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2002 Silver MT no AC
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Discussion Starter #1
I'd like to start out by Thanking Everyone in the forum, past and present, for the Epic Treasure Pile of information present on this forum, in general, for Gen 1 Insight cars. Before I bought my "new fancy car" I real all about it here, to see what I was getting into.

I'm a long time fan, first time owner. I studied the Insight when it was new, back in college, when I was working on Solar cars in Australia, as an example of low CV design and all the other bits. I wanted to get one, new, but couldn't justify it at the time. This was when it was new-- I remember driving early demo versions of the Prius and the Insight when we took our solar car to the car show in Sydney. So.. Anyways, always wanted one, never got one, and here we are today.

On a whim, about a month ago, I decided to search Craiglist in Denver for an Insight. Found a Gen 1 Insight, Silver, 127,000 miles, two owners. The original owner drove it to 115k miles, which is the last maintenance log entry in the manual. The last oil change was in 2017, at 123,000 miles, so someone was still caring for it, but that wasn't put in the maual. The second owner (who I bought it from) is a sort of hobby car collector, with a sea of random interesting cars. He followed the advice on the forum to clear the 1449 codes, but, well, this battery is original, is 18 years old now, and is definitely in Sad Shape. I doubt that a grid charge would do anything lasting or useful to a battery this old. That being said, 127-kmiles and 18-years of service from what is basically a $2,000 wear items seems pretty good to me. It costs more than that to do a head gasket for most cars, so, well, if I can get another 100kmiles out of this, we seem to have a winner. The rest of the car is immaculate, aside from Big Dent from where a tree fell fell on it just behind the gas fill door.

When I got it, the car was throwing P1644. It appears Previous Owner tracked around all the stuff for this too, replacing the fuses, checking IGNHOLD, and the rest. I did the same thing, but just ended up throwing a scope on the signal lines, MOTFSA, MOTFSA, and they were definitely dead. Held high, so ECM was okay, but no switchy-switchy from MCM PWM outputs. Procured a new MCM and BCM (also from Bumblebee-- Thanks!), popped them in the car, and Poof. Car's fine, IMA light clears, and the IMA start behaving normally.

Previous Owner told me that when using the grid charger something happened and "A diode blew or something". He proceeded to troubleshoot that problem, but I think that Whatever Happened with the grid charger could have (possibly) killed the MCM, as it may have been short circuited /installed incorrectly in the beginning. Previous Owner stated that the car never worked right after the grid charger was installed, but he drive it around on Gas only for a while. When I swap the pack, I'm going to remove the grid charger cable harness, as this will become a daily driver for me, and I think that 120kmiles over 18 years from a battery pack is probably pretty solid for a stack of NIMH D-Cells. Hopefully in.. 2038? someone will still be remaking NIMH D-Cells when the pack fails again.

So: For folks trying grid chargers on high mileage batteries,(1) be careful when installing the thing.. (2) Also, if you have 100kmiles+ on a battery, the Grid Charger will NOT save you in any reasonable way. I re-battery a lot of things, notably power tools and UPS equipment, and there comes a time when the cells just go down the toilet, and you can't save them. I was actually astonished that I got any life at all out of the battery. After replacing the MCM and BCM, the IMA came back and gave me.. oh, let's say 30 miles before the car started throwing P1449. I'm not going to bother to troubleshoot this, as, well, I already have a new battery on order, and I'm not going to go through this 18 year old pack stick by stick to find the "dead" cell. I've replaced far too many batteries to see that as a reasonable time investment, especially when I lucked into Bumbleebee's 4th of July sale, and got a pretty good deal on a rebuild with new cells w/ warranty. I have not yet received this, but the back is all taken apart ready to swap the battery as soon as it gets here. In a previous life, I was an EE at a company designing the sorts of doodads that do battery pack management stuff: That experience taught me that if you have an OLD pack, that's done a good hard life, you will definitely have "bad" cells. But, if your replace those "bad" cells, then essentially the REST of the cells in the pack become the "bad" cells compared to your new cell / stick, and you're back to where you started, but now with may "bad" cells and a few "good" cells. If you have a "newer" pack with an early-death, you can probably get away with swapping sticks. We regularly had customers buy this magic battery balancing stuff we were working on, and install it on VERY old warn-out batteries.. Our little box did the job, but, well, you ended up with a battery that essentially used power electronics magic to fake the really bad warn out cells, which meant the entire battery was much lower in capacity, ran much hotter, and equalization was ALWAYS a huge fight. There's a long story about this involving fuses, a warehouse fire, and me getting stress headaches over the instruction manual... It was so terrible I almost quit engineering all together. Anyways, I digress:

Luckily for me, during the 30 miles of Useful Life I got our of this sad old battery, I managed to get the emissions check passed, which is.. Fascinating. "Do you have a check engine light? No? Ok.. Let's test your Gas Cap. Okay.. Here's you piece of paper". I think the people at the Air Car Place thought it was novel to see a 2002 insight come through. So, it's registered and has its new plates on it.

