The science behind hybrid cars is complex – but maintaining them doesn’t have to be. In fact, most of the time, upkeep is very similar to that of a standard car. The petrol engine in any hybrid will need all the standard maintenance that a conventionally-powered model does.
The difference lies in the systems that control the batteries and electric motor. If working as it should, most hybrids can operate on electric-only if conditions allow. This means the engine works less hard, and the regenerative braking systems in many hybrids can also reduce wear on brake components.
Where they differ
The major difference between standard cars and hybrids is in the drivetrain. The petrol engine, electric motor and transmission are very closely integrated, essentially working as ‘one’ component. But that means a problem with one can have a knock-on effect for the others.
Maintenance beyond basic petrol engine upkeep is therefore best left to professionals. Changing the spark plugs, and air and fuel filters, is about as far as you’d want to go.
Electronics and cooling
Remember the whirring sound as the fans of your old computer used to kick in? Any large piece of electronic equipment needs effective cooling – and hybrid cars are no different. The motor and regenerative braking can create large amount of heat, so have dedicated cooling systems.
Leaving it to experts
Most hybrid cars are equipped with dual voltage systems. Every car has a standard 12V system (like the one used to power the cigarette lighter), but the electrical parts of the drivetrain may operate at deadly levels well in excess of 100V.
To help you identify these high-voltage circuits and stay safe, they are typically wrapped in bright orange casing or marked out with lightning bolt icons; do not meddle with these bits. Specialist technicians undergo training to ensure the safe maintenance of dangerous elements of your hybrid, so leave it to them.
As many a driver living in chillier climes can attest, cold weather can affect the battery in any car. The same is true of the batteries in hybrid cars. They work best when warm, so make sure you let your car warm up sufficiently before setting out on a particularly chilly day.
Good tyre maintenance is a fundamental part of car ownership, hybrid or not. But it’s especially true for hybrids, as the correct tyre pressure is key to getting the best possible fuel economy. Whether over-inflated or under-inflated, you’ll notice a significant impact on your miles-per-gallon if it’s not right.
Many hybrid vehicles incorporate tyres with low rolling-resistance to help improve fuel economy and reduce emissions. This means the tyres are less ‘sticky’, providing marginally less grip on the road surface. When it’s time to replace your tyres, make sure you’re getting the right ones for your car.
Hybrid maintenance at Inchcape Toyota
If your hybrid Toyota vehicle needs a little TLC, check it in for a service or routine maintenance at your nearest Inchcape Toyota outlet. A Hybrid Health Check costs just £45, and is available at any of our eight locations across England.