Once again, I attempted to set forth on a voyage of discovery, whereof details after it happens. 'Twas originally planned for last September, then this April, then June, and finally Today. All the previous attempts were derailed by work and/or family events which cropped up and kept me at home.
Well, today was the day... and we got as far as Lodi* before the Prius (NHW11, 2002, a bit over 200K miles) lit up its check-engine light.
OK, so first thing in such a situation (given that it still seemed to be running fine, and that I'd fed it just a few hours earlier): pull into a parking lot, re-seat the gas cap, and try restarting the engine several times. Nope; still get Check Engine, Master Caution, and Red Car With Exclamation Mark**.
Look up the nearest Toyota dealership: a bit under 2 miles. Drive there. No technicians available, but a helpful service manager (whose name I managed to forget, or I'd mention it here) grabbed his personal (non-Toyota) OBDII dongle and pulled the codes: P3125 and, if I recall correctly, P3130. The generic tester couldn't provide any further information, so he went and looked at his computer, and I asked my Magic Elf Box, and we both came to the conclusion that It Was Bad, that the car was at least temporarily drivable (with some prospect of making it home), and that making a run for home and risking having to call AAA was a better bet than staying in Lodi until a technician was available and the car could be diagnosed and parts could be ordered and installed, i.e., Tuesday-or-so.
And thus it comes to pass that I'm writing this at my own desk; whatever was wrong didn't fail catastrophically in the hour and a half it took to get home from Lodi.
So now I'm looking at P3125, and there are many subcodes, some of which are well over $4K to fix, while some are much cheaper... and P3130 is an inverter cooling system malfunction (I did check, back in Lodi, and the inverter coolant reservoir is full).
The usual dealership has a most uninformative website, but offered me a next-available-appointment of Wednesday. No.
The nearest dealership (not that much nearer, actually) has a live person answering the phone, longer service-department hours, and the possibility of getting it looked at Monday if I bring it in at 0700, so I guess that's the plan.
And, just in case it needs a new $4400 inverter module... I'm looking at the DIY instructions, and maybe I'll call around to some junkyards. If there still are any in this area that haven't been bulldozed for high-density development. I don't think eBay is an option, given my schedule constraints.
It does appear, though, that the expensive P3125 subcodes tend to be accompanied by obvious symptoms, such as rough running. I didn't observe any such things.
It's at times like this I wish the Prius had a decent set of steam gauges - even virtual ones - instead of an ID10T light.
And it reminds me why my toaster*** controllers keep a fair amount of detail in the event log... and why I get frustrated when end-users (who commonly define the communication protocol) don't give me enough status bits to return important diagnostic information.
Update, Monday morning: Took the car to the nearest specialist. Had some communication difficulties, of the form "phone number ended up off by one on the work order, so I didn't get a call." Called in when I noticed this. Problem is the inverter coolant pump, which is expensive to replace but nowhere near as expensive as the inverter itself. Also getting the oil changed early, so it doesn't come due while on the road.
Meanwhile I have this Cool Idea for a comprehensive virtual steam gauge panel that would listen to the CANbus and present interesting parameters (in particular, any that were out of whack). But... gotta pay big bucks to the CANbus Buyers' Club for the list of standard codes, and then negotiate with each car manufacturer for access to the secret list of vendor-specific codes and their associated data (and the normal range for each item). So, not something I'll be doing anytime soon.
Update 2, Monday afternoon: Just to make times even more interesting, the garbage scow (being my '89 Jeep Cherokee, which is currently Joy's transportation) developed a cute new problem: apparently there had been issues with the ignition lock for some time, and suddenly it started jamming in the RUN position. It'd turn forward, toward START, but not back toward OFF. Turning it forward until the starter ground its teeth and then quickly back would, however, get to OFF. Ugh. I just spent a while poking at it, after administering a dose of cleaner & dry lube... and discovered that the problem had gotten worse, and also that it had worn all the teeth off Joy's key (which was still accepted as a starting token). My key, when I tried it, wasn't letting go no matter what, nor would the lock allow OFF as an option.
Well, turns out that the way to stop the engine is to disconnect the negative lead from the battery and then try to crank the starter (the headlights aren't enough of a load, though I didn't try the high beams).
With electricity absent, I wiggled my key forth & back several times, and nothing jammed... though it's not clear what caused the jamming, really.
We'll be needing to run an errand or two in the Jeep this afternoon, so I'll be leaving the tools for disconnecting the battery in the back. Just in case....
I guess the old beast will be needing a new lock cylinder Real Soon Now, but today isn't the day.
Update 3, Tuesday evening: Got as far as Elk Grove. Check Engine, Master Caution, Red Car With Exclamation Mark. Also, performance fell off, apparently (Joy was driving at the time), and the engine seemed to be revving much higher than usual for freeway cruise.
So, head for nearest dealership. Can't even get the codes looked at until tomorrow at the earliest. Ponder, discuss. Joy heads for Cameron Park with her daughter; I call AAA and use my 100-mile long-range tow plus 8 miles to get the Prius back in front of my house. (By this time, the fault seems to have cleared (no lights, and the car behaves normally at parking-lot speeds), but driving it a long way seems inadvisable, especially as I don't know that the fault codes were. What's that "Multi-Function Display" for, anyway?)
Anyway: tow truck ride goes smoothly; the return trip will suck. Driver's a nice guy. Tip him some cash and a bag of backyard avocados.
Then call Hertz. Got a Corolla or similar lined up for tomorrow morning, and a lift to go pick it up. Prius fixery can wait until later; this trip is kinda now-or-never.
It's almost like the Prius has a phobia about leaving California. I try to explain to it that there are Prii in hillbilly country, too, and that outside California it'll get Real Gas, not the oxygenated junk, and it'll be able to get 54 MPG again, but it just isn't believing me.
And, looking at the after-hours activity? I'm glad I didn't hedge my bets by cutting another leg off the pig ahead of Intel's quarterly earnings statement. The recent gain was based on optimism about earnings, but it seems to have outperformed even the optimism. Up almost a buck and a half after hours, forsooth!
* Not an old Norse god.
** Not an Eastasian delicacy.
*** If plutonium is copper, I work on toasters.