Mysterious battery problem - 08 Honda Civic

Don’t know what to do for my 81 year old mother who bought an 08 Honda Civic (non-hybrid) for reliability and now has had 4 AAA service calls, since purchase, all for a non-start battery – Honda dealer says that she has to drive the car at least 7 minutes to charge the battery or something like that and that quick trips in the car will drain it – That’s really incredible to me? What can I tell my mother besides to drive the car longer, like maybe drive around the block a few times before she goes to the grocery store?

The cheapest solution may be to drive the car longer. I like 15-20 minutes at least once every two weeks. If she is able, a good run above 40 mph does a lot. This also gets the fluids, etc warmed up better than to and from grocery runs do.

The other answer is to purchase a battery tender, and use it. This would involve your mother having to connect and disconnect the tender correctly, or perhaps installing a plug that allows for the connection to complete correctly every time.

You will need to assess which solution may fit and work for your mother.

If this is going to be a consistent problem you would need an easy solution for a battery tender. As I do not see your mom lifting the hood and connecting cables every time she stops home, a little back yard mechanics may be necessary. There are the general plugs for a power supply on a plow, just push it on, maybe I need to patent and do that but would think a similar plug for a battery tender would be a good idea.
This is good for 2 reasons, your mom can do it and she will spend less time on the road.
I think the third option would be for you to borrow the car one day a week drive it to and from work or whatever at least for a 1 hour drive.

The dealer speaks the truth–at least in this case.

The type of driving that she is doing is the absolute worst type of driving for any car, in terms of wear and tear on all of the components, and that applies whether it is a Civic or a Rolls Royce. In fact, the car will need to be maintained according to the Severe Service maintenance schedule in the Owner’s Manual.

However, even the Severe Service maintenance schedule cannot put a charge in a battery that is depleted by driving the car for too short a time to recharge the battery after each start. Very soon, AAA will refuse to come to the house to jump-start the car, and soon, the battery will also die an early death, due to what is known as “deep cycling”.

Whether you do it or she does it, the car needs to be driven for at least 10 minutes after each start in order to keep the battery charged. Or, alternatively, you need to connect a Battery Tender to the battery during its “down-time”.

However, the use of a Battery Tender also requires that your mother or someone else is comfortable with correctly connecting the clamps to the battery terminals when the car is parked in the garage, and that your mother or someone else will remember to disconnect the clamps from the terminals prior to driving. If nobody is comfortable with those responsibilities, then the only solution is to drive the car for longer periods of time.

However, even with those measures, the car still needs to be maintained according to the Severe Service maintenance schedule, due to the type of service to which it is being subjected. You may not like this reality, but it is reality, nevertheless.

If Mom is turning the heater fan on HIGH (or, in warm weather the A/C), that action lessens the available charge for the battery. If she is running the defrost, or other motors (electric adjustable seats, etc.), that doesn’t help either. Nor, headlights on high beams.
If the car just sits and idles, with electric stuff (including headlights) the battery may not be charging then. “If in doubt, turn it off.”

To Everyone who answered, thank you so much! Your responses were really consistent with each other and also matched what the dealer said, but we were all really skeptical about the dealer’s opinion until we got your input. It just seemed too easy for a dealer to put the problem on the way my mother drives. Well, I phoned her and read the responses and we can now deal with this problem more proactively. She will keep a journal and will also drive the car a little longer because she just doesn’t want this to happen again with the battery. The Battery Tender idea is really interesting, although as the responders noted, it’s probably not realistic for an 81 year old – Thank you for educating us - this really gives us the needed confidence that it’s not really the car, but the way you’re supposed to work with the limitations on the battery. Gratefully, Mrs Hom

I don’t know.

Personally, I would take the car to an auto parts store, like Auto Zone, and ask them to run a test on the battery, the alternator, and the starter, and see if either the battery or the alternator is weak. This would also tell you if the alternator is not charging the battery at idle, which is should be doing.

I wouldn’t blame your mom for her driving habits just yet.


To Bladecutter – That’s a great idea! Thanks very much.

Mrs Hom

I am assuming that this problem is just due to your mother leaving the car sit for an extended time period and then just driving for a short distance so the charging system doesn’t have enough time to charge the battery back up. Even though the car is parked the battery is being used to supply power to systems in the car so it will drain a battery over an extended time. We are talking a number of weeks here for a fully charged battery for that to happen. But if the battery isn’t fully charged it will take less time.

Similair to what VDCdriver stated, you may want to have a shop install something like the battery tender in the car permenently so that the only thing she has to do is plug in the AC cord. It would be good to have something to remind her to unplug before leaving on a trip so she doesn’t forget about that.

The Honda dealer should not state this kind of thing unless they’ve performed a battery load test and it’s shown that the battery is known good.

The fact the car is an '08 does not mean the battery is good as even brand new batteries right off the shelf can fail.
The car is an '08 so this means it was likely built back in the summer/fall of '07 with the battery being even older than that. This means the battery is likely going on 2 years old already and possibly even older than that.

ok4450: Thank you! Mrs Hom

mrs hom… you stated …"The Battery Tender idea is really interesting, although as the responders noted, it’s probably not realistic for an 81 year old…"
Unless your mother is colorblind she should be able to connect a battery tender…don’t assume that she cannot do it…capable of driving!

Same situation with my MIL & for reasons known only to her she will not drive for more than a few miles at a time & not enough to keep the battery charged.

Shes had her 2001 Civic since it was new & has 14,000 miles on it.

Once a month we make the 180 mile drive to visit her & it takes about 5 hours with my 12 amp battery charger to bring her battery to full charge.

As mentioned, the best option is to drive the car more, but if thats not going to happen, you can pickup a 12 amp battery charger for about 35 bucks at any auto parts store or Walmart. Connect it for about 5 hours at least once a month=problem solved.

BTW, i’ve checked her charging system & it’s fine. 13.8 volts at idle.

If the battery turns out good and she does need a charger, I have some suggestions:

If the cigar lighter (power point) socket is live when the car is shut off, you can plug a charger in there so there will be no distressing hood-lifting. She would still have to run a cable in the window from an outlet and that would be somewhat of a pain. Alternatively, you could have a shop wire in a plug just in front of the grille, assuming that the Honda has a suitable grille. The plug should be of a type that will not cause damage if she forgets to unhook it. It should be pretty simple. Is this car parked in a garage?

I don’t think that the HVAC blower draws much less power on a low setting than on high since resistors in series are usually used to control the motor speed.