by Pat Goss
Hybrid sales have been driven by fluctuating gas prices and consumer demand for fuel efficiency. But with so many hybrids on the road today, how do you properly maintain them? As is typical with any new technology there are a lot of myths floating around out there. So, to give us the true story, we are joined by Chris Peterson who is an instructor with Toyota. Chris, welcome to Goss’ Garage.
Alright, number one myth: You can’t service your hybrid yourself.
CHRIS: That’s absolutely not true. The customer can do any of their own maintenance if they want. That includes changing the spark plugs, the oil, the air filter, even the brakes.
PAT: OK, but one thing that is different, is two cooling systems.
CHRIS: That’s true. This is just like a conventional car in many regards, with the exception of the cooling system. Over there is the cooling system for the gasoline engine, and this would be the cooling system for the hybrid transaxle.
PAT: Alright, but there’s one gigantic “Don’t do it” and that is the orange cables.
CHRIS: And that’s part of the reason we’re wearing the gloves today. The orange cables under the hood—a customer that’s doing their own maintenance should never touch or try to disconnect, because they could potentially carry up to 650 volts electricity.
PAT: Ah, that could ruin your morning. And that voltage comes from this unit, this battery pack, and again we hear lots of stories that these are unreliable, and I haven’t seen that at all.
CHRIS: No, not at all. And one thing, a customer would never be in here doing any kind of service work. And what a lot of them don’t realize is this is actually warranteed for 8 years/100,000 miles.
PAT: Okay. So there’s no worries there. Alright, but we have to control all of this, and that means we need this inverter.
CHRIS: Yes, basically what the inverter does is… that’s DC, or direct current, similar to what you use in a flashlight. The inverter actually takes the DC and changes it into alternating current, or AC, that we’re going to use in our transaxle.
PAT: Okay. And it does it through electronic circuits and various components to do that. Again, a reliable piece.
PAT: Okay. But, here is where all of this ends up, and this is the business end of things, this is the transaxle. And if you looked at it in the car, it doesn’t look that much different than any other, but here at cutaway, big differences.
CHRIS: Oh, quite a big difference. Inside we have two what we call motor/generators. The motor/generator over here, if I send current into it, is actually our starter motor, and that’s what we spin the engine over. Now, once the engine’s running, we’ll use that motor/generator as a generator to actually recharge the hybrid battery that we just looked at on the bench. This particular motor/generator is used to drive the vehicles. It’s attached to the front wheels. When we send current into it, it actually makes the car move. And then we also use this for what we call regenerative braking. When you step on the brake pedal, we turn it into a generator to help slow the vehicle.
PAT: Which also improves brake life.
CHRIS: It improves brake life. And in addition to that, it also helps to recharge the battery pack up. So it’s two benefits.
PAT: Okay. So all of this stuff that we’re seeing on the Internet, 99% of it is pure garbage.
CHRIS: Just like anything else, you have to be real careful what you read on the Internet.
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