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Repair Challenges for Hybrid Vehicles

Published on April 10, 2014 by in Blog, CATI

Since their introduction to the market several years ago, electric and hybrid cars have been under hard scrutiny. Critics feared the cars would be costly and problematic at the level of parts and maintenance, but so far, these fears have proven unfounded. Air filters, for example, need to be changed at roughly the same rate as a traditional car. Oil and brake pads actually need to be changed less frequently. One of the biggest attacks made on hybrids had to do with battery life and the cost of replacing one, but contrary to popular belief, hybrid car makers usually guarantee their batteries for at least eight years, or 80,000 miles.

High satisfaction level

The first generation of hybrid car engines are reaching 10 years in age and should provide a lot of information concerning the types of problems particular to hybrid cars. Hybrid car owners do not report problems at the rate that other car owners do. In fact, hybrid car owners report a high level of satisfaction when it comes to their ownership experience.

The exception to this is the vehicles of German automakers, who have yet to launch a reliable hybrid model. Unfortunately, the efforts of Audi, Porsche and Volkswagen haven’t proven fruitful so far.

Potential problems to keep in mind

Of course, nothing is perfect. Since a mechanic can only work on a hybrid if he or she has been trained by an auto mechanic course specialized in hybrid vehicles, the cost to service the sensors, computers or electrical components of the car will probably set you back more than for a regular car. The battery and other elements of the hybrid car engine that allow the transfer of power between the gas engine and the electric battery can be expensive to fix or replace in cases where damage or a defect arises.

In general, owners should also take the time to report any regular concerns or repairs in order for the carmaker to document any patterns or trends.

Some other potentially problematic areas include:

  • High voltage batteries: The auxiliary batteries generate sufficient amperage and voltage to potentially cause severe injury or death, so they should only be examined by technicians with special training. In the case of a collision, once air bags deploy, the high voltage system is disabled until repaired. Don’t try to repair the system yourself, even if you’ve taken a few courses from a mechanic school!
  • High voltage cable: Even trained technicians with specialized auto mechanic training in hybrid vehicles must be extremely cautious when working on and around the bright orange high voltage cable, as any damage to the cable can present a potential hazard.
  • Cooling system: More technical than the cooling system of a traditional vehicle. It takes more effort to replace, meaning it’s going to cost more. Thankfully, this maintenance won’t happen for about 100,000 miles, and perhaps your gas savings over that period of time will offset this cost.
  • Paint jobs: Manufacturers recommend that curing temperatures in paint booths be kept below 150 degrees to prevent damage to the hybrid batteries, which are very costly to replace.
  • Crash procedures: Lastly, you should know that hybrid carmakers have published safety and extrication procedures, training classes and manuals for use by police, fire departments, emergency medical teams and towing companies when responding to a collision involving a hybrid vehicle. If you’d like to consult these documents, try contacting your automaker.
 
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