By on June 30, 2009

First, engine sludge in the Camry. Then, rusty frame rails on the Tacoma. Advertising Age (of all people) reveals the latest problem to tarnish Toyota’s solid gold quality image: the Prius’ HID headlights. A number of owners of Toyota’s green machine weren’t well pleased happy their high intensity headlights died after a few years. No surprise there; replacing them runs up a $1000+ parts and labor bill. Owners claim HID death is a “a dangerous but undisclosed safety defect” and that Toyota has “long been aware of Prius’ HID headlight problem” and is “concealing the problems from owners.”

So far the national Highway Traffic Safety Administration (el NHTSA) has received over 300 complaints about the headlights. When el NHTSA contacted Toyota about the issue, the automaker said they’d provide information on the headlights “by the end of the month.”

Meanwhile, an unnamed “company spokesman” told AdAge that Prius owners are responsible for repairs after the warranty has expired. So it doesn’t look like Toyota may be willing to do much to sooth owners’ ruffled feathers.

Looking forward, ToMoCo better be careful, though. As marketing expert Andy Fletcher pointed out, Prius owners are “sensitive people with a clear sense of right and wrong and their obligation to society.” With the new Prius whirring onto the streets, they’re “the wrong group to mess with, particularly now.”

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71 Comments on “Is Toyota HIDing from Prius Headlight Problem?...”


  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    The story is probably that some eco-weenie editor at AdAge bought a 2nd Gen Prius, it’s now out of warranty, and his lights blew.

    So now he’s gonna get even. AdAge vs. Toyota.

    Let’s see if Toyota’s ad agencies pressure AdAge to STFU.

  • avatar
    garllo

    Maybe it’s me but Toyota’s response sounds a little GM’ish-of coarse we’re talking the”old” GM!! You would think that all of the auto makers would realize by now that you don’t want to ruffle ANY group of customers.

  • avatar
    Juniper

    $1000 to fix a burned out headlight. Is that the Way Forward?

  • avatar
    GS650G

    It’s true owners are responsible for repairs after the warranty period and headlights could be considered a wear out item, especially with daytime running lights mandated.

    But 1000 dollars offends the sensibility of anyone. This is not a Bentley or a Rolls. Headlights should cost less than 100 dollars to replace, and that is being generous. Can’t a standard bulb used in many models be used? How about the aftermarket, or is Toyota the only source for the bulbs?

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    My Prius is 5 years old. Barring catastrophe, I plan to keep it for another 3-4 years; maybe until the next-next-generation comes out. I’ll let you folks know my experience when one or both lights go.

  • avatar
    sportsuburbangt

    There is a similar problem on the non-HID prius. My neighbor was hit with a $200 bill to replace a burnt out headlight. Apparently you have to remove the front bumper to replace these bulbs. But he is averaging 54mpg so I guess it all works out in the end.

  • avatar
    200k-min

    I’ve never understood why they put HID lamps in the Prius. Is it to make the car look more “high tech??” Disregarding the debate over the Prius being an econo-box vs. mid-sized, either way it’s a mid-to-low-priced vehicle. Much more expensive vehicles don’t have HID lights and for good reason…Just a couple hundred to fix that busted headlamp. If you can afford the cost of a luxury car it is assumed you can afford the $1000 headlamp repair, right?

  • avatar
    Brock_Landers

    HID bulbs cost about 50$ a piece. Normal lifspan of HID bulb is about 3-4 years.

    1000$ for what??? Very high quality cars and image has its backlashes. Arrogant and car-ignorant people start to assume that they will drive their cars to the grave and spend zero bucks keeping it running.

  • avatar
    PartsUnknown

    If this is true, it definitely is weird for these bulbs to fail so soon. I had a ’99 BMW 528i with factory HIDs – they were original and no issues well past 100K miles. My understanding of xenon/HID headlights is that one of the benefits, besides better illumination, is much longer life than a standard halogen.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    The story is probably that some eco-weenie editor at AdAge bought a 2nd Gen Prius, it’s now out of warranty, and his lights blew.

    So now he’s gonna get even. AdAge vs. Toyota.

    Let’s see if Toyota’s ad agencies pressure AdAge to STFU.

    with all this chatter about customer service and how Toyota is willing to help their customers even after their warranty expires it’s kinda disappointing that they’d resort to such tactics. CAn’t they just give them a voucher for replacement headlights, or will they have to be shamed into action by local media lime they were with the tundra?

  • avatar
    commando1

    This would have been on the front page of the NYT
    if the manufactuer had been GM…

    Don’t get me started….

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    $1000 to fix a burned out headlight

    For an OEM gas-discharge HID, yes, that’s not entirely unusual for them to burn out, nor be expensive to replace, though Toyota and/or—more likely—it’s dealers may be gaming the customer by charging for the bulb, ballast, labour and other equipment, rather than just the bulb. It’s also not unusual to have those same lights ripped off if your vehicle has a significant aftermarket following. Ask anyone with a pre-2004 Nissan Maxima or Acura TL.

