Piston Slap: Riddle Me This About Prius' Batteries, Panther Love

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap riddle me this about prius batteries panther love

Lynn writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I enjoy your columns for their history and technology surprises of what might be wrong. Two history questions:

Since I have always been a penny pinching cheapskate and introvert I have never had an interest in large cars or silly awkward pick ups that burn lots of fuel and make lots of noise. Anyway, I don’t know what an auto Panther is or why several people at TTAC seem to remember it with fondness. Apparently the word has something to do with a frame built by Ford for many years but what is special about it and what is its history? Perhaps this could be worked in to one of your columns while helping someone with such a vehicle.

Many years ago I switched from Volkswagens to Toyotas and my life is now boring with no repair drama (or insults to my dignity from VW dealer staffs) and I haven’t been involved with auto repairs. A friend with a 2006 Prius with 90,000 miles asked me how long her car’s nickle metal hydride batteries would last out here in Phoenix’s hot sun. Any thoughts and history about this? Can the batteries be replaced with Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries?

Thank you,

Lynn E.

Sajeev answers:

Quite frankly, your life is boring to the point of shame. And not because you can’t comprehend Panther Love, explained and defended here and a decent year-by-year analysis given here by yours truly. But because your life never included proper American Icon.

VWs and Toyotas are fine, but there’s more to automotive life. Especially in the American South, where we pride ourselves on our proper American rides, even if they are swanga’d customizations of some of the worst machines in General Motor’s history. But the Panther is an amalgamation of the best of Americana, it’s the right sauce for many people’s palette.

Put seriously, these cars have merit even if they will never be mainstream. So if you don’t get it, don’t sweat it. It’s all good.

About the friend’s Prius: because Hybrids have a temperature control system for their battery packs, Arizona’s heat isn’t as big of a deal compared to a normal battery under the hood of a steaming hot engine. I expect for Arizona heat to tax the system more than other regions, but this article does a good job putting it into context. Maybe one of the fixes and preventative maintenance suggestions in that article will significantly extend battery life. Or–as we used to say around here–not.

So let’s wrap it up: Toyota warranties these systems for 8 years or 100,000 miles. Much like Hyundai’s insane warranties, I have little reason to doubt that Toyota did their homework. Car companies don’t usually gamble with their cash flow in such a dangerous place. With any luck, your friend has a few years of life left…fingers crossed on that.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

Join the conversation
2 of 19 comments
  • Occam Occam on Sep 05, 2012

    My fiance seems like the perfect candidate for a Prius. She's fairly frugal, keeps cars until the wheels fall off (seriously... she's 34, and on her second car... which is a 6 year old Versa), likes to try to be as green as possible, and doesn't care for the act of driving all that much. Can't say I get the Panther love (though admittedly, the only Panther I've driven was my grandmother's '03 Grand Marquis, before she finally gave up the pretense that she'd ever drive again... Whenever I'd visit, I'd take her out for lunch and errands driving her maroon colored barge. Fiance's mom has a Lesabre, which seemed equally bad. But, color me surprised, I rented a '12 Impala last month on a vacation in San Francisco, to drive down the coast and meet some old friends. I really liked it. That car felt so solid, the power so responsive... It didn't slosh around like a LeSlug or a Grandma-Rquis. It was 100% opposite of what I expected. I still wouldn't trade my tC for one (I like having two doors, a hatchback, and a manual transmission), but I was very, VERY pleasantly surprised. Other recent rentals included a Ford Focus and a Ford Fusion - the Impala was definitely on the "Focus" end of the spectrum from the wallowy Fusion!

  • Otaku Otaku on Sep 06, 2012

    First learned to drive in my father's old '84 Mercury Grand Marquis. My friend's first car was an '87 version that was virtually identical. I kinda helped teach him how to drive it properly. He later upgraded to a 1994 model and then traded that in on a 2002 LTD, which I helped him out with from time to time. Over the course of the last couple decades many of my uncles have owned several iterations of either the Grand Marquis or the Lincoln Town Car and during my late adolescence, I found myself behind the wheel of just about all of them at some point or another. So yeah, you can put me squarely in the category of people who "get" what Panther Love is all about. That is all.

  • Rusty The panther platform is one of the greatest vehicles platforms ever produced. This author is a moron.
  • Bullnuke It may be awhile before these show up on US shores. The MV Fremantle Highway has just started demo/reconstruction in Rotterdam after the large fire when transporting its last shipment of electric Porsche products.
  • Fie on Fiasler Big, fast and thirsty does not equal good. True luxury is not cobbled together by the UAW.
  • Inside Looking Out I see it as gladiator races - only one survives in virtual world.
  • Crown They need to put the EcoDiesel back in the Grand Cherokee. I have a 2018 and it has been the most reliable vehicle I ever owned. 69,000 miles and only needed tires, and regular oil and fuel filter changes.