Honda Civic Hybrid Cutaway[UPDATE June 29 2011]: There seem to be a lot of interest on IMA battery replacement. I just called my local dealer, and he said, for sure Honda does NOT offer free replacement of the IMA battery. He was not aware of any service bulletin that offers it. He also said the California State EPA law may extend the warranty for the IMA battery, but not the 2003 HCH.  So, unfortunately, for those who still have the 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid, you’ll need to shell out $4000 (plus labor) to get a new IMA battery.  Alternatively, sell it and get a regular non-Hybrid car because IMA batteries are just costly to replace.

Every car owner worry about spending money to repair his/her car due to regular wear and tear.  An equipment with so many moving parts will require a lot of maintenance work.  It’s a necessary evil.  With an electric-gasoline hybrid cars, there is an added problem: the main battery.  When it’s damaged, it’s going to be expensive to replace.  This is what hybrid owners have been dreading, including myself.

Honda does not have an official word on why a Civic Hybrid’s IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) battery might fail.  But a technical bulletin to service dealers suggested a similar problem with Honda’s first hybrid cars, the Insight, which used the same IMA technology.  The letter said modules controlling the battery charging mechanism, allowed overcharging.  However, repeated overcharging could cause overheating and reduce the life of the battery.  Combine that with the hot weather in places like California or Arizona, the battery would die even faster.

The letter might explain my situation.  For the past few weeks, there have been record high temperatures in Southern California.  I noticed my 2003 Civic Hybrid car’s IMA light came on and off, indicating a possible problem with the main engine battery.

Last week, I took the car to a local Honda dealer down the street and had them check it out.  They told me that it was possibly due to a false reading in the ECM (Electronic Control Module) device. This should also fix the issue I had with the Check Engine light reporting a catalytic converter failure.  They summarily reset both indicators and returned the car to me.  This Monday morning, the light came back on!  It looks like the ECM software update doesn’t fix anything.

In California, there is a warranty extension for the IMA battery to 10 years/150k miles.  However, this only applies to Civic Hybrids with SULEV (Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicles) specification.  For some odd reason, the State only gave my car a ULEV.  So I’m out of luck.

Now, I may not have a choice but to replace my IMA battery.  I called a few other dealers and they quoted me about $3000 to get a new one!   I can buy a lot of gas with that money! Or a down payment for a new car!

I don’t want to give up on my car just yet.  In the past few weeks, I watched the battery charge and MPG indicators.  I noticed I was down to 41 MPG on a full tank, or roughly 500 miles per 12 gallons. Even with the IMA battery poor condition,  I’m still getting a much better mileage than all economy/compact/sub-compact cars out there.   So it got me thinking:  Do I really need to replace the main battery?  My answer, at this point, is no.  The car is still drive-able and still saves a lot of fuel.

Some people suggested, after 5 years, the car’s life is at the end anyway, so it might better off for me to buy a new car.  It may be true in a cold climate cities when the car goes through adverse weather conditions and salted roads. In Southern California, the weather is moderate and mostly dry.  A well maintained car can last more than 10 years in this part of the country.  My last Civic was 8 years old when I had to trade it in for a larger car.  Similarly, I plan on using this Civic Hybrid, if it lets me, to go beyond 10 years, or at least until 2011 when my car pool lane HOV sticker expires.  There’s really no motivation for me to get rid of this car right now.

With the IMA battery still operational in a somewhat limited capacity, the car still getting a quite decent mileage and still in good condition, my hybrid car woe is not too bad. In the meantime, I think I’ll write to American Honda to petition a warranty exception for my car’s battery.  I’m hoping Honda has the sense to take care of me, one of their loyal customer. I’ll update this blog when (if) I get a word from them.

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161 Responses to “Hybrid Woe – IMA Battery”

  1. JJ says:

    So my IMA/Battery light is on. If I had known that it would cost $4500 to replace the hybrid battery, I would never have purchased this car.
    Anyways, has anyone checked out the site:http://www.hybrid-battery-repa.....ntact.html

    Anyone know a place in Vancouver BC where I can get the battery replaced for much cheaper???!

