Hybrid Auto Repair - To DIY or Not To DIY

AutoMD Lists the Top Five Hybrid Repairs for Do-It-Yourselfers and the Top Five Best Left to the Experts

Carson, CA – March 2, 2011 – Do hybrid owners really need to take their vehicle to the dealership every time it needs a repair or routine maintenance? The auto experts at AutoMD.com say no! - and have published a list of five basic car repairs that can be handled by the local repair shop – or by DIY (Do-It-Yourself) car owners, potentially saving valuable dollars off that car repair bill – as well as a list of the top five jobs best left to the dealership.

This information is especially important in light of the following statistics:

  • A recent USA Today/Gallup Poll found that approximately six out of 10 consumers say they would look at a gas/electric hybrid when the time comes to replace their current vehicle.1
  • AutoMD estimates the average car owner can save approximately $300+ a year, on average, by going to an independent service shop rather than a dealer.2
  • AutoMD says one in three car owners report saving $1,000+ by doing their own auto repairs.3

“It's safe to say hybrids are here to stay, with the current deals that abound on new and used hybrids and the real possibility of gas prices soon rising again,” said Shane Evangelist, president of AutoMD. “Contrary to popular belief, hybrid car owners don't always have to go to the dealership for repairs and, like other car owners, they have money-saving options in the repair process on common basic fixes. Our lists attempt to guide hybrid owners on the jobs they can DIY or have done at the local repair shop – and those that should only be performed at the dealership.”

AutoMD Top Five Hybrid Car Repairs for DIYers/Independent Repair Shop

Please note that car owners should always consult their owner’s manual for maintenance guidelines and warranty information before they service or repair their vehicles. Emission components can be warranted for as long as 150,000 miles or 15 years on a PZEV (Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle) engine!

  1. Oil and Filter Change
    Changing the oil and filter in a hybrid car is the same process as an oil and filter change in a non-hybrid car, according to AutoMD. No need to go to the dealership, do-it-yourselfers. If you can't do it, a local repair shop can help. How to change your oil
  2. Brake Repairs
    AutoMD says the process for replacing front disc pads or rear brake shoes in a hybrid car is the same process as for a non-hybrid. DIYers who are familiar with fixing brakes can go it alone or solicit the help of a mechanic at an independent repair shop. How to replace front disc pads / How to replace rear brake shoes
  3. Windshield Wiper Blade Replacement
    Hybrid or not, replacing your car's windshield wipers is a simple process, and one the repair experts at AutoMD agree, should be attempted by all car owners. Since most replacement blades are a universal fit, remember to purchase the correct blade length. For example, a Toyota Prius has a 26 inch long wiper blade on the driver’s side and an 18 inch blade on the passenger side. How to replace windshield wiper blades
  4. Tire Maintenance
    As with a non-hybrid vehicle, AutoMD recommends hybrid car owners set their vehicle's tire pressure based on the specifications outlined in the owner's manual. If the car has a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), initialize it after the pressure has been set. Hybrid or not, be sure to rotate your tires every other oil change (7,000 – 10,000 miles). How to check your tire pressure / How to rotate your tires
  5. Fluid Check
    AutoMD says car fluids on a hybrid, such as engine oil, brake fluid (DOT 3 fluid), transmission fluid, power-steering fluid, windshield washer fluid and engine coolant, are no different from a regular vehicle and can be checked and refilled in the same manner as a non-hybrid car. Always remember to check your hybrid's Power Control Unit coolant, and if it's low, fill it with longlife coolant.
    How to check the brake fluid level
    How to check engine oil level
    How to check transmission fluid

    ***Before any repairs are made, AutoMD urges hybrid car owners to doubly ensure the vehicle is turned completely off, and the key removed from the ignition. Also, your owner's manual should be the definitive guide when it comes to proper hybrid car repair procedures.***

AutoMD Top Five Hybrid Car Repairs for Dealership Experts

In addition to the major jobs, such as replacing an engine, transmission, clutch, A/C or wheel alignment, here are some jobs specific to the hybrid that are best left to the auto dealerships who have access to hybrid-specific repair codes and training. Service to any of the hybrid systems should only be performed by technicians who are certified.

  1. Battery Replacement
    AutoMD.com mechanics recommend that when it is time for the 36 to 330 volt main hybrid battery to be replaced, DIYers are hands off: the dealership is the place to go. The sheer voltage produced by a hybrid battery is enough to cause serious injuries or death. Even though some do-it-yourselfers could easily perform the replacement of the vehicle’s 12 volt battery, there are elements on certain hybrids that can create challenges to even this simple job. The same holds true for jump starting the vehicle.
  2. Electric Motor Repairs
    Owners should take their vehicle to the dealership for any repairs to the electric motor. Hybrid car mechanics at dealerships have the training, resources and know-how to properly and safely make electric motor repairs.
  3. Motor Controller Repairs
    The hybrid controller communicates with multiple systems and coordinates the gas engine and the electric motor. It requires high speed computer processing and is extremely complex, and is best left to the dealership experts.
  4. Electrical Connections and Computer Controls
    The computer control systems are very sensitive to voltage changes. The battery and connections should have a thorough inspection once a year by a certified technician and any repairs should be performed at the dealership.
  5. Diagnosing a Problem
    Diagnosing hybrid systems requires special procedures and test equipment (i.e., Category 3 digital volt ohmmeter) that is generally only available at the dealership. A drive-ability problem could be caused by the engine, transmission, or hybrid system; and diagnosing this type of problem can be difficult.

For more DIY Repair Tips, Click here:
Top Five Tire Care Tips from AutoMD.com
AutoMD.com Ranks the Top Five Car Repair Jobs You Can (and Should) Do Yourself ... and the
Top Five Best Left to the Experts!

  1. 1 “Drivers express interest in hybrids, but many don't buy” USA Today, 2/14/2011 (http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/2011-02-14-carspoll14_ST_N.htm)
  2. 2 Sources: Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Federal Highway Administration Statistics, Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA), and AutoMD.com. Calculations based on industry vehicle cost per mile and average vehicles per licensed driver resulting in average consumer spend of $971 a year on auto repair and maintenance. Adjusted for industry mix (dealer/independent,) and AAIA savings study suggests consumers spend on average $1,209 a year at a new car dealer and $903 elsewhere. This equates to over $300 in annual savings.
  3. 3 One in three self-reported DIYers are now saving over $1000 a year by performing their own repairs, according to AutoMD.com’s “2010 DIY Report” (http://www.automd.com/about-automd/press/10-14-2010/)