Will my Toyota hybrid be okay if I don’t drive it?

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


      1. Hi Dave
        The only tyres we can advise, are the original Homologated tyres – Size 225/60 R18 102H – Bridgestone D-Alenz, or 225/60 R18 100H Dunlop Grandtrek PT30.
        Kind regards

  1. The 12-volt battery on our friend’s Toyota Prius has died. The owners are out of town and won’t be back for a couple of weeks. Is it all right to let it sit and wait until they return before we get AA here to restart the 12-volt battery?

  2. I have toyota yaris self charge hybrid how long should it be able to sit before the battery goes flat?, I have had this problem a few times when I’ve gone on hoilday. So recently my battery was fully charged but hadn’t used the car for 5 days so I left it on for an hour which I have been told charges the battery came to use it 5 days later battery flat my car is almost 3 1/2 years old does it need a new battery should this be happening after a few days ?

    1. Hi Tracy,
      Thanks for your comment.
      Unfortunately, due to there being many different factors which can affect battery charge, this isn’t something we will be able to diagnose virtually.
      A trickle charger or solar panel charger are good options to keep the battery fully charged while the vehicle is stationary for a period of time.
      We hope this helps.

    2. Hi Tracy, We have the same trouble with our Yaris self charge hybrid. it is only just over a year old. We came back from a holiday abroad after 2 weeks. My wife had to go shopping for food etc. We went in the garage my wife got in the car and it would not start. What drove me mad as the lights on the car came on because it is a bit dark in the garage. There where other things lit up on the dash etc but She could not start the car. The manual does not tell you that you can charge the 12 volt battery, it only says you can Jump start the car. We cannot do that because the car is in the garage. A nice guy came from Toyota and did a quick charge to get the car started. He also showed me how to charge the 12 volt battery. I think that the 12 volt battery is not fit for purpose. Toyota need to look at this and fit a bigger battery.

  3. What are the min levels of charge in a hybrid 12v battery required to switch on my Toyota C-HR
    I am looking at a Naco Gb 40 as a backup. This unit will not work if the battery s 2v or less

    How likely is the 12v t9 discharge to this level

    1. Hi Andy,thanks for getting in touch.

      We would be unable to provide a voltage level as we are not technically trained. We would recommend looking into a trickle charger which will help to maintain the charge level on a lesser used vehicle.


      Toyota UK

  4. I am considering buying a used self charging hybrid Corolla, probably a 2022 or 2023 model, but do a low mileage (4,000 or less p.a.) and the car may sometimes not be used for a week or two. If using a solar charger as recommended, can this be safely left on the whole time the car is parked unatendedand and if so, should this solve the battery problem?

    1. Hi Ray, thanks for your interest in the Corolla.

      We would advise exactly this, a solar charger cna be connected straight to the 12V battery in order to maintain the vehicle whilst it is stood for prolonged periods of time.


      Toyota UK

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