Hybrid Diary

What it's like to own a hybrid car

I drive a 2006 Toyota Prius. I write about my experiences with the thing on this page.

After leaving work to go home, I stopped to fill my 1990 Toyota Corolla's tank. I got on the interstate. Just a regular night, trying to get home to eat. A few miles into my drive, I look down at the dashboard to see the gas needle rose nicely to just below "F". (It never goes all the way.) But then I notice that the temperature gauge's needle is up at the "H". "What the...?" I wonder what to do. I guess I'm supposed to pull the car over before I damage the engine. But I just passed the Drusilla exit and the next exit is in something like 4 miles. Do I stop and walk? Do I push it until the exit and find the first place to park?

I keep driving. I make it to the exit and hit the red light. Smoke is coming out of the cracks around the hood. Light turns green and I take off. Go to the Albertson's parking lot, pull in the first space, and shut the engine off. I get out and pop the hood. I stand back as the foulest smoke envelopes my head. I call Rikki, and she comes to pick me up. Some guy in a car stops to ask what's wrong. I say the radiator overheated and I'm waiting for it to cool down. Later, another guy on a bike asked the same thing and then said it's probably the thermostat and I just need to take off a hose and scrape it out with a screwdriver. He left for his house and said he'd be back. That's when Rikki showed up. We waited a bit, but left to Koto to eat dinner.

After, we stopped by my house to pick up water and a screwdriver. We get to my car and I pop the hood again. That's when I notice that a screwdriver won't do jack. I can't get to anything with a single screwdriver. I need a ratchet set. I pour some water in the radiator and try to drive to Rikki's house, which is closer. I get as far as the Perkins Road overpass, at which point the radiator cap blows off and the engine starts smoking again. I pull over under the interstate and I leave the damn thing there. I realize I'll have to get a new car. Soon.
I borrow Rikki's car so I can get to work. At the office, Paul says it's definitely the thermostat and it's an 8-dollar part. I definitely don't want to pay for a tow truck, so that sounds like a better alternative. On the way back to Rikki's, I drive by my car to make sure it's still there.
After watching a World Cup match, Rikki and I drive over to AutoZone. I buy a thermostat, an O-ring, radiator coolant, and housing sealant. Under the hood of my car, I take off the top radiator hose to find no thermostat. We go back to AutoZone to find out where it is. The woman there couldn't find it in the books they had, but I was figuring it had to be where the lower radiator hose attaches to the engine (under the distributor in a hard-to-reach place). We drive back to my car. I manage to reach under the distributor and remove the hose and housing. I find the thermostat. I replace it with the new piece and attach all housings and hoses. I didn't put sealant on, partly because I forgot and partly because I was sick of working on a car. I partly fill the radiator with coolant then figure I need to dilute it with some water. We walk over to Bet-R where I buy a gallon of water. We go back and pour in some water. I drive the car over to Rikki's. It looks fine so far.
I noticed that there was a fresh puddle in the street under the engine. I pop the hood and see coolant had dripped out of the lower housing. I realize I need to suck it up and remove both housings again and add sealant. I'm sure this time I'll drop a bolt somewhere in the engine. The operation goes smoothly except for some drawn blood on my right hand.

Later on, Rikki and I go over to Price LeBlanc Toyota. They were having a Fourth of July sale and I wanted to test drive a Prius. I had decided that I was going to get one because someone needs to make up for all the idiots burning gas in their SUV's and Giganto Trucks. Not really knowing the process, we walk into the main showroom and I look at the flow of people to try and figure out what to do. There are people sitting in glass-enclosed booths around the outer walls of the main room. Most people just seem to be waiting. I figure out that the people with name tags are the salespeople. One comes up to me and asks if I'm being helped. I say, "No, not yet." He says he'll go get someone to give me some help. A minute later, a guy walks up to me and we shake hands. His name is Dan. I tell him I'm new at the car-buying thing, and he says he's new at selling them. I ask if they have any Priuses. He says they have one but it was just sold. We walk out to the lot to find it. It's red and the doors are locked, of course. I peek inside. It's a pretty big car. We walk back to the showroom and he goes to see about getting a key. He comes back and says he's not allowed because it's technically somebody else's property now. This means there's nothing to test drive. Dan doesn't know when they'll be getting another one. I'll probably need to order one or something.

