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Old 08-14-2014, 05:02 AM   #1 (permalink)
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2005 Civic Hybrid IMA trouble

I'm currently driving a 2005 Honda Civic Hybrid with a bad battery. The battery is out of warranty. I use it mostly for town driving. I've gone a few days without starting the car before realizing that was impacting the battery. I've done a little bit of research and it seems like I have three options.

1. Get a grid charger. This has the benefit of being the cheapest. The downside is I still might need to get a new battery later on. The other downsides are that I'm currently in the midwest and do not have access to a closed garage. So I am dealing with hot summers,cold winters, and the possibility of bad temperatures for charging.

2. A non-OEM battery. I've looked at a few companies and bumblebee seems to be pretty good. The price seems to be competitive, and the warranty is good. I'm not particularly looking forward to installing it though. The one downside is that I do not really want to spend that much money. Also, is the bumblebee battery significantly better than an OEM battery?

3. An OEM battery. I could take it to the dealer and get an OEM battery. Would this be a good option if the price ended up being in the same range as a bumblebee replacement battery?

I do have another question concerning driving the car. Would it be ok to take an 800 or 900 mile car trip without a working hybrid battery?

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Old 08-14-2014, 02:09 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Hey,

My '03 started throwing the IMA light and I ponied up for a grid charger, about $450 or so when all was done. Installation was pretty simple.

I've gotten the IMA light a few more times, and an overnight or two with the charger clears it. Mileage takes a nice little boost when the pack has had a fresh charge.

I got my grid charger from Hybrid Automotive, they were very helpful and the installation instructions they included were like a Haynes manual, very clear and based on somebody actually doing it while writing down how to do the work.

That is the cheapest option and will keep you going. It's a bandage, a temporary fix that, thus far, doesn't seem to have a sell-by date. You can keep temporarily rejuvenating your pack. Some owners are certainly doing that with theirs.

The non-OEM pack has the advantage of providing you with both a warranty and a potential upgrade. Bumblebee is building packs with an 8.0a-h rating, vs. the OEM 6.5 rating. Nice extra electric range if you live in a hilly region. Hybrid Automotive sells a pack like Bumblebee's and they also claim an 8.0 rating, though theirs is only about $1700. Not sure how they are able to offer theirs so much cheaper, but I guess that's a matter of having shaken the right hands at some point.

OEM is pricey. Super spendy. Bumblebee packs are, I think, about $2000 whereas OEM from Honda is going to run you closer to $3000. Honda is likely to charge you installation too, which is silly. Installing the IMA pack is pretty straightforward and there are lots of references on the web to walk you through it. I also understand that while Honda has your car, they are very likely to "upgrade" your IMA controller to shut you out of some of the battery's capacity, to reduce the peaks and valleys the battery experiences that shorten its life. On top of asking you to spend more for the OEM product, they don't actually let you play with everything you paid for. It's like spending $5.00 for a frozen cappuccino at Starbucks but just as they hand the cup to you, they scrape the whipped cream off the top and tell you you can't have it.

My recommendation: do the grid charger now and start saving up for a new pack in a year or two. It's what I'm doing.
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Last edited by elhigh; 08-15-2014 at 09:55 AM..
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Old 08-15-2014, 10:02 AM   #3 (permalink)
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One last suggestion: there are some sellers on eBay that are offering used IMA battery sticks, in fact one of the sellers is Bumblebee themselves, shedding pulled battery "stick" assemblies from reconditioned IMA packs. Note that when you buy one of these you may well be getting a pig in a poke, but you may be getting a big box full o' lightning, too. Considering Bumblebee is selling a box of 20 for $100, that's a full IMA's worth of sticks for only 5% of the purchase price of one of their fully reconditioned units. You could buy several, mix and match to assemble the best sticks into a nearly-new pack, and sell the rest on or simply recycle them.
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Old 08-15-2014, 05:45 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Thanks for the suggestion. $100 sounds really cheap, but I would not feel comfortable repairing the battery myself.

