Is Toyota HIDing From Prius Headlight Problem?

Frank Williams
by Frank Williams

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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  • 410mvt 410mvt on Oct 07, 2009

    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.

  • Donal Jolley Donal Jolley on Nov 20, 2010

    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. 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.

  • JWHGG JWHGG on May 24, 2011

    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 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.

  • Tomflips Tomflips on Aug 08, 2011

    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.