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Honda Civic Hybrid IMA Problems



  • segmadsegmad Posts: 1
    I was driving home from work and the Charging System Indicator, Malfunction Indicator, and the IMA system indicator came on. I drove it straight to the Honda dealership and they called me back and told me is was the MCM failing. They quoted me at $1,500 for a replacement, diagnostics, etc. Can I get this part from a junkyard for a cheaper price? A local mechanic told me he couldn't do it, because the part has to be specific to my vehicle. Is this true? I don't trust the dealership in all honesty.
  • gchybridgchybrid Posts: 2
    Sharing another dirty little secret of the dealership battery repairs:

    I have 2003 Civic Hybrid. IMA light came on about six months ago. I thought that it would cost me a lot of money to get it replaced. But I was fortunate because in California the battery warranty is for 10yrs. or 150000 miles. Dealer replaced IMA battery for free. I was very happy. But then last month, IMA light came back on. Took my car back to the dealer. They said that it's the battery again but we will replace for free since it's not 10 yrs. yet.

    Then I asked, why did the battery blew up in 6 months? It's supposed to last for years. He said that the replacement batteries are REFURBISHED not new.

    Please make sure to ask dealers whether they are putting new IMA batteries or refurbished.
  • Hi, missed what your 2003 HCH symptoms were before the computer upgrade. My 2003 has been great (~100K) but for the last year, it mostly doesn't start unless I hook up a battery charger. When I add the black clip I hear a click near the hood latch. I hear that every time. And the car starts immediately. One day I was weeding near the car(not driven for 2 days) and I heard multiple clicks under the hood. Talk about bizarre. When I took it in for inspection in January, they offered me a Honda battery with a 100-month warranty for $90 installed so I bought it. The car still has the same problem. Can it be an ignition issue? Appreciate any ideas.
  • gremlin1gremlin1 Posts: 6
    My 2000 Insight did not need a battery replacement for 6 years. Then it needed one every year - actually 5 battery replacements were made under warranty. The 10 year warranty arrived and the battery went out the next month. A quote was given to replace the battery of $2,400. and the warranty on the battery was 12 months or 12,000 miles whichever came first. We probably got rebuilt batteries on the 5 batteries we got. The dealer tried to blame it on our driver habits. However, our driving habits for the first 6 years were the same as the last 4 years. We have had it with hybrids and Honda. Still driving my old 1985 Honda Civic thought and still getting the original milesage. The mileage in the Insight was 72 mpg when we got it, but after a recall for replacing the engine control module - our mileage dropped by 20 mpg.
  • tenorguytenorguy Posts: 2
    I have a 2003 Civic Hybrid, which I bought used (30,000 mi.) in 2005. The IMA battery is no longer working, and the car is hard to handle sometimes. I drove it around a corner Saturday and the car totally stopped. I was able to restart it immediately, though. A private mechanic told me that it may not be worth getting a new IMA battery ($3500+) since the car has 150,000 miles on it.

    What are your thoughts on this, helpers?
  • bosslessbossless Posts: 179
    I wouldn't do it unless the car is in really good shape and I could get it repaired for $2000 or less with an expectation of at least another 60000 miles.
  • tenorguytenorguy Posts: 2
    Thanks for your input. A new IMA battery would cost much more than $2000. I might get the AC fixed and keep driving the car while saving some money for a down payment on a new one.
  • jlevers1jlevers1 Posts: 1
    Anyone run into this issue? I have a 2005 civic hybrid with 174K miles on it. I had the IMA battery replaced a little over a year ago when it was still covered under warranty. This morning, the IMA light came on. Any thoughts on what the case could be?
  • titanjefftitanjeff Posts: 1
    I've been looking for a Civic for my daughter to take to college for weeks. Today, I see a HCH available and quickly come to Edmund's to get an idea of it's value. The one in the ad is around $1,400 less.

    I contact the private owner who tells me it's all good. No IMA issues or other concerns.

    But after reading this and other thread about $3,000 IMA replacements and/or a major drop in MPG, I'm somewhat spooked.

    I guess I'm looking to avoid getting a :lemon:. Any advice if you were looking to purchase an '06 HCH? Should I make sure it's checked out by a Honda dealer who can plug it in and check how much battery life remains or are there other ways to tell.