    The lesson? Do not buy a car equipped with HIDs unless you’re willing to fork over the money to fix them when they break. The same applies to owning a car with a convertible top, large-diameter brake discs, or an aggressive wheel-and-tire package. These are consumables, and they’re not cheap.

    There’s a reason why economy cars come with halogen bulbs, rear drum brakes, fifteen- or sixteen-inch steel wheels, all-season tires and an appetite for 87 octane and nonsynthetic oil: they’re not just cheap for the manufacturer, they’re cheap for the end-user.

  • avatar

    That’s nuts. Who needs a thousand dollar headlamp? I had to replace one in my Accord–$10 or $20. A G is absurd.

  • avatar

    And I hate oncoming HIDs. It’s like having brights in your face

  • avatar
    findude

    Most (say 90%) of that $1,0000 cost has to be in the “labor”. My conspiracy theory is that these sorts of repair costs for what should be a simple replacement are basically dealer entitlemets (anybody remember buying sealed-beam headlights at Pep Boys for $3.99 and replacing them in 5 minutes with a screwdriver?).

    The dealer procedures probably include 8 hours of labor, and it may well include removing the bumper and a whole lot of other stuff. The real problem is that once the dealership has done this a few times, the techs have figured out a way to do it in a fraction of the book time and it becomes a huge cash cow.

    The first time I had to change the left headlight in our 2002 Honda Odyssey I removed the air intake per instructions. It took about 20 minutes. The next time, I just flexed the intake back with one hand and changed the bulb with the other. It took about 4 minutes.

    We can argue whether HID headlamps on a Prius is a good design choice or not, but there’s no doubt that an absurdly expensive repair for what should be dirt simple is the result of a different sort of design decision.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    My understanding of xenon/HID headlights is that one of the benefits, besides better illumination, is much longer life than a standard halogen.

    This is true, in a way. There’s no filament to burn out and they should last longer. The problem is that they’re hot, require a lot of power and have sensitive controlling electronics that don’t like the kind of heat, dirt, moisture and voltage irregularities a car provides.

    Thusly, they cost more than a cheap halogen/filament combo.

  • avatar
    SupaMan

    You’d think that replacing a headlight bulb (whether halogen or HID) would a simple under-the-hood affair. I can’t understand why some cars are made to make such a simple task so difficult. My brother was changing the air filter on his ’06 GTI a few months ago and compared to the simple 4 bolt-and-clamp affair on my departed Elantra, he damne near to had to pull the engine apart to get to the sucker.

    Cars are made nowadays that practically ANY service (as seemingly simply as an oil change or a replacement air filter) requires a trip to the dealer (or other trained mechanic).

  • avatar
    Luke42

    Rod Panhard,

    The story is probably that some eco-weenie editor at AdAge bought a 2nd Gen Prius, it’s now out of warranty, and his lights blew.

    As one of those eco-weenies (but not in the advertising/PR business) who maintains a 2nd generation Prius, I can fill you in on a few details of the story.

    First, the HID headlights aren’t on all of the 2nd generation Priuses, just the fully loaded ones.

    Second, Toyota wants well over $500 to replace each bulbs.

    Third, the headlights are supposed to last the life of the car, and the light-enclosure is designed accordingly. When I replaced one in our Prius (at around 100k miles), I found that the easiest way to do it was to remove the bumper cover, then remove the headlight-assembly, and then swap the bulb. The bumper cover is designed to be removed during service so it wasn’t as bad as a similar process on, say, a VW Jetta — but it did take me a couple of hours to figure it out and do it. (It would probably take a professional mechanic about 15 minutes.)

    Toyota wanted $400+ for the bulb, and one hour of labor to do the job. I found a similar bulb (the D2R HID bulb with a 4300k color temperature from another manufacturer (Sylvania, I think)) online for about $75. It was a deal (many places want $250+ for them), but it’s been in the car for a few thousand miles and works wonderfully.

    So, the issue isn’t so much that some “eco weenie” didn’t want to change a headlight (that takes about 30 seconds in my 98 Ford Ranger), but that the headlight in the Prius costs as much as an alternator for my Ranger, and takes about as much effort to replace. Oh, and it lasts longer than a Ford alternator, too.

    As for the overall maintenance experience with the Prius, this is the first problem I’ve had to fix in 106k miles. The other problems that we encountered (a gas-tank filler neck, and a skipping NAV disc player) were fixed under warranty. The flat tire and the rear-bumper bashed in by a taxicab while the Prius was stopped at a stoplight were due to external factors. So, I figured that Toyota was trying to throw the dealers a pretty obvious bone. When I tried to call them on it, though, the service manager (probably) told me what the pre-markup price was on the bulb (still outrageous), and then said he was looking for a deal on 3rd-party HID headlights for his Lexus, since he couldn’t afford to replace his headlights either. I think he was telling the truth, but I obviously couldn’t verify it.

    And, yes, I’ll gladly accept the title of “eco weenie” — on this board, anyway. :-)

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Cars are made nowadays that practically ANY service (as seemingly simply as an oil change or a replacement air filter) requires a trip to the dealer (or other trained mechanic).

