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I have a 2007 Honda Civic Hybrid with a 12-mo old 151R starter battery.

I disconnect the negative wire from the post after each use because the car sits 3-7 days between uses.

The negative clamp is very loose and slides right off because it's not possible to tighten it any further. I'm not sure if this is a Honda defect or the battery manufacturer's defect.

I'm aware of Battery Post Shims, but for now I'm using duct tape to hold down the cable so it doesn't pop off while driving.

The Problem (ongoing since new battery purchase 12 mos ago)

  1. Key is in ignition, off position
  2. Reconnect battery
  3. Interior starts beeping indicating power is flowing
  4. Turn key... one click noise... nothing, power now seems off
  5. Key back to off position, no beeping*
  6. Wiggle battery cable until interior starts beeping again
  7. Repeat steps 4-6 up to thirty times until it finally fires up, average seems to be 10 tries before successful start

*In some rare cases there is still power flowing at this point. Subsequent startup attempts produce nothing, not even a click.

Any ideas what is going on here? Is simply tightening the connection the solution to my problem or is something else going on? I'd really like to understand what's happening. I thought that once power was flowing, it was flowing and that's it. On or off. Binary. But maybe I'm wrong here.

Edit

If I leave the negative cable connected, it will start every time. For example, running to the grocery store, turn off car. When I come out it will start first try every time. Or if I leave it connected overnight, it starts first try every time.

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  • Why do you think there is a drain on the battery that requires you to disconnect the 12V battery? Do you think that because the previous battery failed? How old was it? Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 19:41
  • Old habit after maintaining commercial lawn equipment in Michigan that needed winterization. Not sure the age of the previous battery. Sometimes the vehicle sits for up to 2 weeks.
    – Jeff
    Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 20:48
  • any car should easily handle 2 weeks. I would stop doing that with cars, or at least get a mechanical switch. Lawn equipment, yes. My money is on faulty battery or wrong cable. Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 20:52

2 Answers 2

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A sloppy fit is a sloppy connection!!!

I'm aware of Battery Post Shims, but for now I'm using duct tape to hold it down because it's convenient for disconnecting/reconnecting.

No, no, no! You can't expect that to work! If you don't have a good physical connection, you can't have a good electrical connection. That Is Not Going To Work. Ever.

I'm sorry it works "sometimes" because it's misled you into thinking this even has a chance of being a good idea.

This is a reality-check to Stop Doing That.

In fact, you are arcing the heck out of the terminals on your nearly-new $150+ battery. Depending on the oil and grease level under the hood, you are also inviting an engine fire. Never do anything like this again.

Battery terminals are different sizes. On purpose.

The positive post is somewhat larger than the negative post. This is deliberate, so that when you try to install a battery backwards, the negative post won't fit and the positive will be exactly this sloppy. Since this wasn't a problem til now, perhaps this battery was mis-manufactured.

Note also that SAE batteries (designed to American market standards) have slightly larger terminals than JIS batteries. But you would then be having fitment problems on both sides, I would think.

Alternately, someone may have replaced the negative battery cable or clamp, and used the wrong one - either a cheap/junk/mail-order "universal" one, or one sized for the positive terminal. (e.g. because the auto parts store was out of stock of the negative in the needed length). If your negative terminal is red, that is surely the case. The prior battery probably had shims and you didn't notice when you removed it.

Any ideas what is going on here? Is simply tightening the connection the solution to my problem or is something else going on?

No, it's the garbage connection. Fix it directly.

Now, since you disconnect your battery every time you don't use the car (gee, wonder why the terminal got worn out), you should probably consider a battery disconnect switch instead. The cheaper of those simply clamp on the battery terminal and then have a post to attach the battery cable to.

Disconnecting the battery every week isn't helping

You are likely causing wear to the battery clamp and terminal by doing so. It may not be a coincidence that the one you regularly remove is also the one that is failing.

I disconnect the negative wire from the post after each use because the car sits 3-7 days between uses.

That ought to be unnecessary. If you are doing that because of something you heard, stop doing that, the person who told you that is dumb and owes you a battery cable.

If you are doing that because of direct experience of the battery being drained by parasitic loads on the car, that should not be happening. Troubleshoot that. Put an ammeter in series with the battery, with all things off. See what the parasitic current is (a few milliamps is no big deal; that's just clock and PCM keep-alive) and disconnect stuff until it goes away.

Start with anything plug-in, like GPS, USB chargers in a cigarette lighter (12V) port, dashcam, anything plugged into the OBD port. It may well be something stupid like your USB charger. If the car was ever bought used with financing, it might have a tracker which may be no longer relevant.

Anything that is on an "always-hot" circuit can always be moved to a different circuit that is "hot in run and accessory". On the newest cars, the 12V sockets have been moved to that, precisely because of USB chargers, navigators and dash cams draining batteries.

After that, start pulling fuses on things, starting with anything aftermarket like a subwoofer system.

Find it, kill it, stop pulling your battery cable.

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  • The duct tape is to prevent the cable popping off while driving, not to tighten the connection.
    – Jeff
    Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 2:32
  • @Jeff Yeah, I get that. The terminal has deformed and is no longer capable of being tight enough - either to stay on, or to provide a reliable electrical contact. I for one have zero patience with faulty battery terminals. I replace them with extreme prejudice. The negative ain't so bad, it doesn't go clear down to the starter. But try the disconnect first, you may get lucky. Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 6:28
  • Thanks for all the info. I want to be clear, the 151R battery post was too "skinny" on day 1. The negative cable clamp is physically unable to be tightened enough (Honda's fault). In my opinion, I don't think the post has been deformed, but I'm far from an expert.
    – Jeff
    Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 10:29
  • @Jeff Are you the original owner of the car? Can you say for certain that the battery cables have never been changed? Is the battery a reputable manufacturer? The positive post is supposed to be larger than the negative post, so a positive battery cable misused on a negative terminal would fit sloppy just like this. Were there shims on the previous battery? Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 19:40
  • Not the original owner. Bought it 18 mos ago. Cannot say for sure the cables are original, but I will say I was totally shocked when I tried connecting the new battery and the post was too small. No shims on the previous battery.
    – Jeff
    Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 20:49
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Sounds to me like you have a minimal connection somewhere. This would allow a low amount of amperage to flow. Once you try to get into a high amperage flow, like using the starter, that connection gaps and electricity no longer flows. It sounds to me like you need to check all of your connections, on both the battery end as well as the connection to starter and to ground. Besides the obvious, you stating you have to wiggle the wires is what is leading me to believe this is your issue.

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  • Thanks @Paulser2. Do you think the minimal connection problem is the main negative cable to the battery post? Am I right when I say the flow of power is binary; e.g. power is either on or off?
    – Jeff
    Commented Feb 5, 2023 at 20:09
  • @Jeff - It is either on or off, but when there's a minimal connection somewhere, what little connection is there acts like a fuse. When a small amount of load is passed through it, it works just fine. Then when you put the greater load on it which it can't handle, it loses the connection and no longer passes power. I don't know if the main problem here is the main negative cable, but would suggest you look at all of the connections to ensure they are clean and corrosion free, as well as tight ... but don't over tighten stuff as you're going to break something. Commented Feb 5, 2023 at 21:31
  • Many thanks. I added a little more info under my edit to the original question. May help with diagnosis, but I think I'm off to a solid start with your help.
    – Jeff
    Commented Feb 5, 2023 at 23:04
  • @Jeff - Just try cleaning your connections, both positive and negative. Probably get it done for you. Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 0:02
  • If you look a bit into making electrical connections I think you'll find your answer is quite weak. Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 20:56

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