Are You Prepared for Hybrid Vehicles?

Are You Prepared for Hybrid Vehicles?
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Hybrid vehicle sales have been steadily increasing over the past few years. When that first hybrid comes into your shop, you will want to be prepared. You must be sure your mechanics have the knowledge, training, and proper tools to safely repair any vehicle.  

Educating your mechanics on the multi-step procedures they will go through with hybrid vehicles is the first and most important piece of this process.  They must be able to identify electrical components, such as; high-voltage battery packs, auxiliary batteries, high-voltage cables, power control devices, and the service disconnect. It is extremely important to consult any manufacturers manual before trying to disconnect any of these elements. 
It is important to let everyone in the shop know that you are working on the hybrid vehicle.  You do not want anyone to try to start the vehicle or move the vehicle while you are working.  Now that they know, some basic steps you will want to follow include:
1. Turn the ignition off.  This seems like a no brainer, but you will want to make sure the key is turned to off and removed from the ignition.  If the vehicle uses a push button ignition, you may want to ensure this is disabled.
2. Disconnect the auxiliary battery. Wait a specified period of time (up to 10 minutes) for the system to discharge.
3. You will now want to disable the high-voltage system. You should have a quality pair of insulated rubber gloves as this may require either removing a service plug or turning a safety switch.  
4. Check the high-voltage cables, usually orange, with a reliable multi-meter for any current.  

You will not want to tow the vehicle around without lifting the drive wheels.  If the drive wheels turn it could generate electricity, so it is recommended that you use wheel jacks at all times.  

Now that the high-voltage system is disconnected you can choose to remove the battery or avoid it altogether. Something to keep in mind is that batteries are temperature sensitive. If you are going to be welding, or using any kind of heat, you will want to remove the battery and store it away from direct heat.  You may also need to be aware of the weather and time of year.  In the northern states it can get extremely cold at night in the winter months.  Hybrid batteries can completely drain if left in the cold for extended periods of time.  If the high-voltage battery completely drains, you will be stuck with replacing the battery.  It is recommended that you allow the engine to run for half-hour to recharge the battery if it has sat for a couple weeks. 

Once the you have decided to remove or avoid the battery, you can conduct business as usual.  So what kind of tools will you need to have in order to be safe and get the job done.  The first, and most important, is a pair of insulated rubber gloves.  These gloves should be 1000-volt Class-0. Some manufacturers suggest wearing a pair of leather gloves over the insulating gloves to protect them. 

The next piece you will want is a digital volt ohm meter and leads. The meter will help determine if it is safe to start working with the high-voltage battery and cables. You will want to ensure that the meter is reliable and taking accurate readings by testing it on the auxiliary 12-volt battery.
Some other safety products to employ would be lock-out tags, a lock-out switch plate, warning signs, and even safety cones. A non-conductive safety pole should be in every shop that repairs or plans on repairing hybrid vehicles.  This pole can safely retrieve any person who may be in a position where high-voltages are present. If you are using PC diagnostics, you may find that a USB-Link communication adapter is a safe way to wirelessly check fault codes or other diagnostic parameters. 

Hybrid vehicles require a little extra attention, knowledge, and tools, but once you equip your technicians you will open yourself up to a brand new market.  It is safe to say that hybrid vehicles aren't going away any time soon. You don't want to be caught unprepared when one rolls into your shop.  

If you have any questions about hybrid safety tools, you can call Unique Truck Equipment at (800) 777-4855 and our experts will be happy to help you.

You can view our hybrid vehicle tools here