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

349 comments

  1. All us who purchased a Toyota Yaris Hybrid want our brains tested. These cars are absolutely useless as an electric vehicle. Yes you start off in Electric mode but put your foot on the gas just over ‘light as a feather’ and bang the petrol engine kicks in. In the winter forget about electric power because as soon as you put the heater on your electric mode goes non exsistant. Don’t be conned about the over exaggerated 75-80 mpg that is total fantasy! if you are getting that sort of milage per gallon you are never driving a Toyota! Our other Yaris diesel 4D4 beats this heap of rubbish hands down, 57mpg and the hybrid just makes 51mpg at a push, but you also get the hybrid electrical problems, faulty TSS and the dashboard lights and sat nav going completely out for a while before they decide to come back on again. Verdict, poke yourself in the eye with a very sharp stick if you ever see yourself venturing into a Toyota dealership ever again, turn around and run for the hills as fast as you can! Toyota are now over priced cheaply made rubbish.

    1. Hi Stephen,
      Thanks for getting in touch with us.
      It sounds like you have a previous generation Yaris Hybrid, tested using the old NEDC test, which was notoriously bad at replicating real world driving. When the new WLTP test was introduced in 2019, your vehicle was tested again and produced a figure of around 55mpg. So, you are getting slightly less.
      This is not unheard of, because it is not possible to replicate every single driver’s real world driving in a laboratory, and there are so many factors that impact fuel economy.
      Your diesel Yaris may have got a slightly better fuel economy figure, but it will have been producing far more harmful emissions, particularly NOx.
      The new Yaris Hybrid, which went on sale late last year is much improved and has a fuel consumption of 68.8mpg for the Icon and Design grades, and 65.6mpg for the Excel and Dynamic grades and the Launch Edition according to WLTP figures. It is also capable of spending over 50% of the time in electric mode, rising to 70% in city driving, without plugging in. It also just won European Car of the Year and is the best selling car in Europe so far in 2021. We’d recommend test driving that to see how far our hybrid technology has come on since yours was produced.
      Thanks.

  2. Hi I have a 2017 dynamic chr lovely car let down by the 12v battery going flat I have had one battery Replacement so far and the battery was flat again last week so I have just purchased a quality battery jump starter to carry in the car I already carry jump leads and have a good quality smart trickle charger all for that just in case moment when the car will let me down again going to the garage thinking will it be ok this time when I need it going on a run just to charge it up it’s a nice car let down by the way it works at £25000 when it was 12months old when I purchased it will I buy a hybrid again no way my old Toyota auris never let me down once.

    1. Hi Mr Rogers,
      We’re sorry to hear you’ve been experiencing issues with your 12 volt battery.
      Shorter journeys do not always give the battery enough time to fully recharge, especially in a lockdown situation such as this, and this is the same as with any combustion powertrain.
      It may not have been seen so prevalently in older vehicles as there is a much higher level of technology in modern cars, all of which place extra strain on the battery.
      There is advice in the blog post above on how to maintain your vehicle’s 12 volt battery during lockdown, and you have already purchased a trickle charger, which will offer peace of mind when the car is not being driven for longer periods by connecting it to the battery.
      Thanks.

  3. Hi thank you for your Reply it’s just a matter of looking for advice online how other owners are getting around the battery situation i have a back up plan if the battery goes again.

  4. Maybe you should pass this advice on to your Main Dealers having previously driven an Audi diesel lease vehicle I opted for an Toyota Hybrid this time. First twelve months great since March 2020 and WFH car hasn’t been used as frequent( two separate visits to different main dealers, AA called several times, battery taken off and charged by myself a number of times). All that your dealers say is “the car needs to be run more often” Something will have to change for me to pick or recommend a Toyota again

    1. Hi Paul,
      Thanks for your comment.
      Due to the shorter and fewer journeys we are all required to make in the current lockdown situation, which often consist of a quick couple of miles to the supermarket at most, the 12 volt battery is not always given enough time to fully recharge.
      This is the same with any combustion powertrain, and we’re advised by the AA that they report a significant number of callouts from owners of all brands due to this problem.
      There are tips in the blog post above relating to 12 volt battery maintenance during lockdown, and this includes placing your vehicle into ‘ready’ mode for 60 minutes at least once a week. The ideal would obviously be to take more frequent, longer journeys, but we appreciate that this is not currently possible for many people.
      Using a trickle charger can help to maintain the charge in the battery and, although this is an optional route, it is easily achieved by connecting the charger straight to the 12V battery and can offer some peace of mind, particularly when a vehicle is left standing for long periods of time.
      Thanks.

  5. Hi – Subject flat battery – prevention trickle charging

    Interesting thread. Only yesterday evening did I have Toyota Assistance – AA out due to battery flattened.
    My fault in not quite understanding how the hybrid battery system works in detail. Car had just been out for a run. An hour later I decided to inflate all 4 tyres; only a little inflate was required but on all 4 – 4 psi each.
    Just after the exercise the Auris died, yellow triangle warning light, then total dead.

    What did I do wrong – used the inflator connected to the cigarette lighter but when the power start button had only been pressed once, so powering the cigarette lighter connector “BUT” note not the thing to do! I had not pressed the start button to the “READY” stage mentioned above and indeed by the very very helpful AA man.

    My question is – I did get the car back to life before the AA guy arrived by using my jumper cables following the manual – that is connecting to the special terminal in the fuse box provided. Fiddly in the cold popping the lid off. So if I use a portable solar panel or trickle charger it’s fiddly / awkward to connect and disconnect when you do want to go out. So is there a cigarette port or something that I can easily connect to rather than the the fuse box terminal?