    This is the flip-side of precision engineering. If you want an engine that’s large and in such a high state of tune, you’re going to have to make serviceability trade-offs. The Germans are patently the worst for this, but most upper-trim cars are equally bad. You can tell that the people who designed them don’t have to deal with the problems of ownership.

    By contrast, economy cars, trucks and minivans are still fairly reasonable. Everything in my Honda Fit it easy to get to with minimal interference; your Elantra was similar. Economy car buyers are remarkably unforgiving of the kind of costly over-engineering that afflicts “performance” cars.

    As the market retrenches we’ll probably see a return to keeping TCO down.

  • avatar
    Luke42

    SupaMan,

    You’d think that replacing a headlight bulb (whether halogen or HID) would a simple under-the-hood affair. I can’t understand why some cars are made to make such a simple task so difficult

    That’s what I thought, but then I realized that this is only really true if you’re using conventional headlights. If you’re using HID bulbs that are supposed to last for the life of the car, why not put the effort into making the oil filter easier to reach?

    I’ve found that Japanese cars I’ve owned tend to have parts that last longer, but are costlier and trickier to replace. And the American cars I’ve owned have parts that can take a hit, but wear out quickly and are easy to replace. (Except for my 1989 Ford Tempo, you were supposed to use an engine lift to change the serpentine belt. That thing was a piece of crap.) And the one German car that I’ve owned (a 2001 VW Jetta GLS TDI) where the prevailing attitude seemed to be that maintenance wasn’t the engineer’s concern. Pick your poison, I guess.

    I haven’t maintained any car made after 2004, though, so I hope things have improved!

  • avatar
    NBK-Boston

    I’ll chime in here to say that the old Panther platforms are both generally robust and fairly straightforward for regular service and repairs. The Lincoln air suspension is a well-known problem zone, but I’ve never had too much trouble tearing down one part or another in order to replace filters, bulbs and the like. It could be easier in certain instances, but it is no horror show. And all the parts are generally cheap and available.

  • avatar
    commando1

    By the way……
    Has anybody got an extra set of keys made lately?

  • avatar
    wsn

    HID is not a standard feature on a Prius. Those who “opt’ed” for this should have been more aware.

    A set of snow tires/rims on a 3-series can easily reach $5000. What’s wrong with a $500 HID replacement (for each bulb)?

  • avatar
    Luke42

    findude,

    The dealer procedures probably include 8 hours of labor, and it may well include removing the bumper and a whole lot of other stuff. The real problem is that once the dealership has done this a few times, the techs have figured out a way to do it in a fraction of the book time and it becomes a huge cash cow.

    Not according to the quote we received from Toyota. The vast majority of the cost was in the bulb. There could be behind-the-scenes financial shenanigans, of course, but I haven’t seen any evidence of that.

    From what I’ve read on Priuschat, some Toyota techs have figured out how to do this job in a fraction of the 1-hour (or whatever token amount) is on the quote. One guy there said he has had his car turned around with a new $500 headlight installed in 15 minutes. Having replaced this headlight myself, that sounds quite possible.

    Remember that you have to take the front bumper-cover off in circumstances that would only require removing the engine-cover in a regular car (and the bumper-cover is designed accordingly), so the “Prius guy” at the dealership removes/installs these bumper covers all day, every day.

  • avatar
    John Holt

    So dollar signs now dictate what is called a “safety defect”? Subaru Legacy/Outbacks blow through headlight bulbs at a clip of one per year (I know), but at only $12 replacement cost, it’s chalked up to maintenance.

    Not that I wouldn’t be miffed about a $1000 repair bill, but you have to expect it when you’re playing with expensive bling like HIDs. Nobody ever said they were cheap.

  • avatar
    Shogun

    that Toyota has “long been aware of Prius’ HID headlight problem” and is “concealing the problems from owners.”

    Following Mitsubishi’s suit are we?

  • avatar
    Daniel J. Stern

    Thousand bucks? Smells fishy. Every time any maker has any problem related to any part of the lighting system of a car with Xenon headlamps, the press pounce on it: ZOMG HID headlights cost a thousand million dollars to replace OMG OMG WTF!

    A perusal of the complaints to NHTSA(PDF) makes it apparent that the problem is with the car’s headlamp control module and/or associated wiring, but dealers are going on fishing trips and grossly overcharging owners for replacement bulbs, replacement headlamp assemblies, and other components that don’t (won’t, can’t) fix the problem with the module.

    I used this site‘s online Toyota parts catalogue (found with a quick Google search) to do some price checking, and confirmed the listed MSRPs with Alldata:

    Headlamp assembly, HID: MSRP $329.34/ea
    Control module: MSRP $248.84
    Bulb: MSRP $150.00/ea

    Alldata says Toyota’s warranty labor allowance is 0.1 hour (i.e., 6 minutes) to change the headlight bulb on one side of an ’07 Prius, and that standard flat rate is 0.2 hour (12 minutes). So if a dealer service department with an hourly labor rate of $95 attempts to “fix” the problem by replacing both headlight bulbs, the bill should be $338. $300 for parts, $38 for labor.

