Repairing and Maintaining Hybrid Vehicles

Hybrid Vehicle Repair and Maintenance

Though it may seem innovative to many consumers, engineers have actually been experimenting with different energy sources for automobiles since the 19th Century. Henry Ford’s Model T ran on both gasoline and ethanol and almost a hundred years earlier, the first electric (battery-operated) vehicles were made in Europe. It’s no wonder that with environmental, economic and political concerns reaching a fevered pitch – and with more than $1.5 billion in government backing – alternative engine designs are making a comeback. Of these, the most talked-about automobile of late is the hybrid electric vehicle (HEV).

Hybrid mechanics in Manassas, VA.By definition, HEVs use two or more power sources – typically an electric motor and an internal combustion engine. In a full hybrid model like the Toyota Prius, Toyota Highlander or Ford Escape, a computer alternates between the two, determining which power source best fits the driving style. Unlike conventional cars, the electric start on hybrids provides more torque and instantaneous power, and a regenerative braking system harnesses the energy created by braking to charge the electric motor. These efficient and sophisticated vehicles are 21st Century machines in every respect and require technicians who are just as sharp

Twenty years ago, owning a toolbox and having a basic understanding of an internal combustion engine was all that was required to become a mechanic. That’s no longer the case. Today, automotive repair technicians are just as likely to use computers to run sophisticated diagnostic tests as they are searching for a problem under the hood. So in addition to having a traditional background in automotive repair, hybrid technicians are also required to have a thorough working knowledge of the HEV systems that control the on-board storage batteries and the electric drive motor. Safety mandates it.

Hybrid vehicle repair in Manassas, VA.Fortunately, hybrids have a fairly conventional driveline and propulsion system which doesn’t cost any more than a conventional car to maintain, and may even cost less due to decreased wear and tear on the engine and braking system. Since they differ little from gasoline engine vehicles when it comes to routine maintenance, scheduled services for HEVs have the same intervals as conventional vehicles. Under “normal” driving conditions, this means having the car serviced every 3,000 miles. With more than one million of these cars on the road, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) also have a massive infrastructure to fully support these vehicles. What this means is that qualified service shops like CoHo Auto always have an adequate and readily available parts inventory.

To ensure that the warranty is preserved, hybrid vehicles must only be maintained by a qualified shop. Having experienced, competent and knowledgeable technicians with a thorough understanding of the battery and electric drive systems is the key to properly maintaining and repairing hybrid vehicles. To say that we know a thing or two about hybrid vehicles is a bit of an understatement – we’ve been working on them from the beginning.


New Car Maintenance

Maintaining New Cars

Competition in a market economy is a good thing. It’s good for business; but it’s even better for consumers. This axiom is especially true as it relates to the automobile industry where car makers are consistently building better (read: more reliable) cars with each consecutive model. This competition also has led to improvements in lubricants and metallurgy, which are two key factors as to why maintenance intervals on many cars, trucks and SUVs have been extended. Unfortunately this has also led to the mistaken belief by customers that they need only to change the oil and rotate the tires on their late model car to keep it going for 100,000+ miles. The purpose of this article is to correct this misconception.

Mechanics working under the hood of a carAs good as cars are these days, it is still essential for every automobile owner to closely follow the scheduled maintenance intervals set forth by the manufacturer. The people who design these vehicles are the most competent engineers in the industry and know how best to prolong the life of the engine and drive train. So, does this mean that you have to take your car to the dealer for service in order to maintain its warranty? After all, even the most educated and savvy consumers believe that owners are required to bring their vehicle to the dealer for maintenance while it’s under warranty. The answer may surprise many of you – No.

Passed by Congress in 1975, the Moss-Magnuson Warranty Act (USC, Title 15, Chapter 50, Sections 2301-2312) assures customers they have the right to have any preventative maintenance performed at the facility of their choice despite the vehicle still being covered by a new car warranty, even if it is not offered for free. This law means that owners can have work completed at reputable independent shops like CoHo Auto without jeopardizing their warranty. Not too surprisingly, dealers rarely, if ever, offer this information to customers.

Congress essentially wanted to promote competition on the basis of warranty coverage alone. By making sure that consumers can get warranty-related information, the Act has forced dealers to compete with independent companies, which, in the long run, has made it much easier for consumers to resolve warranty coverage issues. This is free enterprise at its best and is what our legislators envisioned when they passed this law.

New car maintenance.In this regard, information is not just held by dealers now, but accessible to reputable independent shops as well. The best of these shops even have access to the same recommended scheduled maintenance requirements as the dealers and set forth by vehicle manufacture, as well as access to technical service bulletins and factory recalls. So regardless if its BMW’s Inspection I and II services, Mercedes Benz’s A-Service and BService, or the ubiquitous 12,000/24,000/36,000/etc or 30,000/60,000/90,000/etc services on American, Asian, and other European car makers, autonomous shops can complete all the work recommended by the manufacturer.
But how does the Moss-Magnuson Warranty Act apply to modified cars? Legally, a manufacturer, and by extension a dealer, cannot void the warranty on a vehicle if an aftermarket part was installed unless it can prove that the part caused or contributed to the failure. The burden of proof is with the dealer or manufacturer to explicitly prove that the aftermarket part caused the failure. Therefore and as it relates to the installation of an aftermarket part and/or ECU upgrade, for example, customers should do their due diligence by researching and working with shops that specialize in doing this work and with a proven history and track record.

Lastly, it should be noted that the Moss-Magnuson Warranty Act applies to written warranties made on goods, not services. So it is in your best interest to have your car(s) serviced at an established shop which has a reputation for doing the best work at a fair price, and one which provides the best customer service, support and guarantee.