Hybrid Car – More Fun with Less Gas


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Posted by Asa on December 10, 2006, 1:23 pm

Greetings all.  I have an '05 Prius and absolutely love it!  Great
mileage and it offers a very smooth ride.

Now that it's starting to get really cold here in Virginia, I notice
whenever the temperature hits 37 degrees  or lower, the battery caution
light comes on.  I've checked the owners manual and it's a bit short on
details.  However, I do know from experience that batteries typically
don't like cold temperatures.  But unfortunately, there's really not a
lot I can do about it other than park the car indoors, which I do.

If ever the "Check Engine Oil" light were to come on, it's a warning
for me to take an action.  If the "Fuel" light comes on, again, it's a
warning for me to take a specific action before I end up stranded on
the side of the road.  Doesn't it seem a bit odd that Toyota would
spend big bucks designing and then adding a battery warning indicator
light, when there's absolutelly nothing in the world that I can do
about the outside ambient air temperature?  When the light comes on, I
look at it and say to myself . . . that's nice, now what?

Forgive me, but am I missing something?


Posted by Michael Pardee on December 10, 2006, 3:13 pm

It's an indicator that your available power will be reduced, so you don't
pull out too close in front of the gravel truck and get in trouble. Adjust
your driving accordingly and all will be well.


Posted by richard schumacher on December 10, 2006, 6:31 pm

The "battery caution light"?  You mean, in addition to the yellow
snowflake-plus-exclamation-point that comes on when the outside temp
goes below 37 degrees?

Posted by Asa on December 12, 2006, 2:42 am


I was referring to the small "snow flake" looking symbol.  Your
explaination makes a lot of sense.  Thanks all!


richard schumacher wrote:

Posted by mrv@kluge.net on December 11, 2006, 8:47 pm

Asa wrote:

This is the first that I've heard of a 2005 Prius (NHW20) having a
"battery caution light" coming on due to cold weather...

On a Classic Prius (2001-2003) NHW11, there are 2 engine coolant lights
on the dash.  They both look like a thermometer on wavy "water" lines.
Blue = cold coolant, red = hot coolant.

I have not heard of the red hot coolant light coming on (other than the
brief time at startup when all the other lights come on and off in
self-check), even on cars driven through Death Valley.  If this is the
light coming on, you should visit your dealer.

However, the blue cold coolant light is perfectly normal to come on and
stay on when you first start the car, and stay on for the first 5-15min
of driving (depending on the outside temperature).  The light says that
the engine coolant isn't up to proper operating temperature (the engine
coolant is cold, to be expected if the car has been sitting undriven
for a while), so the engine will probably be running (and not at its
most efficient state) to warm the coolant up (among other
engine/emissions components).  Don't expect your MPG to be much higher
than about 30MPG for the first 5min segment of your driving, as the
engine will be running (and not going into electric).  It is perfectly
safe/fine to drive with the blue cold coolant light on, but just try
not to overly stress the engine (floor the accelerator, go up a very
steep/long hill, etc...)

Some 2001 Prius may even show the orange turtle light on some very
cold/windy days, indicating that the hybrid battery is too cold and
will not be providing much/any power.  (Acceleration will be a little
sluggish (but still driveable - I didn't really notice the difference
until after the turtle light went out), which is OK as you shouldn't be
stressing the engine with the turtle light anyways...)  Keep the heater
on (and the back window shelf clear, where the battery vents are), and
drive gently, and the light will go out in about 20min of travel (in my
experience using backroads with my 2001, anyways; I don't know timing
for pure highway driving).

On the 2004-current Prius NHW20, the blue cold coolant light has been
removed from the dashboard, as has the Turtle light.  (On North
American models, the Prius also now has the Coolant Heat Storage System
(CHSS), a pump and a specially-designed thermos-like container that
stores some of the warm coolant when you turn off the car, and then
returns the warm coolant when you start the car, to help shorten the
car's warmup period.)  However, there is a new icon - an orange/yellow
snowflake on a perspective road symbol, which indicates that the
outside temperature is below 3C/37F (that roads may start to freeze/ice
over).  This flashes on the MFD and then stays next to the outside
temperature reading.  On the 2004-2005 models, it also appears on the
dashboard and stays there (scaring many new owners when the weather
gets cold), but was removed from the dash starting in 2006.  This icon,
sometimes called "Flakey" by owners, is even listed as a safety feature
in some countries...

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