UPDATE / MAY 2012:

UPDATE!

Apparently Honda has finally decided a software fix was in order and has issued 
"Service Bulletin # 11-073 dated December 13, 2011.

Supposedly this update will resolve the issue.  I am not so convinced, since the service bulletin itself says:

"The new software will not improve vehicles with the following conditions:
• The vehicle has a low battery because it’s not driven regularly or long enough to recharge the battery."

Huh?  Driven regularly or long enough?  Enough with the BS Honda, I'm not buying it...   I am keeping the information on this page available as an historical record of the defect and to highlight Honda's ridiculously slow and anemic response to their customers.  You can decide for yourself what kind of car company you think Honda has become by reading into this particular issue as a case study.
v/r, rutgers93

2011+ Honda Odyssey Defective Design Issue: Low Battery / Battery Charge Low / bATT LOW Warning


If you are visiting this website it is probably because your 2011 Honda Odyssey has started displaying one of the above warning indicator messages (in what is called the "Information Display" area of the instrument panel) regarding a low battery charge situation.  Like me, you are probably wondering what this warning message means (I), why it is happening (II) and what can be done to fix it (III).  Unfortunately I don't have all the answers for you but I can help you find out more information, read about the experiences of other 2011 Honda Odyssey owners and suggest what to do about it, since as you may already know, Honda has refused to acknowledge any design defect or problem with the vehicle regarding the low battery warning that you and many other owners are experiencing.  

Lastly, if you are considering the purchase of a new 2011+ Honda Odyssey minivan and you simply stumbled on this page in your internet research, you should at least be aware that: 1. a significant design defect exists with the 2011 Honda Odyssey battery and/or electrical system  2. Honda has refused to acknowledge the problem and has no fix for it.   For one thing, be sure to ask your salesperson about this "problem" before you purchase an Odyssey (they will most likely try to tell you it is actually a "feature" and that it is nothing to worry about).  If you still decide to buy one be preprepared for the inevitable likelihood of having to deal with this particular, annoying design defect at some point soon.


I. What does this warning message mean?

The 2011 Honda Odyssey Owner's Manual states the follwong regarding the bATT LOW message for the LX, EX & EX-L trims: 



Customers who paid the big bucks for the Touring / Touring Elite trim get a fancier message in your Multi-Information Display that says either :
    ‘‘BATTERY CHARGE LOW SEE OWNERS MANUAL"   or
    ‘‘BATTERY CHARGE LOW SWITCH OFF ALL LIGHTS AND ELECTRICAL DEVICES"  

For Touring / Touring Elite owners the manual says the following on page 87:


In either case (LX, EX, EX-L or Touring, Touring Elite) your Odyssey is telling you that the battery may not have a sufficient charge ("state of charge is low") and that you should cease any use or operation of all electrical devices.  If the Owner's Manual is to be believed, and I know of no reason why it shouldn't be, the low battery warning message you are seeing in your 2011 Honda Odyssey certainly implies a serious problem with the vehicle, since you are being instructed to stop using such essential items as the interior lights, power windows and doors, audio system, etc.

Here are some video clips showing the problem as well:

    EX-L owner's "bATT LOW" / Low Battery warning message video clip:http://youtu.be/ld4xdzv0eSo 

    and another video, just in case you missed it going off in your very own 2011 Honda Odyssey: http://youtu.be/3vwIXavxiXA 

It is only logical to wonder why a brand new vehicle (some Odyssey owners didn't even get off the dealer's lot without this warning message going off) have a low battery as a result of normal, ordinary use?  So far Honda has not offered any reasonable answer or explanation, other than to suggest that owners "drive the car more" (see a further discussion of Honda's official response below).

