Will my Toyota hybrid be okay if I don’t drive it for a long time?

As the UK government has instructed the nation to stay at home and only venture out for specific, essential reasons in light of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) situation, many of us are being encouraged to park our cars if we can. Some owners of Toyota hybrids might be wondering what will happen to their car during long periods without use, particularly when it comes to the level of charge in the batteries.

The reassuring news is that no difficult car maintenance is necessary. However, there are some tips that, if followed, can help ensure your Toyota remains in tip-top condition during an extended layoff.

To recap, Toyota hybrids generally contain two batteries: a 12-volt battery (which powers systems such as the headlamps and audio) and a high-voltage hybrid system battery (which supplies the power to start the combustion engine and drive the electric motors).

The simplest way to maintain charge in both of these batteries is to simply go through the normal start procedure: press the ‘Start’ button with your foot on the brake and ensure the ‘Ready’ light is illuminated on the dashboard (you don’t have to keep your foot on the brake thereafter, but ensure your vehicle’s transmission is in ‘Park’ and the parking brake is engaged).

We recommend you put the car in ‘Ready’ mode for about 60 minutes before switching it off again and repeat the process at least once a week, providing you can carry out this procedure while adhering to the government’s advice regarding social distancing and Coronavirus (Covid-19). Please do not leave your car unattended when it is in ‘Ready’ mode.

During the time that that car is in ‘Ready’ mode, you may hear and feel the internal combustion engine kick in; this is a normal part of the self-charging process. You might be tempted to switch on the radio to pass the time, or turn on other systems, but bear in mind these will consume small amounts of electrical power so it is preferable to leave them off.

Ensure the handbrake is on; there’s no need to go for a drive, although we must stress that this procedure should take place in a well-ventilated area – something to consider if you park your vehicle in a garage.

What if my Toyota isn’t a hybrid?

Our petrol and diesel cars only have a 12-volt battery, which provides the power to start the engine in addition to the other systems mentioned above. Regular start-up of the vehicle on conventional petrol and diesel engines needs approximately 20 minutes of running to put back into the battery what you remove on start up, so to maintain this battery we would suggest 60 minutes of running at least once a week.

Is there anything else I need to do?

Whether you own a hybrid or a Toyota equipped solely with an internal combustion engine, there are a few other easy car maintenance points that can ensure your Toyota hybrid remains healthy and happy during an enforced hibernation. Again, please adhere to the latest government advice regarding social distancing.

  • Check the tyre pressures are fully inflated to the recommended level and top-up if necessary. It can be a good idea to repeat this process when you first drive your car after a long period of inactivity.
Toyota hybrid storage
  • Clean the car thoroughly inside and out. If you are storing your car in a garage, make sure the vehicle is completely dry before you put it away.
Toyota hybrid storage
  • If you do plan to store your car in a garage, ensure the chosen storage area offers plenty of ventilation. If the space is secure, you could consider opening one of the car’s windows a small way to ventilate the interior. If you do this, you might have to change your car alarm’s setting to prevent it setting off the intrusion sensor – please consult your car’s manual for more information.
Toyota hybrid storage
  • It can be beneficial to leave the vehicle with the parking brake disengaged to prevent the brakes from binding, but only do this if you are certain the car is on level terrain and isn’t going to move. Ensure the transmission is set to ‘P’ for park and place wedges or chocks, if you have them, under the wheels.
  • If you have a 12V battery trickle charger, or a solar panel charger, and are confident using them, then these are a good option to keep the battery fully charged while the vehicle is stationary for a period of time.
  • If your vehicle is equipped with smart entry and start but the system isn’t operated for a long time, a battery-saving function will automatically be activated to prevent the electronic key battery and the 12-volt battery from being discharged. Battery depletion in the key is minimised by stopping the electronic key from receiving radio waves. On many models equipped with this system, it is possible to manually put the key into battery-saving mode, so please consult your car’s handbook for more information. If you aren’t planning to drive your car for a long time, consider putting the smart key in a safe place and not carrying it around with you in your pocket. This will prevent the car from ‘waking up’ unnecessarily should you happen to walk near it in your garage or driveway.
  • If the vehicle will be kept on private property (such as inside a garage) for the duration of its storage, you could consider applying for a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN). This informs the DVLA that the car is off the road and you will receive a refund of any remaining full months of tax. However, you won’t be able to drive your car legally until you tax it again, so it is only advisable if you are positive you won’t use your car for a long time. You can read more information about how to SORN your car here.

Read more Toyota GB’s latest statement on the Coronavirus (Covid-19) situation

286 comments

  1. Like many others I have not been using my Corolla much and have called th AA out 4 times to restart after a flat battery. My dealer has checked the battery twice and declared it to be OK though the 2nd AA mechanic said his check showed the battery to be faulty.
    I have regularly (but probably not often or long enough) run the car in my garage as recommended by Toyota with all devices switched off. Today following the latest battery test by my dealer I was told that probably the fan or aircon should be left on to ensure the engine runs more frequently to charge the battery.

    So what is the correct procedure?

    1. Hi Roland,

      Sorry to hear that. The correct procedure is detailed in this blog post. The car should be switched on with the ‘ready’ light visible.

      Thanks

  2. I have a 2014 Auris Hybrid. I have the same problems that other hybrid owners have with the 12v battery.
    You will say that the battery is old and needs to be replaced, and use the car more.
    Well why does my wife’s 2014 Fiat 500, not have the same problem. She uses her car less than I use mine, and always starts the car every time.
    I now back my car onto the drive and run an extension lead under the garage door to a battery charger/maintainer when I return from a journey. This is connected to the 12v battery in the boot, and this is the only was to ensure that the car will start when I next need it.
    ** If you use a charger/maintainer like this, it must be one that is designed for AGM batteries. **

    Here are a few useful tips for anyone who tries to start the car and fails:-
    1) Do not try to recharge the 12 volt battery. It will blow the fuse in the charger, as the hybrid battery will now be demanding power to fully start up. You will need to open the boot, from the inside!!! and disconnect the ground(-ve) cable from the 12v battery to make the hybrid system go to sleep.
    2) If you have jump leads and a donor car, you can jump start the hybrid system using the “jump connector” in the engine compartment. without needing access to the 12v battery. {see 4 below}
    3) If you have a portable car jump starter, you can also use the “jump connector” as above. {see 4 below}
    4) *** The “jump connector” is only conductive on the front face that you can see. Make sure that
    you connect the +ve croc clip the right way round. By this, I mean the part of the croc clip
    that has the thick cable, must be connected to the front face of the “jump connector”. Even if there is a thin cable between both jaws of the croc clip.
    5) If you have auto opening wing mirrors, disable this, as it will reduce the load on the 12v battery when opening the car.
    Hope this helps.
    Geoff

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