'05 HCH 1 IMA warning lights. Uh-oh.

Discussion in 'Honda Hybrids' started by GabbyJohnson, Feb 10, 2015.

  1. GabbyJohnson

    GabbyJohnson Member

    Car: 2005 HCH I, CVT, almost 40K miles. I have had no problems at all from it and drive it often (work from home). Average MPG was in the low-mid 50s, then I got some new tires and since it's averaged low-mid 40s. Bought it in '06 from a local (TN) Honda dealer as certified pre-owned and unsure of state it was originally sold in.
    It has a new 12v battery made in 12/2014.

    To the best of my knowledge, the ECM has NOT been re-flashed or upgraded by Honda. No other software updates have been done.

    About a week ago the IMA and Check Engine Lights came on (P1600 and P1433) at the same time and stayed on. When I got home, I thought it a fluke and disconnected the 12v battery for a few minutes. The lights went away; then later came back at the same time. Then the IMA light went off while the CEL stayed on. Then I pulled the IMA fuse for 30 seconds and put it back in; since then no lights have come back on.

    There has been no degradation of the IMA so far; the Charge/Assist works correctly and there has been no sudden drops or jumps in the IMA battery level per the gauge. While the warning lights are on it still functions properly that I can see. If it weren't for these 2 lights, I'd never know something is wrong.

    I took it to Honda to see if I still qualified for a warranty replacement. An inept tech told me I did, then didn't. And a replacement IMA pack would "only" cost me $2,500. I mentioned warranty extension SB 12-077, but he didn't seem to know exactly what was going on. I have a call into the service manager who has yet to return it.

    So I'm screwed. After some quick research on this and other forums, I have come up with several options, in no order of preference.

    1. Buy a replacement pack from Honda. The tech told me the pack would have new, unused cells in it, which I corrected him that they don't; they're refurbished packs from other failed Civics. He then told me that "the other guy's" packs are untested with no warranties.

    2. Buy one from online, like Bumblebee. It costs a bit less, but still it's a large chunk of change. Plus it has a warranty.

    3. Not buy one off ebay or a junkyard, as I don't know how long they've sat there and they have little or no warranty. Plus, they could already have these problems.

    4. Visit other local Honda dealers to inquire about my IMA warranty and see if they'll help. I've read posts about owners convincing a dealer to allow the warranty; how did they do it exactly?

    5. Call Honda America and explain my case and hope they allow it. Does this ever work?

    6. Get a grid charger and attempt to repair it that way.

    From what I've read, batteries like mine can be recovered in this manner. But I'm not exactly sure what type of GC I need or the features it should have. What is the best one, with the best features, for the best price?
    If I knew someone local I'd ask to borrow theirs. And if it works, buy my own.

    This apparently has the bonus of not having to remove the IMA battery pack from the car. Even if this takes a few days, I do have a beater I can drive in the meantime.

    I've seen sites where the entire pack was removed from the car, the cells removed and unwrapped, and each one charged/discharged a number of times before being rebalanced and reinserted into the pack.

    Anyone who has had issues like mine, what did you do? And how has it worked out?

    Thanks for any help given.
  2. Mendel Leisk

    Mendel Leisk 2010 Prius (CAN Touring) Staff Member

    I wouldn't dismiss that $2500 offer out of hand. It is high, but not completely unreasonable. It's not that out of line with these GreenTecAuto, for example:


    We were lucky to get a free replacement battery from Honda for our 2006, it cost us only about $150 for install at a dealership. That was about a year back. The car does have the latest software update, and since the swap has done fine, no reoccurrence of recalibration behaviour, seems to be holding charge fine.

    I'm a little skeptical of the grid chargers, especially when your battery's so far gone, just my 2 cents.
  3. S Keith

    S Keith Well-Known Member


    My response


    There is no reason to be skeptical of grid chargers. A P1433 code and the IMA/CEL light behavior he describes is not representative of "so far gone." There are hundreds of Honda Insight drivers happily using grid chargers to extend their battery life.

