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Prius inverter converter gone bad

edited September 2012 in Repair and Maintenance
I have a 2004 Prius with 166,000 miles that, till yesterday, ran just fine. Now, however, it has a bad inverter converter, and the Toyota dealership mechanic said it's going to cost $4,200 to replace.

Can I safely buy a used inverter converter from eBay and insist that the dealer's service department use it, even though they'll probably say it's a bad idea? I see used ones on eBay for a couple hundred bucks or less, which sounds a heck of a lot better than $4,200.

Are there any considerations I need to keep in mind when selecting a specific used inverter converter? (I see about ten on eBay that should fit a 2004 Prius.)

If the used part is a bad idea, then is it completely crazy to spend $4,200 on an 8-year-old car??

Thanks to all who can help guide me!


  • hmmm ... well this I guess is an expected problem when purchasing new technology. Like buying a low sales volume, high end gaming computer at a specialty computer store, vs a high sales volume chain-store-special computer at Office Depot. When high-end technology works, it's great, but when it doesn't, it's likely going to be difficult and expensive to fix.

    I expect someone here may have some experience on this topic though. Also try Googling "Prius inverter problem". You may find a discussion in another forum somewhere on the internet that may prove helpful.

    A 2004 Prius w/166K? If you need a reliable and inexpensive ride, it might be time to consider a new car.
  • I will only comment on your remark about insisting the dealer use a converter that buy off of eBay or anywhere else. They should refuse to do this; period. There is no quality control involved and the dealer has no idea if you're handing them someone else's castoff junk or not.

    While I'm not saying that you would do the following it has been known to happen that a customer who is agreeable to the understanding that no warranty would exist in a case like this it's also true that the same customer will develop amnesia and scream bloody murder if that self-acquired part turns out to be bad or fails shortly after installation.
    The customer will then sue or threaten to sue at the worst or badmouth the dealer who installed that unit by claiming the dealer did not do the job correctly or something along that line.

    I remember seeing a court show on TV once about a car problem and catching the gist at the start is the only reason I even watched it. A gentleman provided a set of used "big" wheels and adapters to a tire store and insisted the mismatched stuff be installed. The tire store balked, said it was unsafe, should be sent to a machine shop, etc, etc. but the customer insisted and eventually the shop caved in to the customer who "understood the problem" and did the job.
    One of the hokey adapters broke just minutes later when the car hit the roadway and the car owner sued the tire shop for this. The shop lost the case by agreeing to the customer demands.

    If an independent shop wants to do something like this then they can have at it but a franchised dealer should not.
    That's the main problem with a car like this; when something goes belly up the repair cost is very high. Tough call on whether or not the car is worth spending that amount of money on. Much could depend on what shape the rest of the car is in.
  • On an eight-year-old car with that kind of mileage, things are going to break. On a vehicle like a hybrid, these things can be expensive. These are realities you accept when you buy a hybrid. Fortunately, hybrids help you save money on gas, but you know components like the battery pack and the electric power drive will eventually fail, so for everyone considering a hybrid, if you are going to buy one, budget for repairs by setting aside some of the money you are saving on fuel.

    @jen207, it's not necessarily crazy to spend $4,200 on an 8-year-old car if the car is in otherwise good shape, it's paid for, and you plan to keep it for a long time.

    ok4450 is right. You wouldn't bring your own food to a restaurant and ask them to cook it, and you wouldn't bring your own harvested kidney to a hospital and ask for a transplant. Your mechanic would open up a can of worms in liability and if you happen to buy a bad used part, your mechanic is the one who could suffer by possibly damaging his reputation, losing out on the time and money he put into the project, and leaving you dissatisfied.

    Bite the bullet and get this car fixed the right way. If you take good care of this car, it will last a long time, but when you plan your financial future, budget for repairs. Expensive repairs are a part of owning a car.
  • You should be asking this at Priuschat, see what folks there say. And let us know how that 'insist the dealer's service department use it' goes....
  • From what I have seen and read in regard to this problem, it's unfortunate that Toyota did not design in an overtemperature detection sensor or a coolant line flow sensor to shut down the inverter with converter before it overheats and consequently fails.

    The ECM on a 1984 car that I bought new failed after the warranty ran out. As I recall, a new one was around $700 or $800 but the dealer of that brand got a rebuilt (refurb?) for me for around $300. Possibly the aftermarket will eventually get around to refurbishing Prius electronic parts.
  • edited September 2012
    ok4450, i don't mean to be rude, but the person asked if anyone knew an answer to their problem, they did not ask for a muligan on how bad their first idea was if you don't have an answer, you have no legitimate reason to even comment
  • I don't know what an inverter converter is to be honest, but you don't have to do the take the most expensive path just because the dealer says you do, i dunno if you have any mechanical experience but you can get a used part(hopefully) and alot of the time, they do prove sufficient, but then there are times when they don't, how do you tell wether it will last? well, if you have to, inspect the part yourself, for example, if you find somebody willing to sell the part for a decent price, try to get them to meet up with you and allow you to examine it, however if they're unwilling to allow you this, then that right there is enough reason to refuse them
  • edited September 2012
    "If the used part is a bad idea, then is it completely crazy to spend $4,200 on an 8-year-old car??"
    What scares me about this hybrid technology is that it is maintained by the same people that screw up our regular cars.
    The stuff is treated like a black box because it may not be serviceable to component level. Even if you could go in and change just certain parts of the assembly, mechanics don't know about electronics so can't waste their time troubleshooting it. You swap things in and out because it is expedient and profitable.
    Couple that fact with the other tid-bit that some of these guys are not the sharpest knives in the drawer:
    Just this week we had mechanics start a car fire when changing a battery, a dealer suggest they replace an ECM and ignitor to see 'whether it fixes the issue', etc. Some of these guys are horrible.

    There are some really good ones but there are also very bad and dishonest ones. Not knowing who is good and who is bad, I wouldn't blindly trust their judgment and get a second opinion. Not doing so would be like opening you wallet and saying "Take what you want".
    Of course, dealers are the only game in town when it comes to hybrids. You're stuck between a rock and another rock.

    Since you can't get a second opinion by an independent, I wouldn't spend 4200 bucks on an 8 year old car but would also not get a hybrid.

    Totally agree with @TwinTurbo, btw.
  • @RemcoW- you gave me a funny vision with your post. I was imagining the mechanic exclaiming "Ureka! I found it. It's the MOSFET Q5. Where's my soldering iron...". :-)

    You've described my worst fear. Having dealership mechs shotgunning big $$ parts hoping to fix a complex electronic problem.
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