I spent most of today doing the 120kmile tuneup, with no lift, in my driveway, from the top of the engine. Managed to only get a couple of Minor Environmental Catastrophes. Have a bit more to do, but, well, I'm kind of excited about the whole thing. I did all the following from the TOP of the car, and I'm really happy that Colorado summers allow for me to reasonably use an A/C-free car. Also, the fact that this car has no AC opens up a lot of room in the engine compartment for my overly-large man hands.

(1) Oil change. I have a Mityvac, and put it to good use on this car. The oil was definitely old, probably from 2017. I pulled it out, put in Mobile 1, and off we go. I pumped it out through the dipstick port, and changed the filter from the front of the car. Remove the little air dam thing next to the engine radiator allows a direct-shot to the oil filter. Previous oil change person didn't crank the filter on, so it came up readily with the wrench without needing to use a breaker bar. This was Oil Spill #1: The Mityvac was no problem, but I dropped the filter in my little catch basin for the oil as it drained out of the filter, and tipped my little oil pan over.. Out comes the kitty litter, and next time I'll put a bag around the filter First, so that I can dispense with that little catch-tray entirely. oops.

(2) Manual Transmission Fluid. I got the Honda OEM MTS Fluid. The drain and fill bolts are.. Not easy to get to from the top of the car, but luckily, I had the right combinations of socket extenders and whatever else to get that 17mm fill plug out. That was.. not seized, but VERY tight. Like, lug-nut tight. I took the advice of others, and took the fill plug off FIRST, so that if I couldn't get it off I didn't have an empty transmission when I drained the fluid out. This is Oil Catastrophe Number 2: There seems to be no apparent way to get the Vac hose into the transmission, so I polled out another little tray and tried to drain the transmission while pumping on the little tray. Turns out I needed a bigger tray, and I dumped about 1/2 a quart of oil on the shield beneath the car, which trickled on to the kitty litter pile under the car. Well, hooray for that. in 60k miles when I do this again, I'll remember to use a bigger thing, or find a lift, and too all this stuff under the car with the proper tools.

Filling this caused the (3rd) Environmental Catastrophe-- The manual says something like "add fluid until you can just feel it level with the fill port".. Well sure. I'll get my oil-covered giant man-sausage fingers inside that sharp-threaded fill hole while not dribbling MTS fluid all over the floor and magically feel an oil level the same height (and temperature) as everything else.. I tried my best, but got to like 1.5 qts and then started dribbling it in a tablespoon at a time. The last few tablespoons came out again, but, well, at least I know it's full.

The old oil was dark, rather close in color to old engine oil, but didn't have any "shimmery bits". When I fished out the drain plug from my little tray, the oil felt clean and slick, with no "grit" or sadness. Notably, this car has no trouble shifting up or down between any gears, and given the feel of the clutch on this car, and the average MPG (61.1 on 127kmiles), I think the previous owners actually cared a bit when they drove it. The clutch feels very much like that on my 2011 Fiesta, except the spring is a bit more stout in the Insight.

(3) Spark Plugs. My engine is all Type "B" plugs (thanks, forum, for talking about that). I ordered new Type B's, pulled the coil packs, put the new plugs in, no problem. The original plugs were in pretty solid shape, and look just like Old Plugs should look: A bit warn, a smidge of black, but generally fine. Probably could have used them again, but I already spent the $ on new plugs, and I had the thing apart anyways.

(4) Coolant swap. Old coolant was in pretty good shape, a bit cloudy perhaps, but no oil in it, and generally that happy florescent coolant color. It was, however, a little bit low, with a completely dry overflow tank. I followed that delightful YouTube Video on Gen 1 Insight coolant change, complete with the funnel on a tube to the fill port. I made the mistake of revving the car with the funnel in, which caused environmental catastrophe #4 (5? I lost count now). This shot coolant back up through the little funnel, and sort of got a good splash on other things. Oops. Learned not to do that again. Let it ran, bled it for like 15 minutes until no air bubbles came up (after my little coolant geyser), and now we have a happy, full coolant tank.