We fill out some basic forms. I think one was really simple and just had my personal info. He said the guy I needed to talk to wasn't there that day. He has my cell number so he'll call me.
I get a call from Dan at work. I go over to Price LeBlanc at 4:30 after a World Cup match. Dan tells me the red Prius that was sold last time I was there was unsold somehow. This sounds good for me expect that he then said it was sent over to, I think, Team Toyota. I can't remember exactly. I shrug. We fill out some forms. One was about trading in the Corolla. I talk to another guy about ordering a car. He says I will need to give them a deposit if they are going to order a car. He takes down my requirements. All I say is "standard options" and "blue". "Oh, that'll be easy," he says. They run a credit check on me. After a while, they come back. The guy says I have excellent credit, but unfortunately, I don't have a lot of it. Just a credit card. So I will probably need to give a larger down payment if I finance the car through them. ("Financing" is a foreign concept to me, but I take it to just mean they loan me money and I slowly pay it back.) He says I may need to pay up to 5,000$. But for now I will only have to pay a 1000$ deposit on the down payment so they can order the car. This is money I won't get back if I back out. I pay with my credit card.

Dan says he'll give me a call when they get the car so we can work out the financing. It'll probably be three weeks or so, but he really doesn't know. The car is said to be around 26,000$ with all taxes and licensing. Although I only wanted standard options, I agreed to some "mini-package" because it would mean getting the car sooner. There's some facility called a "port" that receives cars from the factory. They add packages and stuff to the cars and then the cars get sent out to the dealers. The ports, I'm told, add this basic package to all Priuses, and it is really "special" to not get it. It's things like floor mats and extra sound insulation. Several hundred dollars. So I just shrugged and said "sure".

And now I'm wondering what I'm doing getting a freakin' expensive car like this.
Paul made an offer to buy my Corolla whenever I get the Prius. He is pretty good at fixing up cars and whatnot, so I know he can take of the thing when I'm done with it. And I'd feel a lot better doing that than giving it up to the dealership. A bonus is being able to see it every day at work and hearing about how much longer it is lasting. I guess I've grown attached to the car despite myself. It is my first car and I have had it since 1994. 12 years now. But I am more than ready to get a car I don't have to worry about. Hopefully Toyota knows what they're doing with this new hybrid technology. It would suck to have to replace all the batteries. I wonder what the warranty is.
I was trying to leave my apartment to go to Rikki's house. I hopped in the Corolla and turned the key. Click-click-click-click etc. It won't start. I'm stuck at home now. The battery is only 3 years 8 months old. It's a 60-month (5-year) battery. I am so sick of that piece of shit car. When's my Prius coming in? And how am I going to get to work on Monday? I think I'll try to jump-start the car Monday morning and drive it to where I got the battery (Sherwood Car Care) so they can look at it.
With Rikki's car's help, I was able to jump-start mine before work. I drove over to where I got the battery 3 years, 8 months ago. It was a 5-year battery, so I figured I'd get it pro-rated and get some money off the new one. They really insisted on an "Electrical System Diagnostic", which in the end brought my total to 100$. I can't decide if getting the diagnostic was a good thing to do or not. I knew the battery was the problem. Maybe it's good that I also know the alternator is ok?

No word from the dealership about my Prius, yet.
At work today around 4:00 or so, my cell phone started ringing. I looked at the number and it took me a second to figure out it was the number of Price LeBlanc. I answered and it was Dan. He said my blue Prius came in today. He said I can stop by anytime to go pick it up. I told him I'd go by tomorrow. He then said he'd be there from 8:30 in the morning to 9:00 at night.

Got off the phone and realized I didn't know what's coming next. I don't know what to do now. I have a car. I need to get another. Jerry said someone can drop me off tomorrow and I work out all the paperwork and so on and drive it off the lot. I guess I'll just leave the Corolla at the office until I can get it transferred over to Paul. If so, tonight is the last time I drive the Corolla home, which makes it feel dumb that I had to fill it up after work.

I'm only vaguely aware of what needs to happen. I guess there's registration and title or something so that the State knows I own it. There's also insurance. Not sure how that works out. Insurance is surely going to be really high compared to a 1990 Corolla. As for "financing", I guess I'll bring in my checkbook or something. I have no idea how that part works. I realize I'm going to ask somebody to buy my car, and I have to pay them back over time, and that I pay them back with interest. But I'm not sure I will be able to figure out whether or not I'm being screwed by anyone. Having a car already feels like being shafted day after day. They are such a waste of money were it not for the fact that getting around in this country is impossible without one.
Today was the big day. Before leaving home, I called to ask Dan if there's anything special I needed. I was thinking paperwork or something. He said no. So I go to work with plans of going for 1:00. That didn't happen. I was eating lunch with Jerry at about that time.