    Flat rate to R&R the control module is 1.3 hours, so the bill for that job should be $248.84 parts and $123.50 in labor for a total of $372.34. There are complaints in the NHTSA file of dealers quoting (or charging) $1100+ for exactly this R&R job.

    It’s highly unlikely there’d be anything wrong with the headlamp lens-reflector-actuator-housing assembly itself, but standard flat rate is 0.9 hour (54 minutes), so the bill to replace two headlamp assemblies should be $658.68 in parts and $171 in labor for a total of $829…aha, now we’re approaching that $1K figure!

    Bulbs are consumables, like brake pads and tires. The bulbs used in the gen2 Prius’ HID headlamps are perfectly ordinary type D2R items, used in scads of reflector-type HID headlamps all over the world for many years. Osram and Philips make the large majority of them; GE makes the rest. If you shop around — finding this took me a whole minute — you pay half the dealer price for precisely the same bulb.

    Rated lifespan of a name-brand D2R is 1500 hours (B3, when 3 percent of the lamps have failed); 3000 hours (Tc, when 63.2 percent of the lamps have failed). The HB2LL halogen bulb in the base Prius headlamp has a rated lifespan about half that long on low beam, about 1/4 that long on high beam. The D2R also produces nearly three times the amount of light while consuming 60% of the power of the low beam filament of the HB2LL halogen bulb. The safety performance from the Prius HID headlamps is substantially better than that from the halogen items; the beam is considerably wider and longer-reaching, and the autolevelling on the HID headlamps makes them substantially safer still (UMTRI data here). OK, so the HID bulb costs more. This isn’t about style or bling; what price nighttime driving safety and comfort?

    It looks to me as though a real but relatively minor problem with the headlamp control module is being greatly aggravated by dishonest dealer service departments.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    John Holt: Legacies only blow through a headlight per year on the passenger side. The driver’s side goes every other year.

    They also blow through a head gasket every 100k, but few keep them that long or are foolish enough to keep them long enough to have it happen again.

  • avatar
    golf4me

    Wait till they have to replace the battery…nice. 9 yr old BMW with 150k miles still shining brightly. ahem.

  • avatar
    Orian

    Luke42

    No, some cars are still a PITA to do maintenance. My 04 Grand Am with the V6 requires the undoing of an engine mount and lifting the engine with a wood block and a jack under the oil pan to change the serpentine belt (the scary part is it shows this in the owners manual and the oil pan is stamped with use wood block when lifting). I’m coming up on 100k miles and am looking at having to do that soon as a preventative type thing.

  • avatar
    Autojunkie

    Once again, Toyota sweeps a serious issue under the proverbial rug…

    I’m not at all against foriegn cars, but I think Toyota is a “Mitsubishi” waiting to happen.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Toyota doesn’t make mistakes.

  • avatar
    Autojunkie

    Orian,

    Nearly every front drive/transvere-engined vehicle requires liftine the engine to change the belts. You need to do that to loop it through the motor mount. Common practice…

    All cars are a PITA in one way or another…

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    Only 300 complaints? I don’t know how many of the million+ Priuses sold have HIDs, but that hardly sounds like an epidemic.

  • avatar
    Brendon from Canada

    Sounds like a case of replacing everything (ballast, bulb, igniter and possibly enclosure) rather then just the problem part. I had one die on my BMW 3 series; dealer quote was $1200CDN + 1 hour labor. They said that with their computer they could not determine whether it was a bulb, ballast or igniter problem. I took a pass, and swapped the parts around between the two headlights (which took me about an hour). Turned out to be the igniter and the bulb, so I replaced both to the tune of $150 or so shipped to my door.

    Following on some comments above, with greater precision engineering, sometimes stuff gets “tight” in the engine bays and I find I often have to remove unrelated parts just to get a wrench/socket/whatever to fit in correctly. In this case, I did need to remove the airbox on the driver’s side to access the parts to change the bulb. Takes all of about 2 minutes to remove, so not a big deal, but it is an extra step. I did this 2 years ago, and it has worked flawless since. My other side has blown a bulb (eBay ~$70) in nine years of ownership, so I’m going through bulbs at the rate of one every 5 years or so (assuming another blows in the next year), which doesn’t seem to onerous…

  • avatar
    pb35

    My first job at 16 (1983) was counterperson at an auto parts store; I used to change headlights for customers all the time.

    Times have changed!

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Commonsense says a $1,000 headlight should damn near last forever.

    ToMoCo better get a handle on this real quick. Though we were happy with our Toyota product, we bought an alternate make last time out because of reported quality and customer care shortfalls. Why pay a premium for quality that just isn’t there?

  • avatar
    relton

    Used to be that the feds (NHTSA) required that a headlight bulb be replaceable in 5 minutes or less with one hand, and no tools required. I remember mocking up headlight environmants of new cars just to test this.

    Obviously this rule has gone away, or maybe it is waived for HID cars.

    While it may be true that only expensive cars have HID lights, it could be argued that all cars should have them. The improved illumination is well worth the cost. And, as American drivers age, this becomes even more important.

