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#1 (permalink) Old 08-28-2006, 08:07 PM
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Default 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.

Doug

Escondido, California (San Diego County)
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#2 (permalink) Old 08-28-2006, 08:25 PM
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I have about half as many miles on my '05, so I can't say if your problems are normal for a higher mileage car; I do think that your dealer's service department is either none to sharp or taking advantage of you.

As far as the MFD and the door latch, I would complain to Toyota in Torrance. There is no reason either of those should die after less than 3 years.

Definately find another dealer, or a good independant. I wouldn't have gone back for the second dose if I had paid $500 to get the door lock fixed.

Steve
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#3 (permalink) Old 08-28-2006, 09:25 PM
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What you are experiencing is exactly what I thought would probably be occuring to this car after spending a week perusing the three service manuals I purchased with my 2004. That's why I've been so adament about the extended warranty posts when stipulating that I believe the extended warranty to be the number # 1 option to purchase on a Prius.
I plan on getting rid of mine well before it's out of warranty and I believe the complexity of all the systems is the reason the rest of the worlds manufacturers have not jumped on the hybrid band wagon although I think Toyota went "way" overboard with a lot of the systems in the car other than the synergy also being so technically complex. That's one of the reasons the salesman who sold me mine said he would rather sell me the standard V6 limited Camry other than the hybrid.
There is absolutely no reason to believe an independent garage would ever be able to diagnose a Prius problem. Toyota dealers still have to make too many calls to LA service reps. Life is too short to be watching MPG.
4 yrs now and I can not find one employee at my Toyota dealer who has purchased a Prius.
I'm amazed you got to 72,000 miles with no brake problems. Not that I ever expected any with the disks or drums but the system operating them is about the most complex I have ever seen.
I know I am swimming "upstream" here, but this will definately be the last hybrid I will ever own.
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#4 (permalink) Old 08-28-2006, 09:41 PM
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As was stated, the MFD is a known problem and since it can occur seasonally, Toyota should be covering that. At least they are reducing the price of the display to $500.

In many cars, parts come as assemblies. My Saturn had a problem where a plastic bushing broke on the window regulator arm. Apparently it was a common problem and the bushing cost $10 for a small piece of plastic that probably cost a few cents to make and probably only a few more cents to distribute. However the dealer commented that it wasn't long ago that the part wasn't available and the whole regulator assembly had to be replaced.

I seem to recall a TSB regarding a problem with the water valve, but I can't seem to find it. Sometimes codes can be obscure because they are reporting on indirectly related symptoms.

But this is why I did opt for the extended warranty because I knew there were many components that may be inherently simple to diagnose and fix (or should be) but the components can be expensive. Nowadays you will find it the same way with other cars with advanced features. Stuff like ABS, ESC (VSC), integrated AV electronics, etc.
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#5 (permalink) Old 08-29-2006, 02:13 AM
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Individual instances like this don't in any way prove that an extended warranty is a good "bet". For every car that has problems, there may be many more that don't. In general, if you can afford to fix your car, even if that means unexpected and possibly large costs, you are statistically better off not taking the extended warranty. Consider it as self-insuring. If, however, you can afford the warranty, but not any unexpected large repair bills, then you should always get the extended warranty for peace of mind, regardless of what car you are buying.

The companies that offer the warranty aren't "hoping" that the cars are good, like an individual would do if they chose not to get the warranty. They are very good at pricing those things to make money. Otherwise they would go out of business.
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#6 (permalink) Old 08-29-2006, 09:40 AM
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We are not talking about a normal automobile here. We are talking hybrid which is a new concept to both Toyota and Honda. Toyota offers their own Platinum warranty for the Prius and it can be purchased from some Toyota dealers for less than a thousand dollars. I believe it to be a number one option with this car and it is the first car warranty I have ever purchased with over 60 yrs. of car ownership. My thoughts, "don't leave home without one."
After doing research and reading these Prius boards would you ever consider buying a used Prius with 37,000 miles on it after it is over three years old without an extended warranty? It would have to be "dirt cheap.

Of course, if you have a five year old computer that you have never had a problem with or had to "re-boot" then have at it with an unwarranted Prius.
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#7 (permalink) Old 08-29-2006, 10:29 AM
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Yep!

I have posted a number of times regarding my concerns over the complexity of this car.

As soon as a decent, diesel powered car is available my Prius is going bye, bye!

And by the way, having experienced the fob door locking system for a couple of years now, I prefer the old remote locking system for it's better flexibility and it's simplicity.

~Jerry~
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#8 (permalink) Old 08-29-2006, 11:14 AM
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Default Re: Falling apart after 65k ?

There is a friend of my ex's who works at a repair shop in OC that apparently works on Prii (they do repair work for insurance companies, etc.). I will see if I can get a number for you..

- Phish Phood, Los Angeles, California
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#9 (permalink) Old 08-29-2006, 11:29 AM
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I appreciate the comments and feedback.
I certainly understand the importance of the extended warranty but that is a little too late for my situation and, while it is a worthy topic of discussion, perhaps as a different subject, it does not address the questions I raised here.

Basically my question is what to do now, looking forward?

I love my 2004 Prius.
I love the way it feels, handles, drives quietly, and allows me to feel good about being environmentally conscious while cutting back on use of foreign oil.
I'd love to go wholly electric, but there doesn't seem to be a viable option yet.

I have been going to the same dealer (Toyotal of Escondido) for several years, for all of the routine service and warranty work (recalls, etc.). They have always impressed me as being knowledgeable and have provided prompt, efficient service.

So I was really thrown by having 3 separate events in less than 2 months, all seemingly minor, that have cost just short of $2,000.

So what do I do looking forward?

Definitely I will contact Toyota in Southern California and see if they perceive this as being normal handling and what the see as the outlook for the future. I like the people at Toyota of Escondido and want to believe their explanations, but I am not in a position to know for myself and need to find out what is appropriate -- I don't want to be a whiner, but don't want to be a sucker either.

Is the dealer correct that this is an issue of complex design and use of whole modular units instead of simply replacing small parts that fail? Are they correct in justifying FIVE hours of labor just for the diagnosis problem of the water valve/sensor as being part of the normal complexity, or is this a failure of diagnostic ability and is their technician being trained on my dime (or lots of dimes)?

What options do I have for the future?
Have others had better/similar/worse experiences with dealers?
What about other dealers in this area?
Toyota of Carlsbad or Toyota of Poway or others in this area?
Are there any independent alternatives that are qualified?
If not, will there be as the number of Priuses creates sufficient demand?

I had one of the earlier deliveries of this generation of Prius (November 2003) and while there are others who drive more than me I'm sure I have more miles on my car than most. For the rest of you, this is a glimpse into the future that you face.
There are now a lot of us who own/drive/love our Priuses.

We don't need to hear "I told you so's" about buying the extended warranty or what we should have done in the past that can't be undone now. We need to network with each other and also be united as one voice to Toyota in determining how we can deal with service and technology issues on these cars we already have.

Doug

Escondido, California (San Diego County)
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#10 (permalink) Old 08-29-2006, 11:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jflowerus
And by the way, having experienced the fob door locking system for a couple of years now, I prefer the old remote locking system for it's better flexibility and it's simplicity.
The prius has one. Just don't use SKS to lock or unlock the door, just use the remote. You don't even have to turn off SKS to get this feature.
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