I also upgraded the Car Stereo, hooray. I would have liked to keep the original tape deck (I mean, who wouldn't? Tape decks are awesome). However, as a nod the making this car More Practical than my previous car, a 2011 Ford Fiesta stick shift with crank windows, I decided that Bluetooth and Fancy Stereo was worth the cash. New speakers in the doors, new head unit, and going to add the rear speakers. Note to people who want to do this: I just bought the harness: I read threads of people doing stereo swaps and wirenutting and cutting and whatever. I picked up a <My stereo> to Honda Plug for $18, and, well, the stereo swap took like 15 minutes.

If anyone wants an original insight Head Unit or the speakers for some reason, mine appears to be fully serviceable, and I'll give you a Great Deal on it if you need one- I realize there's a forum for selling bits, too, and I may post that there as well.

All in all, I may break-even with this, when I sell my Fiesta, if I can get it even close to what the KBB claims it is worth. For people who get scared of the battery replacement, well, it's actually really straight forward, at least compared to the amount of hours I spent fighting to get that (*#$ing 17mm drain plug out to swap the MT fluid. I paid $1500 for this car, with a known-bad battery, and unknown electrical problems (which turned out to be the MCM/BCM). Replacing those two Magic Boxes and getting a New battery seems completely reasonable, as I see no reason that this car won't go for another 100k miles or more.

If this car were NOT a "high desert" car, I may feel differently: The wire harnesses, grounding, connectors, and electrical parts are all immaculate and look brand new. I've looked on some of the postings here about people facing electrical problems, and, well, if you get a car with green corroded connectors and flaky / shattered grounding leads, as some have when troubleshooting their P1644, that gives me the heebiejeebies. I design, troubleshoot, and repair large scale solar control systems for a living, and Green Corrosion and Rain are a regular part of my troubleshooting headache on older sites, or those that are poorly installed (or poorly grounded). It's amazing what turns into a battery when you have rain + salt + different metals.. Anyways, this car's electrical is all fine, with clean connectors, no corrosion on anything, and connectors that unplug and plug readily with no grindy-grindy or gritty-tastic in the connectors.

My new car is in Great Shape (Ignoring the Big Dent, which I'll just chalk up to "Millennium Falcon" style Patina), where it counts: Engine, electricals, and key stuff. The clutch feels great, but I'll probably need to do that in the next 50k miles or so.

My Toyota Celica got to.. almost 300kmiles before Rust finally killed it, but that car spent it's first 210kmiles in Illinois and New York, getting dissolved slowly by road salt. I got 200kmiles off that car's clutch, before the brakes rusted terrifyingly and ended up with me getting rid of the car. I expect similar of my "new" Insight, since there's no scary Green Electrical Sadness anywhere in the car, and all the frame components and suspension pieces are 100% rust free. That actually surprised me when I started looking into it, as mixing metals (copper/AL/steel/etc) takes some care to not make your thing into a Giant Battery.
 

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To play devils advocate- My Insight is still on its original battery from 2006, and it has 360k miles on it! I need to grid charge every 3 months or so, but it’s been pretty consistent/reliable by doing this!


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

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2002 Silver MT no AC
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Discussion Starter #3
That's incredible! It would be interesting to see just how many original batteries got to such high mileage. I've got some outstanding performance from other pieces of gear, as well, that has long-outlived the original lifespan.

Nothing devils-advocate about that: Sometimes all the pieces line up, and you get outstanding performance. There's bell curves for nearly everything, and I appreciate that your original insight battery has been going gangbusters for so long. I've got examples of equipment I use that way outlast what should be normal- For example, I got almost 20 years out of a set of NiMH power tool batteries, in use as daily drivers, for battery-operated drills that I used on the regular. They lived on a charger, and got cycled very regularly.. Most people don't get 20 years out of batteries, and the new ones in the same service don't seem to be holding up as well. I think I got really lucky with that first set of batteries for that drill.

I also have test equipment and other instrumentation in daily use that goes back to the 60's or 70's, and with normal maintenance, the stuff just keeps going. I've got a 20 year old juicer that still gets used daily, as well, when other people long ago burned up the motors and whatever else. My favorite bit of this is oscilloscopes. I've got a fancy new one I use for its specific uses, but I also have a bunch of older ones that I use as well: These things "should have" died long ago, but, well, they haven't, and with regular maintenance and repairing stuff that breaks when you first find out about it, stuff can last for a Super Long Time.

Some of this is Survivorship Bias: People remember their Grandma's Mixer (or whatever) as being super quality, because that's one of the one that just was Perfect when it was made, and kept going when other units already died. The higher the quality of something, in general, the better it ages, which brings us to #2: Care and Joy out of equipment: If you take care of equipment, you increase the longevity of what you own: Did you own that battery yourself since new, and did all the regular maintenance and such on the rest of the car? I'm curious, as I'm willing to be persuaded about my opinion on the Grid Charger question- If I can get my next battery to last for a 1/4 million miles, that would be Amazing.

