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Discussion Starter #1
Has anyone had a problem with an '03 Element with the battery going dead is the car is not used for a few days?

I purchased this car as a present for my son this past Christmas. We LOVE the car, but if the car is not driven from like a Friday to a Monday the battery goes dead and we have to jump it off. It's happened about 3 times now.

When we got the car we added two simple things to the car;
a) the keyless entry system from H & A.
b) GPS tracking device that plugs into the OBD plug under the dash. http://www.intouchmvc.com/codriver-obd-vehicle-tracking-device.html
I wouldn't think these two little devices would run down a battery over the weekend, but could be wrong.

Is there anyone who has had an alternator problem with these cars or is there some advice someone can give me to possibly avoid my son getting stranded? (p.s. I've put a JumpStarter portable power device in the car just in case, but would love not to have the worry).

HELP and thanks.
 

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Unplug the GPS system. I'll bet your problem goes away. Most of these take about as much current as leaving a dome light on, especially if they're "shaded" from the satellites, as they would be in a garage or carport.
 

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according to american honda bead batterys are normal :shock: I have had defrent hondas for about 37 of the 48 years I have been hear.untill this element I have never seen any thing like it. nor a corpration like it. check for something draining the battery,or go to wally world & have them put a new battery in. honda wanted $181.00 to put a new battery in under warranty,witch had already been replaced before. good luck.
 

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Unplug the GPS system. I'll bet your problem goes away. Most of these take about as much current as leaving a dome light on, especially if they're "shaded" from the satellites, as they would be in a garage or carport.
Ditto that - those GPS units can draw quite a bit of juice. You might also have an auto-parts store test the battery, just for a quick peace-of-mind performance check - which would help determine it's "age". But leaving that GPS plugged in is what's killing your battery.

Okay re-read this - and realized it's just a gps tracker, not a full GPS unit. Won't be the tracker. They don't draw enough juice. My guess is the battery is due for replacement. Get it checked.
 

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zgelement, odds are your son's Element still has its original battery. You haven't filled in your info completely, so we have no idea where you live, which dramatically affects car battery life. In any event, I'm disinclined to trust a car battery more than four years, but I'm also fairly AR about keeping track of it.

Any battery that won't hold a charge for a week is probably on its last legs, and can't be relied upon. I'm not aware of alternators being a known issue for Elements, but we do know their batteries are on the extreme end of "minimal", spec-wise.

I'd take the advice of both MikeQBF and marksbug: Install an inline kill switch of some sort to de-power the GPS when it's not being used, and a replacement battery is very cheap insurance (and less expensive than one single service call if stranded by a dead battery).
 

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GPS System most likely not the cause

I'm Danny Burnham from InTouch MVC. (the GPS tracking device company referenced above)

Our device on average draws 30-35 mA @ 12V. On a typical 40 amp hour car battery, our device should be able to run for ~ 1000+ hours (or 4-5+ weeks). There's now way the device should be draining the battery in only 3 days regarless of whether or not is has satellite signal or not.

Hope this helps.

InTouch Support Team
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Sounds like it must be time for a new battery. Danny and the folks at InTouchMVC so far have been awesome in their support of the GPS tracker unit and any of my ignorant questions. I'd buy a new battery every year to keep this tracker in my son's car (my son knows about it BTW). :)

There's been a lot of talk about these Optima batteries on some of the threads on here. If the stock battery is around 400-410 CCA and the 51R yellow-top Optima is only 450 CCA do you really gain anything or should I just get another battery that will fit the compartment?

OR does anyone recommend getting the 31R Optima with 900 CCA and modifying the battery compartment?

$100 here or there isn't the big issue, I'm just trying to do the best thing for my son and limit worries for his mother and me.

Thoughts?
 

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Optima is absolutely not recommended. They're great batteries while they work, but they don't gradually die like yours apparently is doing, they fail suddenly, leaving you (or your kid) stranded. They can't be jumped or otherwise temporarily boosted - they're either good, or a brick.

If it's the original battery, then, yes, replace it by all means. It would be way overdue. For that matter, if it's a replacement, that, too, could easily be old enough to be on its last legs.
 

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Trying not to sound harsh, but you could have saved people having to guess by disclosing the age of the battery (should be marked) right off the bat. Also, have you had the battery load-tested, or the alternator's output tested? Simple tests, cheap or free, that can prevent a lot of head-scratching.
 

