Can't do exhaust/welding repairs on hybrid vehicle?
June 21, 2021 11:25 AM   Subscribe

I have a 2006 Toyota Highlander Hybrid with a small exhaust leak. Dealership doesn't do welding repairs. Car repair shop won't disconnect hybrid battery, which is apparently necessary before doing welding on the exhaust system. Is this true? Options?

During recent routine maintenance at a dealership on my 2006 Highlander Hybrid, w/280K miles, they discovered a small exhaust leak. They told me it could probably be patched/welded without replacing the entire exhaust system, but they don't do welding there - they could only replace the whole system, which would be $$$$$ (more than I'm willing to spend on repairs given the car's age and mileage, and the fact that I was probably going to buy a new car within 1-2 years anyway).

They suggested I take it to a car repair shop, where they'd be able to patch the leak. However, I took it to one (large, well-known chain) repair shop, and they said they didn't do welding repairs to exhaust systems on hybrid vehicles — apparently they'd have to disconnect the hybrid battery first, which they said should only be done by a dealer; otherwise they could short out the hybrid battery (which would be an even more expensive replacement than the exhaust system). The person I spoke to there said he couldn't think of anyone else who would do such a repair.

Is this accurate? Is it worth my time to call around other repair shops to see if they'd be able to do it? Any other options I'm not thinking of? Or do I just go ahead and start car shopping now? I'm in the US.
posted by Chuck Carroll to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total)
Unfortunately, yes, this is plausible.

All I can suggest is try to find a good independent mechanic who is "Toyota Hybrid Certified".
posted by biersquirrel at 11:31 AM on June 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

Is there another Toyota dealer near you?It seems unlikely that none of them would do welding repairs.
posted by jonathanhughes at 11:37 AM on June 21, 2021

It is true that the hybrid battery (and the 12V battery, for that matter) should be disconnected before welding on a car. You shouldn't have trouble finding a shop willing to disconnect the hybrid battery and make the repair, though. It doesn't require any special procedure beyond maybe disconnecting the 12V battery first.
posted by wierdo at 12:12 PM on June 21, 2021

Could the dealer disconnect the battery and then tow it to the other shop for the welding repair?
posted by LizardBreath at 12:12 PM on June 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

The hybrid battery (a.k.a. "traction battery"), is 288 volts DC. This can very easily kill you, and thus requires special training and protective gear to disconnect/reconnect safely.

The "auxiliary battery" is a normal 12V car battery, and can be safely disconnected/reconnected safely without special training.
posted by biersquirrel at 12:25 PM on June 21, 2021 [5 favorites]

I had trouble finding a shop that would install a new 12v starting battery in my Prius (batteries -n- bulbs+ did it at reasonable cost) so not surprised. I’ve found an independent shop that works on Toyotas, would look for recommendations from someone like that.
posted by theora55 at 12:40 PM on June 21, 2021

Maybe try a muffler repair shop? They specialize in exhaust systems repairs and welding specifically.
posted by blacktshirtandjeans at 1:19 PM on June 21, 2021

Best answer: Plausible, but underexplained.

As many have already explained, hybrid vehicles do have some extra training needed, sometimes called "hybrid vehicle training" or "advanced technology training". And it's "per technician".

It's likely that the chain you went to did NOT have anyone during that shift that's qualified to work on hybrids, so they told you a half-true story... It's true that they can't work on hybrids. They are simply UNDERtrained or not hiring people with the right qualifications.

Instead, search for "Toyota hybrid repair" in your area and they should tell you how many certified technicians they have that can do such thing, and if they can also do the welding. If not, ask them who usually does their exhaust welding, and are they willing to take it off and take it to the exhaust shop for you, and get it back when it's done. Basically, one-stop shop.
posted by kschang at 1:23 PM on June 21, 2021

Does it actually need to be welded? If the leak isn't too close to the engine or catalytic converter you could maybe get away with a patch made of galvanized sheet steel slathered in silicone sealant and held in place with tie wire or a hose clamp.
posted by flabdablet at 1:51 PM on June 21, 2021

I think you can probably find someone to do the repairs in situ, but if the exhaust system on the Prius is like other Japanese vehicles, all the exhaust parts have flanges on them and bolts securing the flanges together. So, whatever component of the exhaust system that is leaking could be unbolted from the vehicle, welded on the workbench away from the car and then reinstalled. (Will require new gaskets for the flanges and probably new nuts/bolts but NBD. I have used this method to do exhaust repairs as I don't have a lift and welding under a car that's just a foot or two off the ground is very difficult and unpleasant.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 4:09 PM on June 21, 2021

Perhaps not silicone sealant. There is exhaust gum out there which is a bit more thermally appropriate, I think. Jubilee clips and old tin cans have worked for friends, though you didn't hear it from me.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 6:16 PM on June 22, 2021 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, all. Turned out the trick was to look for a repair shop which explicitly listed both hybrid repair and exhaust repair among their services. And even then it took more than one because the first one told me on the phone they don't do exhaust work even though their website said they did.
posted by Chuck Carroll at 8:59 AM on June 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

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