Archive for July, 2016

Rebuilt Prius Batteries

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

I consider myself a Prius Specialist. There are other shops around that do as well. And I know for a fact there are a few independent shops in the bay area that service and repair more Prius’s on average than I do. However, I can say with confidence that our little two man operation has far more experience with them than most independents. Toyota Prius’s represent by far the majority of cars we repair compared to any other single model. It is based on this experience that I feel compelled to comment on the current state of the market with regard to HV (high voltage) battery replacement.
For several years, enterprising individuals and companies were making a living by providing the service of “rebuilding” Prius battery packs. To some degree they had success I guess. I never got into this much because it seemed that to do it correctly, a lot of time, equipment, and knowledge (not all of which I had available) were required. We let that business go elsewhere, instead encouraging folks to invest in a brand new pack from Toyota. We have installed many of these with 100% success.
I find that most people who still own a first generation Prius (2001-2003) are absolutely in love with their car. I know I am. And because by now they have often already made the investment, in the other major component failure, the demise of MG2 within the transaxle, and the fact that the Gen1 internal combustion does not seem to suffer the aggravating oil consumption issues that seem to plague later versions, it is a pretty easy sell for me to recommend the new pack vs a rebuilt.
This is not the case however with Gen2. At about the time I started having Gen2 battery failures come in to the shop , reputable suppliers to the automotive aftermarket began offering “rebuilt” packs supplied by somewhat less reputable companies that featured and attractive 3 year 36k mile warranty. Faced with a high mileage Prius, that was likely already burning excessive amounts of engine oil, the temptation to offer this less expensive alternative overcame me.
So I worked the numbers, massaged them and trimmed them to the point where I could offer an affordable solution to a customer who was not prepared to invest in another car or pay the increased price for a new battery for a car that had other, major problems like consuming a quart of oil in 600 miles.( I may write about that later)
I have installed a handful of these “rebuilt” battery packs. Already, to many have let me and most importantly my customers down. The reputable supplier I buy them from is cool from the warranty end of things, and it is not about my time in providing the labor to replace the pack. That is part of this business. It is the loss of confidence experienced by the driver of the car. “The first pack you installed lasted a week. How long with this one last? What happens if it gives up somewhere in the middle of nowhere?” These people are no longer confident that their car will be reliable. In fact, they are confident that it won’t be reliable. And I say to myself, the goal that I have sought to attain in this business has been lost. My customer has paid me a lot of money to fix their car, and now, not only have they lost confidence in the vehicle but I have no grounds to try to convince them otherwise.
So I tried to come up with a solution. My idea was to return the failed battery to the supplier, refund the entire amount of the job paid by the customer, then, sell them a brand new battery and install it, free of labor charge just to make things right. But here is the problem. Toyota charges me $1350.00 if I do not return a core battery pack to them which I will not have if I return it to the other suppler. And, to make it worse, they cannot guarantee me I will get that money back even if i return the rebuilt pack because it has been tampered with (read rebuilt). The cost is simply too much to make it a wise business decision.
So I am left with only one option. Hope that the handful of “rebuilt” packs I have installed make it at least a year (Toyota’s warranty is a year), continue to honer the warranty of any that should fail and no longer sell or install “rebuilt” battery packs.

As of this writing a Generation 2 Prius (2004-2009) battery pack job goes out the door at Jacoby’s Auto for $3191.50.