Actually, before that, I was talking to Paul about things and he mentionned the dealership won't let me drive the car off the lot unless I have insurance. My car insurance agent just happens to be across the street from work, so I walked over there to ask what I needed to do. They told me that they should call when I buy the car so she can get the VIN (vehicle identification something) and so on. And my insurance for the Prius will be twice as much as what I'm paying now for the Corolla. I guess that's not as bad as I was expecting. They also told me I could go 5 days for my current insurance to cover both cars. It used to be 30 days but the laws recently changed. They closed today at 4, they said, so if it was after that, I could deal with this Monday.

Jerry said he could drop me off at the dealership. First we go eat lunch. He tells me about loans and whatnot. He says I should get a Simple Loan, I think it's called. The kind of loan that I can double payments on and finish paying back sooner. It means paying less interest overall. I'm all for that as I don't like owing money and paying interest. He mentionned 5 percent being a really good percentage rate. From the little I remember from first semester calculus, interest isn't always so simple to figure out since it depends on when the percentage is calculated and what's compounded and so on. Anyway, I really don't remember what all of this means and it makes me feel stupid.

Jerry drops me off out front and we see a blue Prius that just has to be mine since Priuses are obviously a very rare find. I walk in the main building and find Dan. What happens first is we sit in one of the glass booths that surround the main showroom floor. We complete some forms that we didn't finish because he was new at the time we did them 3 weeks ago. I get called into the senior finance guy's office. Dan is also in the room and sits in a chair off to the side. This guy is old and talks fast. He shows me what he's been doing on his flatscreen monitor. He's trying to find me a loan. He's going through some website and they're offering me 12 percent loans because of my limited credit. (12? What happened to 5?) The next hour is a blur because of the amount of information that came out of his mouth. I can't believe that he really expects me to have understood everything. I wonder if he said all of that just to throw me off so he could offer me some bullshit financing. I just don't know. I think the good news is that there's no penalty to paying the loan off completely tomorrow, so I can get a better loan to pay off that loan and only deal with the second one at a lower rate. Maybe.

When I left the room, I was very uneasy and yet relieved that it was over. Somehow, I came out of there with a loan and copies of a lot of paperwork I signed. Next I had to wait while the car's VIN was etched in all the glass windows and the car was cleaned. I really had to be out of there by 4 or 4:30 because I had to get to a wedding. (Friend of Rikki.) It was getting later and later and my car still wasn't ready. I was sitting around blabbing with Dan about how the car works. He said he'll have to show me since it doesn't work like a regular car.

Because it was taking so long and I had to be somewhere, Dan said he'd go stop them so I could leave. He soon came back and said they had just finished so I wouldn't have to come back and get the etching done. We walked to the car with a temporary license plate (and my bag of Price LeBlanc smoked sausage). I fumbled into the unfamiliar driver's seat and followed his instructions. He was more interested in sharing with me what he learned about the computer touch-screen display. I needed to leave so I wanted to know how to start the car, back up, put it in drive, and stop the car. I have a weird, small, black box that has buttons for auto locking and unlocking the doors. This box is what gets inserted into a slot in the dashboard. I step on the brake and press the Power button. Then I move a little lever to the right of the wheel to the left and up to put the car in reverse. To put it in drive, I move the lever to the left and down. When I'm stopping, I press a button that says "P" to put it in park. Then I press the Power button and take out the little black box. After this brief introduction, I was thrust into the role of driver and took off. I was not at all comfortable or familiar with anything. It took me a while to turn the AC lower and I still can't figure out how to change the temperature. So far, the Prius is awesome.

I got the car at 5 miles on the odometer. This oughta be interesting.
So far, I've given maybe 5 test drives for people to see what a Prius is like. Everyone is impressed by how roomy it is. It's a smooth, quiet drive. To me, it feels like I'm driving a new van because I'm high up and have all sorts of power controls. I discovered the "lock all windows" button on my arm rest. The steering is crazy; it has such a small turning radius. The touch screen display is very hypnotic: I keep looking at it to see the latest miles-per-gallon. Right now, I'm at 40.2 mpg.

My dad and I looked over some of the forms I signed at the dealership, particularly the finance form. My loan's interest rate is 9.99% for 6 years. That comes to about an 8,000$ finance charge. (That's how much I have to pay the people for the money I borrowed.) This bumps the price of the Pruis up to 37,000$. Because the loan I got allows me to pay it all this month, if I wanted, I intend to now go to my bank to see if I can get a better interest rate. This second loan will pay off the first. I do not intend on keeping a high interest loan like that for very long. I also intend on paying half of the first loan right away myself and getting the second loan for the other half. I'll see what the bank people say.

