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Prius inverter converter gone bad

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.

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

Talon, you admit you do not know what a inverter converter is yet you suggest the OP can visually inspect the part and determine if it’s fully functional? This is an electronic device in a sealed enclosure. No amount of visual inspection will be useful and frankly, very few people would have a clue how to even install it let alone test its functionality.

OK4450 took the time to explain why the OP’s idea of insisting on the dealer using a used part of unknown quality was likely to fail. IMO this was helpful in setting reasonable expectations for the OP and anyone who runs across this thread in the future.

"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…”. :slight_smile:

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

You won’t have much luck “insisting” that the Toyota dealer service dept. install the part you supply via ebay. You can ask them what they’d charge to install it and see if they will give you a price? Don’t expect any warranty from the dealer, you accept the risk on this one.

Installing a used inverter should be basically a bolt in, plug in. There are some mechanics out there with the knowledge to make this installation. A Prius website might be a good source of Prius specific mechanics. The guys that are doing Prius conversions to plug in chargers would be able to handle this installation.

The ebay part would likely come from a wrecked salvaged Prius and I think it is worth a shot to go that route considering the mega costs of the dealer repair. I’d try to line up someone to do the installation and then figure out how to get the part, ebay or let the installer source the part at a price close to the ebay cost.

Obtain a service manual for your car and see how difficult it is to change the inverter…Other posters are correct that the dealership will have little interest in using an inverter you provide. An independent shop would be a much better bet. The reason the dealership is charging $4200 is because they can…There are other sources for used auto-parts than eBay…A local salvage yard may have one and guarantee it to be a good part…Investigate ALL your options before you submit to the dealers over-priced repairs…If it takes 2 hours to change it and you can buy one for $300, you would be foolish to pay the dealer $4200…But you must have high confidence that the inverter is the real problem…

I agree, @TwinTurbo.

They are basically shotgunning problems now half the time. It isn’t going to get any better with technology they totally don’t understand.

My personal experience with dealerships installing used or aftermarket parts is that they do not warranty the repair. Basically you will pay the standard labor rate and if it fails or does not work you still pay. Essentially you are paying by the hour.

I would “risk” it personally to avoid the $4200 repair.

This is why the leading edge of technology is often called the “bleeding edge”. Jen is on the early part of the failure curve for this technology in cars, fortunately for her, not at the very beginning of the curve. Circuitsmith has provided a link to a repair facility that can provide a repaired unit.

Inverters are not new and they are pretty simple devices. I cannot see how Toyota can justify the $4200 cost. But the good news is that a repaired unit will probably outlast a new unit. Often, after a certain number of repairs, the techs see the weaknesses in the unit and find ways of upgrading them when they do the repair.

Any mechanic should be able to do the R&R (remove and replace), so I would suggest checking the link above to get the cost of a repaired inverter and find an independent mechanic that is willing to do the R&R.

No dealer would ever install a part brought in by a customer and then warranty the job. If I were their lawyer I’d scream bloody murder if they even suggested it. At the most you might get the dealer to install it but they would have you “sign-off” on the job, essentially guaranteeing nothing and leaving you to bear all risk. And then what? If you have problems with the item and the seller from e-bay, do you really want the nightmare of suing someone from who knows where on a used electrical part installed by someone else? You either got to bite the bullet and pay a dealer, maybe shop around a bit for something better than $4200, trade the vehicle with the known problem and take a hit on the trade-in value, or let it sit in your driveway. I expect that a lot of folks are going to be hit with something like this on hybrid vehicles now that they’re showing their age . . . . no good answer for any of them, you included. Sorry, but that’s my opinion. Good luck anyway! Rocketman

this sounds like something that should be left to a serafillable person or somebody who is trained on the electrail system in the toyota becouse one wrong move and you could end up dead.i would get an 2nd opion from somebody who knows about hybrids and gao from there. far as used parts they have a place but i don’t know enouth about hybrids to say is it worth it or not

The inverter with converter, according to a photo on ebay is immediately accessible under the hood on the driver side. Swapping it out appears be an easy matter for a Saturday mechanic with the need for a few electrical connections and a couple of coolant lines. The integrity of the part’s cooling system would have to be verified too which may have been the reason for the failure. A $400 or so risk might get the car going again; otherwise the OP has nothing except for the scrap value of the car minus the inverter with converter. The scrap value is worth considering before proceeding. If it was mine, I’d take the risk if I liked the car unless the scrap value was considerable. Whether it works again or not, consider it a valuable lesson regarding hybrid car ownership.