Honda Civic Hybrid electronic power steering failure


#1

My wife was driving our 2003 Honda Civic hybrid (125,000 miles) and the electronic power steering went out. She managed to get it parked, called me, and when I arrived everything seemed to work fine. (She said the yellow EPS light came on, but she didn’t know what that meant.) I drove it for a while and had no problems. A few days later my daughter was driving and the entire car shut down. I jump started it and everything worked OK, but I took it to the dealer for a diagnosis. They could find nothing wrong (no codes). However, the next day the car once again would not start I replaced the ‘starter’ battery (the lithium-ion man battery pack had actually been replaced at around 79,000 miles–right before the expiration of the warranty!). Now it seems fine, but my wife and daughter refuse to drive it, and I’m not sure if the problem is fixed. Here are my questions:

  1. Since this is a hybrid, once the car is running a failure of the ‘starter’ batter should have no effect on the EPS, or anything else, right? It all runs off the main lithium-ion battery pack. However, replacing the ‘starter’ battery seems to have solved the problem–or at least a dead ‘starter’ batter is temporally (if not causally?) connected with the other failures. This might be just a coincidence, since seems odd to have the ‘starter’ battery part of the larger electrical set-up. The dealership had no clue and I can’t figure it out.
  2. The first time just the EPS went out, but the second time the entire car shut down. This doesn’t make much sense–especially since the dealer couldn’t pull any codes. The car’s auto-stop shuts the engine off all the time at speeds below 10 mph (this is a semi-hybrid), so why the total shut down?
  3. Why didn’t the dealership tell me the ‘starter’ battery needed replacement? I’ve checked my records, and it seems to be the one that came with the car in 2003 (actually fall 2002). Should I give up on these guys?

I’d appreciate any advice about the EPS on hybrids–and especially the relationship between the ‘starter’ battery (in this car it’s 500 CCA) and the lithium-ion battery pack.


#2

We have a few 2003 Civic hybrids in our fleet . . .

Anyways, strange things sometimes happen when the 12V underhood “starter” battery goes bad

Good to know that’s not an issue anymore

I’m surprised it lasted that long. Here in California, they rarely last past 5 years. I’m even more surprised the dealer didn’t want to sell you that 12V battery earlier than this. Whoever serviced your car in the past may have forgotten to check it. Or he may have forgotten to recommend replacement, if he did check it. Or the service writer forgot to bring it up . . .

I suspect your problems may very well be gone now that both batteries are good


#3

Thanks for your reassuring opinion. I couldn’t believe the battery had lasted that long, but, I had no memory or record of replacement by the dealership (I keep pretty good records, although my memory isn’t great), and if I had replaced it I would not have payed for a Honda battery, which was what was in there. (The original–if that’s what it was–claimed a 100 month warranty.) Some parts in hybrids seem to last longer than in normal cars. I’ve never had any work on my brakes (125,000 miles), probably because of the regenerative breaking. However, now I’m thinking maybe I shouldn’t trust the service department at the dealership . . . .


#4

I wouldn’t give up on the dealership. At least they didn’t try to sell you unnecessary parts, which is what they usually do. Not recommending a new battery is a very minor lapse, in my view. And you can count yourself lucky that you got 10+ years out of the battery. 5 years is more the norm.

Now you know to ask for a new battery in 2019. :wink:


#5

Fairly new technology, answers hard to come by.If I understand things, I’d say this electronic means of conveyance has all systems connected to a central computer.I’m assuming you bought this used as you don’t know of the original battery. Somebody got rid of this in a hurry. Anyhow, I would think the lithium pack mainly powers the electric motor, and most drain demanding electronics ie. air conditioning, lights and the such.The starter battery is for starting the gas engine but also must be charged so is linked to the grand scheme of things.Whatever is under the hood, non-essentials such as heat from gas engine(for rider comfort),cooling(for gas engine, it runs for five mins here n there),Power steering(electric),Power braking,transmission solenoids and the likes may actually work off of the starter batt.(though through relays actually in connection to the lithium batt.) Yes you’ve fixed it,no low battery conditions mean no problem.Japan has come up w/some radical batteries lately,hopefully you can benefit from this.Propose you test their new batteries in real-world situations, in their own products.


#6

Update: the dealer now says the IMA battery is bad and needs to be replaced, and this is confirmed by the codes. I am considering buying a grid charger to recondition the existing battery (they run about $475) and to keep it conditioned. Apparently the replacement batteries are all reconditioned, not new, though this may involve replacing dead cells, which a grid charger cannot do. Does anyone have any knowledge of how effectively these work? The technology (as far as I understand it) seems reasonable. But then why not just include it for an extra $400 as an option on a new car?

My other option (or combined with a grid charger) is to have the dealership replace the IMA battery for $1,300. This is a good deal (about half the normal price: I put a lot of pressure on them since this is the second battery to fail).

So here’s the dilemma:

A) buy a grid charger and hope it reconditions the battery
B) do the $1,300 replacement (either with or with out an aftermarket grid charger)
C) Drive without the IMA. Lots of conflicting information on this: whether the 12 volt will charge if I turn off the IMA switch to disable the IMA, etc… It is certainly true, as Dusenberg says, that many things run off the 12 volt (perhaps even the AC–a must in Louisiana). One person on another blog suggested getting a deep discharge 12 volt and then just charging it regularly!

