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Is there a cost effective hybrid battery replacement?

Posted by John Paul  March 6, 2012 09:51 AM

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Q. Here is my problem, I have a 2003 Honda Civic hybrid and I have been told the car needs its hybrid battery replaced. I have been told there is no answer except a $4,300 purchase of a new battery and computer. The Honda dealership says there is no repair, only replacement of the battery. My question is with the overall emerging hybrid market if someone is not finding a niche in repairing these batteries. The problem is the car runs fine but needs to be inspected in April. I am told that the car will not pass inspection with either the check or the IMA light on. Is there any hope or solution other than spending $4300.00?

A. Replacing the battery may be the only alternative but you don’t need to use a dealer supplied battery. I spoke with the folks at and they have a replacement battery for your car that sells for $2000. The labor to remove and replace this battery is just about an hour. It sounds like you could be back in business for $2200.00. As hybrids age and batteries need replacement, battery replacement costs will likely become more affordable.

Q. From time-to-time, the "check engine" light on my 2008 Toyota Corolla comes on, stays on for days or weeks, then goes off. The Toyota dealership's service adviser said there is no problem if the light goes out, and the situation can only be diagnosed if the light is on. What are your thoughts?

A. The problem will be much easier to identify if you can get to a repair shop when the check engine light is on. You don’t need to bring it to the dealer for the code to be read, any shop can do it for you. Once you have the code repairing the car is easier. Since the light comes on and off, in fact there may be no problem except the gas cap is always tighten after refueling. This would also be indicated by the stored diagnostic code.

Q. I love my 2004 Toyota Sienna which now has over 155,000 miles on it. I am the original owner and I would like it to last for at least two more years. The size helps in moving our college age kids as well as other errands. I am a true believer in preventive maintenance and have adhered to an oil change every 3-4,000 miles and done all suggested work by the dealership. During the last oil change I asked to have the tire balance checked because I felt a "shaking" over 65mph. I was advised that the steering “U- joint” has a little wear which would account for the shake. The car also needs front and rear brakes repaired. I have been told the total cost will be about $2300.00. My question to you is should I repair the van or buy something new?

A. It is always cheaper to fix an old car than buy a new one. If the overall condition of the car is good it makes financial sense to keep it and have the repair performed. Regarding the repairs, the universal joint in the steering shaft is a common failure, although I’m not sure based on your information, that this would be a cause of the vibration. Perhaps you should consider a second opinion on the repairs and the overall condition of the van before you make a final decision.

Q. I am thinking about buying the New 2012 Honda CR-V. It has Vehicle Stability Assist with Traction Control and Brake Assist. I am considering AWD. Is this redundant, or would AWD be a benefit?

A. The newest CR-V continues to be one of my favorite small SUV/crossovers. Although it will perform admirably with front wheel drive, in my opinion all-wheel-drive adds an additional margin of safety that isn’t available with electronic traction enhancements. In addition when it comes time to trade in, the CRV with all-wheel-drive tends to hold its value and improves and resale.

Q.I am ready to buy a new car, I have a 2001 Corolla and have no complaints with it except that I need a change. Consumer Reports describes it as "bland" and I am ready to break out with something different. I have test driven and ruled out the Honda Fit, the Yaris and the Prius. I am now focusing on the Matrix as my number one choice. I am afraid I will have another Corolla or equally as bland a Honda Civic. I like both, but for me I think it is time to move on from “more of the same". My two main questions for you are can you recommend the Matrix and if not would you choose a Civic or a Corolla?

A. The Matrix is an easy car to recommend, it gets decent mileage and has great all-around versatility, but no one will ever call is exciting. If your Corolla was ice cream it would be vanilla and the Matrix would be strawberry. Regarding the Civic versus the Corolla, to me the Corolla is the winner. If you are looking for a little more excitement in a compact car, you might want to look at the Nissan Juke. It is similar to the Matrix in size, more fun to drive and it is available in all-wheel-drive.

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
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