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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This morning, I unlocked my e from thirty feet away with my eight year old remote. Opened door and found green key symbol flashing indicating "immobilizer" system activated. I have searched for similar problem and found none. I have looked in owner's manual and my trusty shop manual. Since my key is no where near the ignition switch, let alone inserted, I am baffened at what is going on!!
This situation has been going on for over two months and happens only once in seven days. This morning at 7: 45 am , last monday morning at 7:45 am. Every week, it happens once at 7:45 am , usually on monday.
With the green key symbol flashing, I can put in my key and turn to start. Only other light that comes on is a solid Check engine lite. When I try to start the car, it cranks over perfectly but will not fire. Clearly gas is off as per immobilizer function. It is not an unlock/alarm malfunction as that system prevents starter from functioning.
If I remove key from switch, check engine light flashes very rapidly and green key lite still flashes. I have been disconnecting battery, rather than have what ever is going on continue.
I can actually start car with three or more seperate attempts to start using foot on throttle. When engine starts, it sounds just fine but I have no gage lights or gage readings. No tac rpm showing. I have a dim parking brake light on even if I release parking brake. Gage cluster transmission indicator only lights up P and N, other positions do not lite when shifter is moved. I have driven car in this condition around block etc and brought it back home. After ten to fifteen min with engine running, something "wakes up" and all systems are perfect for the next seven to eight days.:|
At this moment car is just fine as everything "woke Up".
I would like to avoid a "wallet flush" on this one and want to be as informed as possible before I darken the dealer's door.
The immobilizer being activated from afar with no key near by is really strange. Systems "waking up" indicates Multiplex problems. ONCE A WEEK!
As problems are electronic, my Scan gage II says no codes found.
I have tried to be as concise as possible. Love my toaster and would greatly appreciate any input. :?
 

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It is not an unlock/alarm malfunction as that system prevents starter from functioning.
If you have an alarm system that prevents the starter from functioning, you have an after-market alarm system.

Start there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Soom Mook: Thanks for your input. That's where I started two months ago. Went to three different alarm places and priced removing the after market alarm system that I had installed back in '03. They all said that since the starter is working fine during this episode, the alarm system is not the problem. The starter works fine, there is no fuel, therefor immoblizer function/malfunction.
During my forum search, I read about folks paying to have alarm systems removed and the work was shoddy and sloppy. I have looked at my installation and don't want to touch it without the original diagram.
Since I have done everything I can personally do, document exactly the sequence of events, I hope to approach alarm guys and Independent Honda shops with the problem before going to dealer. Hope to find someone besides dealer that can pull up any electronic codes that my Scan Gage II will not detect. If the past is prolog, I have five or six more days before the "event" happens again. Thanks again for your interest.:)
 

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You've a ghost in the machine.

If it can be tested by a competant technician while the fault is occurring, an acurate diagnosis would be possible.

If you took it to a Honda technician with an un-duplicatable concern, the first suggestion they will make will be to return the vehicle electrically to OEM configuration. This is what Honda Technical assistance will recommend if they were contacted, regardless of your belief that the after-market system is not the root cause of the fault. Not trying to start an argument, just stating a reality.

The issue could be created if the switched ignition circuit was powered without a valid key (or no key) in the ignition. Corrosion / moisture in a fuse block could cause this. An internally shorted ignition switch could cause this. A stuck main relay could cause this. Shorted wiring could cause this. A defective remote start system could cause this. Electrical gremlins can be ambient temperature sensitive, and very frustrating to isolate.

Of course, since the fault only occurs on Monday, maybe you could try playing the Boomtown Rats "Tell me why (I don't like Mondays)" for your E. If ineffective at resolving your issue, at least it'll give you something to hum when the E acts up again...
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Some Mook, thank you again for your interest and input. I absolutely agree with you about removing the after market system and returning to oem status.
I have put all my effort into trying to understand what is going on with my toaster and protect myself with some knowledge when dealing with the experts. I googled "independent Honda Specialist" for my area of south Orange County Calif. and found one relatively near to my home. I went by this morning and repeated my tale of issues with my toaster. They listened to me very patiently and their eyes did not glaze over at all! Then they said that the only course of action that they would recommend is to "RETURN THE CAR TO ORIGINAL" and proceed from there! They do have proper Honda specific test equipment to use if necessary.
I liked the way they treated me and am confident that I will not experience a "wallet flush"! Will keep you all posted of my progress. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Went to a very good independent Honda shop wed morning and they removed my after market system entirely and put everything back to OEM .
E started normally for the next 36 hours comprising more than 20 starts utilizing the key only to enter the vehicle.
Last night at 1130 pm, unlocked door with key and placed key on driver's seat while I removed my suit coat and hung it in rear of E. Turned around to see green key light flashing and my key still on driver's seat! I then put key in ignition switch and tryed to start car. Seemed like all or most lights came on as I turned key to starter position. Starter cranked over normally, but engine did not start right away. I continued to crank engine and pumped gas and the engine started just fine. No shudder or anything and all was normal. Very frustrating indeed.:?
I have unlocked and started E three times already today with absolutely no problem.