Tomorrow, I'm going to walk over to the insurance company and get my insurance transferred over. This is a bunch of crap.
I got insurance for the Prius yesterday. It's about twice as much. Paul and I are going to get a notary public to witness some form-signing tomorrow so we can get the Corolla transferred over to him. I wrote up a contract for the sale to be all official. Hopefully this goes smoothly so I can be done with the old car and he can proceed to fix it up. The next thing for me to do is fool with the car loan.

The Prius runs so smoothly. I've got it up at 42 mpg. I've driven about 200 miles on the tank and it's not even half empty yet. It's still momentarily confusing to start the car up and to stop it. I keep struggling to remember the order of button-pushing. There's so much more to do than a regular car. And I'm also trying to get used to the fact that I need to turn on the car's power so I can roll up the windows before it starts raining: power windows.

Cruise control is lovely to finally have. The Prius has the best controls I've ever seen. It's all on one little, inch-long lever under the windshield wiper lever. There's a button on the end to turn cruise on and off. Clicking the lever down sets the speed. Clicking the lever up resumes cruise. Clicking the lever toward me cancels cruise. Simple.

One thing that will surely get me in a wreck is fiddling with the air conditioning. I have to go through the touch screen if I want anything more complicated than "Auto", which determines where to get air and where to blow it depending on what temperature you set it for. It took some screen presses to get outside air to blow on my feet and my face with no A/C. But once everything is set up for a trip, I can cruise in comfort.
My dad, Paul, and I went to a notary public yesterday, but I forgot the certificate of title for the Corolla so we had to go again today. The point of this was to transfer the title over to Paul. Since it was in my dad's name, he had to be there to sign. The notary public's fee was 20$ for the service of being in the same room. After we did that, I drove Paul to my parents' house, where the Corolla has been parked since last weekend. I gave him the keys and he officially took ownership. It's a weird feeling to see someone drive off with my car of 12 years. This weekend, he'll go over to the DMV to let them know about the transfer.

The Prius is still on the same tank of gas. 260 miles or so on it. Almost 44 mpg. I read up on the "Climate" controls tonight in the owner's guide, but I really can't remember anything I read. To make full use of the car, I'll need to do a road trip. Driving across town doesn't feel worthwhile for it. But it does feel good to be at a red light or the ATM and have the engine off.
A weak point with the Prius is the field of vision. Maybe I just sit taller than most drivers do, but I have to slouch a bit to see out the window. Sitting up, my eyes are level with the top of the windshield, and the rear-view mirror blocks the entire right-hand side of the front window. And more blind spots exist: between the front- and back-seat side windows is a rather wide obstruction of car frame where the front seatbelt attaches; behind the back-seat windows and before the very back window is another expansive block of car frame. Then there's the rear door, the "hatch". The back window is split into two pieces, a top and bottom with a thick bar separating them. It makes it hard to back up and check if a car or light post is in the way. Overall, it's very hard to look around and see what obstacles are around me should I need to go in a direction that's not straight.

The dominant strong point is an obvious one. An example: Rikki and I drove to Lafayette this weekend and encountered an accident. A trip that usually takes a little over an hour took us 3 hours and 10 minutes. Somehow, with air conditioning in the middle of the day, the car averaged 42 miles per gallon. And since Saturday, the average is 47 miles per gallon. Wow.
A complaint I have with every car is the gas-o-meter: it's never accurate. A tank of gas appears full forEVER. Then it quickly falls to empty. And empty usually means there's another couple gallons left in the tank. I want a fuel gauge that actually tells me how much gas I have instead of wanting to make me think, "Gee, wow. This car hardly uses any gas! It's still full!"

The Prius is no different than any other car. It shows full for a couple hundred miles on the tank, at which point the gauge starts dropping rapidly. This makes the gauge meaningless until it's displaying "Empty"... unless you can recognize the non-linear mapping between what's displaying and what's actually in the tank.

I've always determined when to fill up according to how many miles I've driven on the tank. The Corolla could safely go for 280 miles before needing to fill up, at which point I usually had 2 to 3 gallons left in the tank. I'm not sure about the Prius yet as I've only filled the tank once.
Inside still feels like a van. It's so roomy. And I hit 49.0 mpg on this tank today. I'm kinda getting used to the steps to start the car. And I figured out how to open and close the windows without fully turning the car on: I put the key in and press the power button without stepping on the brake pedal. Then to turn off this intermediate power mode, I just pull the key out.

