A customer was driving his Toyota hybrid on Interstate 5 when all of a sudden several warning lights came on, including the red triangle, check engine light and VSC. His hybrid began to immediately lose power, but he was able to get off the Interstate before it died completely. The customer had it towed it to the local Toyota dealership the same day. The written quote to repair his hybrid was $6,875.00; $5,270.00 for a new hybrid battery and another $1,605.00 for unnecessary recommendations that had nothing to do with why the car lost power and wouldn’t start.
In this case, the dealership completely misdiagnosed the problem. If the dealership had made the $6,875.00 of recommended repairs, the vehicle would have been in the exact same condition as it had been before the repairs; without power and undriveable. The customer was fully prepared to spend almost $7,000.00 to fix his car, but while reading the fine print at the bottom of the quote he noticed something that the service manager should have brought to his attention before asking for his signature on the paperwork.
It said that the dealership could not guarantee that the recommended $6,875.00 in repairs would fix the problem with his hybrid losing power and not starting. The dealership was using their best judgement in making the recommended repairs, but would in no way be responsible or liable should those repairs fail to fix the vehicle’s problem of losing power or starting.
By signing the quote, the customer hereby releases the dealership from any and all liability regarding the repairs listed above and will hold the dealer harmless and not responsible. Needless to say, paying almost $7,000 for repairs with no guarantee that your car will be fixed and agreeing to hold the dealership harmless didn’t sit well with the customer.
When questioned, the service manager said that all of their quotes contained the exact same language and they couldn’t make the repairs without his signature on the paperwork. That’s when the customer called us from the dealership and asked Electron for a second opinion. We had his hybrid towed to our hybrid repair facility and we were able to determine what really caused his hybrid vehicle to lose power and stop starting.
The correct diagnosis was a failed head gasket which was a result of a bad water pump. Here are the details of what happened and why the dealership recommended the repairs that they did. Water pumps have always been a big issue. When the water pump stops working, the engine overheats. When the engine overheats, the head gasket fails. When the head gasket fails, the engine cannot run anymore.
When this happens to a hybrid, the engine will keep trying to restart by using the hybrid battery. The hybrid battery will keep on trying to start the engine until it is completely drained. It’s important to note that this action does not kill the hybrid battery, it only drains it. When the energy stored in a hybrid battery gets low, it sets off a series of error codes that most mechanics do not understand and they assume that the hybrid battery has failed. This is an assumption that the Toyota dealership made and it’s where Toyota went wrong.
They recommended that the water pump be replaced, but they completely misdiagnosed the hybrid battery and sold the customer a battery system cleaning for $453.00 that we install for $143.00 and include the filter. The dealership also recommended and quoted the price and installation of an EGR, Exhaust Gas Recirculation System, and an Intake Manifold Replacement. The hybrid vehicle did not need or require an EGR or a new Intake Manifold Replacement and these unnecessary upsells would have cost the customer an additional $1,605.00.
The problem with the Toyota hybrid had nothing to do with its battery and had everything to do with its bad water pump and bad head gasket. We replaced the water pump and repaired the head gasket to the customer’s Toyota hybrid for $2,200.00. We were then able to start the engine and recharge the battery. When the battery reached its normal recharge level, all of the warning lights, error codes and sensor warnings went away.
We’ll never forget the customer’s emotional reaction when he found out that his Toyota hybrid had been completely repaired for 1/3 of what the dealership had quoted and it was ready for pickup. He was overwhelmingly grateful and thanked our entire team for a job well done. He was less than thrilled with the dealership’s misdiagnosis and repair quote of almost $7,000, but he felt the dealership’s misdeeds were a small price to pay for finding an experienced hybrid repair shop that he could trust.