By on October 4, 2019

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 [email protected]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. 
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32 Comments on “Piston Slap: Unfit to Charge a Fit?...”


  • avatar
    sgeffe

    Sounds like a wonky battery.

    Honda sometimes seems to use undersized batteries. I’ve not had a problem with an early battery death in years, but we’ll see how my 2019 Accord fares, since it’s my first four-banger in twenty years, and the batteries in the Accords with four-cylinder engines were a little undersized in the last couple generations.

    BTW, how can I change the avatar on here? Inquiring minds want to know!

    • 0 avatar
      quaquaqua

      Top right, click your name and then “edit my profile.”

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        I have done just that, and according to the site, you can no longer upload pictures, but you have to use a “Global Avatar,” or “Gravatar.” I created one, with a picture of the front of my new Accord, but it doesn’t show up no matter if I use the TTAC login I had originally created, OR the WordPress login I created in order to create a Gravatar. The Gravatar shows up on other sites just fine: the blog of a former EIC of this site, as well as Disqus, IIRC.

        I had E-Mailed Mr. Healey about this a couple months back, and never heard a response back.

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          Sgeffe,

          I had the same issue over a year ago when I switched my avatar to what it is now, it wouldn’t let me upload any file type I was familiar with except the stock image you see here that I don’t remember where I found.

          I remember on my original avatar it was a very simply click and upload and forget about it.

          This comment doesn’t really help you, as I’m in the same boat you are in, but I’m just confirming your not the only one.

  • avatar
    TR4

    Since the problem showed up on the interstate (presumably at fairly high speed) it is not likely the battery.

    I would connect a voltmeter to monitor the charging system voltage while driving. It may be intermittent and causing your problems. Something like this is cheap and easy:

    https://www.google.com/aclk?sa=L&ai=DChcSEwjhoo6h0YLlAhUSklsKHb8qDw8YABALGgJ5bQ&sig=AOD64_1pkVoscEbMWgVkYSTQQ_JTiCysIg&ctype=5&q=&ved=0ahUKEwiW9YSh0YLlAhUIHqwKHWU2BEAQ9aACCDg&adurl=

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I have no experience with the Honda Fit but I have experienced strange issues including intermittent no start conditions on something as old as a 2002 Saturn which dissipated after battery replacement. In my case it was an Interstate close to five years old.

  • avatar
    Jeff Weimer

    I would check and clean the battery ground connections, especially any accessory connections to the ground cable. 1G Cruzes have a ground issue that presents very similarly to this – it’s basically a cascading triage as your ECU/BCM is prioritizing what gets current – and it was the small, accessory ground connection that was the culprit, as it was the BCM ground and even a slight amount of corrosion and dirt caused problems.

  • avatar
    ravenuer

    Battery is 4 yrs old. Replace it. Clean any ground connections while you’re in there.

    • 0 avatar
      quaquaqua

      Not to hijack the thread with my own question, but I don’t know squat about batteries. I have a 2-3 year old Bosch battery and, for the past year, a blue-greenish powder already collects on one of the terminals. A pile about the size of a golf ball collects over a period of several months. I know this isn’t the strangest thing in the world, but is it actually depleting my battery?

      • 0 avatar
        Jeff Weimer

        It’s mostly normal, but it needs to be cleaned, as it is corrosive. Once you clean the terminal and connector and reattach it, cover the terminal connections with a thin coat of dielectric grease and it won’t happen anymore. Those little felt terminal pads also help.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      Factory battery in my H2 lasted 9 years, both my H3s still have the factory battery, and my little frontier is on year 8 of a marine deep cycle battery that came off a trolling motor. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten less than 6-7 years out of a battery. I would consider 4 years to be a defect.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        On and OE Honda battery getting more than 3-4 years is unusual, the spec out a very small battery and then spec it out pretty light, ie not many plates/surface area for the case size.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          ^ This.

          Thinking more about this, I’ve seen stuff on here and on TOV.com (Temple Of VTEC) that, with a Christmas-tree dashboard on a Honda, the first thing to check is the battery condition. Same with any other computer-on-wheels that is a modern passenger vehicle.

          Second thing to check is ground.

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      Hijack number 2:

      Does anyone have an opinion on AGM vs lead-acid? (Not the hyper-premium ones of awhile back, but the more recent ‘mild upgrade’ AGM’s from mainstream brands.)

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Charge profiles for AGM batteries have a slightly different charge profile, so I recommend sticking with a flooded battery. Now if the car came with an AGM then that is what you should replace it with. Also see if you car has a battery age monitor that should be reset, so it switches back to a “new battery” charge profile.

    • 0 avatar

      If battery is actually 4 y.o. – definitely replace battery. I never had a battery that lasted over 4 years and I used to test cells before making decision to replace battery.

  • avatar
    ThirdOwner

    Whether this would end up resolving the problem or not, this is certainly a good occasion for upgrading the battery.

    Personally, I dislike the trend for undersized batteries almost as much as the trend of car manufacturer using speedo graduation that goes up to spaceship numbers on non-sports vehicles. That renders half or the speedo unusable in practice, compacting the remaining part to a squinting size (this is worse with the finer km/h ones).

    When I bought my Honda Element, one of the first things I did was to fit as big a battery as I could. I modified the metal bottom tray and used an after-market adjustable clamp for the upsized battery. A must in climes with real winters.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Y’know I remember the days when – if the battery was dead – you could still jump the car and motor on your merry way without concern (until you turned the car off). Can’t the alternator on a modern car keep up with the various demands (current) without using juice from the battery? Or is there something else at play?

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Weimer

      That’s why I suspect a ground issue – alternators are fitted to be able to run the entire car without the battery and more, or else you would never be able to charge it!

      If the ground is iffy, degrading the circuit paths, then you will see problems like this even if everything else is brand new.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        But when you have a battery with a shorted cell it draws a lot of current that causes the system voltage to sag because the alternator isn’t designed for that much load, and the battery isn’t contributing at that point.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I’d hook a computer to it and look at the data coming from the engine.

    My 05 Scion xB1 would occasionally trip (in rapid sequence) the traction control light, skid control light, and the check engine light – yet it continued to run normally.

    The data showed that the trailing O2 sensor was flatlined. Replacing it solved the problem.

  • avatar
    MikeP20

    Almost certain Sajeev is correct and it is the battery going. My sister has a 2019 Fit that had the exact same symptoms in the same order with 1700 miles on it. Seemed like battery was shorting internally in 1 cell from time to time and dealer confirmed. They replaced the battery and its been fine since May. Replace the battery, clean the terminals, reset the codes and then see what happens before overdiagnosing and replacing parts that are probably fine.

  • avatar
    Jean-Pierre Sarti

    similar symptoms on my 2016 Camry. New battery fixed it.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    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.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      I think modern management at the battery companies has discovered and ‘cured’ the overly-long life issue.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Batteries can be made in all sorts of different specs and qualities. Panasonic are high quality batteries and do last a long time. Factory Honda batteries are tiny and low quality so failing in 3 years is not uncommon and lasting more than 4 is. Toyota is similar. The 04 Mazda would have Ford’s smart charging system that monitors and adjusts the voltage once the battery is recharged with extends battery life.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        As was noted a couple threads up, sometimes the batteries are defective coming from the factory, and may show symptoms soon after delivery; the ADAS failures are one of the first indications of that.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      …The Panasonic in my ’04 Mazda3 lasted more than 14 years…

      Panasonic seems to make great batteries. I had almost 9 years on mine before the fleet guys decided to replace it as a preventative measure.

    • 0 avatar
      PandaBear

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


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