“I recently bought a Lexus hybrid. I love the car, but sometimes I encounter weirdness when I try to start it: I push the start button and it seems to power up, but when I press the accelerator, nothing happens. Can you tell me what’s going
First of all, you’re not alone in this. Many first-time hybrid drivers experience confusion when starting and turning off their hybrid. I’ll address both issues.
I suspect that the source of your confusion is initial unfamiliarity with the operation of the “Power” ignition button, combined with the silent running of the Lexus Hybrid Drive system. Often, when brand new hybrid drivers have trouble starting the car, they’re inadvertently putting the vehicle into Accessory mode—sort of like not turning a traditional key all the way. In a Lexus hybrid, this happens if you forget to depress the brake pedal when you press the “Power” button, and it’s an easy mistake to make—I know, because I’ve done it.
Let’s review the basic starting procedure: with your electronic key in a pocket or purse or somewhere at hand, you depress the brake pedal. If you look closely at the “Power” button, you’ll notice a small green light turn on when you do this—this light tells you the vehicle is ready to start with a push of the button (see top photo). When you go ahead and press the “Power” button, several things happen: the driver’s seat and steering wheel move into place from their retracted positions, the navigation screen activates, and the instrument cluster illuminates.
First press the brake pedal to bring up a green light on the “Power” button. This means the vehicle is ready to start.
Next, while pressing the brake, push the “Power” button to start the vehicle. If the instruments light up and the “Ready” light turns on, you’re ready to go.
For purposes of our discussion, the most important thing that happens is that a green “Ready” light illuminates on the instrument cluster (see bottom photo). This indicates the hybrid system is running, and you’re ready to go. This light is important because, unlike a gasoline-only vehicle, there’s usually no engine noise or vibration to provide a clue that the vehicle has started (sometimes the gas engine activates when a hybrid powers up, but not typically). This quietness is one of the joys of owning a Lexus hybrid.
But what if you make the oh-so-easy mistake of forgetting to depress the brake pedal when you try to start? In this scenario, pressing the “Power” button causes the vehicle to go into Accessory mode, which is designed to let you use certain electronic features when parked (such as the audio and navigation systems). When you do this, several things happen that can make you think you’ve started the vehicle: the driver’s seat and steering wheel move into position, the navigation screen activates, and the audio system plays. But of course you haven’t actually started; the “Ready” light is not illuminated, and if you release the emergency brake and put the shifter in D, you’ll have no power.
So remember to depress the brake pedal when starting the vehicle, and if you’re ever in doubt as to whether or not your vehicle is actually “running,” just look for the “Ready” light on the instrument cluster.
Remember to Power Down
Another issue for first-time hybrid owners is inadvertently leaving their vehicles running when they park—in other words, they get out and walk away, all the while having forgotten to turn the car off!
Once again, this is an easy mistake to make because when you park a hybrid, you don’t necessarily have the sound and feel of the gas engine reminding you that the vehicle is still running.
So when you park, always remember to push the “Power” button to turn the car off. How do you know you’ve done this? The steering wheel and driver’s seat retract, and the instrument cluster turns black.
—CLARK HEIDEGER, LEXUS AUTOMOTIVE EDITOR
Note: Each month, Lexus magazine’s editors look for popular questions sent to Lexus Customer Assistance or Lexus magazine. Unfortunately we can’t answer every question at Ask Lexus, but all questions to the editors are forwarded to Customer Assistance, so readers will always receive a Customer Assistance answer. Note that questions may be edited for publication.