I got the first bill for the Toyota loan today. I need to go by the bank soon to work out the details of Loan #2 with them. I must break away from my busy work day to do this. Also, I got my insurance bill. I haven't paid this much for insurance since I was 22.
I filled up the tank on the 16th and saw how many gallons it took to fill up and I saw how many miles I did on the tank, so it's an easy calculation to get the 46 mpg. However, the Prius display claimed I did 49 miles per gallon. I figured the Prius was programmed to lie.

At work today, Jon and I may have figured out why the Prius claimed it did 49 mpg instead of the actual 46 mpg, as well as why the fuel gauge hangs around Full for a long time before dropping quickly to Empty. It comes down to the shape of the gas tank and the lack of intelligent programming on the part of Toyota.

First of all, given the miles I drove, the Prius version of mpg, and the actual mpg, I concluded that the Prius assumed I had 0.65 gallons more in the tank when I filled up than I really did. This really isn't a big difference, even knowing the size of the tank is 11.9 gallons: about 5.5 percent. So why would there be this difference?

Let's slice up the tank into horizontal pieces, like bread. If the tank were a giant rectangular block, the volume of each slice would be the exact same. In terms of this gas tank, the amount of gas that each slice can hold is the exact same. So as gas is taken out of the tank for the engine, the depth of gas in the tank is a perfect indicator of the volume of gas left.

Let's now assume that the gas tank is like a martini glass. Drinking a martini, you will notice that at first, the drink seems to last forever. As you drink at the same rate, the level drops more and more quickly. That's because the horizontal slices of volume are not the same at all depths.

With these two examples, it's pretty obvious that the shape of the gas tank can not be a perfect rectangle because the Prius thought I had 0.65 gallons more than I did. To conclude, the fuel gauge and display's "Average mileage" are inaccurate because the programmers of the computers didn't take into account the shape of the gas tank. The way to verify this is to actually find out the shape of the gas tank.

Addendum: I just read that the Prius gas tank has a plastic bladder that shrinks as the gas volume lowers to minimize evaporation. This would definitely interfere with fuel readings.
I've been waiting for my license plate now for some time. Price LeBlanc, it seems, has decided to send it via UPS. I'm thankful that they are the ones who dealt with the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles and did all that paperwork, and I think it was pretty decent of them to send the plate to me instead of getting me to drive out there to pick it up. However, I have had to make something like 5 phone calls to track down the package.

First, on August 18 (a Friday), UPS tries to deliver a package form Price LeBlanc to my home address. When I got home from work, there was a notice on my door saying they tried to deliver it and they need a signature. They will try again Monday. I called the number on the notice to get them to change the shipping address. I think I called again Monday night when it didn't come to the office. There was a postcard at some point saying I had moved or something. I called again some other time. They called me to confirm. I think I called last Friday night. And then I called tonight after it failed to arrive at the office again. The package, they tell me, is still in Port Allen across the river. I can expect another postcard saying I have moved (which I can ignore) as well as a confirmation phone call tomorrow. With any luck, I will get the package on Wednesday. I've been driving without a plate for a month, which is fine since my temporary cardboard "plate" is good for 60 days. The problem is that no tape can possibly keep it posted in my rear window. The heat keeps liquifying the glue.

Prius Complaint of the Day: shifting into reverse causes a very annoying beep to fill the car. I'm not sure the point of this other than to train me to avoid reversing at all costs and to find ways to always drive forward.

Also, I went by the bank last week to see about a car loan. Filled out an application with the guy there. He called me back later that day and said the best they could do was 8.25%. While better than 9.99%, it still sucks. I intend on going by a credit union tomorrow to see what they can do for me.
Still no UPS package. I talked to a woman at the Port Allen shipping center and she insisted I could expect the thing tomorrow. I am also trying to get in touch with some guy at Price LeBlanc who was responsible for shipping the package. I had to leave a voicemail today. No response from him.

I went to a credit union last week and was able to secure a 4-year loan at 6% interest. I've sent a check to Toyota to pay off half of the car so the loan can cover the rest. Now I just need my registration. It's supposedly in the UPS package.
I finally got my package today. It had my license plate and registration. Along with that was a bag of stuff from Price LeBlanc: jumper cables, crappy flashlight, screwdrivers, and first aid box (probably just band-aids). So now I can move on with my life and look to getting that loan. I just need to wait for Toyota to receive my big check so I can get the "10 day payoff amount" from them for the credit union.
I went to the credit union yesterday and got the loan. I had to get a savings account, but it only needs 5$ in it. So I think all that's finally settled. I just need to call the union to opt out of all the crap they do to tell mass marketers to send crap to me.

