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Auto | Maintaining Your Car
Will Using the Auto Train to Florida Drain the Battery on My Prius?


Q: I have decided to use the Amtrak Auto Train this September, but I am concerned that the Auto Train requires that a window stay down during the trip. I have also found people complaining that the dome light sometime remains on because the car is in a dark storage area. Subsequently, when arriving in Sanford, Florida, their Priuses[TM1]  have dead batteries and jump starting doesn’t work.
How can I prepare my car for the Auto Train and safeguard against a dead battery upon arrival—especially on a weekend with no tow trucks?
A: It is not possible to determine from a distance what happened to the cars that would not start after their train ride. However, interior lighting should not come on unless the car door was left ajar and even then, many cars shut the interior lights off after a pre-set time to avoid draining the battery. Being enclosed in a dark, weather-tight train car should not trigger interior lighting when the car is off. If darkness alone did this, you would see many parked cars with their interior lights on after sunset.
What might have gone wrong? Amtrak advises turning off a vehicle’s security system since the constant jiggling when the train is moving may keep tripping the alarm. That will deplete the battery.

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A Prius actually has two batteries: One, with an output of 200-plus volts and the other with a standard 12-volt output. The high-voltage battery is the one used to start the gasoline engine on a Prius hybrid. If it becomes totally discharged, the car will not start and jump starting the 12-volt battery will not work. If the 12-volt battery is discharged, the car also will not start, but a jump start should work. However, if the car door is properly closed and the security system is turned off, the car should arrive at the end of its Auto Train ride ready to go.
As for your concern about the ability of a Toyota Prius to withstand the trip, a Toyota representative does not believe there should be any problem. Also, rest assured that AAA does have road service capabilities on the weekends.