  2. Todd says:

    To replace the battery takes less then an hour start to finish, you can get a battery rebuilt from the website you mentioned but you can also go on and there are batteries available there. Additionally, sometimes has some. The Batteries are the same for 2003 – 2005 and then a different battery pack for 2006+

    There are words of caution to replace them and they are available all over the Web. “YOUTUBE” has a few, just be careful

  3. John says:

    I have used My battery was delivered to them on the 29th of November and I got it back on the 16th of February. My battery was in bad shape and I knew it when I sent it, so I ended up paying the maximum price. Fortunately, I did not need the car at that time and thus the wait was not a problem. I have had the battery in the car since February and I have not had any IMA light problems. My wife was able to get a calculated 50mpg (what it says it is getting is always about 5mpg better then what it actually gets) out of it this summer. Now that it is getting colder the mileage has dropped into the high 40’s. I removed the battery and installed it myself using the instructions from Hybrid-Battery-Repair.

  4. mcpie says:

    I have replaced a new IMA battery today. Honda USA paid for me.It’ s cool. I can save $2600 . But IMA light and Check Engine show up again.OBDII code are p1600 and p1449.I don’t know why.The dealer want to check again but I don’t have time today.I’ll go on Monday.

  5. seansong says:

    hi !

    i have just bought 2003 Hybrid 119k mile this morning , just drive a hour , ima and engine light both came out , i drive it back to the dealer , he told me tomolo come again , he will fix to me , or i can change another car suzuki forenza 2006 with 74k , what should i do ? can anyone help ! i just came chicago skokie a week , i have two kidd one 6 month baby , only my wife work , we dont hope buy a bad car , can anyone please try to help us !!? please !!!

  6. Email Server says:

    That is exactly the reason why I didn’t get one of those. IT is extremely expensive to replace one of those batteries. I wonder why more people didn’t think about that when buying the car.

  7. Seansong says:

    I have my car p1600 and p1449 too , the dealer use within 5min to make it disappear , then tell me all ok , don’t worry , but my friend told me they are only reset and not replace anything to me , ask me careful and do not believe the dealer , the ima system or batt still have problem , that’s why p1600 and p1449 will show out .

  8. Todd says:

    Seansong – You are absolutely correct, they will come back on, you have a bad cell in your IMA Battery. The only way to KEEP THEM OFF is to recondition the battery. My car had the same problem and I reconditioned the battery myself, saving me the Thousands.

  9. Jim Potter says:

    Hi Todd, I am thinking of buying a 2003 civic hybrid ima what should I look out for on a test drive? and if battery problems show up . How easy is it to repair the battery and How much would it cost to repair it? kind regards. Jim

  10. Vic says:

    To Jim Potter,

    If I had stumbled upon this site before buying my 03 civic hybrid I would have stayed away from it and not buy it. You should do the same.

  11. Todd says:

    Jim, I purchased a Honda Civic Hybrid (Same as you are looking at)and although I had to recondition the battery, I have NEVER thought that it was a bad idea as long as you buy the car at a good price. What you want to look at is drive the car up a long hill and see how quickly the battery (Gauge on the FAR RIGHT) and then see how quickly it charges. Other things is put at least 15 miles on it and get a feel for it and see if the IMA/BATTERY lights come on.

    I read a comment that was posted showing a long time to have their battery reconditioned. It takes me just over 20 days to test, recharge and recondition 2 sticks. I have thought about starting to recondition batteries seeing I have the equipment and 18 spare sticks, who knows. I do know that if there was 10 Civic hybrids that had bad batteries, I would PURCHASE ALL OF THEM and recondition the battery and then I could sell them.

    Long and Short of this all is…. GREAT CAR, 47+ MPG, reliable, comfortable, and the cost of reconditioning a battery is less than other cars being maintained.

  12. Todd says:

    One more comment for ALL to think about:

    A Timing Belt on a VW Jetta cost almost $1,000 to do every 60,000 miles. So putting things into perspective, you can go 120K before a battery problem if you use it continually (at least once a week). So comparing to to upkeep, it costs more to own a VW Jetta compared to a Civic Hybrid…. Just thoughts to ponder.

