All I wanted was an oil change

So I got into the Prius this morning to take it to the mechanics.

(Yes, I know. Real Men, and Real Women, change their own oil. Well, I do too — on the lawnmowers. I just prefer to have people who have more expertise than I do the maintenance on the cars I and my family trust our lives and livelihoods to. Except the windshield wiper blades. Those I change myself. Also I sanded and painted a couple little rust spots on the Matrix the other day.)

We have the keyless remote entry/start, so I pushed the start button. It didn’t start, just lit up the idiot light that means “you don’t have the remote on you, idiot”. But I did, so I pushed it again. Same light.

Sigh. Battery had gone dead in the remote after just under 5 years service. So I pushed the remote into the slot on the dashboard and verified that even without battery power, it works in the slot. Started up, drove it in, waited. Quite a while.

Finally they were done and I found out what took so long: They’d found a mouse nest in the air filter. After cleaning that out and buttoning up, the check engine light came on. Deciding they’d bumped something in working on the air filter they reset it and drove it a bit; the light stayed off. All good.

So I got in and called the Toyota dealer, who’s just down the street from our mechanics. Asked about the remote battery. I was told I could buy a new battery at a drug store and was given instructions on how to open the remote up to access the battery. After disconnecting I tried it but couldn’t figure it out, so I drove to the dealer and went in to ask. “Huh. This isn’t like the newer ones…” So we went to the parts department, and the guy there knew how to get it open. The two of them only had to struggle with it about 30 seconds to open it. I am assured the new ones are much easier; I told them I’d probably need a better reason than that to buy a new Prius.

Anyway, they got it open, but then there are four little Philips screws you have to remove to get to the battery… don’t ask me why… and the parts guy’s suitable screwdriver had gone missing. He went looking for it, and I attacked the screws with the point of my Swiss Army knife. I won.

He sold me a battery (drug store would’ve been cheaper, but less convenient at that point — meanwhile another customer bought the exact same kind of bottle of touch up paint I’d gotten at the auto parts store last weekend, and he paid about 50% more), I put it all together, verified it was working, and drove off… and the check engine light came on.

So back to the mechanics and I got a ride to work.

They just called. They claim the Prius is pretty sensitive to high oil levels and they’d put in a little too much, but they’ve fixed it and cleared the light and it didn’t come back on after a longer test drive.

No word on how the mouse is doing.


7 thoughts on “All I wanted was an oil change

  1. We’re ditching our ’03 Civic hybrid after years of faithful service because we have no confidence in the dealers. They appear to just read the codes and blindly follow the corresponding procedures in the service manual, regardless of whether that’s actually what’s wrong. We replaced the big battery last year, and now we wonder if anyone actually tested the battery to see if it was really going bad or if it just needed a new sensor. (We ended up replacing the entire sensor array subsequently, so I try not to think too hard about that.)

    Anyhow, I’m pretty sure our next car will be a less complex system. I’m thinking go-cart.


  2. They’re supposed to just plug in their computer and find out exactly why the check-engine light went on. For me it was hundreds of dollars for a tiny antipollution part that did nothing for the performance of the engine, just doing my part to propitiate the viro gods.


    1. Glad to hear you’re polluting less. As for the computer, I know little about such things, but my understanding is that it serves up a code which, if properly interpreted, tells what specific symptom caused it to turn on the light. Diagnosing the underlying problem is another matter entirely.


  3. Like I said, I’m no expert. My guess is diagnosing a check engine light problem is not simply a matter of plugging in the computer and following instructions. Also, in our case this wasn’t a Toyota dealer.


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