We have a Honda Civic Hybrid with 204,000 miles on it. It’s my wife’s car and she commutes fifty miles every day in it.
Late last week her IMA (hybrid battery) light came on. The last time this happened was 7 years ago. The battery pack was under warranty at the time and Honda replaced it. That warranty has since expired.
We are going to take it into a Honda dealer to have the problem evaluated, but we’re trying to do our homework in advance. My wife is worried that she’s going to be told that the battery needs to be replaced. There has been no decline in vehicle performance - yet. She tells me that replacing the battery could cost $3000 bucks and she questions whether we should spend it on a car with over 200K.
She has kept up with her regular maintenance on it and it’s a very reliable car otherwise. We also just dropped $17,000 on a Subaru with 30K on it and were hoping to wait a little longer before buying another car.
So, we have several options.
(1) Ignore the problem and save every buck we can until we reach a point of no return. When the car is due for its emissions test in 1.5 years it’s likely to fail because the IMA light triggers the check engine light.
(2) Invest in a new battery pack and drive the car into the ground (300 K+), banking on its track record as a cheap, highly reliable vehicle up to this point. Use my lower mileage car for long distance travel.
(3) Unload the civic and get a new (or lightly used) car. Not desirable as we just bought one vehicle and were hoping to have some time to save towards another one. We have a good monthly income and are pretty frugal, but like many folks, we have a variety of living expenses.
What would you do?
There isn’t a really clear or simple answer here. The approach or thinking depends on the person, really.
My over/under for car replacement is either when the cost of major repairs exceeds the value of the vehicle, or… if my own needs for a vehicle change (having kids, etc.).
It sounds like this car still meets your immediate needs, it’s been taken care of, and it’s a known quantity. I have no idea what the value is, or if that even matters to you. If it were me… I’d get at least a few quotes for a new (or new to you) battery so you can have good data to make a decision with.
Bear in mind that you’ll likely not be able to find a reliable used car for $3000, which is around the price of a battery to keep this one on the road. The car also won’t be worth much if it has a bad battery, should you decide to trade it in.
For what that’s all worth… good luck with your decision.
Does the car still run with the battery getting weak or even kaput? In other words, runs on the engine, without the added power of stored electricity… so some loss in power and/or MPG, but still a functioning car?
Trying to make a decision before that might just cause you to be confused .
Ledhed is correct, 3000.00 will not get you much of a vehicle these days.
Going to the dealership (or if the dealership treats every visit as a marketing opportunity, an independent mechanic) sounds good.
FWIW, a few thoughts:
- Find out what the indicator means, exactly. Where is it on the scale from ‘nuisance, ignore it’ to ‘battery 80% worn out’ to ‘will catch fire today’?
- Do you have any other battery performance indicators?
- Could it be something simple such as a loose or corroded connection? Being sure that anyone investigating this is trained; knows and follows suitable safety precautions around high voltage DC.
The dealer is a good place to get a diagnosis of the hybrid battery system. If it turns out to be the hybrid battery, you might try to fix it. It isn’t just one cell, but many cells connected together to provide the current and voltage required for the system to work. There are shops that will check the individual cells and recommend replacing the ones that are out of spec. You might also find a refurbished battery that costs less than the new one that Honda is likely to install. You can do a web search for hybrid battery repair and refurbished hybrid batteries to learn more about it.
I drive a 2010 Insight with basically the same drive train. Personally, I’d be real interested in how far you can go with the failing battery pack. Have you noticed if the 12V starter has taken over from the hybrid motor/generator for starting the car?
I’m wondering if the replacement battery that was installed 7 years ago has the same 8 year warranty that the original battery had. If it was installed at a Honda dealer it is possible, and it would be a good idea to do some research before you get to the dealership this time.
Also, It did a quick Google search using the terms IMA light Honda Hybrid and found a lot of info as well as a website called Bumblebeebatteries. Worth some research.
I would imagine it is unlikely it would extend the base battery warranty, that would not be how it usually works.
I was getting CVT replaced at 42K miles, on 60K powertrain warranty: it was warranted to the remainder of 60K or 18K effective warranty.
Clock does not reset on warranty items AFAIK
There may be a 4rth option you are not considering. If this were a Prius the answer would be easy and good news. There exists a substantial cottage industry of Prius hybrid battery pack repair/refurbish shops across America now. Individual cells can be replaced inside those batteries (for sale on Amazon BTW) and many folks do it themselves (handy folks). I am pretty tuned into the Mass. Prius repair community (I’m the Prius Club Admin on FB). I see your username is …Nantucket. If you are really from there, I can suggest Pleasant St Automotive in Norwood, MA as the best hope. Call in advance. I see looking at YouTube that there are folks who recondition Honda hybrid batteries. I think your best bet is to find a place near you that has done it and speak to them. Tell us how it all works out and good luck!
200k +? That’s pretty good for one car. You got your money’ worth for certain. The problem is, you are now driving on borrowed time. Lots of things left to fail besides the battery. If the problem really is the hybrid battery, I’d probably just keep driving it until it stopped completely. Then I’d try to give the car away to somebody who wanted it; if not, to the crusher.
Well for me, it wouldn’t be the first time that I put $3000 or more into a high mileage work car. You never know if it was worth it or not until the car is scrapped and you do the lifetime cost analysis. So I guess it wouldn’t particularly bother me. I drove my car to 500,000 but afterward figured I would have been better off getting rid of it at 300,000. The only thing I would add is when you talk about an economical car, you need to include the cost per mile for battery replacement, which is not insignificant. It amounts to 1.5 cents per mile and if you consider the first replacement that you didn’t have to pay for, you’d be at 3 cents a mile just for batteries. So I’m not convinced that a conventional car for long commutes is not a more economical way to go. OTOH a hybrid with bad batteries is worth very little.