2004 Toyota Prius FAQ

Gathered from messages posted at the 2004 Prius Yahoo Group: http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/group/2004-prius/

Please email corrections or suggestions for additional questions (with answers!) to the editor: bill.rob@verizon.net

Last updated: 12/27/03

What if the Check Engine light comes on shortly after purchase?
Where can I get manuals?
What should I check for when I take delivery of my new Prius?
How does the Smart Entry / Smart Start system work?
What happens when the battery in the fob dies?  Can you start the car?
I left the fob in the dashboard slot overnight, and now Smart Entry Smart Start doesn’t work.
What gas mileage should I expect?
Why is my car only taking 7 or so gallons at the "one flashing bar" stage on the gas gauge?
What tire pressure is recommended?
What is the ICE?
Does the tire compartment fit a full-size spare?
How does the Power button work?
What happened to the Start button I saw in commercials?
What is this "EV Button" I keep hearing about and is it an available option?
When I park, do I have to push the "Park" button and turn off the headlights?
What's this I hear about the "Park" button having a sticker?
Why does the owner’s manual say I have Auto Headlights and Daytime Running Lights?
Why does the owner’s manual say my stereo has DSP (Digital Signal Processing) and ASL (Auto Sound Levelizer)?
What’s the whirring noise I hear coming from the engine compartment after turning the car off?
How do I turn off that annoying beeping in Reverse?
What is a Bumper Guard, or Rear Bumper Appliqué?
How do I turn off the Flashing Maintenance light (oil change reminder)?
What about jump-starting a Prius or other cars?
Where can I get a list of voice commands for the navigation system?
How do I get into the diagnostic screens?
How does the Bluetooth system work?
Does the CD player play MP3 CDs?
Are most people paying MSRP?
Where can I get a good deal on an extended warranty?



What if the Check Engine light comes on shortly after purchase?

If your Check Engine light comes on in the first 100 miles it will likely be one of two things:

  1. There is a sealant on the catalytic converter that releases fumes which affect the O2 sensor and trips the Check Engine light.  Many have experienced this on the 04 Prius. Some dealer service technicians are not aware of this issue, so have them contact Toyota.  They should reset the light and the vehicle needs to be driven 100 miles for testing.  Return to the dealer for inspection if light comes back on.
  2. You may only need to tighten your gas cap further until it clicks.

In all cases of a Check Engine light, go to the dealer to have it checked.


Where can I get manuals?

Prius comes with quick-start manuals for both the NAV and the car itself.  There is also the full owner's manual which covers the audio system and almost everything except the NAV. There is also a separate NAV manual.

You do not get the Repair manual, but the back of the Owner's Manual suggests you can buy it at your dealer. It would be much cheaper to download it from the Tech site: techinfo.toyota.com, all the downloads you want for $10/day access (from the US only).  But only try downloading if you have the patience of a saint.

Or, order bound manuals with credit card from Toyota Publications at 800-622-2033

Bill Powell reported that he paid $34 for the 01 NCF and $60 something for the 04 NCF.  Prices do not include "shipping and handling" which was $20 something for the 5 pound 04 NCF so you should adjust the other prices accordingly and expect to choke up something in the neighborhood of $400 to have the whole set dropped on your doorstep.


 

What should I check for when I take delivery of my new Prius?

See pickup_checklist.html.


How does the Smart Entry / Smart Start system work?

Smart Entry and Smart Start allow you to unlock the doors and start the car without having to take the key fob out of your pocket.  Prius senses the fob in your pocket; just touch the inner surface of either front door handle (or press lightly on the rear hatch handle) to open a locked door, and just push the Power button on the dashboard to start the car.

If you have the SmartEntry Fob in your pocket and you walk away from the car while it is running, the car will beep at you a few times, and a yellow warning icon on the dash lights up: a picture of a key with an exclamation point over it. But the car keeps running.  If the person with the fob stays away from the car, someone else can still get in and drive it since it is still running, but the warning light remains on (so remember to Power Off the car before leaving it).

While the car is running (in park) it will not let you lock the car doors by pressing the electric door lock button by the arm rest while driver door is open. It is also not possible to lock the car from the outside be pressing the button on the door handle if you don't have the fob on you. So if you leave the car running, it won't let you lock the driver door and lock yourself out of a running car if you don't have the fob with you.


