The Mysterious Car Debacle

Here’s the timeline:

Tuesday evening: Park car on street.

Wednesday: Blizzard hits. Shovel snow around car, but I didn’t try starting it.

Thursday: In the morning, car is dead. After work, my friend jumps it for me, and it drives great. Drive to campus, shut car off, attend meeting, start car up fine again, drive back home. No problems.

Friday: In the morning, car is dead again. After work, friend jumps it again, drives great, I make several errands to give my battery a chance to charge up again. Drive to AutoZone to get battery/alternator checked, tester says both are in good shape.

Saturday: Car starts and runs absolutely fine all day.

Sunday: I start car at noon, runs fine. Start car again at 4pm, car is dead.

Car is a 2003 Honda Civic LX, 75k mi. Could it still be the battery, even though they checked it and it was clear? There is little to no chance for a parasitic drainage: I had my amp and subs hooked up to the car for the last 4 years with no problems, and I disconnected them this winter since the car was being stored outside. There isn’t a glovebox or trunk light that’s malfunctioning, and the deck is completely removed at night. Even if there was, why would it die overnight, work again most of the weekend, and die in a matter of hours?

The car starts fine, with no extra noises or delays once it is jumped. When I turn the key in the ignition when the car is dead, absolutely nothing happens, except for the occasional flicker of a light on the dashboard. The light that flickers is random–it changes each time it’s died, so I don’t think it’s related.

Help me out. I’d like to financially prepare myself (college student talking) for whatever crazy situation I’m headed into before I turn it over to the mechanic. Thanks!

Check your battery connections first, to make sure one isn’t loose or corroded.


Thanks for the reply. I took a look at it the other night, but things looked and felt fine. I can try again tonight.

Sounds like my daughter.
She just doesn’t want to get going to school in the morning.

I’d take OFF the cables from your battery posts and clean the posts and cable ends.
Corrosion can hide even on a clean looking battery. ( been there, done that )

If all your connections prove to be OK, it could be your starter solenoid. I’m not sure about Hondas, but the symptoms you describe sound a lot like what happened to my Toyota when the solenoid contacts wore down. No noise of any kind when I turned the key, even with a good battery, but jumping solved it for a while.

The battery post brush is the most satisfying tool to use in the world. It’s almost impossible to use it wrong, and it’s cheap.

"looked and felt fine "
is exactly what threw me for a loop on my sister in-law’s car.

Again, take OFF the cables and clean the posts and lugs anyway.

What’s the state of charge on the battery, the voltage across the terminal should be between 11.9V (fully discharged) to 12.6-12.7V (fully charged). If the voltage is less than 11V, the battery probably has a dead cell and needs to be replaced.

If the battery is rundown from lack of use, running a few errands will not recharge it. How old is the battery? Consider hooking the battery up to a charger and fully charging it. I use a Battery Tender to keep the battery on my rarely driven 93 Caprice fully charged. The battery is 9 years old and still reads 12.6V fully charged.

Harbor Freight has a float battery charger on sale for much less.

Ed B.