving, and observing the “stall”. Then trying the same thing on the same Prius after the recall was done, and observing the power would not shut off until the car was stationary. Instead of saying “driver error” Toyota made a nebulous comment about program logic to allowing a the vehicle to enter a fail safe mode. They’re taking the high road I guess.
There is a recall on the lower steering shaft on the 2004-2006 Prius. The 2nd generation Prius, unlike the first generation Prius, has the electric assist motor on the steering column rather than the rack. This means the full torque of the driver’s input plus the motor assist, is going through the tiny little shaft and u-joints. Over the years we’ve had quite a few customers with non-EPS steering stubbornly refuse to fix their power steering when it breaks, opting instead the muscle their steering wheel when parking. This can lead to the same sort of problem, a broken steering column and no steering control. If you own an affected car, be sure to have this recall performed!
When it comes time to replace your tires (about 30K miles for most people) we have a better option for you.
The tires for this generation are *not* low rolling resistance / high load tires. The Goodyear tires that come with the 2004-2007 Prius are “Standard Load” and have load rating of 86. We stock two tires in this size that have a higher load rating , which should improve fuel economy a bit. One of the tires is the Toyo Proxes TPT (400AA, 88). The TPT is a good performance touring tire, but the Prius isn’t a performance car, so it’s not the best match for the car in my opinion. We also stock the MasterCraft Sensys 01 (620AB, 88). This is a long wearing tire with a nice ride, and so far, I think it’s the best match for the Prius. On the 2007 Prius, be sure to warn your tire installer about the TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) sensor. It must be removed and pushed into the tire before breaking the bead or it may be damaged. We had a customer who said a dealer had charged him $700 to install & register a new TPMS sensor after it was broken at a tire shop. ($700 seems a bit high, so there may be more to the story. We’d charge $207 in the worse case scenario for one TPMS sensor).
When the recommended air pressure of 35 PSI is used for the second generation Prius with the stock tires, the tend to wear on the outer edges. We recommend running 36 – 40 PSI, which will improve tire life and fuel economy, but does make the ride a little rougher.