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Discussion Starter #1
Wondering if anyone has or had this problem? My '04 Element has developed a "buzzing" sound behind the gas guage cluster quite often when I attempting to start the vehicle. When this happens the starter does not engage and the Element will not start. I release the key and try again and usually there is no problem on the second or third attempt. However, the occurrences of the "buzzing" with the turn of the key are becoming much more frequent - from occasional to almost every day.
The Element has been at the dealer twice over the past 4 months for routine maintenance and each time I've mentioned the "noise". On the first visit, the tech said he found no problem. On the second visit, the service desk person showed me a bulletin from Honda that advise the service department basically, Yes, we know there is a problem with some of the starter relay/ solenoids - just tell the customer to "turn the key faster". (The gentleman knew if he told me that I'd think he was insulting my intelligence and that is why he allowed me to read the service bulletin myself.)
However, even with a quick trun of the key I'm still encountering the 'buzz' and I'm very concerned this relay may fail entirely while I'm out on the road somewhere with my large breed hounds in the back.
Has anyone else encountered this problem? Solutions? Is it difficult to replace the starter relay/solenoid?
Thanks for your help,
Sherry
 

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...Is it difficult to replace the starter relay/solenoid?...
To paraphrase a common altruism: Difficulty is in the eye of the beholder.

The start relay is located in the underdash fuse panel - pull the old one out, install a new one. They can be difficult to remove in that there is not much surface area to grab with your fingers and there is quite a bit of retention force that will need to be overcome.

The starter solenoid is integral to the starter, which is located below the intake manifold and requires a fair amount of disassembly for access.

The start relay (and all relays) consist of a control circuit where a relatively small amount of current (typically less than 200 milli-amps) flows through a fine wire coil around an iron core creating a magnetic field. The magnetic field pulls a thin metal strip towards the magnet, closing circuit contact points through which flows the large amount of output current that the particular relay controls.

When the start relay "buzzes" the thin metal contact strip is not being firmly held in place to the stationary contact by the magnetic field, and the two contact points through which the output current is supposed to flow vibrate against one another - creating noise, an inability for the correct amount of output current to flow (ie: the starter doesn't engage) and electrical arcing (with resultant burning and ultimate damage) between the two contacts.

The real question arises as to why, specifically, the relay contacts are not making fast and secure contact with one another when the relay is energized.

Insufficient current flow through the control coil of the relay will result in a weak magnetic field being genererated. Current flow is directly proportional to available voltage, and inversely proportional to resistance.

The diagnostic of the issue, with resulting "solution" would be to capture electrical data of the event while it is occurring and measuring voltage drops accross various components of the circuit, which would be the ignition switch, related wiring and the relay itself.

Simple concept, and relatively easy diagnosis - provide the diagnostic tests are being performed correctly while the fault is actually present.

Short of proper diagnosis, it's all pure guess-work and speculation.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Stater Relay Buzz Reply

Thanks for the indepth analysis. So the quick, immediate fix and to see if the problem may be related to insufficient voltage would be the repalcement of the relay and see what happens next?
 

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So the quick, immediate fix and to see if the problem may be related to insufficient voltage would be the replacement of the relay and see what happens next?
Not necessarily. If the relay isn't getting the voltage it needs, replacing it might seem to "fix" the problem, yet only mask it. How old is your battery? If the answer is "original," replace it. Given the number of complaints we've seen, it seems Honda sourced a just-barely-adequate relay, and a borderline battery voltage could make the difference in the relay misbehaving.

To really know where the problem lies, you'd have to heed Honda Tech's advice: "capture electrical data of the event while it is occurring and measuring voltage drops accross various components of the circuit, which would be the ignition switch, related wiring and the relay itself."
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Starter Relay Buzz

Capturing it at the time it happens will be difficult since it is a random - not always predictable occurrance. I think I will print the "posts" to this query and with that paper-in-hand visit my local Honda dealer again! FYI: The battery will be two years old in November and it tests strong across all cells.
Thanks for your input,
MEinVT
 

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Do we know how things turned out for MEinVt? Changing out the part that is actually buzzing is relatively inexpensive as a DIY project and sure beats the "buy a new battery first" solution. I always like to hear how these problems are solved successfuly!:)
 

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Do we know how things turned out for MEinVt? Changing out the part that is actually buzzing is relatively inexpensive as a DIY project and sure beats the "buy a new battery first" solution. I always like to hear how these problems are solved successfuly!:)
I have a brand new battery and brand new starter and I'm getting the buzz and no start thing...(starts after multiple attempts)
I think I have it narrowed down to start relay and or shift position sensor.
I to would love to hear the outcome of MEinVt's issue.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Relay Issue

On my second/third visit to the dealer's service department, I was given "hands-on" instructions on how to properly start my Element to prevent the relay "buzz". :roll:

If I follow the this technique the "buzz" does not occur:

Turn the key to the accessory position and then reposition my hand on the key so that I'm at my original starting point before twisting my wrist and turning the key to the start position.

