November 26, 2014
Hybrid cars have been around in the U.S. since the early 2000s and by now they’ve earned their place in many people’s garages. Modern-day hybrids are more reliable, longer-lasting and less expensive than the first models of the Toyota Prius or Honda Insight. In fact, due to the recent drop in gas prices and car manufacturers producing gasoline engines with increased fuel efficiency, many dealerships had to drop prices on hybrids, making some hybrid car models cheaper to own than their gas counterparts.
Now might be the best time to buy a hybrid vehicle, and if you are contemplating this decision, you are probably concerned about the cost of maintaining an alternative-fuel car. Our Maryland hybrid car specialists at Hillmuth Certified Automotive have been working on hybrids since they first came out and will be happy to share their experience when it comes to hybrid maintenance. But first let’s establish how a hybrid is different from a regular gasoline-powered vehicle.
How a Hybrid Car Works
A hybrid car is called a hybrid because it combines two sources of fuel—a traditional gas-powered internal combustion engine and an electric motor connected to a large-capacity battery. The hybrid system chooses when to engage each of the components to reduce emissions and provide better fuel economy. One great feature about a hybrid is its regenerative braking capability. It means that every time you brake, your car is able to harvest and store this energy, reducing the need for frequent charging. A typical hybrid vehicle is also made of lighter materials and has a smaller engine than a regular car.
Hybrid Car Maintenance
As you can see, a hybrid car has all the components a non-hybrid has, plus the electric system. Therefore, hybrid maintenance is very similar to that of a regular car, with a few exceptions.
Less Frequent Oil Changes
Because the electric motor offers a break to the gasoline engine, it doesn’t go through nearly as much wear and tear as the same engine in a non-hybrid car. This means a lower risk of engine failure and longer time between the oil changes. Depending on how much you drive and your driving habits, you might be able to go anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 miles between the oil changes. Besides the savings on the oil and labor, keep in mind the fewer days you’ll have to take off work or share a car with your spouse.
Longer Life for Brake Pads
Thanks to the regenerative braking feature in hybrid cars, the brake pads experience less heat and friction, which makes them last longer. This makes a big difference if your commute tends to fall in the rush-hour traffic.
Hybrid System Maintenance
In most hybrid vehicles, the hybrid components don’t require any special ongoing maintenance. In fact, most hybrids come with warranties on the hybrid system covering anywhere from eight to ten years (100K – 150K miles) depending on where you live. This is actually longer than most people hold on to their cars, which was the record-high of six years in 2012. However, at some point the battery will have to be replaced, as it was built for a certain number of complete charge and discharge cycles. This may happen within or outside of your warranty, depending on the specific model of hybrid you own and its battery reliability. A dying battery may manifest itself as a sudden battery failure or a gradually decreasing fuel efficiency.
You Don’t Have to Take it to the Dealership
Needless to say, a hybrid vehicle is not for DIY repair or maintenance. Even if you know your way under the hood of your old car, keep in mind that hybrids have many more components you might not be familiar with. It’s crucial to know what everything is before touching it, especially considering a large number of high-voltage wiring.
However, taking your car back to the dealership is not your only option. There are many hybrid service centers these days, including Hillmuth Certified Automotive with Maryland locations in Clarksville, Columbia, Gaithersburg and Glenwood. Our techs are certified in hybrid vehicle maintenance and won’t void your manufacturer’s warranty. A dealership may charge you $6000 for a new battery where replacement might not even be necessary. In some cases, battery regeneration can work well and save you thousands of dollars.
Having problems with your hybrid or looking for a trusted specialist to perform maintenance? Schedule an appointment today at Hillmuth Certified Automotive or call us with any questions!