What happens when the battery in the fob dies?  Can you start the car?

If the fob battery dies, you can still start the car with the fob.  The slot you put the fob in will sense the chip in the fob, even if the fob battery is dead.  Your remote entry buttons on the fob won't work, nor will Smart Entry / Smart Start if you have it.  But the mechanical key will get you in the car and the fob will start it.


 

I left the fob in the dashboard slot overnight, and now Smart Entry / Smart Start doesn’t work.

Smart Entry/ Smart Start was disabled because the fob was left in the car (for more than 10 minutes after Power Off). There is a button to the left and under the steering wheel labeled 'SMART' which controls whether the Smart Entry / Smart Start system is enabled or not. Push it twice to re-activate Smart Entry/ Smart Start.


What gas mileage should I expect?

People who owned the Classic Prius (01-03) report there is a break-in period after which your mileage will likely increase.  Dave Hermance, Toyota's executive engineer for environmental technology, drives an ‘04 Prius and said he typically gets between 53 mpg and 55 mpg combined. But he says he knows exactly how to "pulse drive" the car - that is, to accelerate briskly and get it up to speed, then mostly coast and let the electric motor handle the slight modifications needed to keep the vehicle at speed.  Hermance says the average mileage among Classic drivers is about 44 mpg.  But car makers (including Toyota) are not allowed to publicize anything other than the EPA figures.

A survey of 750 first-generation Prius owners on yahoo.com showed them obtaining between 35 mpg and 55 mpg combined driving, with an average of 44. An early poll of 30 2004 Prius owners showed most got between 45 mpg and 49 mpg.

One devoted Prius owner in Minnesota, http://www.john1701a.com/, says he averaged 45.4 mpg over nearly 60,000 miles in a 2001 Prius. He has since purchased the redesigned 2004 model and has raised his average to 47.1 mpg.  He expects this to increase as the drivetrain continues to break in and warmer weather arrives.

The Environmental Protection Agency has admitted that their reported gas mileage figures are smaller than they appear in the agency’s tests.  For various reasons, the tests produce a mileage figure 15-20% higher than real life.  That’s for all cars, but it may hit hybrid makers hardest. First, since hybrid mileage is high, a 20-percent error is a lot of gas, and second, buyers care. The driver of the average car may not notice if he uses 12 gallons instead of 10 between Reno and Sacramento, while the driver of a hybrid will gripe if he burns three gallons instead of 2.5.

No fix is imminent. It’s been known for years that the tests are inaccurate, but they do provide a basis for comparison.

mpg detractors:


Why is my car only taking 7 or so gallons at the "one flashing bar" stage on the gas gauge?

As noted on the 2004 Prius list, the gas gauge is better named the "guess gauge". Many people are reporting only getting as little as 7 gallons in the tank at one flashing bar on the gauge. This is due to several issues:

Bottom line, the safest thing to do if you do carefully top the tank at each fillup, is to note the mpg for the tank once the last bar starts flashing, and multiply it by 10, to get the total miles before you fill up. This should give you almost 2 gallons left in the tank, which should be enough unless you are in the middle of nowhere.


What tire pressure is recommended?

You should keep your front tires 2 PSI higher than the rear, that's required for handling purposes.  The manual recommends 35/33. If you check your pressure every day, 35/33 will work fine if you don't live in extreme climates (Seattle, Vancouver, San Francisco are examples of non-extreme climates--Texas, Minnesota, Wyoming are examples of extreme climates). However, leaving it set at the factory recommended settings will result in lower mileage than higher pressures. Try 40/38 (front/rear), or even 42/40. Your rolling resistance will decrease, and your MPG will improve. The additional 5 or 7 psi also lets you be a bit lazy about the pressure checking. Extreme climates want additional pressure to deal with the extremes.  2004 Prius OEM Goodyears are rated for 44psi max cold, so don't be afraid to run them 42/40.


What is the ICE?

The Internal Combustion Engine - the gas engine that indirectly drives the Prius (it cannot directly drive it).


Does the tire compartment fit a full-size spare?

No, just a thinner temporary "donut" spare.  It is full diameter, but thinner to take up less trunk space.


How does the Power button work?

