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Understanding Hybrid Vehicle Maintenance

Hybrid vehicles have been available in the United States since the early years of the 2000s and have earned their way into the garages of individuals ho are concerned about the effects that gasoline-powered vehicles have on the environment. The current generation of hybrid vehicles are more reliable, longer-lasting, and in some cases, even less expensive than their first- and second-generation predecessors. Price drops occurred in recent years because the price of gasoline has dropped, making hybrids less attractive to some people.

The technicians at Carolina Auto Service have worked on various hybrid models since they first became widely available. Our staff remains up to date on the latest developments in hybrid technology, which is important as much as changed over the years. Having certified technicians who are fully versed in the peculiarities of hybrids too as the structure of the vehicles sometimes must be considered during repair.

Types of Hybrids

To understand possible problems your hybrid may encounter, it’s helpful to understand the different types of hybrid technologies. All hybrids combine the power of a gas engine with an electric motor powered by a battery. Thus, your vehicle has two powertrains, but how they work with one another depends on your specific model.

Parallel vs. Series Hybrids
Parallel design in full hybrids means the gas engine or the electric engine solely drive the wheels or they do so in unison. In a series configuration, the electric motor drives the whiles while the gas engine works as a generator once the electric battery is depleted.

Full Hybrids vs. Mild Hybrids
Full hybrids run on electricity alone until the battery runs out and then go to the gas engine to travel at higher speeds or for longer distances. Only full hybrids may be plugged in to act as full electric cars. Mild hybrids do the exact opposite of series hybrids with the gas engine turning the wheels and the electric engine giving the gas engine a boost.

Plug-in Hybrids
These vehicles incorporate the latest technology as they can be charged from a wall or charging station to work as electric cars for a range of between 10 and 35 miles and then switch to normal hybrid operation. By recharging the battery, you can use a hybrid vehicle solely on electricity until the battery needs assistance.

Powertrains
Most hybrid vehicles, especially those that are smaller, use fuel-efficient, four-cylinder gas engines. Larger SUVs and luxury cars, however, may have V6 or V8 engines. Most also have continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Hybrid Car Maintenance

Because hybrid cars have all the components of a gas-powered vehicle, overall maintenance will be similar. For example, you still have to get regular oil changes, have your tires rotated, get alignments when needed and generally follow your manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule.

The very nature of hybrids lend themselves to less frequent maintenance intervals. Electric motors give gasoline engines a break, so it doesn’t go through as much wear. Thus, your car will probably require fewer oil changes. Frequency will depend on driving habits and manufacturer’s recommendations. If you’re unsure, don’t hesitate to ask your technicians. Because of regenerative breaking, brake pads experience less heat and friction, making them last longer. That’s a particularly good benefit if you use your hybrid primarily for commutes to work in stop-and-go-traffic. Regenerative braking helps your hybrid in another way too. Whereas conventional cars rely entirely on friction to slow them down and dissipate the energy as wear and heat, regenerative braking captures some of that energy and turns it into electricity, and then stores it in the vehicle’s battery where it can be used later to run the motor.

Why You Need a Technician Experienced With Hybrids

Lots of people try to do some of their own preventive maintenance on their vehicles to save a few dollars, but hybrids have several qualities that make some of these tasks difficult for weekend grease monkeys. For one, you may not be able to readily get the oil specified for your car. New synthetic weights like 0W-20 are a common specification.

Beyond oil, though, hybrids employs sophisticated electronics with wiring systems that may reach around from the trunk to the front of the car. This means your hybrid will have a bevy of wires with which you may be unfamiliar. Because they are related to electricity, these wires can be dangerous. Trust an experienced technician to do something beyond simple maintenance as you may potentially encounter components with high electricity voltage.

Unique Problems of Hybrids

For most hybrid vehicles, their electronic components don’t require any special maintenance. Most vehicles come with manufacturer warranties lasting eight to 10 years or 100,000 to 150,000 miles. The most common problem is a dying battery, which may or may not happen outside your warranty. Dying batteries manifest themselves either by a sudden failure or through gradually decreasing fuel efficiency.

Other problems may be more specific to your specific model. Toyota Camry hybrids, for example, can have problems with the gas powertrain that don’t normally happen in gas-only vehicles. They can develop oil sludge that will result in excessive oil consumption. Other hybrid Camry’s may hesitate on acceleration and need transmission work. Others may run roughly due to a head gasket failure.

Other hybrids have problems that are peculiar to that particular model. Always note unusual running conditions to your technician, especially if you have a hybrid vehicle. Our technicians work on all models of Toyota, Nissan and Lexus hybrids, as well as the Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Volt and Hyundai Sonata hybrids.

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