What Does the Toyota Prius Check Hybrid System Light Mean?

The “Check Hybrid System” warning light on a Toyota Prius can mean it’s time for a battery replacement—but it might be a sign of something much less serious.
Written by Sarah Gray
Reviewed by Pat Roache
The “Check Hybrid System” warning light on a Toyota Prius could indicate it’s time for a hybrid battery pack replacement—but it could also be triggered by something as simple as overfilling your engine oil.
Hybrid battery replacement is one of the most expensive parts of hybrid ownership. If your Prius is still under its hybrid battery warranty, the cost of a replacement will be covered. You’ll be responsible for the bill once that warranty ends, though, since
car insurance
doesn’t cover wear and tear items. 
Fortunately, your Prius’s “Check Hybrid System” alert isn’t necessarily a warning that your hybrid battery pack is failing. It can be set off by simple electronic issues—like a blown fuse—or by other issues that can be repaired quickly and affordably.
We’ve created this guide to help you understand the types of issues your  Toyota Prius’s “Check Hybrid System” light might indicate.

What does the “check hybrid system” warning light mean? 

If your Toyota Prius displays a “Check Hybrid System” light on the instrument cluster, it does not automatically mean it’s time for hybrid battery placement. Given the costly nature of hybrid battery packs, we won’t blame you if seeing that warning light gets your pulse racing, but go ahead and calm down. Especially if you’re driving a newer Prius, the light is more likely an indication of one of the following issues:
  • System error
  • A blown fuse
  • Inverter malfunction
  • Standard 12-volt battery failure
  • Overfilled engine oil
Though the “Check Hybrid System” light may not indicate the need for a hybrid
battery replacement
, it could still mean a trip to your local mechanic or Toyota dealer to diagnose the cause. You can try a few troubleshooting steps first, though.  
If the warning light comes on while you’re driving, try pulling over and turning your Prius off for 5 to 10 minutes. If the light doesn’t come back on when you restart your car, you’re likely looking at a simple system error that you’ve just fixed on your own—congratulations!
If the hybrid system warning comes back on when you restart your car, shut it off again and check your fuses. If you locate any blown or damaged fuses, replace them. 
If this doesn’t fix the issue, it’s time to head to a professional for a system scan. This scan will generate a code that tells the mechanic what’s causing your “Check Hybrid System” warning light to come on. Just keep your fingers crossed that the scan doesn’t reveal the
P0A80 engine code
since this is the code that indicates you’ll be springing for a hybrid battery replacement. 
Toyota Prius hybrid battery packs are designed to last between eight and ten years, and a younger Prius should be covered by Toyota’s 10-year/150,000-mile hybrid battery warranty. But the older your Prius gets, the closer you’ll get to needing a hybrid battery replacement due to wear and tear—and that type of replacement won’t be covered if you’re outside Toyota’s warranty. 
MORE: Recommended maintenance schedule for a Toyota
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When to replace your Toyota Prius Hybrid battery

Your Toyota Prius hybrid battery warranty gives you an indication of how long your car’s hybrid battery pack should last—about 10 years or 150,000 miles. Compared to the average three to five-year lifespan of your car’s standard 12-volt battery, that’s a heckin’ long time. Unfortunately, while your hybrid battery lasts a lot longer than your regular battery, it’s also a lot more expensive to replace. 
A new hybrid battery for a Toyota Prius is likely to cost you somewhere in the neighborhood of $5,000 after you take into account the cost of labor. That means if you’re driving an older Prius, replacing the hybrid battery pack may cost more than the total value of your car
If your Prius is more than 10 years old, you could be looking at spending at least half of what it’s worth to replace the battery. For example,
Kelley Blue Book
estimates you can get about $8,000 to $10,500 for a 2012 Toyota Prius Two in a private sale. A new hybrid battery would cost almost exactly half of the car’s total value.
If you’re looking for a cheaper option, you could always consider opting for a used or rebuilt battery from an independent mechanic. You could save yourself more than $3,000, but these batteries wear out quite a bit faster than new replacements. You’ll likely wind up spending more in the long run than if you’d just bitten the bullet and gotten a new battery pack, to begin with.
Key Takeaway A Prius hybrid battery replacement costs around $5000. Make sure to do your due diligence to ensure it’s really necessary before dishing out for the repair. 

Signs of hybrid battery failure

If there’s a good thing about hybrid battery pack failure, it’s that it’ll usually be indicated by more than just a simple warning light. If your Prius’s hybrid battery is failing, the “Check Hybrid System” warning will likely be accompanied by at least one of the following additional indicators:
  • Poor gas mileage. The Toyota Prius is practically legendary when it comes to gas mileage. With newer examples capable of returning up to 50 mpg, you’ll notice if your Prius starts to trade in its fuel sips for guzzles—and if it does, it could mean your hybrid battery is nearing the end of its life.
  • Charging Error Message. Erratic charging or failure to hold a charge is one of the most common signs of hybrid battery failure. If you see this message in conjunction with your hybrid system warning, you’re likely going to need a hybrid battery replacement.
  • Internal combustion engine (ICE) working harder. Your Prius gets great gas mileage because the hybrid system takes a lot of the load off the car’s ICE. If you notice your ICE is picking up the slack more frequently, you may have issues with your hybrid battery.
  • Tons of fan noise. Your hybrid battery shouldn’t be overheating. If you notice your engine’s cooling fan running more often than normal, it could be a sign that it’s having to work more than normal to keep your hybrid battery cool—which could be a sign of imminent failure.
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