The hybrid system will start and stop by pressing the "POWER" switch briefly with the brake pedal depressed.  Each time you press the "POWER" switch briefly without the brake pedal depressed, the hybrid system mode changes in the order of "OFF", "ACC", "IG-ON" and then back to "OFF".


What happened to the Start button I saw in commercials?

There are Prius advertisements that show a "Start" button, but the button on the actual car reads "Power".  In reality, there never was a "Start" button. There used to be an "Engine/Start/Stop" button that morphed into a "Power" button.  Perhaps Toyota felt "Engine Start Stop" was too wordy, and not really appropriate given the hybrid nature of the car (gas engine and electric motor).


 

What is this "EV Button" I keep hearing about and is it an available option?

The "EV Button" is a feature that allows a user to "encourage" the car to stay in electric only "stealth" mode. This is currently available on Japanese and European models only. Using this mode precludes the use of the AC or heat.

The decision to not use the EV Button on the US version appears to be largely a Toyota decision.  It appears that Toyota never broached the issue with the EPA on how to test a vehicle with this capability. Toyota simply decided most Americans would not use it, or that it might confuse their marketing effort to show that you "just drive it" like any other car, so it was left off.

This feature could increase MPG, but could also decrease the life of the battery. The full extent of the EV button’s advantages and disadvantages are not yet fully available to the general public. People have speculated that the primary use for such a feature would be for doing things such as pulling the car out of the driveway.  Top Prius engineer Dave Hermance is on the record saying the EV button in Japan only works for a maximum of 1 kilometer. (TS - I find this hard to believe, as I have run EV only for longer than that in a US car without an EV button).

There are many people working to determine if this feature is already there in the wiring of the ’04 Prius being sold in the US, and just not yet connected to a switch. The group http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/group/gridable-hybrids is discussing this issue at length.


When I park, do I have to push the "Park" button and turn off the headlights?

No. To park, after you have stopped you can just push the "Power" button if you want, without pushing "Park" first.  Pushing "Power" will put the car into Park, and it will turn the car off.  When you open your door, the headlights will turn off.  So if you want, you can leave your headlights switch in the "on" position at all times.  This will mean your headlights are always on when driving, such as with Daytime Running Lights.  And you won’t have to remember to turn on the headlights when it gets dark.  (Note, however, that leaving the switch on drains a bit more battery power than leaving it off, so don't leave the  switch on if you will not be powering the car up for some time).


What's this I hear about the "Park" button having a sticker?

Early 04 Prius have a sticker on the Park button. The sticker only consists of the rounded-corner square (same as the symbol around the P on the dash display), not the "P". Many people have removed the sticker, as the Ports seem to not care whether it is installed squarely or not. People that have not removed it have noted that the square has noticable wear after 1000 or so miles (I'm assuming these people press Park every time they stop). Lately, some people are saying their cars have the square molded into the button, as the P is.


Why does the owner’s manual say I have Auto Headlights and Daytime Running Lights?

Because the 2004 Prius sold in Canada does have Auto Headlights and DRLs.  However, the Prius sold in the US does not.  In the US Prius, you can leave your headlights switch in the "on" position all the time, they will be on day and night when driving, and will turn off automatically when you turn off the car and open the door to leave.


Why does the owner’s manual say my stereo has DSP (Digital Signal Processing) and ASL (Automatic Sound Levelizer)?

DSP/ASL are not included in the base stereo or the premium stereo.  The Owner’s Manual is incorrect.


What’s the whirring noise I hear coming from the engine compartment after turning the car off?

That's the little electric pump putting coolant into the thermos-type container to keep it hot.  This thermos-type container stores three liters of coolant at close to boiling temperature for up to three days. When the Power button is pressed, hot coolant is injected into the engine coolant passages, avoiding a cold start. This reduces emissions at startup, as well as wear and tear on the engine.


How do I turn off that annoying beeping in reverse?

Do the following:

  1. Power on (not necessarily ready, IG-ON will do).
  2. Set Trip/ODO to ODO
  3. Power off.
  4. Power on to ready (brake on).
  5. Within 6 seconds, press and hold ODO for 10 seconds or more.
  6. WHILE STILL HOLDING ODO *after* 10 seconds, Shift from P to R, then back to P. Now release ODO.
  7. You'll see in the trip display "b on" or "b off".
  8. Press ODO to toggle.
  9. Now power off.

