On Friday February 4 my 2009 Prius died in the middle of
traffic while my fiancé was driving it. She could only get it to start enough to limp the car onto a side street. She called AAA to have the car towe
traffic while my fiancé was driving it. She could only get it to start enough to limp the car onto a side street. She called AAA to have the car towed to World Toyota because we've had the car serviced there before, and we live around the corner. Philip Vo was the service advisor assigned to the car when it arrived. I spoke to him and told him what had happened and why we were sending the car in.
He informed me that it would cost $150 to diagnose the problem. I asked him if I could come to the dealership and use my own OBD scanner so save the $150, but he said that was not possible.
After the diagnostic check, he reported that my hybrid battery needed to be replaced because of a POA80 code. Their report said that my 12v battery was bad and needed to be replaced. The report also noted that there was "Lot oil in the throttle body" and "need throttle body clean out". Mr. Vo verbally complained to me that the car was out of gas, and that they had to buy gas to even pull the car into the service bay. (side note- the gas gauge is inaccurate and the car had plenty of gas)
I decided to have the car towed back to my house and explore a cheaper option for replacing the hybrid battery than the $3k+ I was quoted by World Toyota. I had a Prius battery tech at my house the same day (February 5) to replace the hybrid battery. This is where things got interesting, and much more frustrating.
The World Toyota technician had cleared the trouble codes from my Prius. The battery tech did not find a POA80 code, or any other trouble codes. I called Mr. Vo several times to have him send me the complete list of diagnostic codes from my car, but after an hour or so he only sent me the POA80. According to the battery tech, there are always additional codes with a POA80 that provide more information. I drove around with the tech for several miles to try and reproduce the issue, but the car was fine.
He noted a few things about the car that I found interesting:
1. First of all, he checked the oil and found that it had WAY too much oil. We thought that might explain the oil in the throttle body the World Toyota tech reported. According to my diagnostic report, the World Toyota tech checked the oil and found the level acceptable.
2. My 12v battery tested to output 12.8v. The battery is actually less than a year old. It definitely does NOT need to be replaced as the World Toyota tech stated.
3. When we were driving around, the battery tech noted that the hybrid system status on the dash showed that the hybrid battery was charging normally. He also noted that my gas motor was shutting down and switching to the hybrid battery while we were in slow traffic. He told me that the gas motor does not shut down if the hybrid battery is defective. He also noted that the car is specifically designed to switch to the gas motor if the hybrid battery is bad, so there is no reason the car would shut down in traffic because of a hybrid battery failure. After driving the car, testing the car, and consulting 3 other experienced hybrid techs at his company it was determined that the hybrid battery did not need to be replaced.
I paid $350 for the service call to find out that basically everything the World Toyota tech said about my car was incorrect.
I took the car to my regular mechanic on Monday the 8th. It was one of his techs who had overfilled the oil for my recent oil change. I told him that the car had shut down in traffic and it had too much oil. He immediately apologized for his tech's mistake and jumped up to fix it. He told me that with too much oil, the car would build up too much oil pressure and that could cause the car to shut down to protect the engine. I would think a trained Toyota tech should know something like that.
He drained the extra oil and filled it to the proper amount. Since then the car has been driven every day. The car has traveled over 500 miles with absolutely NO issues. The hybrid battery is charging normally, and the car regularly runs on the hybrid battery at low speeds. The 12v battery starts the car with no issues at all. With the oil pressure straightened out, the car runs and drives perfectly.
After this experience, it appears that the World Toyota service department is more interested in upselling customers than accurately diagnosing their issues. The first thing the battery tech said when I told him the car had shut down in traffic was, "that wouldn't happen with a bad hybrid battery". Shouldn't a Toyota tech know that, and know to look for a different cause?! Or do they just plug up the diagnostic machine and report the POA80? I don't know if there were any additional trouble codes for my issue, because my report only has the POA80. I assume at this point that I only saw that code because that's the one that says I need a $3k repair.
If I had paid World Toyota the $4k they requested, my car would still have had too much oil in the crankcase, and most likely would have done exactly the same thing again. I would have replaced a working hybrid battery and a new 12v battery for nothing.
An everyday mechanic instantly diagnosed the problem and fixed it for free, when the "Trained" Toyota service tech couldn't even be bothered to note that there was an extra quart of oil in the crankcase.
I would hope that the World Toyota service team would be embarrassed when they read about my experience, but they can’t even be bothered to respond to my emails and phone calls. I paid World Toyota Service $204.23 for an incorrect diagnosis and a shake down.