    This has 114,000. Thanks.
  • There is no such thing as an 06 to 08 HCH with no IMA issues. The battery does not hold a charge, and is upgraded with software to minimize the use of the battery, so the car runs on gas only over half the time. Plus it's actually dangerous due to unreliable acceleration. Google Civic Hybrid safety, etc., and I'm sure you'll come up with more info.
    I would go with a regular CIVIC even if it costs more or you need to buy and older model. I know of several people who SOLD their HCH's because their teenager was going to start driving and they weren't comfortable with them driving their car.
  • calgary5calgary5 Posts: 5
    I was seeing the same symptoms as tinkerick. mostly showed up at colder temperatures. We started at message #1357. So far, this spring and summer the car has been running normal.
  • bosslessbossless Posts: 179
    These cars do have battery problems. I have found that as long as the battery is good the car performs well. My first battery lasted 90K miles. I have about 20K on my second battery. I generally get around 50 mpg. However, it is a crap shoot as to how long the battery will perform properly and I am not sure there is a good test to predict that. The best insurance would to get one with a replaced battery and extended warranty that is transferable. My second battery has a 36K mile three year warranty. Not great, but offers some peace of mind.
  • joepicardjoepicard Posts: 1
    Hmmmm. Same thing happened to my 2004. Last October the IMA battery was replaced and this weekend the checkl engine/IMA lights came on. Just got word back from the shop that they'll be replacing the IMA battery again. They claim I haven't been driving it enough. They said they will give me driving guidelines when they return it. I put 4,000 miles on it in the 8 months since the battery was replaced. Mostly local driving (short trips) but they told me that could be the problem. They were saying I needed to drive it for 30 minutes at least once a week. Anyone else receiving similar 'advice'? Sounds screwy to me, but maybe there is something about these hybrids I don't fully appreciate.

  • vidarvidar Posts: 18
    edited July 2012
    Had the same problem about 1 1/2 years ago. Long story short: the relay for the air conditioner compressor clutch was stuck in the 'on' position. Clutch stayed energized, killed the 12 volt battery. This also drained the hybrid battery pack. The clicking is the clutch cycling in and out as the 12 volt battery degrades. A possible way to verify this is with ignition on and/or car running, cycle the A/C switch. Should hear corresponding cycling of the A/C clutch if relay is good. A $14 replacement from Auto Zone fixed it.

    Problem was masked by the IMA light coming on, but earlier posts from others (around #770) pointed to the A/C relay. Currently having another 12 volt dead battery problem, but definately not a stuck relay this time.

    One possible affect of a constantly engaged clutch is that the windings may go bad. Original relay problem fixed about 115,000 miles. A/C clutch and compressor replaced about 188,000 miles. Car currently has 193,000 miles with front wheel bearings needing changed.
  • bryan772bryan772 Posts: 6
    2009 Civic Hybrid

    Before the update this car was fun to drive and solid on even the toughest switchbacks up or downhill. Seamless transmission that kept the gear ratio just right all the time. Very smooth ride on hilly roads, uphill caused a slight gradual increase in RPM with out gear hunting then back to overdrive. (Sliced bread all over again). Able to get onto the 75 MPH freeways without much effort. Once up to speed the engine was almost silent the tachometer sat at 1800 w/ AC on and 2-3 passengers. I consistently saw 52-56 MPG even on highways with hills.

    Then 2 years later, "software update" was applied that threw all this out the window. I read many posts about decreases in MPG after the update. I think the gear ratio post update has a lot to do with it.

    Since the update was applied, the gear ratio has changed big time for the worse. At 50 MPH or higher the RPMs remain high even when up to speed. On 75MPH flat freeway the car stays at 2800 - 3500 RPM the whole time and makes for a noisy ride. Feels as if the last transmission gear or overdrive was removed if it had been a regular transmission.

    Now this car is a nightmare to drive on the same freeways/highways and has endangered me and my passengers numerous times near any inclines. Several times the updated car was not able to maintain or increase speed on inclines. Since the car is already at 3-4K RPM to maintain speed, you need to push the car to the red line to stay with traffic uphill. Even then it still falls behind on some roads @6500K RPM! Trucks and 18 wheelers pass me. Plus keeping the car at or near the red line for 3-5 minutes at a time can't be good for the engine but after the update its the only way to keep the car going up some hills. Same roads before the update were no problem.

