Toyota dealer wanted $4,400 to repair hybrid battery, fix turned out to cost $10

Toyota dealer wanted $4,400 to repair hybrid battery, fix turned out to cost $10

By Ryan Whitwam Feb. 17, 2015 5:01 pm hybrid battery

Cars are a lot more complicated than they used to be with less modular designs and more technology under the hood. That makes repairs more difficult and expensive, and then you figure in the giant lithium-ion battery cells for hybrid and electric vehicles. If something goes wrong with those, you could be looking at a monumental repair bill… or maybe not. One Toyota Camry Hybrid owner managed to avoid an unnecessary $4,400 bill with a simple $10 fix. I know this sounds like clickbait, but it appears to be legit.

Christopher Orgeron had a problem that sent him to the local Toyota dealer. See, his Camry Hybrid’s battery had stopped working. There were error messages on the dash and the gas engine was running full-time. That certainly sounds like an expensive problem, and the dealership confirmed it — the battery needed to be completely replaced. It would cost $4,400. So much for saving money on gas, right?

Orgeron knows a thing or two about electronics and apparently has enough reckless disregard for his sanity to yank the battery out of his car to see if the dealership was right. Hybrid batteries like the one used by Toyota are made up of many smaller cells. If one of these cells goes bad, it can cause the entire battery to stop working as they are linked together in series. A single cell can be replaced for about $50, but you have to partially disassemble the battery to check each cell.

After wrestling the nearly 100 pound battery out of the car, Orgeron carefully took the buss bars that connect the individual cells and tested each one. It almost goes without saying, but you should be careful messing around with a high voltage battery. All the cells seemed fine, which was unexpected. He then turned his attention to the heavily corroded copper connectors on the buss bars. After cleaning them and reinstalling the battery, everything started working again. All it took was some vinegar and baking soda, total cost under $10.

It’s not likely the Toyota dealership was trying to scam this hybrid owner on purpose. Replacing the battery is probably the correct response in almost all cases where a battery stops working and produces certain error codes. You probably won’t save thousands of dollars taking your car apart, even if you do know what you’re doing. Still, maybe Toyota should include a quick cleaning in the service guide.

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