Will our hybrid be OK if we leave it for the winter?

John Paul, AAA Northeast's Car Doctor, answers a question from a "snowbird" concerned about leaving her hybrid SUV for the winter.

The 2019 Toyota Rav4 Hybrid.
The 2019 Toyota Rav4 Hybrid. –Toyota

Q. I am a happy new owner of a 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid. This is our first hybrid vehicle. As “snowbirds,” my husband and I head to warmer weather for about four months during the winter. With our previous vehicles, which remained in our garage here, we usually filled the gas tanks and either removed the battery or used a trickle charger. We’re a bit stumped as to how best take care of a hybrid, though. Our servicing dealer said it would be fine and no extra care is needed for the battery. He said to simply park it in the garage and leave it. What do you think? 

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A. In addition to your typical winter preparation, drive your Toyota in a way to try to get the traction battery as fully charged as possible. There will be some normal parasitic drain on the hybrid battery, but having it fully charged before storage will help to avert any problems. I would use a “float” style battery charger for the 12-volt battery to keep that battery fully charged. When you return after winter, the car should be fine. 

John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor. He has over 40 years of experience in the automotive business and is an ASE certified master technician. Email your car question to jpaul@aaanortheast.com.