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Defective Hybrid Battery? Has Anyone Been There?


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Dear Forum Members:

Long story short-- today my dealer told me that my 2006 rx 400h (30k miles) has a defective hybrid battery which isnt properly holding a charge causing the engine to run too much and they are sending away for its replacement.

I am looking for others who have had to have their batteries replaced as well to see what if anything Lexus did to make sure the car was actually fixed. Here is the long version of my saga -- sorry it is so long. The car has been to the dealer multiple times because I never thought it was working quite the way that it should. The mileage has never been good regardless of how I drive and the car has never seemed to be able to move from a dead start on electric power without the engine coming on regardless of how gentle I have been on the throttle- or the engine would continue to run while at a stop for minutes at a time even when the batteries were 3 or 4 bars from being fully charged and engine at normal operating temp. Each time the car went to the dealer, they told me they have run the tests and that there are no errors and therefor the car is doing exactly what it was designed to do. I havent been satisfied with that and contacted corporate. They arranged for me to drive an '08 for several days and I found that the new car was getting significantly better mileage and the engine wasnt running as long at stops even when driving my normal routes and under similar conditions. I reported these observations to the folks at corporate, they explained that the differences in mileage was probably differences in the trip computers (I didnt actually calculate mileage on the loaner by using actual gas calculations from the odometer and the pump but do so on every tank with my car) and that the difference in how long the engine runs before shutting off is not significant.

I was continually told that if there were any sort of problem, the "sophisticated" sensors in the hybrid system would log any errors long before the batteries went bad and that the system would identify any time the car was operating outside of "parameters". Today the technician who drove my car noticed there was "something wrong" with the system but apparently the computer did not note any problems.

My concerns going forward are these. 1) is the problem deeper than just the batteries or is there another malfunction which caused the batteries to fail 2) how do I know that they have fixed the problem if the computer didnt log any errors this time and the batteries were bad. 3) for all owners who like me think their car isnt quite right, how does Lexus diagnose so that they can correct the problem when they insist that there cant be a problem if there are no errors logged in the computer. 4) what do you wise members think I should do in my conversations with Lexus to make sure that they take care of this problem.

I would very much appreciate any help anyone can give with this issue. I would especially appreciate knowing if anyone else has had their batteries replaced and if so, what were the circumstances and did the replacement battery solve your problems.

Thank you all.

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is there a lemon law in arizona? also can you ask for compensation because your 400h used more fuel over the life of the vehicle than almost every other hybrid of its type. we know from surveys here that at least 50% of the people get 25 mph or better on their Lexus hybrids. also ask corporate if you can have the california hybrid warranty that covers your system to 150,000 miles, i think that would be reasonable since you got no satisfaction until now. just some random thoughts as I read your post.

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I'll take care of that reply.

By the way, Barnette, you didn't mention what fuel mileage you've been getting. We continue to average 24-26 MPG with our 06.

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I guess this may be hard for some to believe, but I do have a very light foot on the pedal, and I gat about 30 to 33 around town, 24 to 26 seems about right or maybe a bit low for highway driving. I just got rid of the 07 RX and now have an 08 GS hybrid and didn't do a paper and pencil check yet but computer readout is about 28 to 29 on a car with less than 200 miles

PS two days ago I drove to the gas station, then got back in the car and drove a little over a 1/4 mile to the post office with the engine off. With the RX I did an experment to see how far I could go, I was able to drive over a mile with the engine off

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Sorry to hear about your battery problem. Let us know how it turns out. I would like to hear about your mileage before and after the new battery installation.

I spent a lot of time in the hybrid forums looking for evidence of battery failures before I bought my 400h. It is hard to find very many people with battery problems or deteriorating mileage even on the older Priuses with far over 100,000 miles. I recall reading some very rare but similiar posts to yours where people's mileage went down, the energy display clearly indicated a problem and also where the dealers couldn't find or wouldn't admit to the battery problem. This is a little disturbing but fortunately for most of us it seems to be pretty rare.

Good luck and keep us informed.

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I don't see the problem. The traction battery is warranted to 100K (150K miles in some states) unless you're driving a salvaged vehicle. Lexus gives you a rental car during the interim. Traction batteries comprize lots of littler batteries, built into a bigger moduel. The dealer's service department has equipment that can determine which of the individual cels are bad. Boom. Back on the road you go. Think about it, there are over 1,000,000 hybrids on the road now. There's bound to be one or more traction packs that will die early ... just like a regular car's equipment sometimes dies prematurly. When they finish, you should be good to go! BTW, Lemon laws don't apply until there are multiples of the same occurance.

You cover several more issues ... like the ICE continuing to run when you're 4 bars down. If your A.C. is running, that's normal. Many here don't grasp how to have the vent on strictly, without the A.C. but you CAN do that. But being in many parts in AZ, you might not want to.

Better mpg in the rental? How many miles did it have on it compared to yours. The 400h like many hybrids seems to have multiple break in periods. Some notice improved mpg's around 2K-3K miles, then again more around 10K. Now if your issues are deeper, Lexus is pretty good about 'making it right'. So now that your case is documented (and you DO keep your hybrid beyond the warranty, tho most don't), Lexus will most likely take care of you ... and if they go bad again, early, you will mostly be taken well care of in a timely maner.