    Mark VIIIs offered HID lights as an option in 96, and they were retrofitted to earlier Mark VIIIs. The job was not that difficult. While the whole assembly was expensive, the replacemetn bulbs were not. I never saw a failure in any of the related parts.

    Bob

  • avatar
    MBella

    Autojunkie, I don’t know what your are talking about with “most transverse cars” I’m only aware of the GMs. Even transverse Fords route the belt so that it goes around the engine mount.

  • avatar
    Monty

    “Daniel J. Stern :
    June 30th, 2009 at 11:50 am

    Thousand bucks? Smells fishy.

    It looks to me as though a real but relatively minor problem with the headlamp control module is being greatly aggravated by dishonest dealer service departments.”

    No! Say it ain’t so! An automobile dealer ripping off a customer? That’s in the realm of make-believe!

    Why oh why won’t the manufacturers enforce standards and ethics on their dealers? This is not something that is isolated; even Toyota and Lexus dealers aren’t immune to this behaviour. It’s one of the reasons I started getting soured on Toyota. Toss in a dishonest sales manager and a reprehensible service department, and I don’t care how reliable and excellent your quality is, it will turn customers away from your product.

  • avatar
    ravenchris

    My brother in law went through this and it drastically reduced his confidence in purchasing another Prius.

    Precision engineering does not preclude ease of maintenance.

  • avatar
    windstrings

    The problem is real….There are over 500 post “and growing” and 52 pages on this one thread alone.
    http://priuschat.com/forums/gen-ii-prius-care-maintenance-troubleshooting/34584-headlight-problem.html

    85 posts just here:
    http://priuschat.com/forums/gen-ii-prius-care-maintenance-troubleshooting/47938-my-hid-bulb-replacement-my-06-prius.html

    Without going crazy on comments.. suffice to say there are isolated cases of satisfaction while there is an ocean of frustrated folks who have none.

    Funny the guy said “after the warranty expires”…. because thats the whole issue.. they say its not a warranty issue as bulbs are normal maintenance.

    Indeed, Toyota’s Gold reputation has been tarnished with this one.. and the way they fix it is to go backward to Halogen again with their new 2010 and use LED’s for lowbeam which in no way compare to the lumen output and coverage of HID.

    I purchased “two” prius’s and have had the same problem with both.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    Don’t know about the new one or HIDs, but the halogen headlight bulbs can be owner changed without removing the bumper cover on a 2G Prius. It’s not particularly easy, but it can be done.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    300 complaints? Thousand bucks a shot to replace? It ain’t cool but maybe it can be attributed to the hi-tech/exotic nature of the item …

    If you search, however, a real low-tech eye-opener, read the verbatums for the 2000-era (guess 99-01) Ford Focus steering column lock … thousands of affected customers, stranded cars, post-warranty with no factory good-will, and 400 bucks a shot to replace with a new column, only to see it fail again in time…

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    Thank you for some much needed perspective Robert.Walter.

    Who’d have thought the rest of a Prius was an otherwise normal car, just as likely to suffer from some unplanned issue. Get over it.

    It says more about the valuable customer expectation that Toyota have built for themselves. Domestic owners would just shrug their shoulders in acceptance; they’re use to crap, I guess.

  • avatar
    davejay

    Hey, so I’ve got this 1984 Honda scooter, with a pop-up headlight.

    It’s over 24 years old, and the popup headlight just stopped working on me. That is to say, the light will turn on, but the unit won’t pop up. Not so odd for such an old bike, but apparently this was a chronic problem even on two-year-old models back then.

    As a result, you can’t get the motor unit any more, even though lots of people want ‘em — presumably they ran out of old stock a long time ago. And, of course, buying a new unit (when still available) was expensive and would just fail a few years later.

    But you know what? When you open the hood on the bike (yes, it has a hood) there are four stickers marked “1″ “2″ “3″ and “4″. And, if you look at each sticker, there’s an attached wrench to turn, or a device to slide along a track, or a prop to move from one place to another.

    Follow the numbers, use your brain for a moment, and your headlight is manually popped open and propped up, so that you can keep on riding even though the motor is dead.

    The point being, here, that a Prius owner having this problem could find themselves stranded because they have no headlights and its nighttime, and further stranded because of the parts expense. For something as critical as a headlight, you’d think there would be a quick workaround (like my scooter’s manual popping mechanism that doesn’t take a genius to figure out) or a cheap and quickly replaceable bulb (like my scooter, or almost every car on the road.) Instead, they’ve got a part that can’t be replaced without taking off the bumper(!) and a bulb replacement cost that makes it extremely likely that an owner with one burned-out headlight won’t fix it right away (or can’t afford to) — removing the redundancy of two lights, and significantly increasing the odds of being left with no lights at all.

    It feels like one of those marketing decisions; the latest greatest hybrid can’t have ordinary reliable and cheap lights, there has to be a high-end option, nevermind that the way the rest of the car is designed makes them expensive and impractical to fix.

