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Hybrid Vehicle Service and Maintenance

A hybrid vehicle is one in which the motive power is supplied by two merged sources. Most often the hybrid power comes from a gasoline powered internal combustion power-plant and an electric motor driven by a battery pack.  The gasoline engine in the hybrid vehicle is serviced in the same manner as in any other internal combustion engine vehicle; the oil and filter must be changed and the other fluids and lubricants must be checked and changed in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.  The electrical power unit requires little maintenance, but there are servicing procedures that should be followed, as outlined in the owner’s manual.

Hybrid vehicles have been proved to be very reliable.  Toyota Prius owners in North America have yet to report any failure of the nickel-metal hydrate battery pack.  The same holds true for both Ford and Honda hybrids.  General Motors had a problem in a Saturn model, but that was traced to a supplier defect, not a failure in the hybrid drive system.  Power cords and connectors are one area of the electric drive that should be checked routinely for tightness and corrosion, a problem in some Honda models. 

The primary service and tune-up protocol involves the vehicle fluids.  Only the Ford Escape hybrid requires anything out of the ordinary; a special oil filter is needed for the gas engine.

The best service facilities for hybrid vehicles are the factory dealerships, particularly during the warranty period.  These dealers have factory-trained technicians who are most familiar with the hybrid technology and have the special tools with which to perform services and repairs.  The gasoline engine may be serviced by anyone qualified to change oil and filters, because there is little or no difference between these and non-hybrid cars or light trucks.  By the time a hybrid vehicle warranty expires, there will probably be enough independent mechanics familiar with the systems so that there are other options for servicing the entire system, both gas and electric. 

The service interval for the hybrid vehicle should be longer than on a conventional vehicle, because neither part of the system is operating all the miles driven.  The oil change cycle may be adjusted to as much as fifty percent longer than with the conventional car or truck. 

There are many “urban myths” about hybrid vehicles, most of them spread by drivers of gas-guzzlers trying to justify their choice of wheels.  Most, if not all, of the myths are false.  The battery packs don’t fail or “go flat.”  Information is that Toyota has yet to replace a battery on a Prius and they have been around for nine years.  EMTs will rescue people from wrecked hybrids, not fearing any “shocking” experience. 

The electric engines don’t have to be replaced periodically.  In fact, the electric side of the unit is used mostly in city driving, so the average driver will probably be using the gasoline-powered side more than the electric.  Most hybrid vehicles will operate for hundreds of thousands of trouble-free miles and many years without problems.

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