2003 Honda element parasitic battery drain!

Something in my 2003 honda Element is draing the battery to the point to where it won’t start after about 24 hours. If I drive it daily, it starts everytime. But if it sits over a day-- such as on a weekend, the interior dome light is dim and it will not start. Before I take it anywhere are there any likely culprits that would be common in this car to look for? Also the battery is only about a month old. Thanks!!!

Do You Have A Harbor Freight Nearby?

I don’t, but when I was in one some time back, I bought a couple of inexpensive (I think they were less than 10 bucks each, including battery, before HF discount coupons.) Automotive Circuit Testers . I bought 2 because one covers cars with small-sized fuses and one covers cars with bigger fuses (as in my older cars).

The device is designed with a plug which has 2 blades that resembles a fuse and has an LCD digital display to show current draw. You pull a fuse and plug the tester into the location and check draw. Move to next fuse and repeat…

I don’t know how well they work because I haven’t used them yet. They looked so cool that I bought them to be prepared in case I had a problem develop like the one you describe.

Of course, once the circuit with the excessive draw is located, you’ll need to diagnose the reason, but it should narrow it right down.

It’d be great if you could try one and see if it works. Note your fuse size before you shop.


Parasitic current draw can be a pesky thing to properly diagnose. I once had a parasitic draw that took the battery down overnight. It persisted for days until my lighter fuse blew and I put 2+2 together and checked the cigarette lighter. Since I’m a non-smoker as is my wife, we never bothered with it. I pulled the lighter and tossed it in my glove compartment after I changed the fuse. Same problem the next day. I took a flashlight and checked the lighter receptacle and found a toy dime that had been put there for some reason or another. It was made of aluminum and had been discharging the battery. Since it’s a relatively poor conductor…it did not blow the lighter fuse until many days later.

My 4 year old son (at the time) confessed to the “crime” after his 5 year old sister ratted him out. The parasitic draw could be anywhere so time and patience with a bit of luck is necessary to track it down. I’m going to look for that Automotive Circuit Tester and buy one just to add to my arsenal of troubleshooting tools. I may never need it but someone else might.

"Parasitic current draw can be a pesky thing to properly diagnose.

It is extremely frustrating and inconvenient (and potentially costly), especially when you don’t know how to proceed in finding the problem, as in Oldscooter’s post . That’s why I bought the tools to keep on hand. I hope they work well. At least I’ve got a starting point when I’m at my frustration point should a mysterious electrical problem infect one of my vehicles.

Some of my cars have at least 3 fuse boxes, so be sure to know where they are located. Some are purposely hidden. An Owner’s Manual will often help locate them inside the cabin and underhood.


@“common sense answer”

“Some are purposely hidden. An Owner’s Manual will often help locate them inside the cabin and underhood.”

Ha ha

When I was at the dealer, there was an upgrade to a model. One of the upgrades was a complete change of the car’s power distribution centers. There was now an additional fuse box . . . which the owner’s manual conveniently did NOT mention. It was behind an interior trim panel. And there was no arrow, cutout, notch, etc. to indicate a fusebox, by the way

A few of the guys somehow heard about the fusebox through the grapevine, but did not tell anybody. Because apparently knowledge is power/money. So when somebody had a problem where some circuit wasn’t powering up, due a blown fuse, they would just sit back and watch them try to figure it out.

There were actually plenty of guys that would not help anybody for free. Naturally, they also didn’t receive help when they were in a bind. What comes around, goes around

There were plenty of ugly conversations that went something like this “When I was struggling last week, you stood back and laughed, because you had the answer. Now the shoe’s on the other foot. You’ve got nobody to blame but yourself.” Actually, the language used was much harsher.

Sadly, the shop foreman knew about the additional fusebox in the secret location. But he didn’t have the common sense to tell us about in a shop meeting . . . which would have taken 10 minutes, at most. Some time later, I asked him why he didn’t tell us, and that not telling us meant lost productivity. He thought we would learn about the fusebox through the grapevine, and pass along the information to everybody else. I told him that the few guys who knew, were jealously keeping that information to themselves. He shrugged his shoulders and walked off

He tended to overestimate us. He thought we would be nice guys and always help each other out, when that was very often not the case

Just because the battery is only one month old does not mean that the problem might not mean that the battery isn’t defective. I bought a new battery once that didn’t last a weekend. I diagnosed it by disconnecting the negative cable on the battery, charging it up with the battery charger and measued the voltage which about 12.6. I let the battery sit for 6 hours and the voltage was about 10 volts. I would begin by having the battery load tested.

“I would begin by having the battery load tested.”

Of course, that is very good advice from Triedaq. Since the battery appears to be having problems then it should be first in line to be checked. Many places test batteries, free of charge (no pun intended). Since the vehicle starts and drives and testing is free then taking it to be tested is easy and inexpensive.

Easiest, cheapest things to check are almost always first on my troubleshooting list.


Here is a link to one of many sites that show you how to deal with that kind of problem.


@missileman: Good story about whistle blower.