My research on this issue indicates that the problem is very widespread and probably affects many thousands of 2011 Honda Odyssey owners.  But you don't have to take my word for it.  For a rather lengthy discussion and individual reports by many other Odyssey owners who have experienced the same problem / design defect, I recommend checking out the following sites:

The full (many page discussion) at Odyclub.com (Honda Odyssey Owners Website): 
http://www.odyclub.com/forums/54-2011-odyssey/137322-battery-charge-low.html

Similar complaints scattered throughout Edmunds website on their "2011 Honda Odyssey Discussion Forum":
http://townhall-talk.edmunds.com/WebX/.f1fd6ab

Safety Complaints submitted to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have been re-posted here:
http://www.aboutautomobile.com/Complaint/2011/Honda/Odyssey/Electrical+System

Some more over at fixya.com:
http://www.fixya.com/cars/t6897663-just_purchased_2011 


II. Why is this Happening?

Nobody seems to know or they (i.e. Honda) aren't saying.  Honda has refused to issue a TSB (Technical Service Bulletin), Service Campaign, or Recall.  My guess is that it probably has something to do with the newly redesigned 2011 Odyssey's Battery Management System, or BMS, since this problem is only happening in the new 2011+ Honda Odyssey minivan and not the earlier model years.

A Honda Press Release (dated Sept. 9, 2010) about their new Battery Management System (BMS) which was designed into the new 2011 Honda Odyssey suggests some possible clues here as to why this defect exists and so I post it here for your information: 

Battery Management System (BMS):
The 2011 Odyssey has a Battery Management System (BMS) that is designed to increase the overall service life of the battery, reduce the chance of a dead battery and help deliver improved fuel economy. Should an Odyssey owner accidentally leave the headlights on or not close a door causing an interior light to remain on, after a set period of time the BMS will automatically terminate power delivery to prevent the battery from going dead. Moreover, the BMS continually monitors battery condition and will provide a warning message while automatically turning off the interior lights when battery condition or cranking capability drops too low. As a result of the discharge protection afforded by the BMS, the battery should always have enough reserve capacity left to start the engine.  The 3.5-liter V-6 engine in the Odyssey makes use of a powerful 130-amp alternator that charges in two different ranges - a low 12-volt range and a high 14-volt range. By closely controlling the alternator charge voltage, BMS works to keep the battery in a specific charge range which can extend the service life of the battery by more than 25 percent.  With BMS keeping the battery in a specific charge range, the alternator can run more often in the low range which generates less drag on the engine resulting in improved fuel economy. Should a battery or charging system issue occur, the information display on the Odyssey LX, EX and EX-L, or the Multi Information Display (MID) on the Odyssey Touring, will alert the driver with a text prompt such as, "BATTERY CHARGE LOW."    [see:  http://www.hondanews.com/releases/2011-honda-odyssey-powertrain?query=odyssey ]

To sum up why many owners think this warning message may be displaying in the newly redesigned 2011 Honda Odyssey vehicles I offer the following logical possibilities:
  • Sensor that measures the battery's state of charge is defective in either design or operation (too sensitive or registering falsely)
  • Battery itself is defective from manufacturer (will not accept and/or hold sufficient charge)
  • Battery is a defective design in that it is undersized for vehicle's electrical demands (drains too quickly and not able to be sufficiently re-charged by normal operation)
  • Charging system / Alternator system is defective in either design or operation (normal operation of vehicle does not sufficiently charge battery)
Keep in mind it could also be a  combination of any of the above.  But if owners of Honda Odyssey vehicles can deduce a reasonable list of possible explanations for why the low battery warning indicator is coming on, why can't Honda?  It would seem simple enough for engineers at Honda (the people who designed and built the Odyssey!) to determine the likely cause and develop a solution.  Instead Honda has rather sadly chosen to "blame the customer" for the problem.  My suspicion is Honda DOES actually know what's going on but since it will costs some serious money to fix, they are choosing to try and ignore the whole defect issue as it relates to the low battery warning.


III. What can / should I do about this?

Your first instinct will probably be to call the dealership where you purchased your Odyssey and talk to the Service Dept.  Get ready for the service advisor to read you "the script" that Honda sent out. It's fun! You get to answer such useful and important questions such as: "How often do you drive the car?" or "Is the car driven everyday?" or maybe even "Is the car driven on mostly short trips?".  Apparently Honda has decided that for the first time in the history of automobile manufacturing that the new 2011 Honda Odyssey has a totally new feature whereby the ability of the vehicle to function and perform normally depends on how much you drive!!!   What's that you say? Gas costs almost $4.00 a gallon and besides, the reason you bought an Odyssey was because of all the power features and to use for driving the kids around town? Sorry, but according to Honda (via the information they have promulgated to their dealership's service departments) there is NOTHING wrong with the new 2011 Honda Odyssey battery or electrical system - if only the owners would drive it the way Honda says... 

