Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

2001 Civic Battery Mystery... please help

Three months ago, I purchased a new battery for my 2001 Honda Civic LX. Five days ago, my battery warning light began flashing while I was driving. At first, it blinked only for a few minutes of driving, and then stopped flashing. After a few days, it took progressively longer to stop flashing, even after driving for 20-30 minutes on the highway. Then, when I would stop, it would stay lit, and start blinking if I revved the engine or began driving again. Two days ago while driving on the street, the head lights, dash lights, and radio turned off, and the car started to die. I revved the engine, and the car didn’t die, and after driving for a few minutes more, the light stopped flashing again. I never had trouble starting the car, until today; after driving in slow bumper-to-bumper highway traffic for 25 minutes, I parked it, tried to start it again and heard only clicking. Any idea why this is happening?

On the original battery, the terminals were on the side of the battery away from the front of the car, on the new battery, they are on the side closest to the hood. Because of their placement, the hood stand rests on the positive terminal of the battery, BUT the stand is covered by rubber, and the terminal by plastic. Can it be bleeding the power, or interfering with the battery that much, even through all that insulation?

Have the alternator operation checked out. Either the wiring to it has a problem or you most likely need a replacement alternator.

It’s probably not the battery although you should get the right one. Relying on plastic covers or rubber insulators can backfire and the result would not be pleasant. The ground terminal should be in the spot that ends up closest to body/structural parts so if they do touch, no problem.

Have the alternator tested at a parts store. They can do it in the vehicle. It sounds like its output is marginal at low rpms. The battery is slowly being depleted over time. If alt OK, check wire connections at both ends.

Did you buy the battery and installed it yourself? It sounds like the battery is installed backwards so that the terminals will reach/fit the proper cables. First I’d verify that you have the right battery for your car and that you have positive cable to positive terminal. I’d then have the alternator checked. If the battery cables are backwards you may have damage to the alternator and regulator as well as to other components.

Check your owner’s manual or call your local Honda parts department with your make, model and possibly your VIN.

You need to have your alternator/ charging system checked…That idiot light was a warning that something was wrong with the charging system…THERE IS NO WAY that a car would run for 3 months with a battery being reversed… as soon as the battery was connected you would see smoke everywhere, burnt fusible links, damaged alternator and possible
damage to the ECU, or just about anything else.

Make sure you either replace or recharge the battery if it warrants a new alternator.
You do not want to try and recharge a “dead” battery as you may damage the new alternator…I know people do it everyday by leaving lights on etc and then getting a jump and driving off, but why take the chance.

I bet there’s a loose connection to the alternator, and I agree with TwinTurbo that you should use the correct battery (an identical replacement of the OEM battery.) Civic batteries are pretty small, and it’s pretty easy to find the right one at a reasonable price.

Thank you! I thought it may be the alternator too, but was hoping it was something cheaper and less involved. Ha! Hopefully it is just a loose connection or simple wiring problem. I did install the battery myself, I guess I should have taken it back as soon as I saw it didn’t fit properly. The battery is hooked up right, it’s just that the terminals are on the opposite side of the battery than the original. I’ll also look into getting a replacement that is the same as my original.

Thanks everyone for all the helpful suggestions.

I’m surprised no one caught this. You have the wrong battery in there. The very first thing you need to do is to take it back to where ever you got it and have it replaced with the correct battery.

In fact, I would suggest that you take the battery out right now and take it to the place you got it, get the correct battery and put it in yourself. If you continue to drive it, you could damage your alternator, if you haven’t already.

There are two different Group 51 batteries that differ only in the terminal locations.

The incorrect Group 51 battery will put the + terminal very close to the hood prop rod.

My '04 Civic is the same way.

BTW, a bad alternator cannot be helped by a new battery.

My point is that the prop rod is bleeding the battery, he needs the right one installed. Then he can determine if the alternator is damaged. First thing is to get the right battery in there.

If he had the battery installed at a garage, they probably didn’t have the correct one in stock so they took the sister battery, one with the terminals reversed and mounted it backwards. If this is the case, then I think the garage not only owes him a new battery, but they are responsible for the alternator, if it is damaged.

I am not convinced that the alternator is damaged yet, it might be degraded, but the correct battery needs to go in first.