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Sounds like it must be time for a new battery. Danny and the folks at InTouchMVC so far have been awesome in their support of the GPS tracker unit and any of my ignorant questions. I'd buy a new battery every year to keep this tracker in my son's car (my son knows about it BTW). :)

There's been a lot of talk about these Optima batteries on some of the threads on here. If the stock battery is around 400-410 CCA and the 51R yellow-top Optima is only 450 CCA do you really gain anything or should I just get another battery that will fit the compartment?

OR does anyone recommend getting the 31R Optima with 900 CCA and modifying the battery compartment?

$100 here or there isn't the big issue, I'm just trying to do the best thing for my son and limit worries for his mother and me.

Thoughts?
A real good choice is to get a group 56-3N battery (either Walmart or Duralast) It's the same length and height as what's in there now, same polarity on the posts even, and it'll drop right in without any mods other than leaving off that plastic shell around the old battery. Capacity is much better than the stock battery at 725 amps (580 cold) for the walmart version and you can buy them and get warranty coverage anywhere there's a Walmart.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Optima is absolutely not recommended. They're great batteries while they work, but they don't gradually die like yours apparently is doing, they fail suddenly, leaving you (or your kid) stranded. They can't be jumped or otherwise temporarily boosted - they're either good, or a brick.
That's surprising about the Optima batteries. I've heard these are the best selling batteries in America. I've got a buddy that works for a competitive battery distributor and he says if he had to buy a battery, he'd buy an Optima. That's a pretty good endorsement, in my opinion.

Also, I've never heard that you can't jump them off. Why can't they be jump started?

The 56-3N battery is a good option however. I just want more RC and CCA than the stock battery for peace of mind.

You guys are awesome on here. It's like having a bunch of grandfathers or mechanic buddies you can just call up and talk things over with. THANKS!!!
 

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Let me qualify my response - I am an electric car hobbyist. I'm afraid I know far more about lead-acid batteries than I really ever wanted to. The Optima is a great battery - when it works. The difference is how the internal construction handles the normal degradation of use.

Car Battery 101

You need to know roughly how a lead-acid battery works. The way-dumbed-down version is that each cell contains lead plates which essentially "dissolve" into hydrochloric acid, making electricity in the process. To recharge, you add back the electricity, which makes the dissolved lead re-deposit itself back on the plates. Simple enough?

A cell in a regular battery is a "sandwich" of multiples of these lead plates, with each plate separately suspended from a header which carries the electricity in and out. When a regular battery fails, it's because the dissolve/re-deposit cycle isn't perfect - there are lumps and bumps, and eventually these lumps on the plates build up to the point where they touch, shorting out the cell. Since this happens one at a time, your "12 volt" (6 x 2V cells) battery becomes 10V, and then 8V, and so on. The upshot here is that a failing battery is a gradual process, becoming weaker and weaker as each cell degrades into a short. I'll bet your battery has two failed cells, and if you measured the voltage on Monday morning it would be in the neighborhood of 7 to 9V.

(Side note - the "real" target voltage of a lead-acid cell is 2.2V, and it is possible to overcharge to a higher voltage. But the overcharge effect is only temporary. Enough of it will last overnight, and the next-morning voltage is probably in the 11-12V range. But wait a weekend, the overcharge dissipates, and you're seeing its real capacity.)


OK, let's get to the Optima. Its claim-to-fame is "spiral cell construction", essentially turning that lead sandwich we talked about in a regular car battery into a thinner sandwich of two (or four) big long strips of lead with a special acid-impregnated separator, all rolled-up like toilet paper. Same chemistry, same result, and theoretically better management of of the re-deposit process.

The problem with the Optima's "sudden fail" problem is the big long strips, combined with the separator. The dissolve/re-deposit process is uneven in both directions. With extended use, eventually one cell (of 6) will erode in one spot to where the strip breaks, the most vulnerable spot being the point where it attaches to the header (mentioned above). This failure then results in an open, where no electricity at all can pass through. Conversely, the separator in the Optima is almost a perfect prevention from it failing to a short in the same way as a regular car battery.

When a regular battery fails to a shorted cell, it at least passes the electricity through so the other cells remain useful. When an Optima fails, it, again, is to an open state, and no power can pass no matter how much you will it to.

