Tips for Maintaining Your Hybrid Vehicle
Hybrids differ little from traditional vehicles when it comes to routine maintenance. Other than the systems that control the onboard storage batteries and the additional electric drive motor, routine maintenance for hybrids is essentially the same as the old clunker your dad just refuses to give up. It’s easy—just use these tips as a basic guide to maintaining your hybrid vehicle:
The Basics of Full Hybrid Vehicles
If operated as designed, full hybrid vehicles have the ability to shut off their internal combustion engines and operate on the electric motor under specific conditions (e.g. low-speed maneuvering and light cruising). Translation? The engine doesn’t work as hard, resulting in reduced wear and tear. Hybrids also often employ regenerative braking systems that not only charge the batteries but also reduce wear on brake components.
Because of the way that the internal combustion engine works (the electric drive motor and the transmission are paired together to work as one unit), a malfunction in one component directly impacts the way others function. Serious troubleshooting, diagnosis, and repair of this system should be left to professionals.
You can check the transmission fluid, change out spark plugs, and replace fuel and air filters; however, venturing beyond that requires more specialized training.
Breaking Down Complex Electronics
The complex electronic modules that control the electric drive motor for both propulsion and regenerative braking can generate enormous amounts of heat; consequently, most have their own dedicated cooling systems.
The battery control modules regulate charge and discharge rates, in addition to the entire bank’s state of charge. To operate consistently under every condition, these systems will often employ both heating and cooling systems.
When performing the regular maintenance on the engine cooling system, remember to check the individual hoses, pipes, and clamps, in addition to any other filters that may be used in the motor’s and battery’s cooling/heating system.
Safety First: The Shocking Truth About the Color Orange
Hybrids generally are equipped with dual voltage systems. Though most of the electrical system is safe, standard 12-volt, the drive motor and related components operate well in excess of 100 volts. Because the safety threshold is low and narrow, an electrical shock with as little as 50 volts can prove fatal. To warn technicians who work on these high voltage circuits, the cables are wrapped in a bright orange casing. To safely maintain and repair these components, the system must be completely powered down—a task that must, in the interest of your safety (and, uh, your life), be left to best, most highly skilled technicians.