But seriously, if you insist to the Service Advisor that you think their may be a problem with your brand new Odyssey the service department will probably agree to let you bring it in and have them take a look at it.  This will involve them testing the battery, performing a quick charge and resetting the sensor.  

    [For the record I actually did this - took it in and had them check it out and everything - and the batt low warning came on again less than 24 hours
     after returning from the dealer!  So I wasted 2 hours of my time not to mention the hassle of having to take it in to begin with.]

Honda's current official response to the issue so far is presented in the following ServiceNews Article dated February 2011.  Basically it says that this defect is a "feature" of the 2011 Honda Odyssey vehicle and is likely to occur if you don't drive the car often enough, which is a disappointing and outright unacceptable answer for many owners who are experiencing this low battery defect.  Note also that Honda was aware of this significant design problem at least as far back as February.  It has been MANY MONTHS and they still have not even acknowledged the problem (let alone provided a solution or fix).  If you call your service department today you will still get the official Honda run around  and Bull S___ about "just drive the car more and it will go away".  Great news after you just spend $35,000+ for a BRAND NEW vehicle that is UNDER WARRANTY!!!!



For the record, we've never gone out to our Odyssey as it sits in the driveway and opened and closed the rear sliding doors multiple times "for fun", nor have we gotten the whole family in the van and turned all the interior lights on and played the radio and DVD system for a few hours (or even for 5 minutes) becuase we love the vehicle's interior so very much and prefer it to our 52" Plasma HD and reclining sofa in our living room. Lastly, we've never engaged in "showing off the vehicle to neighbors and friends" as Honda suggests in their official ServiceNews Article, but hey, maybe we'll start doing that now so they can all see the bATT LOW warning and hear the lovely (piercing, actually) beeping sound and experience the flashing interior lights before they all suddenly go off. Now that would be a real show!!! 
But wait - there's no problem with the car's electrical system design or any defect in the battery or electrical system, only in how we've decided to use our new car.  When Honda came up with the Odyssey's ad slogan "Like No Van Before" they weren't kidding!  What they aren't telling you is "yeah, it's like no van before: you have to drive it everyday for a least a certain number of miles in order for it to not have electrical system warnings going off!"


Great, but what can I really do about it?

Whether you contact your Honda dealer service department or not (and whether you bring it in for service or not), I and many other Odyssey owners STRONGLY recommend that you call or otherwise contact Honda's corporate Customer Service and let them know you are experiencing this problem and that you fully expect Honda to investigate and develop a fix to this design defect:

    American Honda Motor Co., Inc.
    Honda Automobile Customer Service
    Mail Stop 500-2N-7A
    1919 Torrance Boulevard
    Torrance, California 90501-2746

    Tel: (800) 999-1009 (press 7 to report a problem)

In doing this you will get your problem on record (they will give you a "case number") and you will add to the growing list of customers who find the current corporate response by Honda to be unacceptable.  Be sure to let them know that you view this as some kind of defect with the vehicle and I would also encourage you to also let them know how disappointed you are in the fact that Honda's quality / customer service reputation can no longer be trusted or held in such high regard.

If you wish to go even further, tell the customer service representative that although you appreciate their taking the time to record your complaint and provide a case number, you wish to "elevate your customer service complaint" by having a regional customer service manager at American Honda contact you back to discuss the status of this complaint and what you expect American Honda to do about it.  Remember, you paid a LOT of money for a brand new Honda Odyssey vehicle that should not be experiencing this kind of problem!


Taking further steps:

      Lemon Law Statutes by State - Get ready to do lots of homework...  
        This might prove too time consuming for many, but I believe most owners will have standing if the defective electrical systems either can't or won't be fixed by Honda.

More on Honda's recent poor quality issues:
The Honda newly redesigned 2012 Honda Civic is no longer a "recommended" car by Consumer Reports.  Why?  The vehicle quality has gone down substantially!  See:



"Consumer Reports slams new Honda Civic" (Autoweek)

"Honda Civic Misses Recommendation From Consumer Reports" (NY Times)


My favorite quote from many of the news stories: "When contacted, Honda representatives declined further comment."  
You can decide for yourself whether you think Honda still cares about building the best quality cars for the money or about customer satisfaction...