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

420 comments

  1. We’ve had nearly a dozen AA call outs to jump start our Toyota C-HR as the 12v battery loses its charge within weeks, sometimes even days of being parked. The dealer has twice checked the battery and found nothing wrong. Most recently they suggested if we wanted to use a trickle charger they recommended a Ring product (to replace another product which led to the wing mirrors opening after locking the car (no explanation for that!)). Unfortunately the battery connection is a no-go where our vehicle is parked. The other adapter provided is for the cigarette lighter socket. However, I note there’s a December 2021 response about trickle chargers in this thread in which a reference is made to the requirement to use the OBD (On Board Diagnostic) socket lead to enable connection. The commentary points to more information available via a Ring automotive link, but this link doesn’t assist at all. Any help gratefully received.
    If we knew the battery depletion would be a recurring issue we would never have bought the car. Be warned!

      1. Thanks but that link simply goes to a blank page.
        I have tried other routes into enquiries and get diverted to the local dealer.
        Can you please get someone to contact me or provide a link which will work or maybe even give me the information in this forum?
        As I understand it, a trickle charger won’t work to top up the battery if the cigarette lighter socket connection only functions to charge phones, etc when the ignition is on. This is the case with the C-HR. So, according to earlier comments, I have to resort to using the battery connection. This option would require leaving the charger on the outside of the vehicle, which as indicated in my earlier comment, won’t work where I have to park. I might be able to run a line through the bonnet and door from the battery but that means lifting the bonnet on each occasion I park up, connecting the device and then reversing the process before driving off. The alternative is to link using an OBD socket lead. I have researched this and am totally perplexed as the OBD leads I see online appear to be used on a connection somewhere under or near the steering column but don’t appear, in any event, capable of connecting to the trickle charger connection.
        Frankly it’s a pretty sad state of affairs if the only solution is to scrabble around under the bonnet or around the interior steering/control panel in order to facilitate a connection to try to ensure my 12v battery will start my car.
        After spending on a trickle charger I can’t use and a lithium battery jump starter which won’t work if the battery is too depleted, I am at a loss.

  2. A lot of people seem to be having a problem with the 12v battery discharging when not in use until it can’t start the car. Why not have the ECU monitor it and charge it using the HV battery when it runs low, even when the car is switched off?

      1. To Toyota uk, the link you give to me takes me to the help centre but every relevant link from there – technical and other enquiries not covered by other links- goes to a blank page

      2. Hi Lesli,
        You can also call our Customer Relations Team on 0344 701 6202.
        We hope this helps.
        Thanks.

  3. Having spent over £30k on a RAV4 one yr ago I am not totally disappointed with this LOW BATTERY issue.
    I along wit( many others would never have bought my first Toyota had I known this.
    As a Retired Chartered Mechanical Engineer I find it unbelievable that A re design cannot be achieved .
    What good is a nice new car if you cannot leave it for 3-4 weeks when you go on holiday only to find you need a Jump Start on yr return.
    As well as that it seems they want you to switch on the car or take it for a run X miles per week when we are all trying to same fuel and reduce C02 omissions??
    This is now making me think it’s time to part company with this expensive RAV4 with only 6K miles on the clock and avoid any form of HYBRID???

    1. Yesterday we had to call out the breakdown recovery as our Yaris Hybrid battery completely died after sitting in the car for half an hour or so with just the radio on. No warning at all the car is less than a year old and as a retired motor engineer I find this unbelievable and a worry if we go on holiday and leave the car to return to a flat battery. I was so pleased with the car until then but I cannot see me keeping it now as planned as I need a reliable car at all times due to health issues. I have owned several Toyotas over the years and chose Toyota again because of my past experience of reliability second to none. The breakdown guy was not surprised as he has been called out several times before with the same issue

  4. Have a hybrid and same issue with battery Toyota dealers should warn customers of the issue but then they don’t want to lose a sale ! I always buy Toyota but this has put me off electric / hybrid card

    1. Hi Meta,
      We are sorry to hear that you are having troubles.
      Please let us know if there is anything else we can do to help.
      Thanks.

      1. My two cents:
        I love my old 2005 Toyota Camry, but I truly think Toyota needs to do a recall on newer cars with this seemingly wide-spread battery problem. In good conscience they need to recall and redesign or re-engineer their hybrid cars. I was seriously thinking of purchasing a hybrid, but I think it would be wise to wait these battery problems out.

