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April 6, 2020

Do Hybrid Cars Require Special Care If Not Driven for a Long Time?

With news that the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) may be extended by another 12 to 15 days, one particular group of car owners, those owning gasoline-electric hybrids, may be wondering what will happen to their cars if it they haven’t been used for a long time. Well, Toyota has finally come up with the definitive answer.

Toyota hybrids, like most other gasoline-electric hybrids, have two batteries: a 12-volt battery which powers systems such as the headlamps and audio, and a high-voltage hybrid system battery which supplies power to start the combustion engine and drive the electric motors.

Thankfully, despite its complexity, it’s reassuring that there’s no extraordinary car maintenance required. Of course, it’s still good to follow these simple procedures to keep your Toyota hybrid (or any other car) in good shape during this “no unnecessary driving” season.

A battery charger like CTEK will maintain the charge of your 12-volt battery, it won’t charge high-voltage hybrid system battery. According to Toyota, the simplest way to maintain charge for this is to simply start the car, and ensure that the “Ready” illuminates on the dashboard.

During this time, the hybrid may engage the internal combustion engine to charge the high-voltage hybrid system battery, so make sure to unplug any battery charger that’s connected to your 12-volt system. You might be tempted to switch on the radio to pass the time, or turn on other systems, but bear in mind these will consume small amounts of electrical power so it is preferable to leave them off. Keep the car in “Ready” mode for 60 minutes (yes, an hour) and do this weekly.

For conventional gasoline or diesel-powered cars without a hybrid electric motor, the internal combustion engine needs approximately 20 minutes of running to put back power into the 12-volt battery what you removed on start-up. Thus, Toyota recommends the same 60-minute idling time of at least once a week. At this point, having a battery charger would be handy to avoid this.

Every time you do this, ensure the handbrake is on, and it must be stressed to only do this in a well-ventilated area—something to consider if you park your vehicle in a garage.

And before storing your car, it would be a good time to check its tire pressure. Tire manufacturers go so far to recommend going up to 10-15 PSI above the manufacturer’s recommendation, but since this community quarantine will probably last only until end of April, just inflating it to the recommended level is good enough.

For vehicles with smart entry systems, battery depletion in the key fob can be minimized by stopping the electronic key from receiving radio waves. Since you may not be driving for quite a while, it’s best to keep the key in a safe place, and not anywhere near your car. This will prevent the car from ‘waking up’ unnecessarily (this can drain both the key fob battery and car battery) should you happen to walk near it in your garage or driveway.

Oh, and if you plan to put a car cover, make sure that your vehicle is completely dry before you put it on. You can also disengage the parking brake to prevent the brakes from binding, but only do this if your car’s stored on level terrain. Ensure the transmission is set to ‘P’ for park and place wedges or chocks (or even a cement block), if you have them, under the wheels.

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