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TL;DR version: My battery light is still coming on despite replacing the battery and alternator. Help?

Two weeks ago, the battery light on my 2005 Element came on. I had it tested at my local Autozone and they deemed that the alternator was going on it. Foolishly, I drove it to work the next day with the intent of leaving early and working on removing the alternator to replace it. On my way home, my instruments died and I noticed smoke coming from under the hood. I pulled over and my car completely died. Upon inspection, the smoke was coming from the alternator. I had my car towed the short distance to my house and got to work disassembling.

After removing the power steering pump, I realized that the connector from the wiring harness was melted. I tracked down a connector in good condition at a local junkyard and spliced it. I reassembled everything and took the car for a drive. The speedometer & odometer don't seem to work and the check engine light is on. The battery light came back on after a few minutes of driving. I brought it to a mechanic, he tested the battery, fuses, and connections and suggested it was the alternator.

Back to Autozone. They test the alternator twice and confirm it is bad. They replace it and confirm that the new alternator is good. I install the new one and take her for a test drive. Battery light comes on again. Back to Autozone. They try to test the battery and it is low, suggesting it might have gotten damaged by being dead. They also check the 4 Check Engine codes, all of which are sensors. (For the curious: P0340, P0135, P0141, and P0498... )

Off to Walmart for a new battery. (Luckily under warranty as the old one was only from this past February.) Take her for a drive, about 5 miles with no light. Idle for about 5 minutes and lo and behold, battery light again.

FYI, Positive lead on the alternator looks good, the battery terminals are clean. She seems to run with nothing out of the ordinary, but I haven't tried to push her to go up hills for fear of doing more harm.

I'm at my wit's end trying to diagnose this. Wondering if this is the sign to set my Elle to pasture. Does anyone have any suggestion what to check next?
 

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i would check all grounds. battery chassis motor grounds. alternator can't do what it wants to if grounds are bad. you should be seeing minimum 12.6 volts to 14.4 volts. mine jumps around depending on what i have turned on.

i had autozone alternator fail right out the box before.
 

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Autozone, Walmart and electricity. This is not going to end well.
 

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Thank you, everyone, for your input.

Okay, so I tested the ground and there is continuity. I also confirmed continuity in the positive lead between the alternator and the battery. The battery shows 12.3V while the car is off, and 11.6 while the car is on.

I decided to try something I saw in this video from Eric the Car Guy:


I'm not getting any voltage in the black/yellow wire, but I've confirmed continuity. In the white/green wire, I am getting 0.25V. Eric said there shouldn't be any voltage in that, so it says to me there could be a problem with the ECU. A few videos have indicated you can do a reboot of the ECU by pulling the fuses for 10 minutes. I'm gonna give that a try, but in the meantime, if you have any observations, I am all for them.
 

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Thank you, everyone, for your input.

Okay, so I tested the ground and there is continuity. I also confirmed continuity in the positive lead between the alternator and the battery.
That is not a proper test of power and ground circuits. Think about this. If you took one of the battery cables and cut all the strands but one it would still have continuity when you check it. It certainly would not carry a load of 150 amps or so the crank the engine. Power and ground circuits need to be load tested for voltage drop while powered. If you do not know how do a search for Voltage Drop Testing.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
That is not a proper test of power and ground circuits.

If you do not know how do a search for Voltage Drop Testing.
Thank you! I am an absolute amateur. I’m trying to fix this myself because I can’t really afford to bring it to a mechanic, so this is all new to me. I will check that out and weather permitting I will perform the test tonight.
 

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i recently dropped in a new starter battery. the honda battery was from 2011. a funny thing happened before that though. on first starts after a few days of sitting, right after starting, there was a noticeable whinning, like a pully bearing going dry/bad. after that first start, it wouldn't make that noise again. well, until the next start in a few days. after a few starts like this i decided to use my aux battery for starting and it never did the whine. i suspected the failing battery is pulling too much juice from the alternator which makes it bitch and whine. i think this can lead to pre mature failure of the alternator. maybe your battery was on it's way out and it took the alternator along with it. battery cheaper than alternator. 72 bucks at costco for a 51r. not bad. just my most recent observation of the honda element charging system.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Hope

So, after doing the voltage drop test on everything to no avail, I got curious what these wires did and where they lead. I traced the black and yellow wire using the attached chart to the fuse box under the dash. I found this chart that illustrates the fuses. Number 4. Alternator. Air Fuel ratio sensor. Evap sensor. O2 Sensor. These are all the things that were noted by the check engine light.

Lo and behold, a dead fuse. All this time, it's been a dead freaking fuse. This might have been the initial cause of the meltdown, though my mechanic said he checked all the fuses. This could have happened after I put in the new alternator.

I can't get to the shop to get a new one tonight. It will have to wait until tomorrow. I will keep you updated. In the meantime, though, I have hope.

Thanks, everyone.
 

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As an aside, I wouldn't have figured this out using the owners manual. It only says "ACG" for that slot. Thank goodness for the internet!
 

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One 10 Amp fuse later and I have a functioning car again! Thank you to everyone who offered advice. I now feel I am more knowledgeable in the realm of electronics.
 

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I used to be able to buy special "smart glow" fuses that lit up when they blew out. Can't find em any more but they were SOOOOO handy!

EDIT. I see them on Amazon but I won't buy from them. <sigh>
 

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I used to be able to buy special "smart glow" fuses that lit up when they blew out. Can't find em any more locally but they were SOOOOO handy!
 
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