What’s the deal with Hybrid Battery Repair?
When a hybrid battery pack fails, due to the high cost that dealers charge to replace or refurbish them, hybrid vehicle owners naturally wonder if hybrid battery repair might be an option. After doing some research, it quickly becomes clear that finding a shop that provides hybrid battery repair is next to impossible.
Why is that? To answer that it helps to first understand some basics about how hybrid batteries work.
The hybrid battery used to power the electric drive portion of hybrid vehicles such as the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight is also commonly known as an IMA battery or a hybrid battery “pack”. Calling it a battery is something of a misnomer because it is actually made up of many individual battery cells, typically Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) that are connected together in modules that together supply the voltage needed to power the car. Depending on the make and model, hybrid battery packs can contain anywhere from 120 to over 240 individual cells.
The problem is, without running complicated diagnostics on the pack, it is impossible to know how many cells are actually bad, which ones they are, and more importantly which ones are good now but are close to going bad! In many cases, by the time your maintenance indicator comes on, up to 80% or more of the cells inside the battery are bad and in need of replacement. This makes it virtually impossible to make a business out of repairing hybrid batteries because it is not cost effective to maintain sufficient stock of good modules and cells that can be used to replace bad ones.
The second problem is the “whack a mole” issue. Assuming your battery has the proverbial single failed cell, or even just a few, it may be relatively easy to replace those modules and get you back on the road quickly. But soon, the next weakest module begins to rear its ugly head, and the battery fails again. Obviously, this could get expensive fast, as it is very time consuming and labor intensive to go through a pack cell by cell to find the bad ones. It’s very difficult to “predict the future” when it comes to battery packs; the tests are only a single snapshot in time.
For these reasons, the term “hybrid battery repair” is somewhat misleading since it is not actually viable or even possible in the normal way repairs are generally thought of. So what should you do?
The average Honda hybrid battery new from the factory lasted around 7 years. So if your failed battery is 10 years old or older, it is likely just worn out, and your best move is to simply replace it.
On the other hand, if you drive less than 6,000 miles per year or your battery is considerably less than 7 years old, you are an especially good candidate for a service we call Hybrid Battery Reconditioning. This service is different than repair in the traditional sense because it involves various diagnostics and methods such as grid charging, discharging, cycling and balancing designed to isolate bad modules or cells for replacement, and can often help “coax” the battery back to a functional condition. However, it should be noted that the minimum life expectancy for a hybrid battery is around 4 years, particularly in very hot climates, so there are no guarantees.
The upside to reconditioning is it allows you to get a true picture of the state of your battery’s health and in some cases the cost can be applied to the price of a replacement battery if necessary.
See our Hybrid Battery Reconditioning service page for more details. As always, we are happy to help answer any questions you may have and will do our best to help take the stress out of dealing with any hybrid battery issue you may be having. Just give us a call at 888-968-5005 or use our handy contact form.