Early on in this situation, I did switch to opening and locking my E with the key, but one morning the green key light came on under that circumstance so I just went back to using the remote.

I will go back to shop as soon as I can and they may(hopefully) find an electronic code to help trouble shoot this situation. Any input gratefully accepted.:|
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Returned to the shop with my story from last night. Since I did not get a check engine light, they said there would be no code to find. Also reminded me that my E is not a '62 beetle and don't bother to pump gas peddle. I should hold gas peddle down about half way instead!: From my search I can see that this particular fault has not happened to anyone else.
Its not fun being special. Will continue to continue...Any input greatly appreciated.:)
 

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Don't think you need to touch the gas pedal at all. I never have.
The only time the throttle pedal would need to be pressed on a fuel injected vehicle is if the spark plugs were fouled (flooded). Holding the throttle wide open during engine cranking signals the PCM/ECM to enter 'clear flood' mode and deactivate the fuel injectors so that additional gasoline is not exacerbating the situation.
 

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I will go back to shop as soon as I can and they may(hopefully) find an electronic code to help trouble shoot this situation. Any input gratefully accepted.:|
You are not going to get a trouble code out of this one. Too many technicians use DTCs as a crutch.

Now that the after-market alarm system has been removed from the list of possible scenarios, it comes down to what I indicated earlier - at least part of the Ignition Switched B+ circuit is getting power without the ignition switch being operated.

Re-reading your posts, it seems that you have indicated that you have either unlocked the doors with the remote, or opened a door before you noticed the immobilizer lamp flashing. Have you ever noticed the light flashing without any prior action on your part - as in: you approach your vehicle without doing anything other than peer in the window to see if the light is flashing?

If the situation only occurs after an unlock/door opening action, then one of the circuits that becomes active as a result of that action is cross-feeding a switched ignition B+ circuit. Since it is wildly intermittant, it is more likely a corrosion issue within a connector than a wiring harness wire-to-wire short. Also since the wiring harnesses were likely moved around a bit as the after-market accessory was removed, it is less likely a wire-to wire issue since the scenario has remained essentially un-changed - if it was wiring it would usually make the situation worse or better after the wiring is 'wiggled' around.

Get an electrical wiring manual for your vehicle, review the ignition switch circuit connectors, immobilizer, interior lamp (dome lamps) and multiplex connectors. Any and all connectors that share these particular circuits should be inspected for corrosion within the connector as well as the pins in any junction block that a connector may plug into. It would not be a bad idea to review the grounds for the circuits that become powered as a result of unlocking and opening the doors either, especially if it is a common ground for a control module. Perform voltage drop tests on these grounds, as high resistance in a ground can, and often does, cause abnormal circuit operation between circuits one would ordinary not expect to be related. An example would be "I hit the horn pad and my wipers start to operate!".
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
OK already, I will not touch the gas peddle.:oops: Drove Vtroubleyous for too many years.
Early this morning I googled "03 honda element immoblizer problems" and the Honda Tech.com site came up with a post from a member last nov. with EXACTLY the same issues and experiences that I had/have. He has gotten nowhere also according to his only post.
Thank you for your wounderful input. I do have the shop manual and it has some electrical line diagrams that I have looked at. With your encouraging advice, I will now study the diagrams and go from there. The fellow who posted on the other forum said he had been to dealer and to Honda itself with no real help beyound guessing. Thank you.:)

PS I changed to my never used spare key early on in this series of events, no difference. Removes that variable from the list. Thanks for input and interest.

During this time, I have looked in window to see no key flashing and then used remote to un lock car. Key light started flashing on those occasions subsequent to using remote. Last wed nite there was no key light flashing when I used key to manually open door. I did not see key lite flashing as I hung up my coat in the dark. Turned around to find lite flashing. In all instances, key was never near the ignition switch.
 

