Honda Odyssey dead batteries

My wife and I both drive Honda Civics which are extremely reliable. We are thinking about buying a Honda Odyssey but I have a friend who is having dead battery problems with her 2 year old Odyssey. I have read about other similar Odyssey battery problems on the net with no explanations or solutions. Could I expect having the same battery problems because of a poor electrical engineering design?

I have a 2003 Honda Odyssey and have never had a battery problem. My sister-in-law has a 2007 purchased new, and they’ve never had any problems I’m aware of. It could be that your friend’s Odyssey has the problem (slow drain, etc.). We’ve been very happy with ours and highly recommend it to anyone in the market for a minivan.

Every car has problems, and the fact that you have a friend who is having electrical issues shouldn’t, alone, be enough to stop you from buying an Odyssey. However, if you are making a transition from a Civic to any minivan, be prepared to pay more for maintenance and repairs. Everything under the hood of a minivan is harder to get to. If it has a timing belt, find out how much a timing belt job with a new water pump runs. Find out how much all maintenance items cost and compare those costs to the same jobs on a Civic. Most importantly, find out what kind of tires the Odyssey has, and how much they will cost to replace. If you can live with these maintenance costs, go for it. The Odyssey is a great vehicle, for a minivan.

You have a biased sample of one Honda Odyssey that has a problem. You can’t infer from this that this is a problem with all Odyssey minivans.
Let me give you a non-automotive example. I was assigned to teach a service computer science course for elementary majors and had 200 students enrolled. I was called in by the Dean because there had been some students who complained that the course was too demanding. I asked the Dean how many students had complained. He told me that there had been four. I answered him with the following analogy. In the early 1960’s I worked in a filling station. 90% of the cars that we had to repair were either Fords or Chevrolets. We never saw a Studebaker. Now I was getting ready to go to graduate school and needed a reliable car. From my observation in the filling station, the car to buy would have been a Studebaker. Of course, the reality is this. At that time, 80% of the cars on the road were either a Ford or a Chevrolet. We only saw the Fords and Chevrolets that needed repair. The Fords and Chevrolets that didn’t have problems didn’t drop in for a social visit. At that time, Studebaker had less than 1% of the market share and weren’t all that common. In my class, there were 196 students of the 200 that were doing the assignments without complaint. I wasn’t about to change my curriculum because 4 students were unhappy. In your case, I’ll bet that most Honda Odyssey minivans are running around without battery problems.
As a side note, as you shop for a minivan, you might take a look at the 2011 Toyota Sienna. I bought one back in March and am quite happy with it. The accelerator hasn’t stuck and the battery hasn’t run down.

I’d be more concerned about their transmissions than their batteries - Honda seems to have finally gotten their act together with transmissions, but until I hear HOW they fixed the problem, I’d still be a little wary.

I realize this is kind of unrelated to the topic, but I would like to add something to your analogy. Students often act as though they are the customers, and they repeat the mantra “The customer is always right.” The reality, however, is that the students are not the customers, they are the products. Their future employers and the tax payers who finance most of the expenses at public universities are the customers. That is why college curriculum is usually based on what employers want, not what the students want. The sooner students learn this important lesson, the better off they will be in their academic careers.

Thank you for your post. I stumbled across an article in a 1947 issue of Life magazine about returning veterans from WW II who had enrolled at the University of Iowa. The enrollment at this University had doubled. Many of these veterans were first generation college students. They had to live under rather rough conditions. Many had families and were living in small trailers that didn’t have bath facilities–there was a common bath house. They had to carry in water for cooking. Yet, they didn’t complain. One English professor at Iowa remarked that a paper that would have received an A before WW II would now be graded as a C. These veterans appreciated the opportunity to go to school.

Now, Universities are building dormitories with suites with private bathrooms and are either remodeling or replacing dormitories with common bathrooms because “this is what the students want”. When I was in college, my room that I had to share was really small. I slept on the top bunk and there was one bathroom for the entire floor. We weren’t allowed televisions or other power consuming items bedause it would overload the electrical system in the building. It didn’t bother me bedause I was only in the room to sleep–the rest of my time was in class, in the library, in the laboratory or in a music practice room.
My office overlooks a dormitory. When school begins in the fall, it is unbelievable. Students and parents arrive pulling U-Haul trailers or in U-Haul trucks and unload refrigerators, big screen televisions, big stereos,etc. I rarely see anybody unloading books.

What year Odyssey are you thinking of buying?

I’ve had a 2002 Odyssey for over 8 years now. The only problem with the battery we’ve had is that it’s easy to leave on 1 or more interior lights (especially with kids.) The light stays on all night and the battery ends up too drained to start the van in the morning.

Ideally, those lights would automatically shut off after a period of time.

Depending on what year you’re looking at, research the transmission issue.

Thanks to everyone for all the great comments and suggestions. It is true there are many more reliable Odysseys on the road than problematic ones. I’ve read about Honda’s past torque converter problems so I will do more research on this. I will check out the repair and up-keep costs too because it could be considerably more than what we are used to paying for with our Civics. A co-worker has a 2005 Sienna which she says has been very dependable- no sticking accelerator.

From what i’ve heard there were many transmission problems with Odysseys between the years 1999 and 2003 when their reliability was increased due to a design change (no I do not know the details of the design change).

1999-2001 were the worst, these were 4 speed trans. 2002-2004 still had problems, these were updated 5 speed trannys.

My sister has a 2008 Honda Odyssey. The only times the battery goes dead is when one of her three kids turn on a map light during the day and leave it on when they leave. It has probably happened about 4-5 times now and she would like Honda to put a off switch up front so every time she gets out the car she doesn’t have to look at every single light to make sure it is off.