  13. Ghazi Merhebi says:

    Good day,

    I need to know from where and how I can buy an IMA battery for Hybrid Honda civic model 2003 with all details please


  14. Todd says:

    Ghazi Merhebi, When you talk about buying an IMA Battery, are you referring to a complete battery pack or a stick to rebuild yours? There are links above that you can contact and get information. I have rebuilt a couple of batteries so far, it takes me approx 21 days to test, rebuild and retest for my direct e-mail. There is a company in New York that does it and from EVERYBODY… he does a wonderful job for his web site. His name is Ron

    I have parts here at my location to rebuild 4-5 more batteries but not a complete battery and I do believe the same holds true for Ron but I am not sure.

  15. Scott says:

    Hi All. I have a 2003 HCH with 142000 on it. The IMA came on and I took it to dealer who said battery was wearing out and it needed a software update that might help, but if not needed new battery at $2600. I usually get about 43 mpg actual calculated; and the readout on car says 47 mpg. And even with the IMA light on I was getting that and the battery was fully charging. I now note the battery does not fully charge and the assist seems to come on sooner or with less push on the accelerator. I could usually prevent that by being light on the accelerator. I have only had it back a day, so I dont know the full implications of the software upgrade on milage. I will run one full tank and see. I am concerned that the software upgrade has made the situation worse. My evaluation will be more complicated because it is now getting cold here and I think the gasoline now has the added oxygen which every year I noticed knocks off a few mpg. We’ll see.

  16. JEFF says:

    i have a battery on ebay for 1 more day start bid is 199.99 if your interested 2003 HONDA IMA BATTERY

  17. Ashaar says:

    I just want to know whether we can run the car when the IMA battery dead/giving proplem because I am not worrying about fuel consuption if we can run the car also for how loan we can run(Month/Year).

  18. Todd says:

    Ashaar, to answer your questions I would need more information. But to attempt to answer it I will give you the following information.

    a. If the battery is dead (Bad), you can run for a VERY LONG time and it will reduce the NORMAL fuel performance but you will get around 38-41 MPG without the battery input.
    b. If the battery is dead (bad) due to the IMA (Charging portion), your car will not run long at all (the 12v Battery will eventually die and the car will STOP RURNNING).
    c. If your Check Engine light is on, what codes are showing, this will also give us additional information required to properly assist you in this particular problem

    P.S. Your car will not pass Inspection if your check engine light is on….

  19. Ashaar says:

    Thanks Todd for your propmt repply.

    I just want to know one more thing people are saying the battery is dying so quick and the honda doesn’t take the response for that. do you have any idea of that?

  20. Todd says:

    If you do not operate your vehicle for a couple of weeks, your battery will have a drain, if you do this a few times, it puts undo wear on your battery. If you drive your car daily, the VAST MAJORITY of people do not have a problem for years and years. Technology has improved by leaps and bounds over the years.

    The Gen 1 Honda Civic’s (2003-2005) have been improved upon and will continue to do so as data is collected and evaluated. I have ZERO HESITATION owning or buying these Hybrids for me, my children or anyone I call a friend. I have reconditioned over 20 batteries now and can perpetuate the life cycle of these for years to come. I have great confidence in Honda and their reliability. I reconditioned my 2003 Civic hybrid battery last year and I gained 6 MPG after doing so (I did have an IMA light) and after replacing 2 sticks, it runs perfectly. The 1.3 liter engine is GUT-LESS but for a transportation car, you can not beat it. This summer I was getting 51.7 MPG (it may have been 51.3). These cars are great….

  21. Jeff says:

    This might help some of you…

  22. Ashaar says:

    Thank you Todd and Jeff for your reply

  23. Ravneet says:

    I just bought a 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid this morning at a dealership with 120K miles on it. It drove perfectly fine as I test drove it, however as i brought the car back home (hour long drive), 30 mins in the Check engine light as well as the IMA light came on and so before going home I stopped by a honda dealership right next to my house and they told me that they were 90% its the battery and they would charge $110 bucks just to look at it. If its the Battery, that would result in a 2000-3000 replacement cost. I am full time commuter student (used all my savings on the car) and cant afford to spend more than $ 500 more on it. Should i go back and return the car, or is there any way to get out of this? Will my car drive normally (less mpg’s is ok) with these lights on for a while?