When you "jump" a regular dead battery, you are temporarily overcharging it, and your car runs. But you can't jump a dead Optima, because it very literally is a brick of lead that will not conduct electricity. (Another side note - this doesn't include an Optima that's been completely discharged - that's different than failing outright. It will charge back up and behave normally, and usually will respond better to this abuse than a normal battery. It's when it has truly "died" that you can't do anything with it.)

So... bottom line... regular battery fails gradually, and you get some hint that it's going bad. Optima's design is pure go/no-go, with no hint whatsoever that you're about to be stranded.
 

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Counterpoint

Not disputing anything in Mike's post above or minimizing his failed-battery experience, but here's my data point: I've been running a D31A Optima for 5 1/2 years, through six upstate New York winters. It has been perfect. When it's time, I'll replace it with another. But, I'm OK with the idea that I could theoretically get stuck with an irreparable battery, and have to either install a new one by the side of the road, or have the car towed. OTOH the same could be said of my fuel pump—if it fails, I'm stuck, and I don't carry a spare. You pays your money and you makes your choice.
 

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Ah, yes - but, like brakes, spark plugs, belts, etc., a battery is a "consumable". A fuel pump is not, technically. A battery will need to be replaced during a vehicle's normal useful life, at least twice. A fuel pump (knock on wood) will probably not.

You know I had an Optima since very early on, and it worked great up to the end... and that end came without warning. Many others have experienced the same thing, and it is an unintended "feature" artifact of the design. It's not the running performance that bothers me, it's the lack of notice of imminent failure that one would normally get with a "lesser" battery. If Optima was smart they'd design a way to jumper around the open cell for a "limp" mode, but that would add to the price for a feature that only an EE would love... or, frankly, know what to do with.

So... my choice is that I'll take half the service life with a plain-vanilla battery at 1/3 the price that gives me a little warning, versus being stranded outright with a "superior" battery. Heck, if I was throwing money at it I'd get an EnerSys Odyssey, which would last the life of the vehicle (and then some) without the failure-state baggage of the Optima. But I'd be friggin' nuts to put a $400 battery in a car with 110K on the clock. :|

It's sorta kinda back to the bottom line - most folks want some inkling they're about to have a problem and have a few days to brace for impact. The sudden-failure issue means you deal with it now, with no options other than emptying your wallet on the spot.
 

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- most folks want some inkling they're about to have a problem and have a few days to brace for impact. The sudden-failure issue means you deal with it now, with no options.
... and not being able to jump-start the vehicle when the battery goes is the real kicker. I can't count the times I've had to jump start my or family or friend's, or even stranded stranger's car or truck, sometimes where the alternative was someone being stranded in a bad area or what could deteriorate into a dangerous situation for them.
 

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Having had some experience with the Optima, I can add only, that when you jump start the car, It will run! Until you remove the Jumper cables!

It was a frustrating night by the side of the road for us, I wound up pulling a battery out of a junk motorcycle that was parked beside a closed gas station at 3 AM. Then using Jumpers to the car's cables to keep it running. At least we were able to get the car off a narrow side road that had no street lights.

Dom
 

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Documented my issues here:
http://www.elementownersclub.com/forums/showthread.php?t=61394

I'm on my third battery and my E only has 35,000 miles on it. I love my E but my next battery will definitely not come from Honda.
Did they (or you at an indy Auto Parts store) check your electrical system, ie. the Voltage Regulator and the Alternator?

If your system is constantly overcharging the battery, that would shorten the life of the battery pretty significantly. Reason I ask, is a friend had a similar problem with his Jeep eating batteries. Turned out he had a faulty voltage regulator sending too much charge to the battery - basically cooking it. One way to tell, is how hot it gets in use.
 

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Did they (or you at an indy Auto Parts store) check your electrical system, ie. the Voltage Regulator and the Alternator?

If your system is constantly overcharging the battery, that would shorten the life of the battery pretty significantly. Reason I ask, is a friend had a similar problem with his Jeep eating batteries. Turned out he had a faulty voltage regulator sending too much charge to the battery - basically cooking it. One way to tell, is how hot it gets in use.
I really wish I had asked the Honda tech to at least check the alternator. He just said it was a bad battery and this was normal wear. What is really confusing is the battery they they replaced now has a 100 month warranty?
 
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