  5. So i posted earlier about my Yaris Hybrid being dead on a few occasions only to be told that there was nothing wrong and how i am not driving enough.
    It has now happened again, i last used the car 3 days ago and did around 30 miles. The car is now 5 years old and the other issues were when the car was 3 years old and by reading this thread, it is clear that i am not alone. What are Toyota going to do about this? I have had petrol cars before that have sat idle for weeks on end and still started, this is in no way acceptable Toyota, i feel cheated in spending 20k on your product.

    1. Hi John,
      Thanks for your comment, we apologise for the inconvenience this has caused.
      Our Customer Relations Team would be best placed to look into this for you.
      You can contact them here – https://www.toyota.co.uk/help-centre/.
      Alternatively, you can call 0344 701 6202.
      Please let us know if you have any further questions.
      Thanks.

      1. Service centre replaced my 12v battery, but the manager there was not sure if the hybrid battery charged the 12v battery when the car was in ready mode. He seemed to be sure that only when the petrol engine was running, the 12v battery was being charged. I was also advised to turn off the eco function because this would utilise the hybrid battery more often because it would reduce torque and not engage the petrol engine to charge the 12v battery. Surely this defeats the object of a hybrid car? Wish i had never bought it now…

  6. I have the same problem with hybrid 12v battery. Has let me down on three occasions now and car is just over a year old and done only 2,500 miles! On last occasion was persuaded by Toyota garage to purchase and have fitted (over£65!) a solar trickle charger (very unsightly) – but battery has died again. We have another hybrid Toyota and was thinking of going full electric- but no more. How can such a simple problem not be solved by mighty Yoyota?

    1. Hi Bill,
      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.
      Thanks.

  7. I have purchased 9 different Toyota cars over the last 20 years for ourselves and family. Land cruiser, avensis, IQ, several Yaris and Rav 4 petrol and hybrid. All great with one exception. The RAV 4 hybrid is lovely to drive but the issue about the start battery going flat is completely stupid. Mine went flat in lockdown. There should be some way for the main running batteries to top this up automatically. We are retired now and go travelling and sailing. We need to leave the car in a car parks. Having to take battery pack and jump leads with us to start a £40k car after being left a few weeks seems crazy.
    Looking at other makes for my next one or just going back to petrol or diesel.

  8. Can someone please find out if the HV battery charges the 12V battery?
    Or is it only the alternator on the combustion engine that charges the 12v battery?

    1. Hi John,
      Thanks for your comment.
      Once the hybrid system is on (as indicated by the READY light), the 12 volt battery will be charged by the high voltage battery.
      Thanks.

      1. So why was i told (by someone in your servicing team) to take my car off eco mode because the combustion engine did not get a chance to charge the battery, because the HV battery does not charge the 12v? Surely this defeats the object of a hybrid car

  9. Just got back from Toyota local dealer in Southampton after having the AA recovery called out twice in two months for the same flat 12V Battery problem stopping the Hybrid process starting the car.

    What a useless and pathetic excuse for a design where a 12V battery repeatedly goes flat when the car is parked up and locked and to be told it is my fault for not driving the car enough!!!

    “WAKEY WAKEY” Toyota – you have a major DESIGN FAULT called “PARASITIC DISCHARGE” where the Battery cannot cope with your electronics system which keeps doing things even though the car is switched off.

    GET IT SORTED – RECALL and REPLACE the BROKEN ELECTRONICS SYSTEM and STOP BLAMING US!

    I am telling everyone to stay well away from “TOYOTA” because your CUSTOMER SERVICE in this matter is the WORST I HAVE EVER ENCOUNTERED!!!

    1. Hi Tom,
      Thanks for your comment, we apologise for the inconvenience this has caused.
      If you would like to raise you case further, our Customer Relations Team would be best placed to look into this for you.
      You can contact them here – https://www.toyota.co.uk/help-centre/.
      Alternatively, you can call 0344 701 6202.
      Please let us know if you have any further questions.
      Thanks.

    2. Could not agree more Tom.
      Even the AA guy told me there was too much drain off the 12V whilst car is off.
      I think Toyota are fully aware that there is a problem, but will not put their hands up as a recall will cost too much.

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