Dear Tom and Ray: My husband’s car is a 2005 Prius with about 130,000 miles. Our local Toyota dealership told him that the hybrid battery needs to be replaced and that it is no longer under warranty. They quoted him a price of $3,200 to replace it, including labor. I’ve researched and found a couple of sources for aftermarket batteries at a much-reduced price, but I’m not sure how to figure out where we can have an aftermarket battery put in. We checked with the garage we usually use, and they don’t do it. Any thoughts? – Anne
Tom: You’d have to ask around to find an independent shop that has the confidence to install an aftermarket battery for you – preferably one that’s done it before!
Ray: You should try to find a Prius owners group in your area by looking online. That may lead you to the one or two shops in your area that do this kind of work.
Tom: But I’d urge caution. It’s true, you will save many hundreds of dollars with a “remanufactured” Prius battery, but I just don’t know enough about their lifespan, personally, to endorse them yet.
Ray: They might be fine. They might be every bit as good as the original Toyota battery, or even better. But what if your replacement lasts only slightly longer than the warranty they give you? What if they warranty the battery but not the labor to replace it?
Tom: Until more people have more cumulative experience with these aftermarket batteries, we don’t feel we have enough information to say they’re just as good as the original.
Ray: If you’re planning to keep the car only for another year, then sure, save the money, take a small risk and use an aftermarket battery. You’ll probably be fine.
Tom: But if you’re thinking about keeping this car for another three, four or five years, I’d lean toward a factory battery right now.
Ray: If you do go with the Toyota battery, call around for pricing on those, too. Dealership prices may vary, and since it’s the kind of thing you do once in a vehicle’s lifetime, it might be worth it to drive a little farther from home to save a few hundred bucks.
Dear Tom and Ray: I’ve never given my engine mounts a second thought until my Acura mechanic advised me that my 2001 MDX with 95,000 gently acquired miles was showing “engine mount wear” and that the front and side engine mounts “ought to be replaced.” This is my lovingly maintained and leisurely driven luxo-truck, which has never experienced anything akin to even modest abuse. So, are we talking rational preventive maintenance, or is my dealership’s mechanic looking for something to do to this otherwise problem-free vehicle? – Robert
Ray: Your engine mounts may very well be showing signs of wear. But that doesn’t mean you have to replace them right now, Robert.
Tom: Engine mounts, sometimes called motor mounts, essentially are rubber blocks that both hold the engine in place and help to isolate the engine’s vibrations from the rest of the car. That’s so you don’t feel like you’re driving one of those motel beds that takes quarters.
Ray: In fact, that’s often the first sign that a motor mount is failing. You’ll feel a lot more vibration when the car is in drive and you’re stopped at a light, for instance.
Tom: Over time, rubber degrades from getting dried out and from being attacked by the ozone in the atmosphere. So all older mounts show some signs of wear.
Ray: The real question is whether there is any sign that they are broken or stretching excessively.
Tom: The way your mechanic will test your engine mounts is by putting the car in drive or reverse, planting his foot on the brake and giving the car some gas.
Ray: If a mount is broken, an observer looking in the engine compartment will actually see the engine lift up and twist.
Tom: If it’s stretching more than it should, a trained eye will be able to see that.
Ray: But get a second opinion, Robert. Check the Mechanics Files on our website (www.cartalk.com), plug in your ZIP code and search for a highly recommended mechanic near you.