    I have built my own GC for $50 and achieved success in keeping my pack healthy and operating normally. It needs a top-off about every six to eight weeks.
  4. Mendel Leisk

    Mendel Leisk 2010 Prius (CAN Touring) Staff Member

    Yeah, I am just shooting from the hip, describing personal experience. Especially for Gen 1 where Honda's even less receptive to warranty extensions I guess GC, especially inexpensive DIY version, is worth trying. It does involve a fair amount of tapping into wiring harnesses doesn't it?

    Up here the cost for a new Honda IMA battery was going to be around $4500, at least according to the service department. I think plus labour. I urged my son get in touch with Honda Canada, see what they could do, and we lucked out. That would be OP's option number 5. It never hurts to try.
  5. GabbyJohnson

    GabbyJohnson Member

    Mendel, was that under the extended warranty Honda did after the negative Consumer Reports story? How exactly did your son get them to replace the pack? I'm curious if he lucked out with a sympathetic rep or cited some Honda service bulletins.
  6. GabbyJohnson

    GabbyJohnson Member

    Wow, $50! Where did you find the plans for that?
  7. S Keith

    S Keith Well-Known Member

    I modified Mike D's plans from 99mpg.com.

    Here's a shopping cart for the base components:


    You'll need a few more bucks of wiring, and a grounded A/C power cord (computer power cable).

    Mine has zero safety features. You can add fuses or whatever you like, but I haven't needed them, and the components are internally protected if you connect the charger with the battery live.

    You would need to remove the pack to grid charge it. An alternative is to take a 10' grounded A/C extension cord, cut it in half. Put the female end in the trunk and route the cut end to the battery. connect the cut end of the male half to your charger... you have a dummy-proof connector.

    Is this the safest? Heck no. It requires a bit of attention to your surroundings and an active desire to avoid stupidity/death, but even I can use it.

    The downside to this charger is it doesn't have the ability to drive the battery cooling fan. there are options for that, but it gets more complicated, though not much more expensive.
  8. Mendel Leisk

    Mendel Leisk 2010 Prius (CAN Touring) Staff Member

    I'm not sure how his initial conversation with them went, as far as I know he just asked if they could do anything for him. The car was slightly out-of-warranty on time, and moderately over on distance, maybe 20~30,000 kms. They got back to him and said they'd authorized a gratis battery.

    I'd suspect with the low numbers of Civic Hybrid's sold Honda's simply elected to loosen up, to try to shore up their image. For me it's too little, too late, very frustrated with them. For years before the dang lights came on the car was walking wounded, recalibrating very frequently.
  9. mmrmnhrm

    mmrmnhrm Well-Known Member

    Pretty much describes my experience with my '06, though thankfully I had bought the 8/100 HondaCare contract, so my replacement was also only $100. For months, though, every start came off the 12V traditional crank, and the car just kept puttering on, insulting my intelligence with its refusal to throw an IMA code. Mine's had every flash and firmware update applied, and frankly, it's now no better than a regular Civic. It is NOT the car I bought 9 years ago. It'd be nice if Honda made it possible to reload the original programming, with the understanding that there is no warranty or other support for the IMA pack (which is now out of warranty anyways).
  10. cswee1932

    cswee1932 Well-Known Member

    Back in 2/5 my '07 put up an ima light and a cel, so I erased them both with my sgII, and the next day checked warranty info with American Honda. I was still covered, which I knew, so I waited for it to turn on its ima and cel lights again. ..low and behold on 2/20 it did...went to my local Honda dealer (one that refused to replace my last failing ima in 2012, saying it was fine; was replaced by another dealer) and after 40 minutes was told another ima is being ordered, and they will call me when it's in.

    I really love this car, I just cannot believe what a disaster these ima packs are. ..when replaced, this will be the second replacement under warranty of the hybrid components, thank god I'm in the northeast!

  11. Mendel Leisk

    Mendel Leisk 2010 Prius (CAN Touring) Staff Member

    Thank God your lights came on again. I would never intervene, erase them, just get over to the dealership in a flash, lol.
  12. S Keith

    S Keith Well-Known Member

    I agree 100%. With their arbitrary, "No IMA light, nothing's wrong" stance, if I had a car under warranty, I would immediately change my destination to the nearest stealership upon receipt of an IMA light.

