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

342 comments

  1. I’d like to keep a Toyota hybrid at my dad’s house, but it won’t be used for weeks at a time, and he can’t get out to do the battery recharging. Is there a way to disable the batteries (as I do with the petrol car I have at the moment, just undoing one of the battery leads) so it will start when I use it?

    1. Hi Lesley,

      The 12V battery can be disconnected in a similar method to how a conventional petrol only vehicle would be. The hybrid/HV battery should remain charged. Most hybrid vehicles have the 12V battery located under the bonnet, however some can be in the rear of the vehicle or under the rear seat. Please contact your centre if you need further assistance.

      The other options are to purchase a solar charger or a trickle charger to maintain the 12V battery state of charge.

      Thanks

  2. I have read your recommendation for extended layoff. Our just purchased Yaris hybrid will be idle for four months and there is no one around to start it. Will disconnecting the 12v battery allow it to maintain a charge so that the car will restart upon my return? Any other suggestions?

    1. Hi Steve,

      The 12V battery can be disconnected in a similar method to how a conventional petrol only vehicle can be. The hybrid/HV battery should remain charged. Most hybrid vehicles have the 12V battery located under the bonnet, however some can be in the rear of the vehicle or under the rear seat. Please contact your centre if you need further assistance.

      The other options are to purchase a solar charger or a trickle charger to maintain the 12V battery state of charge.

      Thanks

    2. I have Toyota RAV4 2018 battery is fully charged but I can’t start it please let me what we need to do ?????

      1. Hi,

        Sorry to hear this. We can only recommend that you contact roadside assistance if your vehicle won’t start. We hope it is working again soon.

        Thanks

  3. Hi Toyota UK
    My Rav-4 Icon Hybrid 2019 will not be used for 6 months as I travel abroad
    Please advise the best options to keep the 12V main and the Hybrid battery charged on return?
    Thanks
    Z Jussa

    1. Hi,

      We recommend a trickle charger or disconnecting the 12v battery.

      Please contact your nearest Toyota centre for more information.

      Thanks

  4. Hi there,

    Thank you for this article. I have a couple of questions I’m hoping you might be able to offer advice on.

    I had to leave my Yaris hybrid in an emergency earlier this year and it has been standing still without being run or turned on since February. Unfortunately I didn’t have the foresight to disconnect the battery and won’t be able to return to the vehicle until early October.

    What are the chances that the hybrid battery will be damaged beyond repair by the time I return? I fully expect that I’ll need to replace the 12v, but am hoping the hybrid battery may have survived.

    Also, what is the recommended procedure in this case, if I suspect either or both batteries are flat?

    Many thanks in advance,
    Nathan

    1. Hi Nathan,
      Thanks for your comment.
      We would recommend taking your Yaris to your nearest Toyota Centre when you return.
      They will be able to assess any potential damage to your vehicle and order replacements if needed.
      Thanks.

  5. I purchased a RAV 4 Hybrid in Jan 2020.
    It’s been great apart from the alarm going off regularly. This is allegedly caused by me not using the car enough to charge the 12v auxiliary battery!!
    If I should go on holiday for 2 weeks I can guarantee that the alarm would be going off after a couple of days. This would then run down the 12v battery and possibly prevent entry into the car.
    I have been assured by my local Toyota dealer that there is nothing wrong with the battery. Surely I should then be able to leave the car for 2 weeks without a problem.
    I have suggested to Toyota that the battery capacity is too small (the usual measure is ampere/hours) This has been dismissed.
    I note that other on-line forums the problem is quite prevalent. Is the car fit for purpose?

