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Car Doctor: Used Prius models have normal battery life

Posted by John Paul  May 11, 2011 05:02 PM

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Q. I’m looking at purchasing a 2002 Toyota Prius with only 50,000 miles on it.  I know the owners and I know they seldom used it.  I do not know what their maintenance practices were.  I understand what time alone can do to a car; my concern is with the hybrid battery.  Are you aware of what condition the battery might be in considering its age and infrequent use?  I know battery replacement for a Toyota Prius at a dealership is costly. 

A. The typical life of a hybrid car battery is about 10 years, and many last nearly the life of the car. Just like a cordless tool, as long as the hybrid battery is not abused and the charging system operates properly the battery should have a few more years left in it. Toyota in the last few years reduced the price of its replacement battery pack and there are several sites on the internet that offer low cost solutions to replacing the battery in a Prius. With the recent jump in gas prices, this used Prius may be a good choice.

Q. I want to rent a Ford "hotrod" for a day, reliving a little of my youth. Any idea where I can do that? So far the best I can find is Mustangs and Corvettes but I really want to drive a classic hotrod. Any suggestions?

A. I received a letter like this a few years back and found that a few generous readers suggested meeting them at various cruise nights. Something may have worked out there. Recently Mick McMickle from Florida wanted to let me know about his latest business venture in Lakeland, Fla., called Rent-a-Rod. Check out his website -- sounds like it could be a fun weekend trip.

Q. On late night television I saw a commercial for a tool called CarMD. It promised easy car repair and diagnosis of problems. Is this just another glitzy infomercial or is it a decent product?

A. I recently have been testing a CarMD and for a DIY’er it works. Recently I talked with Kristin Brocoff from CarMD on my radio program to discuss their product, since I had the same questions as you. What makes the CarMD different than a conventional scan tool and code reader is that the tool interfaces with the company’s database of real world solutions and estimated costs to fix problems based on the codes. 

Q. I have a 2001 Toyota Sequoia with approximately 125,000 miles and recently noticed that every once and a while the gear shifter will seem 'stuck' and very difficult to shift down into gear. Is this a transmission concern or maybe just an adjustment?

A. The shift lever uses a combination of a lever and cables and any wear could be causing the shifter to stick. In addition there is a safety interlock that requires the brake pedal to be depressed before shifting out of park. If this switch is worn or out of adjustment this could also be the problem. I wouldn’t suspect any type of internal transmission problem.

Q. I’m considering a 2011 Jaguar XF as my next car. Do you think this car will be able to handle northeast winters?

A. I have driven the Jaguar XF in the winter and with its combination of traction control and stability controls found it to be okay in the winter. Although if it was my car, I would put four winter tires on the car to improve overall winter performance. As a side note, the XF has to be one of the best looking sedans on the road today, offering a classic look that in my opinion won’t go quickly out of style.

John Paul is the public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England. He can be reached at jpaul@aaasne.com or on Twitter @johnfpaul.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
In the garage: Hyundai Sante Fe, Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible
Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
In the garage: 1968 Buick Riviera, 1996 Buick Roadmaster, 1974 Honda CB450
Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on About.com. He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
In the garage: Mazda 5, Dodge Neon
George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
In the garage: Lifted 1999 Jeep Cherokee
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