    The higher RPMs greatly reduce the gas mileage on the same roads to the 30's even with no passengers and A/C off. The best I've seen is 42MPG on the highway, mostly slower highways @55 MPH. As for 65 or 75 MPH roads I've and as low as 27 averages. The range of this car per tank is about half what it was before as the car burns so much more gas at high RPM.

    Honda messed up the CVT gear ratio with this update big time and refuses to take responsibility or correct the problem. All I want is my car like it was when I paid a $6K premium for the "hybrid" abilities. Instead I have a car that is unsafe to drive on the freeway and can't even get gas mileage higher than the 06 regular Civic before it. At this rate this will probably be my last Honda...

    Anyone else notice higher RPM at highway speeds after getting the software update?

    47City/55Hwy before update
    Freeway Range ~620 miles
    200 mile round trip to nearby city = 3/4 tank left

    45City/33Hwy after update
    Freeway Range ~350 miles
    Same 200 mile trip = 1/3 tank left
  • bosslessbossless Posts: 179
    After the update my tack is 2000rpm at 68 mph on a level road. Not sure what it was before the update. Seems like there is something not right about your update. Why not get them to redo it?
  • lowbridlowbrid Posts: 5
    Have you gone back to the dealer? Something is not right! It was my understanding that the update was only for the 2006-2008 models and that the 2009-2011 refresh models already had the "update" applied at the factory. (Can someone else on forum confirm).

    You did have awesome mpg before the issue. Are yo a hypermiler?

    I too have a 2009 hybrid but my mileage was always between 37-44 depending how much hwy vs. city we drive.

    Can you give us more details about your car such as miles, tire pressure, and mantainace. And dealer response. Likely not the issue, but have you had the CVT transmission fluid changed on schedule?

    Good luck.
  • vidarvidar Posts: 18
    edited July 2012
    Update on the 12 volt problem. The standard battery went bad. A combination of age (4 1/2 yrs) and heat (a week in 105 degrees + driving) had the cells degrade into a lead paste. Held voltage but no amps or charge after 18-20 hours. The person that assisted me in the A/C relay troubleshooting posts as Ogre GEV. Saved me a lot of money and frustration.

    Also, replying to Bryan (message post #1393), my hybrid is a 2005 model. This year also fell under the software update umbrella. Fortunally l already had issues with the local dealer, and will never take the car in to them for maintenance. My preferred dealer is about 100 miles away, and never had time to get to them before I started reading about bad things on the update. So my vehicle software is as from the factory.

    That said, it currently runs 3000 rpm at 72 mph. Mileage is about 38 mpg. Has dropped from a steady 42 mpg (with A/C running) running mostly at 60 mph or higher. This nearing a CVT fluid change, engine oil change and probably added friction from front wheel bearigs going bad (193,000 odometer reading). Spark plugs new at about 170,000 miles

    Still running original IMA battery pack, and noticing more cycling down to about 1/2 charge now. Charge indicator kicks in 3 bars at steady speeds, then up to about 3/4 charge after about 2 miles when charge indicator goes neutral.

    The hybrid system for the 2005 model year did two things: contributed up to 60% torque to the gas engine during acceleration, and the option (driver selectable) of shutting down the engine, thus also the A/C, at stops from 10 mph or greater. So for steady highway speed the IMA battery never comes into play. But once the computer is reprogrammed to 'baby' the battery, the fuel air mixture is richened hoping that more gas delivered will make a weak engine perform better.

