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

344 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

    1. Hi Geoff,
      I also have a 2014 Auris Hybrid and I had the same flat battery problems through insufficient use of the car.
      18 months ago when I first had the problem and I got a new battery through my local dealer. About 2 months ago the problem re-occurred so I bought a jump starter off Amazon and used this when needed and drove the car for half an hour each week. However, this wasn’t enough so I complained to my dealer who inspected the problem. They said that the currents being drawn during inactivity were within limits and that the charging current when the car is being driven was also OK. They charged the battery and said to drive it more!
      I’ve bought a charger off Amazon, but I’m monitoring the battery voltage each day (starting 4 days ago, so I havn’t enough data yet).
      Does anyone know the minimum voltage needed to start the car?

      1. Hi Tony,
        Thanks for getting in touch.
        Unfortunately we don’t have a minimum 12v battery figure to start the vehicle.
        However, the battery figure should be reading above 12.2v.
        Fundamentally, not being able to drive a car long distances may not give the 12v battery adequate time to recharge. We would recommend following the advice in the blog post above and taking longer, more frequent journeys in order to allow the 12v battery enough time to fully recharge.
        Using a trickle charger can help to maintain the charge in a known good 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. This can be purchased via your nearest Toyota Centre.
        Thanks.

  3. Hi
    So I meant to leave car running for 60 minute that’s a very long time. I have another issue my Toyota auris hybrid car alarm keeps going off everyday 3 to 2 times usually at night and evening time is there any reason for that.
    Thanks

    1. Hi,

      If you are unable to drive the vehicle, we recommend following the instructions in the post.

      Sorry to hear about the alarm. If there is an issue with your vehicle, we can only recommend that you contact your nearest Toyota centre so they can take a look.

      Thanks

  4. I had a lot of problems with the 12v Aux battery of my lexus (nearly a Toyota).
    It turned out that once the battery goes below about 9v, it’s cream crackered.
    I replaced the battery and regularly check it. If I don’t use the car for a week I
    put a smart charger on it for a few hours. I am just about to take delivery of a
    new Yaris, so I expect the same will apply.
    One word of caution: Never jump start a non hybrid car with a hybrid. Although
    you can I believe jump start another hybrid.

  5. I have recently taken delivery of a MY21 Corolla 1.8 GR Sport and I’m very pleased with it. Initially I did have some concerns with the 12v battery problems but I’ve purchased a Noco GB20 jump starter. This small device, which (unlike a trickle charger) doesn’t need live electricity, should get me going within minutes should the battery go flat.

    However, I have discovered another serious potential (related) problem. If the battery is completely flat, I would, of course be unable to unlock the car without using the mechanical key. So, I checked that the mechanical key works and my tests indicate that if the car is deadlocked (or double locked to use Toyota’s words) the mechanical key will not open the vehicle. If I just press the key fob once (and “single” lock it) it works fine.

    So, there would be no way to get into the car if the battery was so flat that the doors won’t open with the key fob. I couldn’t get to my jump starter or even open the bonnet to jump start it from another vehicle!

    If I was leaving the car at an airport for three weeks I would have to choose between double locking the car which would result in no entry if the battery went completely flat. Or, I could compromise security and “single” lock it so that the mechanical key would work. I think the latter is the least worst option.

    I’m assuming there is not a fault with my car and that the default behaviour for a MY21 Corolla is that the mechanical door key does not work if the car is double locked. And if I’m correct, what are you supposed to do if you have a completely flat battery and no way to get into the car?

    1. Hi Mike,
      Thanks for your comment, and congratulations on your new Corolla!
      The mechanical key should work and override any electrical locking functions, including double locked. However, we often hear that the mechanical key doesn’t work, and this is due to not enough force being applied to turn it when inserted into the lock. This can happen because when the mechanical key blade is removed from the key remote, it is not attached to anything, which makes it harder to apply enough force/torque when turning the key in the lock.
      We doubt there is a manufacturing defect, so to speak, and the mechanical key override should operate, albeit more force or measures to assist will be required.
      Thanks.

      1. Thank you very much for your help. I’ve just tested the mechanical key again and and it does require more force to turn the lock when the car is double locked. Before I received your reply I was afraid to apply extra force!

  6. Hi does this affect cars with the lithium battery as well?

    What if going on holiday abroad for 2 weeks surely that is OK if using fine before?

    1. Hi Craig,
      Thanks for your comment.
      As mentioned in the article, both batteries are charged during this process.
      Leaving the vehicle for that period of time should be ok providing there have been no other issues prior to the vehicle being left and the service schedule has been adhered to.
      However, if you are concerned about leaving it unattended for a longer period of time you could consider using a solar powered intelligent charger. Trickle chargers can be purchased from your nearest Toyota Centre.
      Thanks.

      1. Hi Craig,
        Thanks for getting in touch.
        To help in extended periods of time where the vehicle is not used, our technical team would suggest a battery charger/conditioner rather than letting it go flat and then have to jump start it afterwards.
        These chargers can be ordered through your nearest Toyota Centre.
        Thanks.

      2. Hi Craig,
        Thanks for your comment.
        Our advice is always to run the vehicle more often and follow the Owner’s Manual for 12v advice as well as using the information in this blog post.
        Any known software updates are very specific to individual vehicles for glitches within that model, not due to lack of use.
        Thanks.

  7. As an optional feature you are able to install a front and rear camera that monitors the vehicle even when you are parked up, so basically the camera is active all the time
    Can you tell me on a mild hybrid vehicle how this will effect the battery and will it drain the battery so the car won’t start even if you haven’t used the car for a couple of days would it drain the battery completely as the camera has been hard wired in
    Thank you

    1. Hi Julie,
      Thanks for your comment.
      The official Toyota dashcam only switches on when the car is switched on. If you fit a third-party dashcam that activates when the car is turned off, it will cause more drain on the battery, regardless of whether the car is a hybrid or not. How long that would take depends on the dashcam and the car.
      Therefore, we can only recommend fitting an official Toyota dashcam to our vehicles.
      Thanks.

  8. Hi there. I have a 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE. Its been sitting for a few months in the driveway. Went to start it today and it was completely dead. Opened the doors with the key, popped the hood and boosted the 12 v battery this way which allowed the car to start normally. Drove it for about 45 min in all conditions thinking it would recharge the 12 v battery. The high voltage battery worked fine the entire time. When I rerurned home I turned the car off and then back on. I was surprised to notice it wouldnt start normally unless I boosted it again from the fuse box in the engine compartment. Is there a way to recharge the 12 v battery without having to buy a new one? can I take it out and take it to a place like autozone for them to charge it? Thanks in advance.

  9. I have a Hybrid Auris i.8, 2010 bought 4 years ago – but never got the Sat-Nav CD/DVD. Never any problems, (used my phone for sat-nav) Love the car in almost every way.
    Until the battery went really dead. After replacement everything worked except the radio/CD player and rear camera. My nearest but distant Toyota Dealer (who were good fixing any recall problems) were unable to help. Has anyone got a fix for this? Thanks, William.

    1. Hi William, we’re sorry to hear that.

      Was the battery replaced by your local Toyota Centre?

  10. Hello everyone,
    How does intelligent charging in a car work?
    is the car battery recharged to 100% or only about 80%?
    Thank you
    Dala

    1. Hi Dalibor, thanks for your comment.

      Intelligent chargers tend to charge up to 80% initially and then beyond that up to 100% at a slower rate. Although the specifics will depend upon the charger used. Thanks.

      1. Hi Dala,
        Thanks for getting in touch.
        We would recommend contacting your nearest Toyota Centre for further help with your query.
        Thanks.

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