The car drives well. It's quiet inside, roomy. It's a smooth ride. The display and touch screen is very distracting, though. It requires a lot of button pushes to get anything done. I have to ignore traffic too long.

The display's miles per gallon data is inaccurate. I don't know why it's there if it can't even get within 5 mpg of the true value. It claims to know it to the tenths place.

I have to remember that the acceleration is a little sluggish, too. If I am thinking about pulling out into traffic, I have to take into account that the gas engine doesn't kick in right away.
Okay, it's not all over. Everytime I call Toyota Financial Services, the automated services tells me I still owe half of the loan. What happened to the credit union paying that off a week ago? And while I'm at it, why is the payoff amount (and hence the amount of my credit union loan) plus my big check I mailed them more than the original loan? Bigger by 327$. That can't be from interest. I just know they're trying to charge a hidden fee.

And I can't get in touch with the woman I talked to at the credit union. After several emails and a couple phone calls, I realized today that she's probably on vacation. She mentionned it last week. I tried calling the credit union and got someone at the main branch who said my branch closed at 4:30. It was 5:00. Why are banks so special that they get to close so damn early? I will try to call tomorrow to figure out why the loan hasn't been processed by Toyota. The current payoff amount is currently more than the amount the credit union is sending them. And both amounts are more than what I think Toyota should get. By 327$ (my second loan) or 350$ (the current payoff amount).

I realize this has little to do with a hybrid and more to do with the process of buying a new car. But whatever.
I've settled into the monthly pattern of paying my credit union's loan, and I'm glad that's all straightened out. I've stopped dealing with Toyota Financial Services altogether. I lost more money through them than I should have. I should have gone to the credit union first instead of getting that 10% loan. Lesson learned.

I've been averaging around 51 miles per gallon lately. Not too shabby. I think I did 500 miles on a tank once, which is pretty awesome. Most of the time when the gas gauge drops to 2 bars, I get worried and go fill up. I read that that gauge tends to be unreliable and has left some drivers stranded with no gas. Since the gas is inside a plastic bladder that expands in ways that depend on temperature, there's really no telling how much gas is left in the tank, they say. So I've been playing it safe and filling up early.

I realized a couple weeks ago that the spedometer display is a projection reflected on a mirror. It's projected upward from the dash to a mirror that reflects it to the driver's seat. It's pretty cool. It makes the read-out look farther away than it is.

I next intend to do some math to see how much sense it made to buy an expensive car to save on gas. I saw a documentary called "Who Killed the Electric Car?" and I have a severe distaste for car companies. I want to see if they've duped me into believing that hybrids are worth it. If it comes down to it, I can at least try to believe that I bought a reliable, comfortable car, ignoring that it's a hybrid.
A dashboard display light went on today after lunch. It flashed "MAINT REQD" a few times before turning off. I noticed the odometer read 4512 miles. In recent days, I've been thinking that it's about time for an oil change, and so I was wondering how the car knew. I looked it up online (since the owner's manual doesn't say anything other than highly recommending I always take the car to a licensed Toyota dealership for everything). The light flashes 4500 miles after being reset and stays on after 5000 miles. All it means is it's time for an oil change. It's a simple reminder and means nothing more. If I were to change my oil myself, I would follow some fairly simple procedure involving the power and odometer buttons to reset the counter, and in 4500 more miles, it would flash again to remind me.

As my warranties depend on my getting regular maintenance, I intend on checking my books to see what Toyota recommends I do at 4500 miles. I'm not convinced I really need to go to the dealership for a simple oil change. Maybe Jiffy Lube.
The light does indeed stay on after 5000 miles. I'm coming up on 5500 miles, and I have yet to find my way 'round to getting the oil change. My maintenance book says I should also rotate my tires, which isn't a big deal. I've done it myself on my Corolla. I haven't decided where I should go to get these things done. I hate car maintenance.

I found some guy's website this weekend. He described the steps involved with turning off the awful beeping that occurs when backing up. I'll run through it here real quick. Turn off the power, making sure the odometer display is on ODO. Turn on the power and within 6 seconds, press the ODO button for at least 10 seconds. With ODO still pressed, shift into Reverse then press the Park button. Release the ODO button. Pressing ODO will now toggle between "b on" and "b off". I am so relieved to not hear the beep.

I also read about how to get more miles per gallon. The main idea is that converting energy between chemical potential (gas) and kinetic (moving) and electrical potential (battery) is very inefficient, so the battery should be used as little as possible. I am trying to accelerate using just the gas engine, coast with just enough gas pedal to use neither gas engine nor battery, and decelerate slowly to charge the battery as much as possible: there is a limit to how quickly the battery can charge up, current-wise. The second idea is that air friction is costly, so I'm now driving 60 mph on the interstate to get to and from work.