  24. Todd says:

    YOU need to return the car to the dealership you purchased it from. YOU have certain rights when you purchase the car and he time is ticking (SOONER the BETTER) and if you go more than 72 hours, you loose even more rights.

    Make sure you get WRITTEN DOCUMENTATION (HAVE THEM SIGN A DOCUMENT SHOWING YOU RETURNED THE CAR) showing the DATE and TIME you returned the car. What happened is they reset the light and it turns on after the computer attempts to charge the battery but was unable to charge ALL the sticks within certain operating limitations and then sets the light.

    THEY will more than likely say, Leave the car and we will take a look at it (EXTENDING THE CLOCK, thereby you losing your rights) and then that keeps you on the HOOK for the car.

    Then you need to determine what you want to do, do you want to have them repair it or get a different car (this is where it gets ugly possibly)… Can you put a FREEZE on the Check? Will these people work with you on the price with the issue, do you want the car, the list goes on and on and on…..

    There are things you can do to make your car good again. I have a 2003 Hybrid and I LOVE my car, I had to recondition my battery and it has been great since. Depending on where you live, we might be able to help you get it up and running MUCH LESS than the $2,000 – $3,000 you think. I am quite sure I could help you and depending on where you live (I live near Boston, MA), I can do it fairly quickly and cost effective (Normally Less than $1,000 depending on how many of the batteries are bad) but you pay shipping.

    But the first thing you should do is work things out with the DEALERSHIP and then we can talk.

    I have the equipment to rebuild batteries, it takes me approx 21 days to test, rebuild and retest ( ) for my direct e-mail.

    There is a company in New York that does it and from EVERYBODY… he does a wonderful job for his web site. His name is Ron

  25. Todd says:

    I got the Civic Hybrid Class Action Suit paperwork mailed directly to me yesterday, Honda is offering $100 per person. The site that Jeff mentioned above is correct and if you did not receive the paperwork directly here is the site to go to directly

    For the people who do not understand the difference between a RECONDITIONED Battery and purchasing a Used Battery:

    a. Used battery is just taken out of the car with no regard to age/usage/condition, it might last days, years or (Not work at all)

    b. Reconditioned has been tested, charged, retested, balanced, poor operating batteries replaced. Balancing means the 20 sticks inside the battery are within certain operating parameters.

  26. rudyamid says:

    I got the Class Action Suit claim paperwork also, and I promptly shredded it. The only people who will win with these lawsuits are the lawyers. Consumers get next to nothing, and it’s a waste of time.

  27. mbob says:


    i totally agree with you about the class action settlement: it’s a joke. but, do not ignore the paperwork: you’re included in the settlement unless you explicitly opt out before feb 11 2012. you’ll lose all your rights to seek real compensation if you don’t do that. go to dontsettlewithhondaorg for more information.

  28. CBD says:

    I find it funny that people are freaked out about the $3K cost of a new IMA battery… did you not know what you were getting into when you bought the car? I LOVE LOVE LOVE my 2003 HCH…I’m at 147,000 miles and about to have to shell out for my 3rd IMA battery (the first replacement was under warranty and while my CA dealer claims this next battery will be under warranty, I’m very suspicious that will be the case.) The fact of the matter is, I have saved thousands of dollars in fuel costs over the last 8 years (add in not needing to replace a timing belt) and I will proudly drive this car (still getting upwards of 50 mpg highway) until they pry it from my cold dead hands. In the long run, it’s all been worth it. Been checking out, but not sure I have the luxury of waiting for the battery to come in.

    Thanks for the class action info, that’s been sitting in my ‘to do’ pile for a bit now.

  29. Todd says:

    I must agree with CDB, I love my car, 2003 Hybrid, my battery went BAD due to sitting for few years after an accident. I purchased the car wrecked. Used it as fill work as my employees needed some extra work.

    I reconditioned my battery and it works great now, I get 47MPG on average, if I do a long drive and drive fast, It kills the gas mileage.