    I wonder how many people would have optioned up to the high-line if they’d been told the replacement cost before purchase. I also wonder how many potential purchasers have been told “they’re good for the life of the car.”

  • avatar
    chuckR

    98 Audi A4 with halogens – manual shows how to replace all bulbs and its cheap and easy
    04 Audi A4 with HID – can’t easily replace a single bulb, front, back or side, manual provides no guidance
    07 Cayman S – $45 (ebay) Phillips D2S bulbs in HIDs – manual explains how to replace all bulbs front, back and side – and mirabile dictu, its all engineered for easy access. Go figure. But if you do happen to need the whole headlamp assembly – that there is $1070 per side. But still real easy to install.

  • avatar
    bnolt

    While it may be true that only expensive cars have HID lights, it could be argued that all cars should have them. The improved illumination is well worth the cost.

    Until your feeble, old night vision is trashed by the government mandated HIDs coming the other way on a busy two lane. They’re great if you have them, not so much if you’re the other guy. Wait until the pick up with HIDs, a lift kit, and blazing foglamps pulls up behind you at a pre-dawn red light.

    Bill N.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    I’m sure a well-written letter to Akio Toyoda would clear this problem up.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    It says more about the valuable customer expectation that Toyota have built for themselves. Domestic owners would just shrug their shoulders in acceptance; they’re use to crap, I guess.…

    Don’t usually expect such a closed minded comment from Petemoran. There is no excuse for a life/safety item to cost that much, or be that difficult to repair. It does make one realize that as much a technology can improve vehicles in many ways, when they get old, they will be junked because the repair parts are too expensive, or the knowledge base will have moved on. I am willing to bet that either the cost of these lamps/controls will drop OR non-HID retrofits will become common. Just like air suspension retrofit kits are available for Lincolns or Range Rovers…

  • avatar

    These bulbs can be purchased for $90 a pair on eBay.

    Definitely a problem that Toyota could have handled better. But I’m not seeing why AdAge/Autonews chose to single out this problem.

  • avatar
    Luke42

    davejay,

    The point being, here, that a Prius owner having this problem could find themselves stranded because they have no headlights and its nighttime, and further stranded because of the parts expense.

    In the particular HID headlight failure I had, you could flick the headlights off and on and get a few more minutes from the bulb. Some searching on Priuschat suggested that this was a problem with the bulb, not the ballast. (The ballast problem has a different characteristic.)

    So, yes, there are workarounds and diagnostics that can be applied to the Prius headlight. But, unfortunately, it’s more like troubleshooting a computer than troubleshooting a scooter.

    PeteMoran,

    Who’d have thought the rest of a Prius was an otherwise normal car, just as likely to suffer from some unplanned issue. Get over it.

    Absolutely! With all of the hype, it’s easy for people to forget it’s just a car — especially when people insist in stirring their political ideology mix. But, when push comes to shove, it has 4 wheels, ball joints, wheel bearings, and crumple zones. :-)

  • avatar
    niky

    Orian,

    Nearly every front drive/transvere-engined vehicle requires liftine the engine to change the belts. You need to do that to loop it through the motor mount. Common practice…

    All cars are a PITA in one way or another…

    As MBella says… most other transverse engined cars are designed with a little more common sense. I can take off and replace the separate accessory belts on my Mazda at home with nothing more than hand tools and five minutes of work.

    -

    What a silly… SILLY complaint… HIDs burning out after a few years of use? Boohoo… my bulbs go out every other year. Sucks that these people actually have a car where you can’t simply unscrew one bulb and slot another one in… but that’s becoming increasingly the norm, nowadays… I agree… regulations should mandate light fixtures designed to allow bulb changes in just a few minutes by the roadside. Much safer.

    But what do you expect from manufacturers nowadays? Some of them don’t even want you to know your coolant temperature (yeah, the gauges on most dashboards are unscaled, but seeing slight rises or drops in the coolant temps can help pinpoint problems before they become catastrophes… I’ve avoided catastrophic engine failures thanks to that inaccurate little gauge) and some don’t even want you to know what your oil level is (no dipstick)… that’s just not nice…

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    Our ’06 Grand Vitara requires removal of the grille and bumper cover to replace burned out bulbs. Stupid. Fortunately ours hasn’t needed bulbs yet.

    What would have been wrong with upgrading the sealed beam design, making them universal (as they were) and allowing the only proprietary component to be style/shaped plastic covers? Proprietary plastic headlight assemblies are a massive consumer ripoff.

    Fortunately the aftermarket responds with knockoffs and eBay puts buyers and sellers in touch.

  • avatar

    TrueDelta originally excluded light bulbs from its repair analysis as wear items too minor to warrant inclusion.

    Then I learned how hard it is to change MANY bulbs these days. I found I couldn’t change those in my Mazda myself, and the shop had a hell of a time getting them out.

    So now the survey says to report all bulbs that require more than five minutes to change. This is my way of encouraging manufacturers to make them easier to change.

