Join Date: May 2004
Location: San Diego County, California
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Falling apart after 65k ?
I got my 2004 Prius in November of 2003 and now have put 72,000 gentle miles on it.
I was definitely one of those 90%+ satisfied owners who enthusiastically declared they would buy the same car again at the end of that first year, making the 2004 Prius that year's highest model in customer satisfaction.
I have followed perfect adherence to all scheduled maintenance, and have not driven the car hard, as evidenced by my actual mileage which is usually 53-54 miles per gallon including an almost-daily commute that includes 45 miles of freeway. (My actual composite overall actual mileage is 51 mpg, but that includes several long-distance interstate trips.)
Up to about the first 65,000 miles, I never had anything go wrong with this car, and have loved it dearly. But starting in May, at about 65,000 I have been hit by a series of problems that should have been minor, but because of the system design of difficulty in diagnosing (while the clock for labor charges is ticking), have been far more costly than similar repairs would be on other cars, and because the hybrid is a specialty vehicle, I haven't been able to find any credible alternative to the dealer.
In May 2006, the driver's side door actuator went out. This is the small unit in the door that locks and unlocks the door in response to the signal from the fob. The fobs (and their batteries) weren't the problem as the other doors worked. On most cars, a simple replacement of the actuator is sufficient, but because of the modular construction, the entire latch assembly has to be replaced, and the cost was over $500 dollars.
At the end of June 2006, the Multi-Function Display unit began working intermittently. There is a TSB out indicating that this is usually just a loose connection but that loose connection is inside the MFD and the correction requires replacing the entire MFD unit. Using a refurbished unit, the cost was still over $500 dollars.
This month (August 2006) the "Check Engine" light came on, first intermittently (on for a day or so, then off for a week) then after several weeks of this pattern, it came on and stayed on. I took it to the dealer and they diagnosed it as a faulty water control sensor and valve assembly in the cooling system. This part was only $75.00 but because it took them five hours of billable time just to diagnose the problem specifically (even after getting the codes from diagnosing the Check Engine light ... which they said just points them to the general area and still requires extensive diagnosis to narrow down to the specific problem) PLUS another 3.5 hours of labor for the actual part replacement, this small item came to almost $800.00.
So I have both a warning to other Prius owners for when your cars come off warranty, and some questions....
1. Am I being gouged? Is the dealer (Toyota of Escondido) racking up huge labor charges for "diagnostic" time because either the service personnel are incompetent or are obtaining their education in Prius technology at my expense? Do other Prius owners have experience with NON-warranty repairs with this dealer (Toyota of Escondido) or with other dealers' service departments in San Diego County (California)?
2. Is the Prius so poorly designed in terms of modularity of integrated parts such that whole systems have to be replaced for failures of small parts?
3. Is the Prius really so complicated that even when the Check Engine diagnostic points to the general source of a problem it still takes that long to narrow down a specific diagnosis?
4. Do Prius owners have any competent, qualified, reliable alternatives for service other than being forced to rely on dealers?
In less than 3 months I have spent almost $2,000 in repairs for fairly minor items. I am getting to the point that I am terrified of driving the car, and that even small repairs are going to run into the thousands.
In contrast, the 1999 Toyota Corolla that I traded for the Prius after 5 years and 130,000 miles, also with easy driving and excellent gas mileage for that model, never needed a single repair other than scheduled maintenance.
Help! It is happening to me, I hope it is not happening to anyone else.
Escondido, California (San Diego County)