  6. My hybrid chr has let me down 3 times now the first time was my own fault as I had cleaned the car with doors open and battery whent flat . Just been on holiday with the car parking up for 5 days opened car put cases in car would not start AA came and started for me 4 days later while at work was parked for 2 hrs and battery flat again been in today to be checked told nothing wrong but will charge me to put a trikel charge on over night .how when on holiday do I do this or do I by a battery pack no think car will be sold poor if you can not leave a car for a few day without the battery going flat I have a classic car and that can stand for weeks and still start very disappointed with my chr and Toyota .should have a bigger battery on

    1. Hi Stephen,
      Thanks for getting in touch. We’re sorry to hear you’re unhappy with your C-HR.
      The 12 volt battery in our hybrids is smaller than most as they are only needed to run small systems in the car. One of these systems is turning on the relays/switches that allow the hybrid system to turn on.
      In some cases, infrequent usage and short journeys can mean that the 12 volt battery doesn’t fully charge, which could be the case in your current situation.
      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.
      Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any further questions.
      Thanks.

  7. I have an Auris which has not been driven much over the past 1.5 year. Every time I go out I have to jump start it, which I’m (by now) confident in doing but not too happy with. The distances I drive are not enough to give the starter battery a proper charge. In your post describing the 60-minute charge, do you mean I can just start it and leave it running in Park? My engine switches off after a few minutes and I don’t understand how that can provide a charge?

    1. Hi there,
      Thanks for your comment. We are sorry to hear your are unhappy with your Auris.
      The 60-minute charge refers to putting the car in ‘ready’ mode for about 60 minutes before switching it off again at least once per week to maintain charge in both of vehicle’s batteries.
      However, please do not leave your car unattended when it is in ‘Ready’ mode.
      If you are concerned about leaving your Auris unattended for a longer period of time, you could consider using a solar powered trickle charger.
      For more specific advice regarding your vehicle, we would recommend contacting your nearest Toyota Centre.
      Thanks.

      1. Please explain, though, how the starter battery is charged with the car in Ready mode? The engine is only running for a few minutes and then appears to shut down (or go to quiet/electric mode). It may then start up again 10-15 minutes later, but it’s not running constantly. Is this the correct way of charging the starter/auxiliary battery?

      2. Hi there,
        The charging of the auxiliary 12V battery is managed by through the DC/DC convertor which is part of the hybrid system. The hybrid computer decides how to charge the 12V battery. It can do this without the petrol engine running, hence why it becomes quieter.
        Thanks.

  8. I have a 2021 RAV4 Hybrid, in response to a number of questions you have suggested the use of a trickle charger for the 12v battery, my previous car was a Jaguar XE R-Sport where the battery was located under the spare wheel and I connected a CTEK remote charging socket in the boot area to save having to remove the boot floor and spare wheel every time.
    The remote charging socket was wired as follows, positive lead direct to positive terminal on the battery and the negative lead to a chassis earth point, would you recommend the same connections or both leads directly onto the battery terminals.

    Thanks

    Alan

      1. Just to confirm that this is with the battery still connected to the vehicle
        Jaguar recommended negative to chassis when the battery was connected as it could affect the battery monitoring system and other electrical systems if connected across the battery.

        Thanks

        Alan

      2. Hi Alan,
        To trickle charge the battery, you should go direct to the battery and ensure the area is well ventilated.
        You should be able to do this without disconnecting the battery.
        Thanks.

  9. Is 4 weeks a long period of time when it comes to the battery? We have left it parked for 4 weeks while on holidays. We aren’t able to turn it on because the battery is discharged. Is that normal or we should think that our battery is not in the best condition? Thanks

    1. Hi Raquel,
      If your vehicle starts, then the battery should be okay.
      However, if you would like further reassurance, your nearest Toyota Centre should be able to assess your battery.
      Thanks.

  10. I left my Toyota Yaris 2016 model for 10 days. When I attempted to start it the dashboard lights came on but no power to engine. Then trying again engine made a horrible grating sound. No power . I googled this and someone suggested holding key fob close to start button until key fob light came on. Hey presto car started and is driving fine. What the heck is this all about?

    1. Hi Michael,
      Thanks for your comment.
      It sounds like your key fob may be low on battery.
      We would recommend taking your Yaris to your nearest Toyota Centre so that they can physically inspect your vehicle and provide any necessary recommendations.
      Please let us know if you have any further questions.
      Thanks.

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