How to Start a Prius

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The Toyota Prius was a game changer when it was first introduced back in 2000. As one of the first commercially successful hybrid vehicles, it eventually helped launch an entire hybrid industry.

The hybrid engine was not the only new technology that the Prius brought to the market: its ignition process is different as well. The Prius uses a push-button start combined with a special key that must be fitted into a slot before the vehicle will start. There are different methods of starting the vehicle depending on whether it has a smart key or not.

If you have just purchased a Prius, or borrowed or rented one, and are having problems getting it started, you have come to the right place. Following are step-by-step directions to get your Prius started and out on the road.

Method 1 of 2: Starting a Toyota Prius with a regular key

prius key going into a slot

Step 1: Locate the key slot in the vehicle. It looks like a bit like a USB port, only bigger.

Insert the vehicle key into the slot.

Be sure to push the key all of the way in, if not properly inserted the vehicle will not start.

Step 2: Step down on the brake pedal. Like most modern cars, a Prius will not start until the brake pedal is depressed.

This is a safety feature which ensures the vehicle will not suddenly take off when started.

picture of start button

Step 2: Press the “Power” button firmly. This will start the Hybrid Synergy Drive system.

A “Welcome to Prius” message should appear on the screen in the multi-information display.

You will hear a beep and the “Ready” indicator should illuminate if the vehicle has started properly and is ready to drive. The “Ready” indicator is located on the left hand side of the vehicle instrument panel.

The car is now ready to drive.

Method 2 of 2: Starting a Toyota Prius with a Smart Key

smart key

A smart key allows you to keep the key fob in your pocket when starting the car or unlocking the doors. The system uses several antennas that are embedded in the vehicle body to identify the key. The key housing uses a radio pulse generator to identify the key and start the vehicle.

Step 1: Put the smart key in your pocket or have it on your person. The smart key must be within a few feet of the vehicle to operate properly.

There is no need to put a smart key in the key slot.

Step 2: Step down on the brake pedal.

Step 2: Press the “Power” button firmly. This will start the hybrid synergy drive system.

A “Welcome to Prius” message should appear on the screen in the multi-information display.

You will hear a beep and the “Ready” indicator should illuminate if the vehicle has started properly and is ready to drive. The “Ready” indicator is located on the left hand side of the vehicle instrument panel.

The car is now ready to drive.

Method 2 of 2: Starting a Toyota Prius without starting the Hybrid Synergy Drive motor.

radio or gps display

If you want to use the accessories such as the GPS or radio, without activating the Hybrid Synergy Drive, use this method. It is similar to the other methods of starting the Prius, but there is no need to step on the brake.

Step 1: Put the key in the key slot. Or, if you have a Smart Key, have it in your pocket or on your person.

Step 2: Press the “Power” button once. Do not depress the brake pedal. An amber light should illuminate.

If you wish to turn on all of the car systems (A/C, heating, instrument panel) without turning on the Hybrid Synergy Drive motor, press the “Power” button again.

Now that you are well-versed on how to start all power variations of the Toyota Prius, it’s time to get out there and drive it.


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