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2010 Toyota Prius - Audio goes nuts when hot

I read your column every week in the Smarter Living section of the Sunday Hartford Courant and hope you can help decipher a strange occurrence with my 2010 Prius before the heat of summer arrives. After the car is parked in the sun, or even in the shade on really hot days, and it gets pretty hot inside, when I start the engine, the radio display acts likes it’s possessed. Sometimes it’ll cycle through FM, AM, CD on its own and the display will show only lines or be black. Aside from not responding to any button I push, the most frustrating part is it doesn’t keep my place on the CD audio book I’m listening to. After the car cools down in a while, the audio demon goes away. My Toyota dealer mechanic is excellent, but he’d have to park the car in the hot sun for awhile before he could even begin to diagnose it at his top rate and I suspect he’ll suggest I replace the audio unit. Is this condition common to Pruises or other cars? Any ideas what is causing this and suggestions what I can do short of replacing it?

Not common to any specific brand and replacing it is the economical move. Also you can really upgrade the unit at any good stereo shop , even BestBuy . This is not a dealer type deal.

Heat kills electronics. Factory or aftermarket. The car is 9 years old, things fail. Time for a new radio.

Thoroughly clean the key pads that control the stereo. You may need to use a toothpick to get all the crevices cleaned. There may be gunk between the buttons and the face-plate that is causing the keys to stick as the plastic parts heats up. The stereo thinks you are pressing buttons when you aren’t, which confuses both you and the stereo. People notice something similar sometimes, when they turn the steering wheel they hear a squeaking noise when it is hot. This is the same problem.

Malfunctioning when hot is not repairable. Replacement is about the only option. Electronic and failure run together as far as stereos are concerned.

There isn’t much you can do yourself to fix this except possibly remove the unit and either have it repaired or replaced. The problem is internal to the unit. You can have it repaired or you can simply purchase a good used unit for a reasonable price if you want to stick with a OEM radio. Here is a good place to send it into for repair or purchase a refurbished unit if you want.

Ebay is another place to find good used units for a reasonable price.

If you are a bit handy, look on crutchfeld site. They sell audio, you can narrow it down to the styles that would fit your car and they will sell you additional accessories to make the new radio work with your car. They have installation diagrams that they send you and tech support that is generally decent. You pay a bit extra compared to amazon or ebay but still would be much cheaper than a stereo store or dealer.

Granted, when I made the same suggestion for a coworker with a 20 yr old Accord, they decided to pass and pay the dealer $350 for another radio. I had also offered to install the new stereo (which would have bluetooth and bunch of other stuff the old radio did not have).

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Thanks to all who replied. I don’t know why, but since posting at the beginning of the summer, the problem has not occurred despite the record heat in July. Hopefully the radio display is the biggest problem I’ll have with my otherwise reliable Prius. Approaching 150k miles and plan on riding it til it drops.