  • avatar
    Daniel J. Stern

    @relton:

    Your recollection isn’t accurate. There’s never been a regulation in the U.S. or elsewhere requiring one-handed, five-minute headlamp replacements. The one and only rule even remotely similar to this, which was enacted in 1968 as a part of FMVSS 108 and is still a part of that regulation, is as follows:

    S7.8.2 (…)each headlamp shall be installed on a motor vehicle with a mounting and aiming mechanism that allows aim inspection and adjustment of both vertical and horizontal aim, and is accessible for those purposes without removal of any vehicle parts, except for protective covers removable without the use of tools.

    @brandloyalty: You’ve got some valid points there about standardised sealed beams vs. model-specific headlamps. See page 3 (rightmost column) of this document.

  • avatar
    windstrings

    HID bulbs are supposed to last 8 – 10 times longer than Halogen… especially when they cost thousands “according to the dealers” to replace.

    If you buy a 50000 mile tire and it falls apart at 10K, I’m sure you won’t just go Boo Hoo!

    What do we expect….?
    How about excellence for a product that cost so much to replace or even maintain…. many of these customers are losing thier lights at 20 and 30K miles… thats one year of driving….

    NOT acceptable!.. you can downplay it all you want….. Its apparent you haven’t had it happen to you!

  • avatar
    saxman66

    one part of this discussion that is being ignored is the nature of the failure.

    my 07 prius had both headlights fail simultaneously while driving at night.

    obviously the lamps themselves did not fail at precisely the same moment, but something else in the control circuitry did fail. cycling the lights…and they come on again. in my case, this failure is huge safety issue of an otherwise outstanding car. sitting at dealer as i write this awaiting their disposition of the problem.

  • avatar
    saxman66

    update: just got my 07 prius back from dealer for simultaneous HID failure. they admitted there was a problem, got approval from toyota for repair at no cost to me, apologized for the inconveneince, and overall felt that their fix would prevent this from happening again.

    all in all i don’t think they have PR disaster on their hands if their dealers all behave this way while they assess if this is widespread or just a few hundred/perhaps thousand unlucky owners with a bad run of parts at the factory. i owned a sludgy sienna, and trust me, this dealer handled this one much better than denying a problem with the sienna eventually resulting in us trading in the vehicle.

    regardless, i have invoice from them stating failure and my concern of safety issue. i’m at least now eligible for lemon law arbitration if this recurs in the near future.

  • avatar
    windstrings

    The bulbs themselves can be gotten after market for 35.00 each “69.00 for two”
    http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=270364426888&viewitem=&sspagename=ADME%3AB%3AFSEL%3AUS%3A1123

    The 06 uses the D4R … make sure your ordering the right one.

    I’ve ran my ebay bulbs for over 30K now with no probs….. Its quite disturbing why Phillips bulbs cost so much more.

  • avatar
    niky

    If, from the original posting, it’s a problem with the bulbs, then it’s still ‘buyer beware’ on the problem.

    If it’s an electronic problem, then there’s an issue there… but I’ve never heard of widespread problems with the electronics associated with HIDs except with the cheap Chinese crap that washes up on our shores from time to time.

  • avatar
    windstrings

    If I order a chinese bulb for 35 each and it goes out, I can handle that a tad better than multiple hundreds of dollars from one that is supposed to be credible and better.

    Seems phillips lost allot of credibility with these bulbs and no one is stepping up to the plate to make things good.

    Its a bit more forgivable when you get what you pay for.
    My cars both went out around 50K. “one bulb in each car as I have two 06 prius’s.

    I replaced all 4 bulbs in my two cars with the cheap chinese bulbs from ebay. Since over 30K, I had one of the 4 chinese bulbs go out so I put one of my original OEM bulbs “that hadn’t gone bad” in its place…. I’ve had no problems since…

    and thats going on 30K+ miles now.

    I don’t know if the inherent design of the bulb is bad or if there are bad lots “I doubt it since even the 08 Cars are starting to show up with the same problem” or if there is a mismatch between bulb and ballast… but I”ve got my 35 bucks out of my chinese bulbs already…

    How long does one need to drive a bulb before they have satisfaction if it cost hundreds of dollars?….
    When It supposed to last 8 – 10 times longer than Halogen, you tell me.

  • avatar
    jgris

    I have a 2007 Prius, I bought it as a used vehicle in 2007 with 7700 miles, I have had it a year it has been in the shop 4 times for a front headlight out, the last time the computer for the headlight was replaced??, I have been given warning tickets from police for having a mechanical defect, light out, front side. I received another warning last night front left side light out. I am getting very annoyed, with this problem and my wasted time at the shop of 3hr average each time. Now they tell me they have new type headlights. It is still warranty work, but these lights have not worked 6 months, much less 2 years. At 1000 dollars a pop per light I find that to be scary. Maybe that is the reason the original owner got rid of it in the first year. I bought it from the same dealership of the original purchaser, it was replaced by the 1st owner with a BMW or so I was told.

  • avatar
    windstrings

    This makes me think “my suspicion” is that there is a mismatch between the ballast and the standard OEM bulbs.