    Alternatively, does someone offer an upgrade to install a plug / connector so it’s easy to plug your trickle charge system in?

    Many thanks
    Phil Hall

    PS I would thing cigarette connection is not possible as it is not powered when the car is totally in the off mode.

    1. Hi Phil,
      Sorry to hear you experienced this issue with the battery.
      Trickle chargers can also be attached directly to the 12v battery. Please take whilst doing this!
      Thanks.

  6. Amazing. Reading these replies. I have driven 500k miles across 2x model B and 2x model D Prius Hybrid and have had 0 issues with battery. Either 12v or main.
    A lot of these comments revolve around “my 10 plus year old 12v battery has failed and Toyota is responsible”.
    Sorry guys think what you are posting. Do you still use a 10 year old phone and expect it to perform as new ?
    Batteries are a disposable commodity in your car. If your 12v isn’t charging , go to Halfords and change it.

    1. Absolutely right. The ‘normal’ (a variable, depending on use) life of a 12V car battery is around 6-years. Unfortunately most people, including me, wait until it fails, often in an inconvenient situation, before replacing.

  7. Hi my 2020 toyota corrola hybrid battery has died. I tried to open it with the key and it didnt work then i tried with the another spare key and nothing worked, the vehicle is not responding in anyway, i have not driven it for 5 months, its just been sitting on our driveway, if the battery has died what should i do next to fix this problem?

    1. Hi Ritesh,

      Sorry to hear that. We recommend contacting Roadside Assitance so they can recover your vehicle. They will be able to check the health of your battery and advise you of your next steps.

      Thanks.

  8. I was seriously considering a Toyota Hybrid for their supposed reliability above all else.
    It seems to me looking at this website that Toyota has a big problem with their charging system.
    You(Toyota) need to sort this out, or you will lose a lot of credibility.
    As things stand, no way will I buy a car that cannot be left for a week or two without a flat battery.
    Sorry for all of you that have been seduced by the legendary Toyota reliability (this website came as a surprise to me) but I am no longer interested.

    1. Hi Iain,

      The guidelines the government has set as result of COVID-19 clearly have consequences, and impact us all in some way. In many cases, not being able to drive a car regularly may have a negative impact regarding the charge of the 12v battery. People are encouraged to make fewer journeys, and these are often a quick couple of miles to the local supermarket at most. As with any combustion powertrain, this does not give the 12v battery adequate time to recharge. In the colder months, the increased use of heated seats and air conditioning puts additional strain on the vehicle. This is something that is not unique to Toyota. The decreased usage will impact upon all vehicles, including those with regular combustion engines.

      We’re advised by the AA this is a major national issue and they report a significant number of callouts from owners of all brands due to this problem.

      When it comes to reliability, Toyota performs extremely well time and time again as evidenced by our performances in reliability and driver power surveys.

      Thanks

  9. I bought a Yaris Hybrid Design ex demo with low milage on 5th March . TOOK IT FOR A 20 MILE DRIVE AND THEN PARKED IT IN MY GARAGE NEXT MORNING I WENT INTO THE CAR AND PROCEEDED TO PAIR UP MY PHONE AND CONNECT MY I-POD I THEN DECIDED TO REVERSE THE CAR OUT OF MY GARAGE AND LOW AND BEHOLD COMPLETELY FLAT MY LOCALDEALER KINDLY CAME TO MY HOUSE CHARGED THE BATTERY AND TOOK IT TO THEIR DEALERSHIP FOR INSPECTION LEAVING ME WITH A REPLACEMENT HYBRID VEHICLE ON CALLING IN AT THE DEALER ON 8thMARCH I WAS TOLD THAT THEY HAD REPLACED THE 12VOLT BATTERY AS A PRECAUTION AND THAT THE FAULT APPEARED TO HAVE BEEN CAUSED BY MY CONNECTIN THE PHONE AND I-POD AND USING THE RADIO THIS LEFT ME ASTOUNDED AS IN MY OPINION THE CAR SHOULD HAVE BEEN FULLY INSPECTED BEFORE HANDING IT OVER TO ME I HAVE NOW BEEN ADVISED WHEN ON A SHORT DRIVE WITH MY WIFE TO THE SUPERMARKET ROUGHLY 3 MILES I SHOULD STAY IN THE CAR WITH THE ENGINE AT READY TO PROTECT THE BATTERY VOLTAGE AGAIN I FIND THIS TO BE A WAY OF THE DEALERSHIP DODGING THE REAL ISSUE OF A LESS THAN RELIABLE BATTERY SYSTEM TOYOTA NEED TO FIND A WAY OF NEGATING THE BATTERY PROBLEM AS I HAVE SEEN FROM THE REVIEWS GIVE THAT THIS IS A VERY REOCCURRING PROBLEM AND THE CARS ARE NOT CHEAP BUT IT HAS CAST MAJOR DOUBTS IN MY MIND AS TO THE VEHICLES RELIABILITY

    1. Hi Gordon,
      Thanks for getting in touch with us. Sorry to hear about this.
      If you are unhappy about the service your dealer has provided, we recommend contacting our Customer Relations team.
      They are best placed to look into this further with you and provide any necessary support, and they can be contacted here: https://www.toyota.co.uk/help-centre/email-us
      Thanks.

  10. I have also suffered from a flat battery twice during the lockdown so this second time I bought a trickle charger, disconnected the battery leads for fear of blowing up the electronics and then charged the battery up which worked great. My question is do I need to disconnect the battery leads next time I want to charge the battery up ?

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