Your Prius is on: you can shift into gear and drive; the turn signals work; the center display is on, accessories functional. But most everything else on the dash is black. WHY?
The “combination meter” (a.k.a. “instrument panel” or “cluster”, the thing you’re looking at in front of you) is bad. There are several electrical components in the circuit board that control how it “powers up”, and they fail. Lacking the ability to power up, the display goes black.
Before last month, Prius owners past 36,000 miles needed to pay to fix this problem (i.e. outside of warranty). This is no longer the case. Toyota has extended the warranty coverage to 9 years, unlimited mileage. Read/download the Toyota document here.
LG chronicled this problem almost four years ago, including YT vids and an explanation of symptoms:
Prius Dead Dashboard dated January 13th, 2009
A year ago we found someone who could repair them (for less cost and greater reliability, or so we thought):
You can see how our understanding of the problem has improved over time (originally we suspected spilled coffee). We’ve also gained a lot of experience and can report that repairing the bad circuit board only works for a while, sometimes not at all. Now we no longer offer repairs, only replacements. And even of brand new replacements ordered from Toyota (and programmed by Toyota) we have seen problems (evidenced by another video on YouTube):
Like the Inverter Water Pump “recall” (issued two years ago, see related blog), this is a huge benefit to Prius owners. The problem is absolutely common, meaning that if you own a Prius, you can expect to have your dashboard go out sometime within 9 years.
If Toyota covers it, it saves you $450 for the part (current price from Toyota) plus whatever labor ($120, or one hour, at Luscious Garage). The dealer will need to special order the unit, to have it programmed with your current odometer, which takes two days (for ones we’ve recently ordered) or longer depending on the backlog. Maybe Toyota will come out with a gizmo to allow dealers to program in house. (It can be done “manually”, but requires soldering to the board.)
Unlike the Inverter Water Pump, your dashboard will not cause the car to shut down. However it can complicate turning the car off (i.e. the car will seemingly NOT turn off), which has its own safety concerns. (You have to hold down the power button for three seconds, which will do a safety override and put the car into accessory mode; from there you hit the power button two times quickly to turn the car off.) This is no doubt why Toyota is extending coverage, to avoid a forced recall by NHTSA.
Like the Inverter Water Pump (and HID bulbs before them) Toyota is dancing with common problems and the prevailing notion that their cars should not break, ever. The previous is an “Limited Service Campaign” (don’t call it a recall!), this one a “Warranty Enhancement”. Both company statements speak of Toyota’s “care about the customers’ ownership experience” and their commitment to “outstanding quality and value”.
All of these campaigns (headlight bulbs, inverter water pumps, now combination meters) are a detriment to independent service providers (i.e. Luscious Garage) as a lost opportunity for sales. It also places another burden on us to provide documentation for folks seeking reimbursement (even letters, signed by me, for those who paid cash). We have repaired and replaced countless numbers of these units over the years.
But this is a burden we willingly accept in order to service hybrid vehicles. All of the aforementioned documentation and explanation is how we express our expertise, which ultimately leads to other repairs, not covered by Toyota. And we are certainly here to help you when the dealer inevitably takes the opportunity to sell you additional work (that you may or may not need), that’s not free.