    For my car, this is what I have discovered:

    55 54
    60 51
    65 47
    70 44
    75 39

  30. Ricardo says:

    Thank you Todd for all the great information you share with us.

  31. Scott says:

    It’s been a month since they flashed the update on my 2003 HCH. It seems to be getting its normal 42 mpg calculated. Readout says 46 mpg. (I really would hope to get almost 50 calculated, even with conservative driving I can only get near that on a long flat trip – with my girlfriend driving…) The battery charge seems to go a lot deeper and doesn’t quite seem to really get to full as often as before; maybe to prevent overcharging. When I bought the car (2003), I thought the battery was about $800 or so. I think I have saved about 4,000 in gas cost, so 2600 for a new battery would take a big chunk of that. If it doesn’t last as long as the rest of the car, I will probably consider rebuild for the 1000 ballpark.

  32. jinthata says:

    Suck man, my cars battery is not under warranty. And it has finished its life span but now if I ask the dealer of the price of the new battery for my surprise the price of the battery is 30 percent of the car’s price.

  33. Todd says:

    Hybrid Batteries can and are rebuilt and here are some Important Questions and Answers.

    Expensive to do yourself? Cost of Charger and Replacement Sticks
    What kind of Charger? Cycles (Discharge, Charge and Trickle)
    Type of Batteries (NiMh) Nickel Metal Hydride
    Where to get batteries? they are expensive if you can find them

  34. calgary1 says:

    So, since the flash update in Sept 2011, my 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid was working ok. Until we hit -15 Dec C (5 f), the car would barely start, IMA/Engine/Batt light came on and IMA not functional. Took to Dealer, diagnosed for 3 weeks, replaced IMA battery. Thought all was good until it got cold again. Same problem. Now I’m told its a problem with the latest flash. Japan engineers are working on it? Many cars may be affected.

  35. Aarabelle says:

    Hi I have the honda civic hybrid 2003. My IMA and Engine light came on. I got it tested and they found 2 codes P1600 P1449. But then i took it to a different place and they said that the battery gas exceeded 80,000 miles and it has expired. This car is my only source of transportation. I am unable to afford a new battery yet. I was wondering if I would still be able to drive it with the IMA light on and how long will it last. I also what to know if i will be able to drive it on gas if the battery dies.

  36. Todd says:

    Calgary1 There is a difference between the IMA Battery and the 12V Battery, it sounds like your Vehicle 12V battery is what was going bad during the cold weather, the IMA has nothing to do with “STARTING” your car, it only “ASSISTS” he transmission in the movement of the vehicle.

  37. Todd says:

    Aarabelle, your vehicle has a 10 year warranty and I believe it was extended to 100,000 miles. WHOMEVER said your battery “GAS” has expired does not understand something or there was a miscommunication. The Codes ARE for the IMA Battery, P1600 and P1449 are both for the IMA battery, what has happened is some of your Battery Sticks are now degenerating.

    Reconditioning your Battery will identify which sticks are not being able to get back to full capacity and would need to be replaced.

    Now to answer your question: It is uncertain how long you can drive your car with the current codes: It shows your battery is not being able to get back within established parameters. What will happen is this, you will continue to degenerate the bad sticks and then the others will compensate for the weakness and wear them out faster until you will get NO ASSIST from the Pack itself. Until an “ADDITIONAL” issue comes up within the IMA System, you can drive basically indefinitely.

  38. Aarabelle says:

    Thank you so mnuch Todd. I forgot to mention that there were 2 additional codes P0562 and P1634. I was wondering if there is a danger to drive it with the IMA and engine light on.

  39. Todd says:

    You are having a problem with your Charging System and this is going to take out your Battery QUICKLY.

    P0562 System Voltage Low
    P1634 Generator Control System – no charge

    Your IMA Charge system is having a problem, not only are you going to NOT charge your IMA Battery but your Generator Control also charges your 12Volt Battery that starts your car, without this Charging, you are going to have a problem of drive ability. Your Battery and Engine Components run on 12 Volts and once your system gets down to below 10.6 Volts, your Fuel Injectors are going to stop working and your car will

    “DIE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET” and if you are pulling out in front of a Truck, you can lose your life.

