DETROIT – The Associated Press reports that independent mechanics are not venturing into hybrid repair, leaving owners with costly dealer mechanics as their only option.
For now repairs aren't an issue for most owners, because warranties protect the hybrids for many years. But some owners fear the end of the warranty, because they won't have the option of going to independent repair shops, which typically charge less.
Although service stations can rotate the tires, fix the brakes and change the oil, owners of these vehicles need to visit the dealerships for anything that requires mechanics to analyze or fix problems under the hood. And in many cases, independent auto mechanics don't want to touch hybrid vehicles, for various reasons.
First, although instructions are available via the Internet or written materials, training is being offered only to Ford, Toyota and Honda dealership technicians and some fleet partners.
Being trained to work on one car wouldn't necessarily translate to the others. Honda uses an entirely different hybrid system than Ford and Toyota. Moreover, the systems feature unique software running more than a dozen computers -- the heart of the hybrids' operation.
The limited number of hybrid owners also makes it not worthwhile to train mechanics for the repairs, the AP story states.
Hybrids' high-voltage cables may present a safety risk. While a regular car battery carries 12 volts, a Toyota Prius battery sends out more than 270 volts, enough to stop a heart.