I did some analyses of the cost of a Prius. If money were the only issue, then I spent way too much on a car. I could have gotten another car much cheaper in the long run. Comparing my Prius to a 20,000$ Car X that does 30 mpg, I would need to own my car 15.6 years to even start coming out ahead with the savings in gas. (This is driving 12,500 miles a year and with gas at 2.25 $/gallon.) Even after my 3150$ tax break. If Car X did 25 mpg, it would come down to 10.3 years. Obviously, there are some vehicles that the Prius compares favorably to, like any SUV or van, but those weren't my alternate choices.
I finally got an oil change after driving for 6100 miles. Price LeBlanc wanted to do a full 5000-mile maintenance inspection that would cost 75$. Instead, I got them to just change the oil and rotate the tires for 45$. I think the difference was mostly the tire balancing that comes with the inspection. But I figured I'd be fine, and so far, there aren't any vibrations when I drive on the interstate.

I've definitely noticed my mpg go down with the cold air. I was doing up around 52 mpg when it was warm and now I'm at 44 mpg. The other day I was driving on the interstate -- actually at about the place where my Corolla started overheating in June -- when my car beeped at me and the display said "Add fuel". Then the last bar on the gas gauge started flashing. I was only at 400 mile on the tank. I thought it queer for my car to be bitching so early when I once did 500 miles on a tank. I drove another 5 miles or so and filled up. I've read stories online about what happens when you run out of gas. Something about needing to tow the car in to the dealership to reset the computers or something before you can even drive it again. I can't remember and would need to research it more.
It's time for another oil change and I've really been putting it off. I've driven about 12,200 miles now. I wonder if there's any maintenance that I need at 10,000 miles. I'll have to check.

The car still drives well. It's still a bitch to keep the wheel straight because it slowly turns one way and then the next. I guess it's really sensitive to wheel movement.

It's gotten really dirty since I've only washed and vacuumed it once. I've been parking under a holly tree since I've moved to a new house, and now the roof and windows are covered with small, brown, assymetric sap spots. It seems to be from whatever the squirrels and birds are doing up there. Now, if I see any bits on my roof in the morning, I wash it off with the house, but I wasn't before. Various websites recommend things like bug and tar remover, Goo Gone, finger nail polish remover, lighter fluid, rubbing alcohol, and WD-40. These things will either dissolve the sap or soften it. This is followed by lightly wiping it off with something soft and then waxing. The trick seems to be making sure the paint isn't too scratched up since dried tree sap can do that. What I hate is there are too many recommended ways to do this. And each way requires a slew of products I don't own.

Cars are too much trouble to own. Maybe I'll just leave the sap on. What harm can it do?
Yesterday I went to 5-Minute Oil Change instead of the dealership. It's a drive-through oil change shop where you don't actually get out of your car. So of course they didn't reset the MAINT REQD light, if they even knew what it was. I looked online for what to do, and here are the steps: press and hold the "ODO" button; press and release the "Power" button twice without pressing the brake pedal (to turn on the computer); watch the odometer display go from "------" to "-----" to "----" to "---" to "--" to "-" to "000000", at which point the "ODO" button can be released and the power can be turned off. At least I think that's what happened. It's rather early in the morning right now. My mileage for my second oil change? 12,550.
The Prius undertook its first major road trip this past weekend. We drove over to Austin, Texas, for the Austin City Limits Festival. Google Maps says it's a 430-mile drive. We went there and back using 2 tanks. Not bad. Sadly, though, we were only able to do 46 miles per gallon because of the AC and 70 mph speeds.
Yesterday morning, a new yellow/orange light appeared on the dashboard. It had a "!" inside of an arc. I just left the house, so I pulled over and took out my car's owner manual. It turned out to be the tire pressure light. My car decided that its tire pressure is... something. Low or high, I don't know. I imagine low. Well, a cold front just came through, so I figured the drop in temperature caused the internal pressure to drop. (Ideal gas law, I believe. pV = nRT.) But even after driving 10 miles on the interstate, the light remains on. I did a visual inspection of the tires, and they look fine. Maybe one day I'll fool with it, but I think I'll live.
After 48690 miles and 5 years, I got a flat tire on my stock Goodyear Integrity tires. I've been noticing them going to crap and knew it was almost time to replace them. I was near home when I realized it was getting flat. By the time I did get home, it was flat as a popped soccer ball. I used the jack that came with the car and put on the spare. I did some research online and found PriusChat forums. There really wasn't a consensus on what tire is best, which makes sense since it depends on where you are, how you drive, and so on. The forums reference TireRack.com and some thorough testing they did of Prius tires. I decided to go with Bridgestone Ecopia EP100 tires because they're summer tires, as opposed to all-season, and felt right. I don't know. There's really no perfect tire. For starters, these were 94$ each. Expensive but I don't want to lower my mpg, something that could end up costing me more in the end.
It's now been over 5 years of having this car as my primary vehicle. Because I'm lazy, I haven't gone to the store to buy a new battery. The little 12-volt starter battery, not the big battery pack under the back seat. The starter battery is actually in the very back, behind the right wheel. I really need to buy a new one before this thing dies.
The 12-volt auxillary battery seems to be dying on me. I couldn't start the engine the other day but today I could. No idea what changed between then and now. I found online a way to check the battery voltage. Insert key and press power button (without foot on brake). When booted up, press and hold "Info" button then turn lights on and off 3 times. Release button. On the screen, press "Menu" then "Display Check" and finally "Vehicle Signal Check". It was showing me 12.0 volts. I haven't tried it yet, but I read it's possible to start the car up (foot on brake and press power button again) and I'd see the voltage jump to 13.8 volts or so. I suppose I'll check again later to see if it changes.
I went into maintenance mode again today to see how the battery voltage was doing. It was at 11.5 V, so I'm pretty sure it needs to be replaced. I pressed the power button again to start the engine. The voltage jumped to about 14.4 V or so. When driving, I think it was around 13.8 V. I can't really remember. I am not looking forward to giving up 210$ for a new battery.