So, that begs the question? Is it a relay problem or an ignition switch problem. Whichever it is, Honda is still unwilling to admit there is an issue that needs to be corrected. As I noted previously, the official solution is to advise the customer "to turn the key faster".
 

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On my second/third visit to the dealer's service department, I was given "hands-on" instructions on how to properly start my Element to prevent the relay "buzz". :roll:

If I follow the this technique the "buzz" does not occur:

Turn the key to the accessory position and then reposition my hand on the key so that I'm at my original starting point before twisting my wrist and turning the key to the start position.

So, that begs the question? Is it a relay problem or an ignition switch problem. Whichever it is, Honda is still unwilling to admit there is an issue that needs to be corrected. As I noted previously, the official solution is to advise the customer "to turn the key faster".
In your original post in this thread you mentioned that your E. doesn't always start on the first attempt. Are you still having this issue despite using the new 'start technique' suggested by Honda?

Thanks for replying...much appreciated!
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Relay Issue

Not often enough to have it be a real concern. However, my local dealer does know that since I have discussed this with the service manager that if I'm ever stranded because my Element fails to start. He'll be the first one I call and he better have a van or another Element ready to pick me up as I usually have one or two of my hounds with me and they weigh in at 175 pounds and are 3 feet tall or taller (at the shoulder) Most of the rental car companies don't allow dogs and it would be kind of hard to hide mine:).
 

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Not often enough to have it be a real concern.
But it does still happen?
What a joke...Honda has no 'real' fix...a clear defect in quality and or craftsmanship and no fix....UNBELIEVABLE!
Sounds Kia or Hyundai like to me.

Attention Honda: Where are you headed?
 

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My 2003 is doing this religiously. It took me 6 minutes to start it after work today. I put it on a battery charger overnight a few days ago and it did the same thing in the morning @ 13.6v. Sometimes it'll start first try, sometimes not for a few rotations of the key. When it is being very stubborn it doesn't matter if I wiggle the shifter, switch to neutral and back to park or flip the key around. It's pure chance as to when it'll actually turn over. I've tried everything, even the "factory" recommended procedure. I'm sure it's the starter cut relay that's at the heart of the issue because I can feel it very distinctly and can even change the pitch of the noise by pressing on the relay housing.

I'm going outside to pull the power window relay and switch it with the starter cut relay. I went to the dealership and the only relays they could find in the system were Omron and one other brand I can't remember. All 4 of the ones in the underdash fuse panel in my car are Tyco, maybe this is an indicator that they have decided it is an issue?

The dealership was gracious enough to order one of every single relay that's supposed to be in my car because the part number I took in off the Tyco one wasn't listed anywhere. I'll report back in a few days with my findings.

Anyone else have one get this bad? What was your outcome?
 

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I switched the relays and it's not as bad. Starts in less than 30s now. I'm thinking it has to be in the keyswitch now. I'm going to contact Honda about the recall involving the safety mechanism and see if I can get that serviced. Hopefully I can have them check my contacts while they have it all torn down on their nickel.
 

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Starter relay buzz

I've had this problem on my '03 Element for several years. Now it has become much worse and sometimes I have to keep trying for several minutes before it will send power to the starter motor. I've read all the reports here and Honda's lame position to "turn the key hard" but that has no effect. I just installed a new battery and it made no difference. Has anyone had any success with this problem??
 

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Giving up

:evil:So no fixes have ever been found to this problem which has been identified and investigated for several years now.

Mine is so bad now my wife got stuck in the parking lot at the mall and it took almost 30 minutes before it started.

OK, time to buy a new car and guess what it definitely is not going to be? Never another Honda! Never! Never!
 

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Starter relay buzz

Simple solution. Take the key and place in the ignition. Instead of using your thumb on top and forefinger on bottom of the key, reverse it. Move the the key to position "II". Now put the forefinger on top and the thumb on the bottom. What this does is create leverage when you turn the key. If any of you have contacted Honda they instruct you to turn the key quickly.
This technique of using the forefinger on top and thumb on bottom of the key create a natural quick turn. I have a 2006 Element with over 270K miles and appreciate this blog.
Happy starting.
 

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Do we know how things turned out for MEinVt? Changing out the part that is actually buzzing is relatively inexpensive as a DIY project and sure beats the "buy a new battery first" solution. I always like to hear how these problems are solved successfuly!:)
mine does it too, what part do you change to make the buzzing quit? im some sort of a do-it-yourselfer so Im thinking I could put it on myself. maybe message me the part number or name of the part. Thanks VERY much.
 
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