2004 Honda CR-V starting problem - immobilizer?

Hi - lately, when I try to start my car after it’s been parked for several days, it won’t start on the first few tries. On the first try, it sounds like the battery is dead - it barely turns over. The gas gauge also indicates below empty (and the low fuel light is on), even though the tank is nearly full. On the 2nd (and, sometimes, 3rd or 4th) try it turns over a little more, but still won’t start). Finally, it turns over and over for a while before finally “catching” and starting (I’m guessing because of the lack of fuel in the system?). After a few seconds of rough idling, suddenly the gas gauge will jump up to show the correct level and the idle speed will increase; sometimes I can hear and feel a thump at this point.

I’m guessing this is a problem with the anti-theft immobilizer system? Even before the issue with the battery barely turning over started, I ran into the fuel gauge problem a couple times, and in both these cases the anti-theft immobilizer light stayed on throughout my drive (even though I was using a correctly coded key, and the gas eventually kicked in). I now wait a few seconds after I insert the key to make sure the light goes off before trying to start the car, and even switched to my spare key in case it was a problem with the coding on the key I was using, but I’m still having the problem. But again, only when the car has sat for a day or more - once I get it started the first time, it will start right up for the rest of the day.

Am I correct in ruling out problems with the battery, alternator, or starter? Usually when the battery’s nearly dead it gets weaker on subsequent tries, not stronger. Any other ideas? Is this something I need to take to the dealer, or can I go to a regular mechanic?

Oh, and thanks in advance for any suggestions!!

The problem might caused from a parasitic current draw on the battery as the vehicle sits for an extended period of time.

The next time you park the vehicle for that amount of time, disconnect the battery’s negative cable from the battery. Then when you go to start the vehicle reconnect the battery. If the engine starts right up something is drawing current from the battery as the vehicle sits.

But before you do this, make sure you have the security code for the entertainment system so it can be reset when the battery is reconnected. It’s usually located in the owners manual.


I doubt this is caused by the security feature. Could be, but not likely.

Most likely is the battery is failing, or a corroded battery connection. Is the battery 5 years old or older? If so, it would be a safe bet to have it tested and replaced if it isn’t holding a charge.

When you attempt cranking the first time, the discharge process can warm the battery, or warm a loose connection. In either event it is quite possible for the next crank to be more energetic. Tom and Ray refer to this effect which some of their other callers have reported as the “lazy electron theory”.

If the battery is fairly new and known good, then the next thing I’d suspect is the alternator. Maybe a diode or two has gone south. Have you recently jump started another car using this car? Has this car been jump started recently? Either can sometimes damage the alternator diodes. The alternator may still sort of work, but won’t be capable of fully charging the battery.

And as @Tester suggests above, it could be a parasitic current draw. A shop can easily and inexpensively test for parasitic current draws, so you’d know one way or the other.

Thanks guys! I’ll try disconnecting the battery this week.

I’m not sure how old the battery is - it came with the car, which I just bought last fall. But I did have it tested a couple months ago and they said it was in great condition.

If the alternator was the problem, wouldn’t the starting problem happen all the time, instead of just after it’s been parked for a couple days?

Hi Nicole -

Any update on this issue? I’m now experiencing the same situation myself!

Thanks -

@natski, this is an old thread and Nicoleis unlikely to be checking back in. I suggest you start a new thread with details of your problem, and you’ll be more likely to get some useful suggestions.