    There has to be a baseline software that can be loaded back into the control module. As each dealership takes on the character of the owner, it may take some calling around to find a shop willing or capable of doing just that. Also, and this may be cost prohibitive, find out if an off-the-shelf replacement module comes factory loaded with the baseline software, or if service bulletins require updates on all replacement modules.
  • bryan772bryan772 Posts: 6

    The 09 HCH was bought new w/ 36 miles on it. Now has 36,500 miles. Regularly serviced, Synthetic oil and got oil changes done ~30% on the maintenance minder. Never let it go to 15 or when the red wrench appears. CVT fluid replaced last oil change ~32000 miles. Had Dunlop LRR tires originally, just replaced them w/ Michelin Primacy MXV4's. Took slight 2-3 MPG hit but quieter ride aside from the high revving engine. Tire pressure I think is 32, the dealer usually took care of that for me and I didn't want to risk blowouts by elevating the pressure. Also last oil change they found the lead acid battery was reporting weak and replaced that. (In general car batteries need to be replaced every few years with the hot summers here.)

    No issues until 18K miles, the IMA light came on. 2 months before the IMA the car was parked w/ 5-6 bars. Shortly after starting the car, the battery emptied out then charged about 4 miles later. Some days it even cycled 2 times in the 18 mile commute.

    Took it to the dealer the day after the IMA light came on. They said the battery had "deteriorated" and was not able to keep a charge. Battery was replaced and all was just great for several months, no more battery cycles at start.

    The commute is 18 miles each way w/ a gradual elevation change from ~2930 feet to 2530 feet, no highways. 60-70 mpg drive into town, 35-50 on the way back depending on traffic & A/C. Weekly sat at 44-48. Still does close to that even now but closer to 40-44 range as it revs higher in general after the update. Generally drive light on acceleration and coast to red lights when possible. Got good at maximizing the electric pull and regen.

    The update did make one improvement, it no longer lets the battery go empty w/ auto-stop and A/C on. That little electric compressor drained the IMA to where it was empty when the engine started up it took off like a slug and had to floor it to get it going. Doesn't happen like that after the update since the engine goes back on before that happens.

    Then in preparation for a long drive with family I brought it to the dealer for an early oil change and to have all the belts & fluids checked and I asked them to see if there were any pending updates for the IMA. Being a computer guy I figured it wouldn't hurt to see if there are any updates to lessen the chance of another battery failure. This was last March 2011 ~26000 miles.

    They found 3 software updates and applied them. They let me walk over to they guy applying the patch and I asked him what the patch did etc. I was told that the update changed how the auto stop and SOC (State of Charge) works. He also mentioned "slightly" higher revs on the highway. I didn't think much of it at the time but its much more than slightly in hindsight.

    During that drive, there was several occasions going up or down hills where the car had a hard time getting up hills. Sounded like I was driving in Nascar but shedding speed if it was uphill. Other family members who shared the long drive who have driven the car before the update also noticed the problem too.

    The Run Around

    Took the car to the dealer it was purchased from 3 times with no luck. They tried applying the update again w/ no change. Took it on the freeway w/ a laptop hooked up to it claimed they didn't see anything wrong. They also didn't exactly take the car out of city limits where the speed limit goes to 75 with hills long enough to see the problem and kept downplaying it saying that I didn't know what I was talking about basically the car is fine.

    Took the car to the other dealer in town, they took it on the freeway and didn't see any issues. Called Honda CS a year ago. They set up an appt with a manager who gave me the run around and said that there is nothing they could do and to go back to the dealer. Back and fourth 3x.

    Both the dealer said that they can't put the original firmware back and that they didn't have a later version of the firmware. Still a year and half later the problem still exists. Thankfully my commute is all surface streets and the issue only gets bad with hills on the highway otherwise I would have traded this car in last summer. The gear ratio appears to have been tweaked to rev higher to make up for the less power from the electric motor. I can imagine many folks don't notice this particular problem as some states don't have 75 MPH speed limits on the interstate or hills and mountains nearby to drive though. If those conditions exits, this car just can't handle them as well as before the update. Average RPM on a highway with hills is ~3-6K where it had been ~2-4K. There is another dealership about 100 miles from here that I have not tried yet but considering it. (prolly burn up almost a whole tank getting there)