I'm kinda in this for the Long Run, so far as that goes. I'd still be driving my Celica if the rust hadn't finally made the monocoque into a Flintstones car in important places.

Cheers,
-Greg
 

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Congrats on your purchase and welcome to this odd club. I know what you mean by "green corroded connectors..." Sawbite - with just 20 miles on it - originally had corroded electrical ground straps (I replaced them during the restoration). Environmental catastrophes aside, it sounds like you know your way around an engine bay... sucks that you don't have ramps, as that would have made the MT transmission fluid swap a breeze (from below). I didn't even think it was possible to change the transmission fluid from above, but I've performed similar elaborate contrivances. In regards to grid charging, you might as well see what you can accomplish. It sounds like with your electronics background you'll be able to make a homemade grid charger for under $50. You'll eventually want one even if you do get a new battery... G1 BCM's battery management capabilities are somewhere between 'nonexistent' and 'legally negligent'.
 

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2001 5S "Turbo"
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Welcome to the "Elite Family". There are several Insighters in the Denver area. I suggest you meet them for a BS session.
There was a "gathering" there several years ago, and we had a ball.
 

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Welcome to the club. It is nice to see a new owner who has some skills to care for these old but magical little gems.
 

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I know little about electronics, so take all this as anecdotal. My 02 with nearly 190k has what I assume to be the original battery, and is completely trouble free if I grid charge once a month or so. It is very predictable with the timing (4-5 weeks after charging, or sitting for more than a few days without being driven) and sort of behavior that will trigger a light (basically, gunning on the assist for long periods uphill - easily avoided by just revving higher in a lower gear). Yes, the pack is toast, but it still manages to provide meaningful amounts of assist when I really need it, and grid charging is about as much hassle as plugging in your cell phone overnight.

I also agree that replacing a wear component after 20 years for $2k is totally reasonable. But you also really have nothing to lose trying grid charging. You may find even a failing battery is fine for your needs for a while.

Enjoy the car. I love driving mine. Looks great with a coat of wax, A/C still blows ice cold, tape deck works great for old JGB tapes :)
 

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Welcome to the club! I'm up north of Denver in Erie. Send me a conversation if you'd like to talk sometime.

I maintain three Gen 1's and one Gen 2 here for the family. (Yeah, my family will attest that I sometimes go overboard when I get interested/enthused about something!) Anyway, all three Gen 1's are still on original IMA batteries as far as I can tell. I have installed Hybrid Automotive grid charging harnesses on them, and have been able to keep them working without too much trouble. All three were purchased inexpensively because the IMA batteries were throwing codes and the owners did not want to replace the batteries. I would not give up on your pack just yet.

If you want to buy a new HA harness for your car I'd be happy to help you grid charge/discharge your battery and see what happens...
 

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2002 Silver MT no AC
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Discussion Starter #9
I'm curious about your experience with your grid chargers. The person I got this from tried using the MaxxVolt unit, and the result of that was a a broken MCM/BCM and a now vaguely burny-smelling MaxxVolt.

I've already ordered a new pack, as, well, even if this one can be somewhat saved, I'd rather just start with a Clean Slate. That being said, since I'm in this for the longish run, if I can get a grid charger and use it from Day 1 with New Pack, well, that'd be swell, if I can get the extra goodness of battery life out of it. Are you using a Prolong unit, or some other variety of charger? I could just hook up one my nice fancy current-limited supplies I already have to charge: I've got a rack full of Fancy Power Supplies I use for stuff, including something I use for PV power supply testing that does 500V @ 5A, with very nice fast current controls and whatever else. That could certainly charge the battery based on the CC and CV characteristics I've read. However, as a "regular maintenance" type thing, I'd love to be able to reasonably teach my partner how to do this too, and running cables out of my HV equipment rack, down the hall, around the corner, through the kitchen, out the dryer vent, and then back down the driveway to connect to the car in the driveway, and then setting the thing for current mode and whatever else is a long ways from "intuitive". I could whack together something out of spare parts too, but, meh. I've got a thousand projects on the bench right now, and if I were to build such a thing, I'd rather not just build it out of random junk.. Although I do a lot of that, too, and I'm not sure why I'm not interested in that approach for the grid charger concept.