    Both of these codes are in response to your car’s system not charging correctly and my recommendation is to

    NOT DRIVE THE CAR until it is repaired.

    Be safe and if you have any other problems, please let me know

  40. Todd says:

    Aarabelle, there are a few tests that need to be run, but the biggest is to TEST YOUR 12Volt Battery, test it with the car ENGINE OFF, KEY OFF you should see a reading of about 12.2- 12.7 volts depending on how long it has been off.

    Then start your car ENGINE ON, KEY ON. This will test your 12Volt Charging system. You should get a reading of 13.4-14.4 volts. If this is what you are reading, then the charging problem is only related to your IMA Battery and not the complete charging system.

    If the Voltage does not go UP during this test with the Engine Running, then your system is compromised. If does not go up, DO NOT DRIVE YOUR CAR, if the Voltage does go up, then the possibilities are you can drive it as is but remember the IMA is still an issue.

  41. calgary1 says:

    I have thought of that, but I have witnessed and heard the difference of the car starting with the IMA functional and non-functional. With the IMA functional there is a assist from the IMA that assists the starter soon after the starter has engaged. With the IMA non-functional, the starter is turning and the engine does run. If I had a weak 12V battery the starter wouldn’t even engage. I’m also assuming the dealer would have tested that.

  42. Rob says:

    Does anyone know what the original warranty was on the battery? I was told there were a handfull of states besides CA that have a longer warranty.

  43. CBD says:

    I’m dealing with this right now actually… I think California is the only state with 10/150K warranty. Just got denied coverage because my car is no longer registered in CA. Dealer actually suggested that I ship the car back there and re-register it so Honda would honor the warranty. LOL, after shipping and registration and then re-enacting CA auto insurance, I think it will all even out. Oh well, what’s 4 grand between me and my favorite car company?

  44. Willingtotry says:


    Can you link or provide information for those of us that are mechanically inclined on how to test, recharge, repair our IMA battery pack?


  45. Mechnicman says:

    You appear to know a bit about the battery in the Honda’s
    I have an Insight,the first model year 2000
    I need to rebuild/replace the battery in and can do if I can find the part’s
    Where can I buy the stick’s,I have had no luck yet.

  46. Todd says:

    Mechnicman, What many of us have done is purchased BAD Packs and by doing this, you gain less than 20 “GOOD” sticks, since you are not sure how many sticks are bad, you are gambling on your investment (you might get 3 good sticks or you may get 19).

    The Gen 1 Insight packs are the same as the 2003-2005 Honda Civic Battery packs. Ebay has in the past had sticks listed for $50 a stick plus shipping but this is now getting harder to find since more and more people are now attempting to do rebuilds themselves (I do have recharged, reconditioned, and Tested sticks ready to go).

    (1) Are you aware of how many batteries you are in need of for your rebuild?

    (2) Cooling fans are known to be a huge problem with the Insight Battery Pack

    If you want to contact me directly for any additional information…

  47. Sue says:

    I have a 2006 Honda civic Hybrid and I’m now dealing with the IMA battery. The warranty is 8yrs or 130,000 kms. Our car has over 190,000 and it’s not covered under the warranty. The dealership quoted me over $5500 cnd.
    I question if it really needs to be replaced or if it can be fixed.? Or can I find it cheaper and find someone to install it.?
    Can I drive it without the assist like a Honda Civic not a hybrid.
    I would appreciate any input….

  48. PSS says:

    Does anyone know how long you can drive after the IMA light comes on and stays on? We have a 2005 Honda Civic hybrid with 200,000-plus miles. It’s been an amazing car–we’ve never had to do anything but change oil. It hasn’t even needed brakes! So I can’t complain. But it’s still getting 47 mpg and appears to be charging ok. The IMA light would come on and then go off periodically, but now it’s on full time, so I know we’re on borrowed time. Just want to know how long we’ve got. Anyone know?

  49. Skater says:

    It’s been a while, but I think it was about 6 months between the time that my IMA light came on until the car died on me. It happened as I was trying to get on a highway and could have been a very dangerous situation. To ensure your safety, you should get the new battery within the next month or two.

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