How to Maintain Your Hybrid Vehicle

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How to Maintain Your Hybrid Vehicle

Hybrid vehicles are becoming even more popular for a variety of reasons that range from environmental concerns to fuel economy. Hybrids provide more flexibility than pure electric vehicles, and they have lower emissions and better fuel economy than pure petrol-engined vehicles. Depending on the buyer's country of residence, purchasing a hybrid may provide tax breaks, as well.

As hybrids have become more common, so has the idea of maintaining your own hybrid rather than taking it back to the dealer for every little bit of maintenance. Because they do have a petrol engine, some hybrid maintenance is almost identical to what you would do on a regular petrol-engined car. However, there are a few things that every hybrid owner should know about the differences. Some of these differences actually reduce your maintenance requirements, but others add to them slightly. The key is understanding how the maintenance differs. Once you understand the basics, the rest is easy.

About Hybrid Vehicles

When applied to a vehicle, the term hybrid means that it can on run on either of two different power sources. While it most commonly refers to a car that has both a petrol engine and an electric drive, the term can also technically be applied to anything from a moped to a diesel-electric submarine. The basic principle behind a petrol-electric hybrid car is that each power source is able to offset the limitations of the other in order to provide a net benefit to the owner. Petrol-engined cars have a relatively long range and can be refuelled quickly, but they often have poor fuel economy and produce pollution. By contrast, electric cars produce almost zero pollution, but they have a much shorter range and take a long time to recharge. A hybrid produces less pollution than a pure petrol-engined car, and it can be refuelled much more quickly than a pure electric car can recharge its battery.

There are two main types of hybrids: series and parallel. The main difference is that the parallel hybrid essentially has two separate power systems, either of which can drive the wheels, while the series hybrid has a single power system with both petrol-burning and electric components. In a parallel design, the petrol engine drives the wheels directly and can also charge the batteries, while in a series design the electric motor always drives the wheels and draws power from either the petrol engine or the battery.

Benefits of Hybrid Vehicles

In addition to the reduced pollution levels due to the use of smaller engines, hybrid vehicles also use their petrol engines more efficiently than straight petrol cars do. This is because the engines can run at the most efficient speed all the time, and the electric motor adds power as necessary. This is one key way that hybrid vehicles can get away with smaller engines than conventional petrol-engined motorcars. The engine only has to provide enough power to match the sustained load because it can draw on the battery for peak loads. Conversely, a petrol-engined car needs an engine sized for peak loads, which means that it may be over-engined for regular use. This can be an issue because it not only adds weight, but it also means the car may burn more fuel than it really needs most of the time.

Basics of Hybrid Vehicle Maintenance

There are two main aspects of hybrid vehicle maintenance: maintenance that is common to all petrol-engined cars and maintenance that is specific to particular hybrid vehicles. The first thing you should do, regardless of the vehicle, is make sure you have a good manual with all the information you need to perform proper maintenance. This should include information about fluids and capacities and the recommended maintenance intervals. Owners should not assume that everything is the same as it was for their previous vehicles. Many hybrid vehicles exhibit different usage patterns and maintenance needs than their petrol-engined equivalents.

Hybrid Vehicle Brake Maintenance

Hybrid vehicle brake systems are more complicated and yet more efficient than those in standard cars. In addition to the conventional disc brakes that are found in all modern cars, hybrids also have an additional system based on regenerative braking. Regenerative braking is based on the principle that a generator is simply an electric motor that operates in reverse. This lets the car turn forward motion into electricity and helps charge the battery by slowing down. It does not recover a lot of energy, but it recovers far more than the alternative.

One positive side effect of this system of braking is that the more conventional brake components have to do less work, and so they experience less wear than in an equivalent petrol-engined car. This means that brakes last longer and require less maintenance.

Oil and Fluids

For the most part, oil and fluid levels are dealt with in exactly the same fashion as with a conventional petrol-engined car. Both oil and filters need to be changed regularly, and it is very important not to overfill the crankcase. One benefit of going with a hybrid vehicle is that while regular changes are important, the interval is often greater because the engine is not working as hard. It does not run all the time, and when it does run, it is rarely under as heavy a load.

Tyres and Pressure

You should also make sure that your tyres are properly inflated and that you have the right tyres because hybrids are often very sensitive to rolling resistance. Too much or too little pressure and everything from the handling to fuel economy and even regenerative braking may be negatively impacted.

Hybrid-Specific Maintenance

While the petrol-engined part of the drivetrain has similar maintenance needs, the electric powertrain has its own unique requirements. Because of the amount of power stored in the battery, there is very little in the way of maintenance that the owner can safely perform on the electric side of the powertrain. There are some models that have user-accessible air filters for the battery cooling system, but that is about as far as it goes. For the rest of the electrical power system, it is best to leave maintenance in the hands of the professionals.

Hybrid Maintenance Checklist

For those who are new to owning hybrids, the following table provides a basic maintenance checklist. Owners can use this list as a starting point for developing maintenance plans.

Component

Maintenance

Tyres

Check for wear and inflation

Oil and Fluids

Check levels and change as necessary

Brakes

Check for wear and change as necessary

Filters

Check and change as necessary

Electric System

Generally not user serviceable for safety reasons

While the above list can get owners started, there is no substitute for accurate information. Before performing any maintenance on a hybrid, it is a good idea to double check any user manuals. There are many things you can do to maintain your hybrid, but there are some things you should not attempt, and it is imperative that you understand the difference.

Buying Hybrid Parts on eBay

One of the best ways to do your own maintenance is to replace worn out parts yourself whenever possible, and one of the best places to buy parts for your hybrid vehicle is eBay. The site offers a very wide variety of parts to fit any vehicle and any budget. All you need to do is enter the make and model of your hybrid vehicle into the search box, along with the part information. Once your results are on screen, you can use the filters to narrow them down to just the ones that meet your requirements. You can filter by everything from price to seller location, manufacturer, and other specifics. Once you have narrowed down the list, you can use the sort function to arrange the results so that the ones you want to see first are at the top of your screen.

After you have made your choices, the next thing you should do is determine which of eBay's many reputable sellers is the right one for you. The best way to do that is to check out their eBay profile pages, where you can see everything from their feedback rating to their location. Some sellers may also bundle similar maintenance parts together, and others may let local buyers pick up what they need for hybrid maintenance in order to avoid shipping fees.

Conclusion

As hybrid vehicles become a more common sight on the roads, the number of people who need to maintain these vehicles is guaranteed to increase accordingly. The main issue with this is that while many hybrid vehicles are similar to conventional, petrol-engined cars, they are not exactly the same, and that means following the exact same maintenance practices is not a good idea and may not provide the expected results. As a general rule, the petrol part of the drivetrain is relatively similar to that in any other vehicle and can usually be maintained in a similar fashion. It requires fluids and filters to be topped off and changed on a regular basis. The intervals between maintenance may be longer, however, because the engine is used less and suffers less wear than a petrol-fuelled vehicle.

It is the electric components in a hybrid that need to be treated differently. They require far less maintenance, which is a good thing, because they are more difficult and dangerous to repair and maintain. A trained professional should handle most of the maintenance on the electric components. With a little knowledge, you can learn to maintain the parts that are user serviceable and leave the rest to the professionals.

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