I haven't tried it yet, but I found another way to enter mainenance mode without turning on and off the headlights.

Since I'll be going to the dealership for the battery, I may as well also get the water pump replaced. Toyota has a "Limited Service Campaign" to fix some defective bearing on hybrid electric water pumps in 2004-2007 Priuses. Er, Prii.
I drove to the dealership yesterday to get a new starter battery. The battery was 209.23$ while labor and tax brought it up to 263.90$. I had them install it because I really don't like cars or the complications that always come up when working on them. I would love to just sell the damn thing. I would love to live somewhere where I could be car-free.

I now need to re-look up how to stop the annoying beep that occurs when I shift into reverse.
A few days ago, I was going to pack up the car for a trip, but the remote car door opener was having no effect. I figured its battery died, so I manually opened the door with the metal key. But then the power locks weren't working. And the lights were all off. And the car wouldn't start. (I looked at the remote, and its red light flashed when I pressed the unlock button, so it obviously works.) We took our other car for the trip.

Today, I checked the car again. Still dead. Maybe the 12-volt battery needs to be jumped. (Oh: the headlights weren't on and the doors were all closed. No idea how the battery would have drained.) I wanted to first do a visual inspection of the battery, which is in the back. Problem: the hatch door doesn't open without power. I pulled out the manual and searched online a bit. It wasn't obvious how to open the hatch from the inside. It took some doing, but I found there's a tiny metal (non-painted) lever inside a small opening right below the locking mechanism. I ran out of time today, and I guess I forgot to look at the battery. Maybe tomorrow I'll get a chance.
I jump-started the Prius with our second car today. I jumped using the actual battery (in the back) instead of the jump port (under the hood) because I had parked in the garage head first. The car started easily. It's no different jump-starting a Prius.

The engine turns off when parked, so I decided to drive around the neighborhood to keep the engine running. (I assume the 12-volt starter battery can be charged by the battery pack, but I didn't actually look it up.) Fifteen minutes later, I pulled back into the garage. I turned off the car and switched the dome lights back to "Door". (I had turned them off before recharging.) The doors were closed but they immediately turned on. The dashboard indicator light wasn't on showing that a door was open. I opened a door and the indicator came on. I closed the door; the indicator turned off but the dome light stayed on. I think I found the problem. I've made an appointment at Price LeBlanc because I can't find answers online.
I befriended a new neighbor who helped me jump-start the car for my appointment this morning. I was only 5 minutes late. On the drive there, I tested the dome light switch. It wasn't screwing up anymore. I figured they could still run a diagnostic or something to figure it out.

It was a 10:30 appointment, but they told me they couldn't get to it until 12:15 because of some "problems". So they kindly gave me a temporary car: a Corolla. On the drive back home, Price LeBlanc called me. They said the dome light switch was working normally. They asked me how long the car was sitting between my using it last week. Three days, I said. They said they'd keep looking.

Well, they found nothing wrong with it. They charged up my battery and charged me 60$. I drove back to get my car.