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by Leona Dalavai Scott
Editor, AutoInc. Magazine

With the growing popularity and demand for hybrid cars, collision repair professionals must know the basics of handling these types of vehicles safely. That was the message of presenter Craig Van Batenburg's class entitled "Hybrids - Part 2 - For Technicians Working On or Around Hybrids held Saturday, Nov. 6, at the International Autobody Congress and Exposition in Las Vegas. The first part was held the previous day.

Van Batenburg, AAM, runs the Automotive Career and Development Center in Worcester, Mass. A former shop owner of 25 years, Batenburg now devotes his career to management training and has become a specialist in hybrid vehicles. Batenburg was the first owner of a hybrid vehicle in New England when he purchased the Toyota Prius. Since then, he has increased his knowledge of these vehicles and trains techs nationwide.

In this particular session at NACE, he encouraged class participants to get the training and knowledge to perform basic functions in dealing with hybrids.

"You don't have to send hybrids to dealerships," Van Batenburg told repairers. "With some hands-on training and knowledge, you can work on these cars."

After giving attendees an overview of the hybrids on the market, he guided them through their engine makeup. He also gave tips on disconnecting hybrid batteries, which are high voltage (HV).

"Always use safety gloves in handling these vehicles," he said. A good pair of safety gloves range from $50-$90 and are rated for 1000 volts. (Sixty volts to 1 amp is considered a lethal level.)

Van Batenburg's course was focused on safety issues in dealing with hybrids. Safety concerns that he pointed out to repairers included:

  • Avoid orange-colored cables and wires as they carry HV.
  • If you have a pacemaker, stay away from the drive motor magnets.
  • Do not wear watches, jewelry or any metal near drive motor magnets.
  • The ICE can start and stop on its own while servicing the car so know what you're doing!
  • Do not exceed 140 F if baking paint in an oven. Check the manual as HV batteries could get damaged.
  • Use rubber gloves with no path to your heart (hand in pocket).
Van Batenburg also went over several slides of diagrams of various hybrid vehicle engines, which are charged by nickel metal hybride batteries. Several car manufacturers now produce hybrids but the main ones are Toyota and Honda.

When trying to charge a battery, Van Batenburg recommends that collision repairers turn to the owner's manual for details, adding, "Those manuals have great information in them." He said that you must send Toyota's hybrid batteries directly to the manufacturer for charging. Currently, he and his partner are working on a prototype charger for Toyota cars that he hopes to release sometime next year.

For more information about working on hybrid cars, please visit ACDC's Web site at www.auto-careers.org or e-mail Van Batenburg at craig@auto-career.com.

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