Piston Slap: Unfit to Charge a Fit?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

TTAC regular Ronnie Schreiber writes:

Sajeev,

Tonight, while driving on the interstate, the tire pressure warning light came on in my ’15 Honda Fit, then the ESC light came on, then the power steering warning light came on, and then the info display said to check the charging system. Everything seemed to be working just fine, though. I pulled off to check the serpentine belt, which was intact so I started searching on the internet for the symptoms.

According to the forums, it’s sort of a known problem that’s due to glitches in the electrical system causing erroneous fault codes. Dealers usually try replacing the alternator, which doesn’t help. The alternator harness, the ABS sensors, and the injectors/coil packs have all been mentioned in the forums as fixing the problem.

I’ll check all the connections in the morning, but in the meantime I’m leaning towards a faulty ABS sensor, since those are used for the TPMS in my car, not an actual pressure transducer, and the first light that goes on is for tire pressure. Also, the check charging system warning was intermittent.

What do you think?

Sajeev answers:

Interesting.

I bet it’s a weak battery, how old is it?

Ronnie says:

OEM battery on a ’15 model with about 64,000 miles. Seems to crank the engine normally.

Sajeev adds:

Sounds like it’s way past its expiration date. I’d get it tested, odds are it’s about to die.

Well, in my experience that’s the case.

Ronnie says:Thanks. The battery is tiny and I’m sure that the way Honda manages the automatic headlights doesn’t help. When parked, the lights stay on for a long time unless you lock the car, in which case they stay on about long enough to get in the house.

Sajeev concludes:

While it could be corrosion, loose connections, bad grounds, etc. I am somewhat more confident in my diagnosis: for the past 25-ish years, vehicles have been known for bizarre behavior because of failing cell(s) in a battery. The car will still start fine, and not trigger any voltage error (gauge or idiot light) either.

I first learned this with my parent’s leased 1999 Lincoln Continental, but the processor-heavy flagship Ford (automatic everything, including steering and suspension feel) is far from an outlier in today’s module-laden vehicles. And it’s an electrical lightweight compared to a hyper complex/sensitive, modern luxury car! My first experience wasn’t my last: from late model Mustangs to BMWs, I’ve felt a 3+ year-old battery is ticking time bomb, especially in the brutal heat of places like my Houston.

What say you, Best and Brightest?

[Image: Honda]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.
Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • Pwrwrench Pwrwrench on Oct 04, 2019

    Yep, Battery likely cause. This happens in ancient stuff also. My beater van is 35 years old. Recently it had occasional slow cranking. Finally battery voltage dropped below 10 V and the starter refused to crank the engine. No amount of charging helped. Replaced battery and Ops checked good. Charging system, wiring, cables, and grounds were all checked before battery change and found good. New one for me was a part throttle surge that I thought was likely a vacuum leak was fixed when battery was replaced. In the past I have seen failing batteries cause all sorts of odd things to happen on dash instruments.

  • Rpn453 Rpn453 on Oct 04, 2019

    Not saying the recommendation of a battery replacement isn't a good place to start, but I disagree that a battery of that age should be assumed to be expired unless it has been completely discharged at some point. The Panasonic in my '04 Mazda3 lasted more than 14 years.

    • See 5 previous
    • PandaBear PandaBear on Oct 08, 2019

      Even for Panasonic, lasting 14 years is unusual. I wouldn't use that as a way to judge how a car battery typically last.

  • Varezhka I have still yet to see a Malibu on the road that didn't have a rental sticker. So yeah, GM probably lost money on every one they sold but kept it to boost their CAFE numbers.I'm personally happy that I no longer have to dread being "upgraded" to a Maxima or a Malibu anymore. And thankfully Altima is also on its way out.
  • Tassos Under incompetent, affirmative action hire Mary Barra, GM has been shooting itself in the foot on a daily basis.Whether the Malibu cancellation has been one of these shootings is NOT obvious at all.GM should be run as a PROFITABLE BUSINESS and NOT as an outfit that satisfies everybody and his mother in law's pet preferences.IF the Malibu was UNPROFITABLE, it SHOULD be canceled.More generally, if its SEGMENT is Unprofitable, and HALF the makers cancel their midsize sedans, not only will it lead to the SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST ones, but the survivors will obviously be more profitable if the LOSERS were kept being produced and the SMALL PIE of midsize sedans would yield slim pickings for every participant.SO NO, I APPROVE of the demise of the unprofitable Malibu, and hope Nissan does the same to the Altima, Hyundai with the SOnata, Mazda with the Mazda 6, and as many others as it takes to make the REMAINING players, like the Excellent, sporty Accord and the Bulletproof Reliable, cheap to maintain CAMRY, more profitable and affordable.
  • GregLocock Car companies can only really sell cars that people who are new car buyers will pay a profitable price for. As it turns out fewer and fewer new car buyers want sedans. Large sedans can be nice to drive, certainly, but the number of new car buyers (the only ones that matter in this discussion) are prepared to sacrifice steering and handling for more obvious things like passenger and cargo space, or even some attempt at off roading. We know US new car buyers don't really care about handling because they fell for FWD in large cars.
  • Slavuta Why is everybody sweating? Like sedans? - go buy one. Better - 2. Let CRV/RAV rust on the dealer lot. I have 3 sedans on the driveway. My neighbor - 2. Neighbors on each of our other side - 8 SUVs.
  • Theflyersfan With sedans, especially, I wonder how many of those sales are to rental fleets. With the exception of the Civic and Accord, there are still rows of sedans mixed in with the RAV4s at every airport rental lot. I doubt the breakdown in sales is publicly published, so who knows... GM isn't out of the sedan business - Cadillac exists and I can't believe I'm typing this but they are actually decent - and I think they are making a huge mistake, especially if there's an extended oil price hike (cough...Iran...cough) and people want smaller and hybrids. But if one is only tied to the quarterly shareholder reports and not trends and the big picture, bad decisions like this get made.
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