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I am the person on the Honda Tech forum that is having similar problems. Here is what I've posted over there: We are original owners of a 2003 Honda Element EX w/auto trans that began having an intermittent starting problem about 18 months ago. When trying to start the vehicle, the immobilizer system would appear not recognize our key, which prevents the vehicle from starting. After turning the key 20-30 times, the vehicle would eventually start. Problem could happen again the next time you had to start the car and also several times in a row, or disappear and not happen for weeks or even a couple of months initially. The problem now occurs with greater frequency and when the car does eventually start after immobilizer has acted up, we don't have any dash light or dash gauges, except the emergency brake light in on (even though the emergency brake lever is actually off). Sometimes the dash lights and gauges will come back on after 10-15 minutes, or they might stay off until the car is turned off and started again. No OBD-II codes are being thrown. Honda dealer has tried to help but it is a guessing game. We have replaced the immobilizer unit in the steering column, replaced all keys and replaced the electrical portion of the ignition switch in the steering column - none of this helped. Battery has been tested according to Honda's protocol and is OK, as we thought perhaps it was not maintaining proper voltage. I've called Honda's 800 number for consumer problems but they more or less told me that you're on your own, as the car is out of warranty. District Service Rep for Honda didn't do much either. Can any one please help? Has anyone had a similar problem? UPDATE POSTED 2/26/11: We are still having problems but replaced our battery yesterday to see if perhaps this was the problem. This is a long shot, but our problem started just a few months after buying a Honda 100 month replacement battery at our dealer. On top of this, I have a friend who is a long-time mechanic (wrenches on makes other than Honda - high end European makes) and he has repeatedly told me to replace the battery, but I felt that this wasn't the right way to go, since battery tested OK at Honda dealer and I didn't really want to throw away another $100 on a hunch. What finally convinced me is that we've had a very cold winter (we're in Michigan) and the battery would barely start the car this past week and the battery is exactly 2 years old. There is also a Honda technical service bulletin out there that says problems can result w/immobilizer if battery voltage drops, which has stuck in the back of my mind even though our battery has checked out OK. New battery is a NAPA Legend in 51R case, as per original spec. Will have to see if this helps w/our problem, as it's only been 24 hours and problem is intermittent. Honda still has not helped us at all, just guessing, as problem will not occur while the Element is at the dealers.
 

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Shaggy77, are you having the issue where the immobilizer lamp is flashing when you open the vehicle, or does the light flash while you are trying to start the vehicle? Does the engine crank when turning the key to the 'start' position or are you turning the key 20-30 times to the start position before the engine cranks?

Trying to correlate the "EXACTLY the same issues and experiences" statement by Elementery in the previous post.

Similar perhaps, but "exactly"?
 

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Mook: First off, we do NOT have an alarm in the car (factory or otherwise). Also, the immobilizer in Honda vehicles shuts off the fuel supply to the engine, it does not prevent the engine from turning over. Here is exactly what happens: we will enter the car, put the key in the ignition and turn the key to start and the Element will not start - it just keeps cranking over and the green immobilizer light on the dash blinks on & off and sometimes you can hear the relays clicking on & off multiple times (these are on the ECM located inside the passenger compartment, on the fire wall down near the right side of the front passenger's feet). If you return the ignition key back towards you and then turn it again to start, the car will not start, again only turning over. My wife & I repeat this process multiple times (sometimes as many as 20-30 times) before the car will start. After the car eventually starts, the dash board lights and gauges do NOT work, but the emergency brake light indicator on the dash will be on, even though the emergency brakes will be off/released. For a few months, the dash would come to life after maybe 10-15 miles, but now the dash light can stay off entirely during a short trip of 30-40 miles. The next time you come to start the car, it may very well exhibit absolutely no problems, start fine and the dash lights and gauges are working fine. As mentioned previously, there is a TSB warning that immobilizer problems can occur if the battery voltage drops below 9-10 volts and Honda has specified a very specific method to fully check a battery, even specifying the type of tester needed to thoroughly test the battery. That said, our battery always checked out good at the Honda dealer while they followed the recommended testing process in the TSB (TSB is dated 10/5/06 and titled "Engine Cranks but Doesn't Start. Immobi Light Blinks").
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Good to see you shaggy77.:)
Removing my after market sytem is definitely the first step for me to start eliminating possible causes.
My issue has always been the immobilizer lite is flashing BEFORE I insert key in ignition.
I have covered what happens next in earlier posts. What is interesting is that I have started engine after several attempts by pumping the accelerator. My shop guy and everyone here says that is a not a good idea. OK. But engine started each time and I had no dash lights or cluster gages. As I said earlier, things seemed to "wake up" which is a term used in shop manual in context with multiplex issues.
I am glad to see what shaggy77 has replaced to no apparent avail. My battery is only about four months old now. That means that my battery was only less than two months old when my immobilizer problems started. This is a very strange problem and I am grateful to MOOK for his patient input. I have my shop manual out and am trying to get with Mook's advice now. I hope to follow Mook's suggestions as soon as possible. All input appreciated. Thanks!
 

