You’ve decided the time has come to change your car and you are considering the purchase of one of the many hybrid vehicles available. One of the major considerations you’ll be thinking about when looking at the different models are the differences in regular hybrid car maintenance jobs you will need to carry out. There are some differences, but not many and there are some areas which are particularly specialised and so need to be looked after by trained mechanics.
Indeed, these vehicles are different in that they combine a standard type of internal combustion engine with an electric power unit which the vehicles on board management system will switch between to give a standard car driving experience but at the same time reducing emissions and saving fuel.
What is the basic maintenance for hybrid cars?
The main areas where standard and hybrid car maintenance differ are the batteries which are stored within the car and the extra electric drive motor. Other than this, the maintenance is pretty much similar to the car you are looking to trade in.
Hybrid cars work by closing the combustion engine and then operating as normal on an electric motor. This happens under particular conditions such as driving at low speeds. This means that the engine doesn’t have to work as hard so there isn’t as much wear and tear as you’d find on a standard vehicle. A hybrid also usually uses a regenerative braking system which charges the batteries as well as reducing the amount of degenerative wear on the brakes.
The biggest difference when it comes to thinking about maintenance is that the drive train differs between the two kinds of vehicle. In a hybrid, the engine, the electric drive motor and the transmission are all designed to be an integral part of each other as opposed to separate components in a non-hybrid. This means that if one part suffers a fault, it can instantly and seriously affect the way the other parts work. This can be a serious issue and because of the technology element of the system of a hybrid it means computer diagnosis; not something which can be sorted at home in the garage – it needs to go to a trained mechanic.
What jobs can I do at home?
There are some jobs you can do at home though. You can check the levels of the transmission fluid, change the fuel filters, the air filters and spark plugs as you would in any regular home service. Anything more complex though needs specific training so it’s good not to delve much deeper. You should also check your windscreen washer fluid on a weekly basis as well as your tyre pressures and their condition generally. If you are driving the car under harsh conditions such as frequent short trips, constantly pulling a trailer or driving at sustained high speeds, you should carry out regular maintenance at much shorter intervals.
Hybrids often have dedicated cooling systems. This is because the electronic components which manage the electric drive motor for propulsion and braking create incredible amounts of heat.
Hybrid cars carry a battery control module which manages the regulation of the rates of charge and discharge. It also manages the charging of the whole battery bank. These operating conditions mean that there will be both a heating and a cooling system.
Maintenance for the battery element of a hybrid should include checking the individual hoses for cracks and splits as well as the pipes and clamps for any rust or damage. If there are other filters which are used in the system, they should be changed on a regular basis.
Leave the electrics to the specialists
Hybrids run on a dual voltage system and the majority is 12-volt. However, some components such as the drive motor operate at levels over 100 volts which could – if tampered with by someone who is not trained – be fatal. As a warning, the relevant cables are encased in bright orange casing and any area of a hybrid with a maintenance requirement related to these parts must only ever be dealt with by a trained technician. This is because the whole system must be de-powered and it is never a job for the home mechanic.
More trips to the garage but savings in other areas
Overall, owning a hybrid will mean extra trips to the garage to carry out maintenance you could perhaps have resolved yourself with a non-hybrid vehicle. However, the upshot is that you are owning a much more ecologically sound car which is saving you money in fuel so the scales of budget to start to even themselves out. If you are mechanically minded, it’s a case of working to the limits of your knowledge and knowing when to pass the job to those who are specialists rather than trying to work on fixing something you could end up causing more damage to – or damaging yourself.
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