The Hybrid Battery Replacement Conundrum
To our valued clients and friends,
If you are reading this, it is very likely that we have just informed you that your Toyota or Lexus hybrid vehicle needs the high-voltage battery replaced—likely because code P0A80 (or similar code), was set and one or more warning lights came on. This guide will help explain why the battery requires replacement, as well as the options available.
The battery is underneath the cargo floor or rear seat. It is a metal case, filled with 20 or more individual battery modules, several relays, a computer, and various sensors. The modules each contain multiple, nickel-metal hydride battery cells. Toyota is EXTREMELY conservative in the way that the battery is used. The battery is never fully charged or discharged, and the temperature of the battery is carefully controlled. That is why the service life of the battery is so long.
Like any battery, the individual cells slowly lose performance over time. The computer can generally compensate, with very little loss in performance or economy. Unfortunately, when the different cells and modules lose performance at different rates, the computer can no longer compensate. The hybrid system is only able to use or charge the battery as a whole. When one battery module has lower voltage than the others, the computer is unable to discharge or recharge the battery efficiently. That is when the trouble code(s) set and the master caution light illuminates.
There are multiple options for repairing the vehicle when a code for hybrid battery replacement is set. Remanufactured batteries are available from Toyota for some models. Dorman Products and several other companies also remanufacture hybrid battery packs. New batteries are available from Toyota and Lexus dealers. There are also facilities that recondition the existing battery. Each option has advantages and disadvantages.
OPTION 1 – NEW BATTERY:
New batteries from Toyota/Lexus have completely new battery modules. The existing computer is swapped over from the old battery. Because it is completely new, you can expect it to have a similar or longer lifespan as the original battery. This is also the most expensive option. Nevertheless, we feel that it is the best decision for anyone who is planning on keeping the vehicle for three years or longer.*
OPTION 2 – REMANUFACTURED BATTERY FROM DORMAN:
The main appeal of this battery is the reduced cost and the three year warranty on the battery. Dorman uses a very good process to remanufacture the batteries in the U.S., but there are some drawbacks. Because only the bad battery modules are replaced, the majority of the battery is still original. While the old modules are carefully balanced and matched to the replacement parts, they will never have the longevity of a new battery. An independent instructor who trains technicians on Toyota hybrid systems has found that many of the Dorman remanufactured batteries fail within three years—requiring replacement. Labor costs are not included in the warranty, and typically cost over $300.00.
OPTION 3 – BATTERY REPAIR AND RECONDITIONING:
It is possible to repair and recondition the hybrid battery, using the same or similar process that Dorman and other battery rebuilders use. The battery is removed, disassembled and tested. Any bad battery modules are replaced. The battery is then electrically reconditioned and all of the modules are balanced—so that they work together properly. This requires very specialized equipment and training. Independent repair shops with “The Hybrid Shop” franchise can reliably perform these repairs. However, as of February 2017, there are only two of those shops in Arizona. Nate’s Next Gen Auto Care in Chandler and Wilhelm Automotive in Peoria. We have no information on pricing or reputation of these shops.
*NEW LEXUS AND TOYOTA HYBRID BATTERIES HAVE A 12 MONTH WARRANTY. HOWEVER, DAN’S TOY SHOP HAS NEVER SEEN A SINGLE FAILURE OF ANY NEW TOYOTA REPLACEMENT BATTERY WITHIN 5 YEARS OF INSTALLATION.