    The 2 in the area don't seem to be competent enough to genuinely do something about the issue or properly escalate it and Honda CS doesn't help much either. Good times.
  • bosslessbossless Posts: 179
    I think your best bet is to file a complaint with the BBB and go to arbitration if necessary. That is the only way you will get a fair hearing.
  • sorry Bryan,
    You're stuck. I have an '07 HCH and now I'm used to it. Been there, done that - your story is mine 2 years ago. But that doesn't mean Honda is off the hook for their fraudulent actions. Google "rego v. Honda" or e-mail me at
  • selinzselinz Posts: 11
    I have an 07 with 198K. IMA replaced free at 140K (just before the california 150K emissions warranty). I have always found that the RPMs are much higher using cruise control. Whenever I go up a big hill, I kick it out of cruise and always keep the rpms under 3.5K. It'd go much higher with cruise on. On one hill that i have to take every day, I will sometimes slow to 53 which is no big deal since the speed limit is 55. If I feel like working the engine harder, I can go faster but it kills the gas mileage to go fast up hills (for all cars, not just hybrids). Overall, I think the firmware update was an improvement, since I'm now never completely out of juice. I do wish the cruise control wasn't so agressive with the RPMs though..
  • bosslessbossless Posts: 179
    In hilly terrain cruise control is not a fuel efficient option. Watching your rpm is one of the best ways to drive fuel efficiently. In taking off I try to never go above 2000 rpm if possible.
  • thereigo2thereigo2 Posts: 5
    This update also broke my car. I have experienced exactly the same thing, and have read post after post of the same complaint. So far, Honda is not taking responsibility for this, but IT IS their fault. My gas mileage as dropped 6 to 10 mpg, and I have NO POWER. Every time I get on an expressway I am risking my life. I guess it is going to take someone being killed for Honda to be forced to take responsibility. I have only had my 2009 HCH for a little over a year and owe more than I can trade it for, so I am stuck with an inferior car with worse gas mileage than many new non-hybrids and is dangerous. This is my 4th Honda, second HCH, but doubt I will purchase a Honda in the future. We need to get up a petition or something to try to force Honda to do something about this BEFORE SOMEONE DIES.
  • rosie2006rosie2006 Posts: 22
    As you can see this has been going on for a number of years, mine is an 06, went to crap after the updates. Same issue, especially if the air conditioner is on and trying to get across a lane or on the freeway. Honda does not care that this is a safety hazard! I will never buy another Honda.
  • thereigo2thereigo2 Posts: 5
    Still bottom line is Honda broke our cars. Period. If it were just one or two that have this problem after the update that would be one thing, but there area MANY!
  • thereigo2thereigo2 Posts: 5
    You are very lucky with yours and apparently not had the update done. I had it done as did many others and the complaints are all the same, greatly reduced gas mileage, no power, random auto stop, lack of assist. My dealership after they did the IMA service update, replaced the IMA battery, replaced the transmission and it still is having these problems. It DID NOT have these problems before the update. I loved my car, now I hate it and am stuck with a "Hybrid" that gets worse gas mileage than non-hybrids.
  • markrockmarkrock Posts: 6
    Same here for my '07. Loved my car for the first 3 years, then abruptly I had no power one day pulling out onto a 2-lane hwy with a car coming at me. Registered written complaints with Honda of America and with the Texas Attorney General. When I took it to the dealer, they did the software update, and not only is it NOT better, but the gas mileage is worse. The engine rarely shuts off now at stops. The dealer said they couldn't find anything wrong with its power.
    It's been over a year now, and I've gotten used to the lack of power but still pisses me off I can't drive like normal people, and it can still be scary at times. I would like to get another vehicle, but can't afford to take the hit. It goes without saying that I'll never buy a Honda on principle.
  • bosslessbossless Posts: 179
    I have an 06 and seemed to have fared better than most with the update. I have noticed that my mpg drops off when the charge is under four bars which happens for short periods of time occasionally. When that happens I make it a point to drive more conservatively. I usually average around 50 mpg.
  • dowjddowjd Posts: 14
    Ha, I have both of you beaten. I bought a 2009 HCH brand new, Oct 09 IMA light, software update, poor performance (48mpg down to 39mpg). Dec 09 IMA again, Honda replaced battery, still poor performance (37mpg). July 10 "New" battery poor performance. Jan 2011 IMA light, software update, still poor performance (32mpg). July 2012 Check engine, IMA battery bad, Honda replaced.

    So, a three year old vehicle is on its third IMA battery. WOW. Yet I still get the Honda song and dance. Great service.
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