By the way, I am the original owner of the car, but I just could not remember if it was the original 12 volt battery, but since I assume it was since I found no record from Honda of any purchase of a 12 volt battery, and it was a Honda battery.


#7

Have you tried contacting Honda for assistance on the battery replacement cost? I personally don’t have any faith in the grid charges, I have seen the equipment used by both Toyota and Tesla for battery maintenance and it is far more complex than a grid charger.


#8

I wouldn’t put more money into a car that bit me for a battery pack TWICE in 120k mi, that’s for sure!


#9

I drive a 2010 Insight and plan on paying $2K or more for an IMA battery sometime around 100K miles. This will basically wipe out the $$ gas savings. Hybrids DO NOT save money, they only save gas. I wouldn’t use a grid charger. $1300 now for another 3-4 years is just the cost of hybrid ownership, and will be offset by the gas savings.


#10

The $1,300 is about half the normal dealer cost of a replacement battery, so I think I will take them up on the offer and then trade the car in within a year. I think it’s unethical to sell a car to a private party if it’s had so many problems, but the dealership can hardly refuse to accept in trade, and at fair value, a car that they have implicitly certified as 'fixed." Let them worry about providing a warranty to the new buyer. I can’t get any clear answer about how best to set up the car to drive it just on the gas engine, which I would be willing to do. It seems difficult to bypass the IMA, and without the IMA the 12 volt won’t charge, which means that when it dies so does the power steering, etc. I love hybrid technology, but it sure is not a money saver, and with more efficient internal combustion engines the gas (energy, environmental) savings from hybrid technology become less.


#11

How is your car driving now? Can you feel the IMA assist decreasing? MPGs decreasing?


#12

There’s a long history here, which I won’t go through from the beginning (there’s another thread on Honda Civic hybrid power steering failure elsewhere on this site where I began asking questions about a month ago). After I replaced the 12 volt batter I reset the codes by pulling the #20 fuse just to get a new reading on the problem. No codes. Then the IMA cut out entirely: I could feel that there was no assist at all, but still no engine light or IMA light. The charge gauge did strange things: would go to zero, then up to fully charged in a few minutes, etc. The dash IMA assist gauge indicated I was getting assist (and that the batter was charging) but I obviously was not. I called the dealership, but they said that without a light they could not pull any codes. Finally the engine light and IMA light went on, but strangely enough from that point on I would periodically get some assist from the IMA. That’s when I took it back to the dealership and they diagnosed a faulty battery. It’s been there ever since, as I try to decide what to do. We’ve been getting along with one car, but need to resolve this soon. I should mention that there was never a time when, at least according to the dash charge gauge, that the battery wouldn’t fully charge. That is, it wasn’t a gradual process of decreasing IMA or battery charge, but a sudden failure, or at least one that took place within a week or so.


#13

There’s a long history here, which I won’t go through from the beginning (there’s another thread on Honda Civic hybrid power steering failure elsewhere on this site where I began asking questions about a month ago). After I replaced the 12 volt batter I reset the codes by pulling the #20 fuse just to get a new reading on the problem. No codes. Then the IMA cut out entirely: I could feel that there was no assist at all, but still no engine light or IMA light. The charge gauge did strange things: would go to zero, then up to fully charged in a few minutes, etc. The dash IMA assist gauge indicated I was getting assist (and that the batter was charging) but I obviously was not. I called the dealership, but they said that without a light they could not pull any codes. Finally the engine light and IMA light went on, but strangely enough from that point on I would periodically get some assist from the IMA. That’s when I took it back to the dealership and they diagnosed a faulty battery. It’s been there ever since, as I try to decide what to do. We’ve been getting along with one car, but need to resolve this soon. I should mention that there was never a time when, at least according to the dash charge gauge, that the battery wouldn’t fully charge. That is, it wasn’t a gradual process of decreasing IMA or battery charge, but a sudden failure, or at least one that took place within a week or so.


#14

Hi there-I have had the same problem with my 2003 Civic Hybrid. Clock flickered, the speedometer and rpms went to zero, and then the power steering failed. Car still had power, but no power steering. Turned the car off and back on and it seemed to work fine. This happened after driving the car 50 miles, before which it had sat for ten days. We’re starting to get colder weather where I live, so I wonder if that is effecting the IMA batteries. The 12v starter battery tests good, and the dealership mechanics are stumped as to what is causing this failure. The IMA and check engine light have been on since I bought this car in '07, and I’ve been driving it with no problems since then, opting not to replace the IMA batteries because of the expense. I’m wondering if the mostly deteriorated IMA system has now completely failed, maybe because of the colder weather. Either way, dealer says I am looking at new catalytic converter and ABS brake sensor, on top of new IMA batteries, so it’s looking to be more expensive to maintain than the value of the car. Just wondering if you figured out anything additional to fix this problem.


#15

I’d suggest buying a “battery maintainer” for your 12v battery and using it whenever you can. The IMA system normally keeps the 12v battery charged, but yours is failing.