Piston Slap: The Straw That Broke the Hybrid's Back?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap the straw that broke the hybrid s back

Marc writes:

Hi, I haven’t seen this addressed anywhere.

I have 2006 Lexus RX400H with 106,000 miles. The vehicle is bulletproof never having a repair, it even has it’s original brakes. I traded in a 2000 RX 300 for it. The 300 also never had a repair.

My question pertains to the hybrid batteries. Multiple Toyota and Lexus dealers have stated to me, that they have seen few hybrids if any needing replacement batteries yet some Prius’ have been on the road for over 10 years but there doesn’t seem to be much said about the expected life of the battery packs. My battery warranty just expired. Is it time to trade it in to avoid the eventual high battery replacement cost or am I worrying about a problem that could be many years down the road.

Sajeev asks:

Hi there. Where do you live and how many electronic items on the cat do you regularly run? (A/C, stereo, heated seat, etc.)

Marc replies:

I live in Southern California. The AC is almost always on, music always on, NAV always on.

Sajeev concludes:

The series has indeed covered hybrid battery fail, Toyotas in particular. Your location’s warm climate shall be easy on hybrid batteries, not taxing them with a ton of power robbing heater load. Or, to a lesser extent, the A/C load of hotter parts of the country. But your battery will fail, and there are companies willing to help.

If you want the help.

Considering the lack of needed repairs (original brakes? Impressive!) on this RX, selling it while the going is good is quite logical. If you want a new vehicle! If not, find a hybrid battery vendor, get a brake job, fluid changes, etc. that will eventually be needed.

All this work could be the straw that broke the camel’s back, yet none of it scares me like a TDI+DSG Volkswagen product that’s out of warranty. This stuff just needs to happen. I’d wager it’s worth it, if you like the RX and wouldn’t want to pay for a new vehicle. Which is always gonna be your call, son.

[Image: Shutterstock user Wit Olszewski]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

Join the conversation
3 of 73 comments
  • Salguod Salguod on Apr 23, 2014

    If you're looking for a reason to get a new car, you'll find it in some of the opinions here. If you want facts, however, check out True Delta, CR and the enthusiast forums. I can't comment on the RC400h specifically, but I can comment on the Prius as I just bought a gen 2 with 112K and it's original battery. The Prius is near or at the tops of both CR & TD's surveys and battery replacements under 200K are fairly rare on priuschat.com. In fact, there are many 200K+ and 300K+ owners on their original batteries. Additionally, re-manufactured replacements are fairly affordable and used batteries can be had for the $500 range (plus installation). Despite what some here have said, Toyota hybrid batteries have a established track record of longevity and durability. No need to worry.

  • Questionfear Questionfear on Apr 23, 2014

    For what it's worth, I have a 2008 Prius with about 96k miles on it, and I've wondered the same thing (re: battery life and warranty.) After doing the research I decided to roll the dice and keep the car, because the battery is still going strong and the car's been good to me so far (fingers crossed I don't jinx that). Aside from regular oil changes, I've had three expenses with this car: -Auxiliary battery was dying and had to be replaced ($299) -Brakes were rusted and worn (don't remember the exact cost, probably a couple hundred, because that repair was rolled into my last major expense with the car...) -Tires. Tires are the bane of my existence. I do not understand why or how a car like the Prius chews through tires at the rate of one full set per year (roughly-some years the tires survived, while other years I had a slew of flats driving up the average). Some of that was definitely the rough NJ roads busting my tires, but some of that was just mystery flats and wear and tear. Once I blew a hole in a tire randomly just driving down the road. I hate tires. Then again, it's still better than my old Altima-I got in it one night and went to start it, and the battery exploded. I spent a good 30 seconds wondering if I'd pissed off a mobster.

    • Kyree Kyree on Apr 23, 2014

      "Then again, it’s still better than my old Altima-I got in it one night and went to start it, and the battery exploded." Wow! I probably would have needed a new set of pants after that.

  • RHD The only people who would buy this would be those convinced by a website that they are great, and order one sight-unseen. They would have to have be completely out of touch with every form of media for the last year. There might actually be a few of these people, but not very many. They would also have to be completely ignorant of the Hyundai Excel. (Vinfast seems to make the original Excel look like a Camry in comparison.)
  • RHD This was awesome, in 1978. Now, it's very much obsolete - thirsty, slow, ponderous, noisy, rough, and dated design even in its time. Still, someone who wants to recreate some distant memories will buy it and restore it and enjoy it, and the seller just has to find that particular individual.
  • BEPLA Cybertruck may have made some kind of weird sense had it been brought on market on time, ie: before Rivian and F150 Lightning.But the market has progressed.If this were any normal company it would be ditched for a more competitive product.But in Elon's narcissistic dreamworld - well, we'll just see how it flops.
  • RHD If you want to 'win', just to to the local auto parts store and buy the stuff that you really want and need. Then you don't have to wonder if you'll ever actually get anything.
  • Bullnuke Farago was absolutely correct. I should have been allowed to die. It was never "Too Big To Fail" - It would have been bought up, perhaps in pieces, and the failing portions would have disappeared much as they did later while GM had control with Pontiac as an example. There would have been a small chance (well, very small chance) that the hide-bound corporate leadership would have been purged and injected with new ideas and direction. Wasn't allowed to happen as organized labor had a very large finger on the scale during that time...