What Makes a Hybrid Different?
When you turn off the ignition in an internal combustion engine vehicle (non-hybrid), the vehicle is effectively off. The battery is still connected, but the vehicle’s engine is not going to power up mid-service. You’ll need to unhook the battery to work on it or the related systems, but beyond that, there is no real danger involved in the power/electrical operation of the vehicle.
A hybrid vehicle has a motive battery that is much more powerful than a standard car battery. It’s also designed to kick on by itself as needed during vehicle operation. For mechanics, this can all become very dangerous. Here are a couple of the biggest issues:
-Once the key is removed from the ignition, a hybrid car’s engine may still engage with the use of the battery. If a mechanic does not know to disconnect all power and batteries before starting to work on the car, they may cause damage to the vehicle.
-Hybrid cars have high-voltage electrical systems and often require the use of heavy, thick insulated gloves for a safe repair. The risk of electrical shock is high when working on these vehicles, which is why a trained professional is a must.
The Maintenance is Usually the Same
Typically speaking, there is no special maintenance required for a hybrid vehicle. Most manufacturers recommend that hybrid drivers stick to dealership service since there is not yet any independent training available for specific hybrid makes and models. However, dealership service is not your only option. ASE-certified mechanics can still perform most routine maintenance and repair services on these vehicles. The biggest exceptions will be the drive train, electrical system, and brake system, which require more advanced training.
So What Do I Do?
Your best option, since training on hybrid models, is still limited, is to rely on an independent shop that has experience in working with these unique vehicles. Feel free to ask questions about the mechanic’s experience with hybrid cars and what type of certification the shop has in regard to all vehicle repairs.
Remember that there is no certification or licensing available specifically for hybrid maintenance and repair. If a shop claims to have such licensing, you should know they aren’t being entirely honest with you. ASE-Certified mechanics are a must for any repair work, but this is just a general certification that all independent shops should carry. Also, as with any repairs, make sure that a shop guarantees all of the work it performs on your hybrid.