How long do you think a grid charger would last? I mentioned it to a mechanic who works with hybrids and he thought it would only lengthen my battery life by a few weeks or months.
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Old 08-15-2014, 07:28 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I take it driving isnt impacted? For the gen 2 and gen 1 insight the car becomes rather gutless and the ac quits working. Good thing the ac cuts out as it wouldnt have enough power to spin the compressor and drive down the road.

Assuming its a bad cell in your battery pack, Id say charger. Maybe join the insight site and see if someone lives near you who could let you borrow theres?

If you are going to always own a hybrid, then get the charger and consider it a special tool for servicing hybrids.
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Old 08-15-2014, 07:29 PM   #6 (permalink)
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The grid charger's effect's duration will differ depending on how you drive the car. My wife, when she has the car, returns it to me with the battery absolutely flat. If she has it for a few days in a row, she can cut the charger's effect in half, no joke. If you're gentle on the battery, it'll probably last a lot longer.

My first grid charge made the IMA light go out and stay out for about a month; the second time it was out for about three months. The big difference: winter vs. spring. How it's driven, ambient conditions, all that stuff has an effect on how heavily the battery is called upon, and that, in turn, has an effect on how quickly the pack becomes unbalanced.

When it becomes unbalanced, you rebalance it by grid charging. The batteries that are all within spec charge up first and then just warm up (just a little, nothing to worry about) while the other, lower batteries get dragged up to the same level.

This most recent grid charge has only been on for a week. So far I've grid charged the car about four times. If it keeps the battery in good nick for the next few years, I'll call that money well spent.
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Old 08-15-2014, 07:31 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cobb View Post
I take it driving isnt impacted? For the gen 2 and gen 1 insight the car becomes rather gutless and the ac quits working. Good thing the ac cuts out as it wouldnt have enough power to spin the compressor and drive down the road.

Assuming its a bad cell in your battery pack, Id say charger. Maybe join the insight site and see if someone lives near you who could let you borrow theres?

If you are going to always own a hybrid, then get the charger and consider it a special tool for servicing hybrids.
Cobb makes a good point - you don't have to own the charger to get the results, you just need overnight-or-so access to one to charge it. It wasn't available when a la carte when I bought it, but now you can get just the wiring harness, and then plug in a charger to do what's needed.
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Old 08-15-2014, 08:24 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Basically you got about 100 D cells in your battery pack arranged in tubes of 6. They are hooked in series like the police edition of the mag light that takes 6 d cells. All it takes is one bad cell to cause problems. Thats what has happened. It limits the effectivness of the whole pack and once its down to 10% or half an amp vs 6.5 amps it generates a code. It usually generates a hell of a lot of heat and you get a thermal code too.

Grid charging for an extended peroid of time restores the charge to the 100+ batteries that make up your pack. As it wears they all discharge at different rats do to variations in manufacture and internal resistance and the price of tea in China.

I own a gen 2 insight with 84 cells. It can take 36 hours to balance the pack. It takes 4 months of driving it like a rental car to make them start to wobble. I drive daily and at least 3 times a day.

If you like the car and are handy, you can buy an aftermarket battery for less than 2 grand depending on vendor. Just think of it as buying a tranny or engine for a non hybrid vehicle.
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Old 08-16-2014, 04:43 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Thanks Cobb. The grid charger option sounds like it should be decent then. It sounds like the mechanic was being overly pessimistic about the use of a grid charger. It might be the option I go with.

As far as driving goes, it was driving ok, but I haven't driven it a lot since the IMA/engine light came on.

I do have another question. Do I need a working IMA battery for long trips? I have an eight or nine hour trip I need to make soon. I've read that the car can be driven without a working battery, but I have also heard that the hybrid battery keeps the 12V charged. So I really don't want to get stuck a couple hundred miles from the mechanic I use.
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Old 08-16-2014, 09:53 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I couldnt tell you about that. I do know if you got your radio code and other stuff that disconnecting the starter battery for 15 minutes and redoing it you will have ima for a while til it figures out the capacity.

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