The Repair Manual page says, however, that if you disconnect the 12v battery, you may lose this change. The Repair Manual also isn't clear that you should be holding down ODO while shifting (or operating seatbelt if you wish to cancel seatbelt buzzers, driver or passenger, using similar steps replacing shifting w/ fastening seatbelts).

FYI: the beep heard when the car is in reverse is only heard inside the car, not outside.


What is a Bumper Guard or Rear Bumper Appliqué?

This optional accessory is a thin clear plastic film applied to the top of your rear bumper to protect it from scratches while loading/unloading cargo.  It has a design on it that says "Prius".  It does not go on the back of the rear bumper, and does not protect the bumper when you back into something.  It's also called the "Rear Bumper Appliqué". You can see a picture of it in the files section (rear-applique.jpg).


 

How do I turn off the Flashing Maintenance light (oil change reminder)?

Do the following:

  1. Turn the power switch IG-ON and make sure that the ODO/TRIP meter is the odometer display.
  2. Turn the power switch OFF.
  3. While pushing the "ODO/ TRIP meter switching & TRIP meter reset" switch, turn the power switch IG-ON.
  4. Until the resetting is completed, the reminder light flashes.
  5. The resetting is completed when the reminder light turns OFF.  Release the "ODO/TRIP meter switching & TRIP meter reset" switch.
  6. After the resetting is completed, the ODO/TRIP meter displays as a set of zeros for 1 second. Then, the ODO/TRIP meter displays the your normal odometer mileage.

What about jump-starting a Prius or other cars?

If the Prius’ auxiliary battery is discharged,jump-starting can start the hybrid system. Use the jump-starting terminal under the black plastic cover on the driver’s side in the engine compartment. For details, see "JUMP STARTING PROCEDURE" on page 239 of the owner’s manual. 

If you want to jump start another car with your Prius, you can connect the cables between the cars as described on page 239 of the owner’s manual, start the Prius, allow the other car to charge from the Prius running for about 5 minutes, disconnect all jumper cables, then try starting the other car on their own battery. If it starts, good, if not, they're SOL and will need a car with an alternator to provide the extra juice. 

The problem is the Prius’ 12V system is only good for about 100A (which is significantly less than most cars’ 12V starter motors consume). So if you were to try to start the other car while the jumper cables were still connected to the running Prius, you'd most likely pop the master fuse between the 12V battery and the inverter in the Prius.


Where can I get a list of voice commands for the navigation system?

See Prius NAV Voice commands. By the way, Denso, the same supplier that makes the nav systems for Lexus, produces the Prius NAV system.  Here’s a good explanation of how the nav works, from Denso Australia: http://www.denso.com.au/dw/satnav/satnav_gen.htm


How do I get into the diagnostic screens?

Do the following:


How does the Bluetooth system work?

If you have a Bluetooth-enabled hand-held cell phone, the Prius hands-free system will automatically connect itself to your hand-held phone with a wireless connection.  So when you’re in the Prius you can use the hands-free microphone and speaker system built in to the car.  Callers reach you at your hand-held cell phone number.  The only cell phones available today with Bluetooth are on the new GSM cellular network which has limited coverage areas compared to older cellular networks like TDMA and analog.  Eventually there may be Bluetooth Hands Free cell phones available for TDMA or CDMA or a GAIT phone, which does both GSM and TDMA, and covers both 1900MHz and 850MHz.  Read more at www.toyota.com/bluetooth.  Also check what other people have written about their Prius Bluetooth experiences in the Bluetooth database at http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/group/2004-prius/database.


Does the CD player play MP3 CDs?

No, only CD Audio. It does support CD-Text, though, so you will get titles on supported discs (including ones you burn yourself if titles are added via Nero or other CD-Text capable burning software).


Are most people paying MSRP?

Yes, most are paying Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP).  A few people with long-term relationships with their dealer have managed a few hundred under MSRP, and some dealers are asking a few hundred to a few thousand over MSRP due to the high demand and low supply.  See the database of prices people have paid called "Prius 2004 Prices" at: http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/group/2004-prius/database

Base MSRP is $20,510 (including Delivery Fee - slightly higher in some regions).  For an MSRP price list of the available feature packages, go here.


Where can I get a good deal on an extended warranty?

See  this page for lots of info on the extended warranty.