If I were to build such a thing, I'd go PV with it, I think: I could make something out of a 100W solar module that would double as a car sunshade- It looks like the grid chargers tend to use very low current chargers in CC mode until the pack reaches 168V, and then some kind of wavy-line voltage thing to balance the cells that takes it slightly above "full" to drive cells to even. All of which at pretty low current. A boost converter on 12V with 100 available watts would be able to do that, basically all the time the car is parked, runnning off smallish flexible PV-module that you could stick behind the seats when you drive the car... Anyways. That's what popped into my mind when I was reading about grid chargers, as they seem to just be current-limited CC chargers that switch to CV around 168V.. Am I missing something here with this? At least in the "charge" phase of this operation. Such a doodad wouldn't "recondition" the pack, but would do to the Insight battery what those little plug in battery maintainers do for lead-acid batteries over the winter for trucks where it's cold. Doing 12V to 168V in a boost converter is pretty reasonable these days, and such a device wouldn't be too insanely complicated, since the efficiency doesn't really matter for this application.

Once the new pack arrives from Bumblebee, I'm going to try and give them a quick call to chat with Eli, who seems to be very much in the know on such things. I'm not going to go in and change around the regen/etc settings, but I do want to do what I can do to get a nice long life out of the battery. A lot of this seems to have to do with driving style, with repeated hard acceleration hurting packs when not regened sufficiently. Based on reading the threads here, it looks quite like the car likes good solid downshift to regen, and pretty reasonable unhasty acceleration. Which I suppose makes sense, based on my understanding of NiMh batteries..

The previous owner tried grid charging, with the MaxxVolt, and the resulting "blown diode" and burny-smelling electronics don't bode well for the success with that. Since that device was attached to the pack, and the MCM and BCM were fried during that period of experimentation, I'm not very persuaded that this pack can be saved in any reasonable way, at least not with the vaguely-sad smelling MaxxVolt that came with the unit. I'm not blaming the MaxxVolt, btw, since I have no idea how it was used / installed prior to me getting it. I just now that it now smells burny, the MCM and BCM failed during that experiment, and some amount of repair attempts were made by previous owner on the MaxxVolt during that process.

I'm also really inspired by folks on here that have talked in this thread about these crazy-high mileage vehicles on original batteries. That's.. Pretty solid, and surprising. I wonder if the Honda engineers that were working on this realized that people would be getting their battery packs up into the 1/2 a million mile range. That's pretty cool.
 

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Denver Turbo - I bought the Hybrid Automotive Prolong system, both the charger and discharger. I'm nowhere near the electrical knowledge of many of the folks here, more of a "try to keep my head above water while reading the smart folks postings" type!😁

All I can say is that my cars had failing batteries that responded positively to the cycling procedures posted here. I have no illusions that the grid charging is a forever fix, but it has worked for a couple of years so far. The cars have needed the grid charge regimen between 3 months on low side to 6 months high side ( might have gone longer, but I do it then just on premise it's time).
 

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To play devils advocate- My Insight is still on its original battery from 2006, and it has 360k miles on it! I need to grid charge every 3 months or so, but it’s been pretty consistent/reliable by doing this!
Time to step up your game - I saw a 2002 Prius on PriusChat recently that just had the hybrid battery fail at 650k miles! :p
In all seriousness, 360k miles is really great for a hybrid battery, especially one from an early Honda hybrid.
 
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2002 Silver MT no AC
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Discussion Starter #12
Just a brief update to this thread:

My new Bumblebee Battery arrived today, and the shipping was Very Well Done. Super nicely packed... Took me about two hours to swap it out. I removed the grid charger cable, and it's sitting here on a box. I may put this in at a later date, but for now, with a new battery, we'll just see how she chooches.
 

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2001 5S "Turbo"
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I thought it was determined that even with a new battery, it was advisable to give it a "boost" charge every 6 months.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Opinions on this vary wildly-- I may or may not add a grid charger cable back in at some point. The grid charger the previous unit bought was, in my opinion, more of a liability than a benefit. That unit could very easily sit the batteries at too high of a voltage of not monitored. Also, the cabling was poorly installed. If I do end up grid charging, I'll wire it up to one of my nice bench supplies through a new (and more reasonably installed) charger cable. That all being said, I don't think ~2k every ~20 years to be an unreasonable expense for maintenance on a car. I mean, everything has a lifespan to it, and I consider batteries to be a "consumable" item, even rechargeable ones. Sometimes they perform extremely well, sometimes extremely poorly. That's the nature of batteries, with the better the QC and battery cell manufacturing, the better your pack will age. If you have a charger that is designed properly, it wouldn't cause harm. This one had the potential to cause harm fairly regularly. I'll just treat this like my New Car, driving conservatively and making use of the general best practices of Insight driving that I've gleaned from here, and worry about the pack when it next give me guff.
 
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