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I don't see the problem. The traction battery is warranted to 100K (150K miles in some states) unless you're driving a salvaged vehicle. Lexus gives you a rental car during the interim. Traction batteries comprize lots of littler batteries, built into a bigger moduel. The dealer's service department has equipment that can determine which of the individual cels are bad. Boom. Back on the road you go. Think about it, there are over 1,000,000 hybrids on the road now. There's bound to be one or more traction packs that will die early ... just like a regular car's equipment sometimes dies prematurly. When they finish, you should be good to go! BTW, Lemon laws don't apply until there are multiples of the same occurance.

I think he is saying that the dealer refuses to admit there is a problem

PS it is important to keep records of the visit because he already more than once and didn't get it fixed. If the dearer fails after the numberof times allowed the lemon law kicks in

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If I had more trust in my dealer, I would take in both of our 400h's for diagnosis since we both are getting 22.5-23 mpg since purchase, now with 14K miles each. But frankly all I think I will hear is "everything is normal."

Tom

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I don't have an RX400h, but we have always felt that way about our Prius. It doesn't stealth well, and we've never gotten the mileage others get even when being careful. Best tank ever was 43, high 30s is normal, high 20s in the winter. Granted its driven on short trips, but even before then when it was commuted in and when its driven more extensively its never seemed right.

Same deal, dealer has always insisted nothing is wrong with the car. I know for a fact others at the PriusChat forum have experienced the same thing, although the members there generally run them out of town with pitchforks for insinuating something might be wrong with their units vs driver error.

I'd be interested to see what the result of having your batteries replaced is. Thats big of Lexus to do that, I wouldn't be worried about it I'd be happy.

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Steve. I received a letter last week from a Lexus dude from my dealership asking about my satisfation with various things. I think I'll take the opportunity to email him about our low fuel economy numbers and see what he says. At least I will have begun a "paper trail."

Tom

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I was getting 26.9 MPG combinded on my 2006 400h and then all of a sudden the MPG dropped to 23.4. My dealer is telling me that it is because of the ethanol in the gas.
That could be true, I mentioned this before, but in NY there were signs posted on the pump stating that ethanol will cut MPG. In NY they changed the blend from summer to winter and added ethanol, it was state law to cut pollution by adding it to gas but it cut MPG. That isn't a big change, the change in gas combined the change in driving habits, such as using the AC more could account for the diffrence
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We've got an 06 400h AWD with 35,000 miles and have never gotten great mpg. In town we normally have gotten 23-24mpg. Lately (like in the last 3-4 months) it's gone down to 18-19! The best we've ever seen is 28 a couple times when on trips, but only in sections that were 55mph (construction) or downhill in the mountains.

Honestly we have been very disappointed in the RX400h (between the crappy mpg and lack of features for a $50k car), but very pleased with the Lexus service.

Since seeing this thread, my wife called the dealer and they are going to have their regional engineer look at it next week since apparently they have been hearing some sort of grumbling about this issue. I'll post if they determine anything is wrong.

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A VW bug (turbo) averages 23 MPG and a Mazda MX5 Miata, about 27 MPG. In my book, if we can average 23+ MPG and yet be capable of a 0-60 time of 6.6 seconds, that is nothing to complain about. Remember, we're hauling around 4600 lbs of weight.

As far as highway mileage, an SUV, whether it be hybrid or ICE-only, will never achieve stellar MPGs; the coeffient of drag not being a strong point!

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My coworker's dad has an RX400h and he got his in 05 like us (and lives in the same city so has the same gas and weather). He keeps detailed logs of the fuel and mileage (and mpg as reported by the computer in a spreadsheet.

My buddy sent the spreadsheet to me and he's averaged 22.5mpg *actual* over the life of his RX. I'm going to put my logs into the same spreadsheet and see what it says for our car. The computer indicated MPG is normally 1mpg over what it actually is according to his spreadsheet.

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I wouldn't pay much attention to the MPG of a new RX hybrid. I was a little disappointed when the car was new but I was aware of the fact that it takes a few thousand miles before the engine is broken in so I didn't pay much attention to the mileage till I had some miles on the car. I would pretty much ignore the MPG the car got for the first 5,000 miles and consider everything after the the true maximum that the car is capable of getting. Unfortunately I turned in the car after only 17,000 miles and have to start breaking in a new engine all over again.

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OK, so after crunching the numbers, here's what we've seen in our RX400h over 35,000 miles:

Car bought in 05/06 of 2005 (first fillup in Jun-05)

Total Miles: 34931

Total Gallons: 1591.274

Average MPG: 21.95

2005 Miles: 6897

2005 MPG: 22.61

2006 Miles: 11706

2006 MPG: 22.80

2007 Miles: 9923

2007 MPG: 21.25

2008 Miles: 6405

2008 MPG: 20.95

Lowest month MPG: Jul 2008 19.23 (504 miles so far)

Highest month MPG: Jul 2006 23.97 (3100 miles this month, we took a trip to Colorado, around 1000 miles each way -- we got great mileage in the mountains actually [even with some trips well above the speed limit because of an emergency!]). While in Colorado (this is not the trip out) our actual MPG for the tanks were:

27.39

26.31

27.16

25.30

This is in Winter Park (9100' elevation) with trips over the passes in Rocky Mountain national park (13-14000') and trips to the surrounding area. I think part of the reason for the good mpg is the 55mph speed limit with limited stops and long sections of downhill coasting.

Note that these are actual MPG. The computer's MPG is effectively 5% optimistic in all cases, so roughly 1mpg over what the actual is (and this is the same with my coworker's dad's RX400h of similar vintage).

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