    I suspect the voltage needed to maintain the bulb is on the cusp of being too low… so low that aged bulbs need a “refire” to keep them going and even that doesn’t work after a bit more aging of the bulb.

    I have put the cheap Chinese bulbs in both of my cars some 30K miles ago and have never had another issue.

    The OEM solution would be to use another bulb that does well on a tad less voltage to maintain the burn, or use a ballast than runs a tad higher maintenance voltage.

    Seems the way they have solved it is to simply not have HID’s any more.. back to Halogen and LED’s “for low beam” on the 2010.

  • avatar
    TOC

    I just bought HID bulbs for around $67 each, got a mechanic friend to pull the bumper and put them in. The ‘original’ part price is an outrage and it’s difficult to get a straight answer from the dealers. They kept asking for my VIN number and even then told me I had to come down for them to take a look.
    The aftermarket ones work just as well.

  • avatar
    jque12480

    This is a serious problem. I have a 2007 Prius with the same problem. In fact, one of my headlamps was replaced. It still has the same problem. Lights go off randomly. I turned the light switch off and on, they work. I was stopped by a local police officer because both lights were off…I did not know it. He stated his Prius was experiencing the same problem. Toyota dealership said they would replace for $300 a piece.

  • avatar
    jque12480

    I forgot to mention I purchased one of those 100k warranties, and it is not covered.

  • avatar
    410mvt

    My 2007 Prius with 36,655 miles experienced the intermittent headlamp issue described here in March 2009. Drivers headlight would randomly go off, but work fine other times. Eventually, it failed completely.

    I contacted my local Toyota dealership, with whom I did not have a service history as this is my first Toyota (longtime Honda customer!). I went to a scheduled appointment armed with pages of blog printouts, documenting the known issue. While I was ready to tackle the issue as a lawsuit, he deflected the whole thing with his desire to draw me in as a new customer.

    Their diagnosis determined “circuit check revealed an internal short in headlamp ECU (electronic control unit) caused bulb to short. Replaced ECU and bulb. Operational test verified repair. Repair and parts covered under goodwill policy.”

    The installed parts note part #90981-20015 bulb, HID and 81107-47150 Computer Sub-Assy”.

    My regular mechanic said that the ECU is equivalent to an igniter, which regulates voltage and current going to the headlamp, similar to a flourescent ballast.

    The ECU is covered under the 3 year / 36k warranty. My replacement was covered at no charge under a “goodwill policy” because I was only 655 miles over 36k. (The initial headlamp failure occurred when I was out of town & mileage less than 36k.) However, he also stated “off the record” that service managers can internally approved such replacements up to 70k miles. However, those in the 80-100k mile range will likely not be approved.

    I attempted to convince them to also replace the passenger side headlamp as a preventive measure, but they refused. I’m sure it’s a ticking time bomb. With 42,554 current miles, both headlamps now work correctly.

    Call Toyota Customer Experience Center at 800.331.4331 to log a complaint. Or, write them at Toyota Customer Assistance Center, Box 2991, Trrance, CA 90509-2991.

  • avatar

    Our local dealer charges $548.39 to replace two headlamps. I sent the following youtube link to the service manager along with a detailed message about what I thought about $548.39 to change two headlamps. He has not gotten back to me, strangely enough.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Er0oEHNUfQs
    I also put a bumper sticker on the back of the Prius reading “Toyota charges $548.39 to change the headlamps in this Prius.” One night after her shift at the ER, my wife was driving home and was stopped for the front headlamp being out. The policeman walked up to her window and explained he was stopping her for the headlamp, but that “there wasn’t a chance he would write her up” after reading that. Many people stopped me to ask whether there was more to it than just the headlamps, and Toyota lost at least two prospective customers.

  • avatar

    This is John from Girard Gibbs LLP, one of the law firms for the plaintiffs in the Toyota Prius HID Headlights Class Action Settlement.

    A BRIEF REMINDER:

    The deadline for mailing claims is May 30, 2011.

    Everyone will be considered for reimbursement who paid to repair an HID bulb or electronic control unit (ECU) on their 2006-2009 Toyota Prius and who submits a timely, valid claim:

    (1) For repairs within 5 years & 50,000 miles of the car’s original sale or lease date, the reimbursement will be in full. This includes repairs after 5 years or 50,000 miles, if you can show the problem began within that time frame.

    (2) For repairs after 5 years & 50,000 miles, YOU SHOULD STILL SUBMIT A CLAIM if you want to be reimbursed. These claims will be paid on a case-by-case basis, based on factors listed on the Toyota Class Action Claim Form.

    Keep in mind that this is just a brief reminder — not a complete list of the details of the settlement. Please visit http://www.GirardGibbs.com/Prius.asp and read the Toyota Class Action Notice for more information about deadlines and eligibility requirements. The settlement requires final court approval (a hearing is scheduled for August 1, 2011), before it will go into full effect.

  • avatar
    tomflips

    I’m a bit surprised that no one has mentioned “condensation” inside then driver side head lamp housing. I noticed condensation a while back that would come and go. Last night the driver side head lamp went out. I’m currently researching a fix w/o involving Toyota.


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