    The latest BCM patch and tolerance for recalibrations can allow a marginal pack to keep from throwing an IMA light for years. I would get 6-10 recals per day on my 65 mile round-trip commute, and I didn't get an IMA light for 2.5 years even though my recals were pulling my mileage down into the high 30s from the high 40s, and this behavior started with about 5000 miles left on the warranty

    I have since taken matters into my own hands, built grid chargers and developed my own processes for "refurbishing" sticks. Two spare packs for two cars is also helpful :)

    Good news is I've spent about $1,200 on hardware, so I'm well ahead of the curve for 2X HCH2 with 136K and 212K miles, respectively. :)

  13. cswee1932

    cswee1932 Well-Known Member

    I figured if it turned on again it wasn't a fluke, and was pretty confident it would, as I was getting 4-5 recals in my 12 mile morning commute, same for the afternoon ride home. My last pack was actually replaced without any ima lights or cel lights on, just a very helpful second Honda dealer. I figured if I'd have to I could become a headache and live with American Honda on the phone and one of the 4 local Honda dealers until someone caved and fixed it...

  14. S Keith

    S Keith Well-Known Member

    I have never heard of a dealer so accommodating on this issue. Congrats!
  15. GabbyJohnson

    GabbyJohnson Member

    I've been on the phone with American Honda the past few weeks.
    The CS rep was very polite and asked for some info: VIN, dealer I bought from/took the car to, mileage, error codes, estimate from dealer.

    Having that info, he said he'd call back in 3 days, and he did. The dealer told him the new pack would be $2800+, when the paper they gave me quoted $2500.

    Past vehicle service there was taken into account, the low mileage, and the other 3 Hondas my family bought there. Rep told me that the extended IMA warranty expired in Sept. 2014, and since I got the errors in Feb 2015, they could help me out. I hoped for the best.

    Then he called back and delivered the bad news: Honda would only pay $900 toward the IMA replacement, leaving me on the hook for the rest, $1600. I asked him if he could help me out more, and that was the best they could do.

    So, I'm screwed. Is there any hope of taking it to a different Honda dealer and getting it warrantied in full? My car issue is known to American Honda, so is it even worth the effort to try when the dealer contacts them?

    I believe my best course of action would be to get a grid charger. Yet I still haven't been experiencing the problems others have had with the inherent IMA issues. In early March, before calling American Honda, I pulled the IMA fuse for a few minutes, and popped it back in. The errors have never returned, even after a 300+ mile road trip and around the town driving. Would the errors still be saved in the car's computer, or are they gone since I also disconnected the 12v battery?

    So a followup question: is it possible there is actually no IMA problem, just a glitch in the error software?

    Any ideas? Thoughts?
  16. ALS

    ALS Super Moderator Staff Member

    If the error doesn't pop back I wouldn't worry about it. There are glitches in software and even sensors. There is no way to know what triggered the code in the first place but I would be watching to see how soon it reappeared. By pulling the fuse it may have reset some part of the system that caused the code in the first place. You might get lucky and be home free and it might be a temporary reprieve.

    One point is that you have to understand is that you have a ten year old car and problems do come up. Cars and even battery packs don't last forever. $1600 is not a bad price for a new pack installed.

    An old guy once told me back in the seventies he went by the ten cent rule on cars. This involved repairs that were not on normal wear parts. like brakes belts and tires. If he put $500 in a car he expected to get another 5,000 miles out of it to pay for the repair.

    BTW he was driving a forest green Plymouth Valiant. :p

    If you're planning on keeping the car for another 16,000 miles, the $1600 invested in a new pack is well worth it.

    If we were talking about a 2010 then I would be jumping ugly with the dealer and Honda.
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2015
  17. Mendel Leisk

    Mendel Leisk 2010 Prius (CAN Touring) Staff Member

    I concur. You're not "screwed". Obviously a free battery would be better, but you've made an effort, and got something. An aftermarket battery would cost that, or more, I think you did ok.
  18. GabbyJohnson

    GabbyJohnson Member

    I've yet to see the warning lights come back, and last month I installed a grid charger.
    From the instructions, the pack appears to be healthy and has been fully charged.

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