Should a hybrid battery system get replaced?

Q. I have a Toyota Highlander Hybrid with 227,600 miles on it. I recently got new tires, a new air conditioner control panel, and a new radiator, the last two items being the most major work I’ve had done in a while. The car has provided good gas mileage (24-25 mpg spring-fall, 21-22 in winter), handles very well, and rides very comfortably.  Overall, I have been very pleased with the car and the reasonable maintenance costs. With high mileage and the possibility of the hybrid battery system going in the not-too-distant future, I want to know if I should consider paying for a new hybrid battery system when it goes or trading it in for a newer SUV, Toyota or another make, when the system goes, or even now.  I should note that my wife and I are retired but travel a lot, and we tend to put 30,000-35,000 miles on the car per year. Our travels require that we have a car that is dependable and provides good gas mileage. Any help, suggestions or ideas you can provide would be much appreciated.  


A. My unscientific research indicates the typical life of a Toyota hybrid battery is about 350,000 miles. This is based on a little research I did with taxi companies driving Toyota hybrids. The cost of a hybrid battery for your vehicle is quite expensive, with prices that could approach $5-6000 in the Highlander. When it comes time to make a decision about your vehicle, you will be putting more than half the value of the vehicle towards the cost of the hybrid battery repair. In my opinion, this may not be a great investment in a vehicle that you will need to rely on. Since you generally had very good luck with the Highlander hybrid, you may want to consider replacing it with a new model. The latest Highlander has grown a bit in size but has also become more fuel efficient.

Q. Late last year the service engine light came on in my 2009 Buick Lacrosse. The problem was diagnosed an internal short of the primary control module. It was replaced and reprogrammed but would not communicate properly. The SES light came back on, so the same mechanic at the Buick dealer replaced it, reprogrammed it, and said it tested okay. A couple of days later the SES light reappeared. I was told it was okay to drive until the dealer could find a loaner car for me. A few days later the light went off and I was told not to worry. Then a month and a half later, the SES light came back on. The car has only 25,750 miles on it and has been serviced regularly since I bought it new. Should I go back to the same dealer again, who suspected a loose wire somewhere? I’d really appreciate your advice.


A. I would certainly return to the dealer that has been servicing the car. Going to a different dealer would be a duplication of efforts and diagnostic testing. At this point, the car needs to go back for service, the vehicle trouble codes read, and prior repair work verified. The problem could be related to wiring and connections or something else altogether.

Q. My 2011 Ford Edge had an odd problem the other day when it was really cold. I got some gas and right after filling up, I went to pull out of the parking lot; while waiting for traffic to pass, all of a sudden the car wouldn’t move. I thought I had it in the wrong gear but it was, in fact, in drive. Then I heard a “ding-ding-ding’’ and the info screen in the dash displayed “low oil pressure’’. I didn’t panic, shut off the ignition, and waited a few seconds; when I started it back up, all seemed fine. I checked the oil and it was right up to the top, and the oil was nice and clean. Could it be from the extreme cold? It hasn’t happened again since, should I be worried?

A. At this point, I would just monitor the situation. I have seen similar problems when using oil filters that don’t meet original equipment-intermittent oil light after starting. The other issue common to some cars is the ignition switch. If the switch does not fully settle into the “run’’ position, the warning lights could illuminate. As a safety measure, if the car’s computer detects low oil pressure, it will limit driving to protect the engine.

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