2002 Honda Civic Electrical Issue

  • 2002 HONDA CIVIC
  • 4 CYL
  • 2WD
  • 121,000 MILES
Dear 2CarPros,
I am having some sort of electrical issue with my 2003 Honda Civic EX Coupe. Today, while idling, the ABS light turned on. Simultaneously, my headlights and other lighting dimmed, the radio reset, and there was some sort of dull "popping" through the car speakers. The A/C was on max cool also. However, when I turned the A/C off, everything went back to normal, including the ABS light turning off. Realizing this was some sort of electrical issue, I tested other loads on the system. I turned my headlights off and turned on the A/C again. Nothing happened until I rolled down the driver's side window. Again, the condition reappeared in the exact same manner. I am sure that other load combinations would produce the same effect, but all have one thing in common, the A/C. Now, some recent background, which may or may not be relevant. About two weeks ago, I had the A/C recharged by a nation-wide, ASE certified total care care establishment. No problems were reported to me concerning the A/C system, other than the low refrigerant level. Also, when starting the car, over the last couple of days, the cranking has been very weak, as if the battery is dying. This is the second battery in the vehicle, and is relatively new. I have tested the battery, under no load, and it registers 12+ volts. I am no "expert" in car repair, but I am very handy. I am sure it is not the underlying issue. I feel something deeper is at fault for the electrical problems, but I am not sure where to start with a diagnosis. Like many these days, I do not have the money to make a number of trips to the repair shop, ending up with several, unnecessary repairs until finally, the root cause is discovered and remedied. I would much rather have a "ballpark" idea about the issue before proceeding with repairs. Any advice you can provide is very much appreciated!
Do you
have the same problem?
Sunday, June 27th, 2010 AT 6:05 PM

1 Reply

Hi 2k2CivicOwner. Welcome to the forum. This sounds typical of a generator problem. Use your voltmeter to measure battery voltage again but this time with the engine running. You must find between 13.75 and 14.75 volts. If it is low, the battery will never fully recharge. If the voltage is correct or even a little high, have it checked for its maximum current capability. This is called a load test. One defective diode out of the six of them will reduce the maximum capacity to around one third of its rated design capacity. That means a 90 amp generator will only produce around 30 amps which isn't enough to keep up with lights, heater / ac fan, and the ac compressor clutch. The voltage regulator will see the momentary drop in output voltage and respond by bumping up charging voltage which is why you might see a little higher than normal voltage at the battery.

Another problem that only happens on Hondas is if you added anything electrical such as an amp or cell phone charger. Their computerized systems poll all factory-installed electrical devices to see which ones are turned on, then the computer directs the generator to deliver just that much current and no more regardless of what system voltage is. Added on items aren't included in that poll so their use discharges the battery over time. I'm not sure which model year they started doing that silliness but you would have noticed that long before now. The exception would be if you recently added something electrical to your car.

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Sunday, June 27th, 2010 AT 8:32 PM

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