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

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

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.

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • 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.

  • Grant P Farrell Oh no the dealership kept the car for hours on two occasions before giving me a loaner for two months while they supposedly replaced the ECU. I hate cords so I've only connected it wirelessly. Next I'm gonna try using the usb-c in the center console and leaving the phone plugged in in there, not as convenient but it might lower my blood pressure.
  • Jeff Tiny electrical parts are ruining today's cars! What can they ...
  • CEastwood From zero there is nowhere to go but up . BYD isn't sold in the U.S. and most Teslas are ugly azz 90s looking plain jane drone mobiles . I've only seen one Rivian on the road and it 's not looking good for them . I live out in the sticks of NW NJ and EVs just aren't practical here , but the local drag strip thrives in the warmer months with most cars making the trip from New York .
  • Lorenzo Aw, that's just the base price. Toyota dealers aren't in the same class as BMW/Porsche upsellers, and the Toyota base is more complete, but nobody will be driving that model off the lot at that price.
  • Mike The cost if our busing program is 6.2 million for our average size district in NJ. It was 3.5 last year.