Make sure you press firmly on the brake pedal when powering up and shifting into drive. This is one of the more common causes of problems similar to yours. There have also been cases where the brake pedal switch has failed and keeps a Prius from starting into READY or shifting into D.
There seem to be a few of us who have had the same problem. Here are the symptoms:
Symptom 1: When you start the car, you get no dashboard lights - no speedometer, odometer, fuel tank reading, parking brake light - nothing in the dashboard that would normally appear in the area directly behind the steering wheel. Even the "ready" light and the little light bulb icon to the right of the ready light are not illuminated.
Symptom 2: The car will not turn off. When this happened to me, I sat in the car trying to decide what to do next, since I had no dashboard control lights. I fiddled with the dimmer switch to make sure it wasn't a simple problem. I set and unset my parking break to see if that light would register something. I decided to try to turn the car off and start it again, thinking that would reset things and I'd get back the dashboard lights. I tried several times to turn the car off, but it would not turn off.
Symptom 3: You can drive the car (albeit without knowing your speed and with no reading on which gear you are in.) I did not have to back up and only had to put the car in drive, but I'm guessing the car would beep when in reverse like it always does.
Symptom 4: The center console was illuminated, but did not show current MPG on the "energy" page and did not show a history of the MPG on the "consumption" page (the one with the bar chart). That page did show the little car/half car icons that show battery charging.
Symptom 5: After driving the car for about 15-20 minutes, the dashboard lights came back on by themselves, just like someone had flipped a switch. When I arrived home a few minutes later, I was able to turn the car off normally.
Our dealer ran diagnostics on the car and it showed error codes that validated the situation I describe above. They said that the "combination meter" had lost communication with another computer in the car. The dealer has been quite helpful and doesn't think I'm crazy. They have never seen this problem before, but they got in touch with Toyota who has now seen this problem a few times. It apparently started happening in November 2008 and they have just a few reports of it. Based on this chat board, it has been reported in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New York. I'm wondering if it has to do with cold temperatures. I know many Prius owners have had cars in cold climates for years, but perhaps there is some new part(s) that are less tolerant to cold. The dealer had some specific questions for me that were posed by the Toyota folks, including the ambient temperature when starting the car and how long the car had been sitting in the cold. It may be just a coincidence that those who have posted the problem are from the Northeast.
Wednesday, March 4th, 2015 AT 7:54 AM