Toyota Motor Company
• Don’t assume service/repair competency — Any repair facility (dealer or independent shop) can look capable and fully prepared to service your vehicle, but check first. Ask to see the credentials of the technicians who will service your vehicle, looking and when they were attained and last updated.
• Keep competencies and knowledge current — Vehicles have changed a lot in just the last five years, so make sure your technicians are not behind the learning curve. Two excellent sources for hybrid, electric and plug-in training and certification for technicians include Toyota Motor Sales USA and the Automotive Development Career Center.
• Serious and capable shops and technicians use the proper resources — Authentic service information and procedures, diagnostic scan tools, other relevant tools and equipment, as well as thorough safety measures. For instance, the right diagnostic scan tool matters. Toyota Motor Sales USA provides two different options for technicians and shop owners to access its diagnostic and reprogramming tool, service information, technical service bulletins, software updates and more in a single portable device, one higher cost, the other less expensive.
- 1) The most complete solution is the Toyota Information Systems (TIS) Techstream factory scan tool. The cost to an automotive professional is approximately $8,000, but it includes a Panasonic Toughbook laptop, the fullest diagnostic and reprogramming functionality, and full support for 1989 to all current models along with periodic software updates. Techstream Lite is less functional and lower cost version of TIS Techstream.
- 2) Techstream Lite costs approximately $1,500, but users supply their own laptops. It only performs OBD II diagnostics for 2006 through current models; other diagnostic functionality may be limited, especially for hybrid, electric and plug-in models.
• Bottom line, know what level of service you are hiring — If a technician or shop is serious about servicing all of your hybrid-electric vehicle’s needs, the full function, more expensive TIS Techstream will be used. If your facility uses anything less, it’s doubtful that all your future service needs can be met. Before you spend any money, ask what they are limiting from fixing completely, so you can make a better-informed service decision beforehand.
• Aftermarket repair expertise is better that most automakers give it credit — Often an automaker will recommend the complete replacement rather than partial repair of a faulty battery pack or some other hybrid-electric component. The entire replacement can be expensive for consumers. Some aftermarket specialists such as Revolt have become very skilled at less costly repair of what’s actually wrong rather than suggest wholesale replacement. There are times your money can stay in your pocket.
• Details matter — Many hybrid-electric vehicles came equipped with low rolling resistance tires, which contributed to high fuel economy ratings. Be aware that if these were replaced over time with conventional tires, overall fuel mileage to drop by 15% or more.