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Shaggy77, your issue and Elementery's are obviously very similar, not exactly the same if I am reading all of your posts correctly, but very similar - one has a flashing Immobilizer indicator without even having a key in the ignition, both have cranking no start conditions with immobilizer lamps flashing, both exibit conditions where the gauge assemblies do not operate normally.

If either of you had access to a Honda technician who has access to Honda's scan tool, I'd ask to have the immobilizer data accessed, specifically the number that would be stored indicating the number of start attempts made where the system disallowed engine start. I suspect that number would be quite high.

A similar issue occurred regarding Civics, if memory serves it was for '06 / '07 era vehicles. The issue happened frequently enough that Honda identified the fault as the multiplex control module, which required replacement of the under-dash fuse panel. While Civics and Elements cannot be compared side-by-side (although they could be more favorably compared to each other than, say, a Mercedes and an Element ;-) ) both have multiplex modules internal to the underdash fuse panels, both use the multiplex control module in very similar fashions. The multiplex module is involved with gauge module operation and shares common power supplies with the immobilizer.

Incidently, since both of you mention the brake warning light illuminated with the park brake not applied, it might interest you to know that the park brake switch provides a common input to both the immobilizer and to the multiplex control module. I do not suggest that the parking brake circuit is the fault, just point out that it is common circuit-wise to the modules in question, which would lend credence to the suggestion that I am about to make.

I am thinking at this point that it is a good possibility that the issues you both describe is pointing to a faulty multiplex control module. This makes the most sense to me, based on both of your descriptive accounts of the observed symptoms. There are a few circuit voltage tests I would want to make if I had access to the vehicle in question before I'd jump in and replace the under dash fuse panel, but it actually may well be the correct repair choice under the circumstances.

I am also somewhat familiar with Honda TSBs regarding starting issues attributed to low voltage conditions, as well as a number of other conditions that can occur with various vehicle systems which can be impacted by low voltage issues.

I can also tell you with complete conviction that the tools and procedures that Honda suggests / requires for battery testing are actually pretty farsical. I have personally printed out ED-18 and GR-8 (both are Honda's official battery testing tools) test results indicating that a battery is 'good' when I knew going in that the battery most certainly was NOT good, waited 5 minutes and re-ran the same test with a result of "bad cell, replace battery". The Honda rep basically shrugged his shoulders and said something along the lines of "huh..." Not surprising that it took me about 3 years to get Honda to finally recognize that the '07 and up Element wiring diagram for the SRS system had terminal locations that were labeled backwards of actual configuration. They did respond fairly quickly when I brought to their attention that CAN B bus control modules can actually operate when the primary circuit protective fuse has blown because the back-up voltage circuit can "wake up" the module.

Fun stuff.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
Some Mook, yes this is exciting stuff indeed:) I have only had my problem for 2 1/2 months.
The iluminated parking brake lite was DIM each time the incident occured and the parking brake was disengaged, for what ever that means.

I agree that the multiplex unit is suspect as the gages etc "woke up" well after I was able to get the engine running on every incident except thursday night's event. Immobilizer lite was flashing as I turned ignition on, cranked the engine, and pumped the accelerator. All systems came up immediately as I got the engine to start up.:
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Shaggy77: I found your Nov.2010 post on other forum this morning and noted issues about lack of cluster lights and parking brake lite problem. You did not mention these items in your Nov. 2009 posts on this forum. Did these items develop later in your time frame after nov. '09? I have had these issues from the start of this problem. I am waiting for my next episode and need to price out a possible multiplex repair.:|
 

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The problems with our dash lights and gauges failing did not begin until after several months of having immobilizer problems - I'd say almost six months later. Our problem as been going on now for over 18 months. The first time was in May, 09 at 1AM in parking ramp of Detroit Metro Airport - not a place you want to be stranded at this time of night. Problem did not occur again for almost four months after this and continues to occur with more frequency, but still not frequent enough to act up while Element is at the dealer (even though we've left it there twice for an entire week, telling the service people that they could drive the vehicle as much as needed in the hopes of getting the immobilizer to act up). I wonder if it's odd that we've both replaced batteries a few months before this problem started? As Mook confirms, battery testing can be a crap shoot and this was also reinforced by my mechanic friend who urged me to replace our battery. So what is the expense of replacing the multiplex control module? I have the factory shop manual and electrical manual, so will have to look and see if this is a repair that I can do myself or is best left to a dealer (I do a fair amt of wrenching myself).
 
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