Today is Saturday, November 16, 2019 and my wife, son and I were going to take off for a family luncheon event. I went in to the garage to move the Honda Clarity so they could climb in easily, and I was stunned to discover…
…that for THE FOURTH TIME SINCE JUNE the Clarity would NOT START!
The dealer, Rancho Santa Margarita Honda, has had the car for a total of 15 days at their facility since I purchased it, they’ve gone through the car at length, and cannot determine what’s wrong.
After the last time it didn’t start at the end of October, the Service Drive Manager, Doug Jezowski, promised me he’d contact Honda and have a field service engineer (FSE) come out to examine the car. I dropped it off on Tuesday, November 5th so they could perform the 10,000 mile service a bit early, and so the FSE would have time to do his magic diagnosis.
After having the car for four days, Doug called me on Saturday the 9th to tell me that “the FSE can’t come out just yet and it might be another two weeks or so” and that I could come over and pick up the car.
To say I am filled with rage is an understatement!!!!!!
I don’t trust the car. Can’t count on it starting or, after this happened three days after I bought the car, my wife won’t drive it and I’m leery of the car and its performance. But the car not starting is a fucking joke for a car that retails for nearly $38,000.
Here is what happened each time my car won’t start:
Lemon Law Attorneys
On Monday I’m going to pull together all paperwork and formally engage with a Los Angeles law firm that specializes in California lemon law. At this point I just want Honda to buy the car back since they do not seem to give a shit about whether or not they fix the car.
Other Honda Clarity Complaints
Here are others having the same issues:
- National Highway Transportation Safety Administration complaints about the 2018 and 2019 Honda Clarity PHEV
- InsideEV forum on Honda Clarity problems
- Honda Clarity forum on problems
My Own Fault for Trusting Honda
Then there’s this old clip from the movie Animal House which sums up how I’m feeling … and identifying with Flounder as fraternity rush chairman, “Otter” (played by Tim Matheson), puts his arm around him and says this:
Last Friday afternoon I hopped in to my car to run errands after not having driven the car for two days (I’m heads-down on a project so didn’t go anywhere). Pushing the Power On button did … nothing. “Oh shit!” I thought, “the Clarity is dead again!”
So for the second time in the month of September, I contacted Honda Roadside Assistance and they dispatched a tow truck to give me a jump. As it was nearly 5pm the dealer, Rancho Santa Margarita Honda, couldn’t see the car until Monday. It is now Tuesday afternoon and they need to order a part (the “battery charge monitoring system”) and will keep the vehicle until Wednesday.
This is getting ridiculous. My wife won’t drive the car after our first incident, and now I don’t trust the car being able to start if it sits for more than a day. Also, my confidence in the dealership is low, as-is my belief in American Honda doing the right thing and fixing this car.
I’m doing three things to go forward:
- Working with Honda Customer Support who has assigned a Regional Case Manager so we’ll see if that individual can finally be effective and take some action.
- Contacted Tesla to see what they’d give me for a trade-in on the Clarity for a Model 3 Long Range.
- Contacted the Ana Brown, Customer Relations Manager at American Honda Motor Company, Inc.
So we’ll see what happens next.
Thought I’d write a quick update as a full post, rather than update yesterday’s post here.
Since the battery was dead in my Clarity so I couldn’t start the car, I called Honda Roadside Assistance. The tow truck driver did jump the car and it started, but there was something obviously wrong so I had the car towed to my dealer, Rancho Santa Margarita Honda, on Tuesday in the early afternoon.
Finally, after TWO DAYS of repeated calling and talking to several of the service advisors to find out what was going on with my car (there were seemingly multiple advisors on my car and no one returned my phone calls promptly or had answers) I picked up the car late yesterday after calling-in to talk to the general manager of the store to get some action.
The punchline? Is the car fixed? I have no idea but suspect it is not. Why? Because there is NO explanation as to why the battery was completely dead. Or why the check-engine light was on four times in July and August with the same error codes. Forget about any explanation on all the other issues I’ve had like this dangerous one after only a few days with the car.
The fix? Basically the service tech “reset” the car by clearing the codes, reset the steering and braking sensor system, but apparently did not identify any root problems with the control systems in the car. There were no software updates required (or performed) and apparently no aberrations or issues uncovered, even though there were several error codes and all of them show that there is some issue with the car’s internal communications system (likely bugs in the software and/or problems in the communication bus within the car itself):
- P1D00 – All CAN Malfunction Battery Condition Monitor Module – CAN is the bus and it talks over the powertrain control module (PCM). My guess all along is that there was some kind of fundamental bug in the software control system which is spawning errors.
- U0100 – Lost Communication with ECM/PCM “A” – More of those “lost” communication problems.
- U1204 – Invalid or Missing Data for Steering Column – The Transmission Range Sensor (also referred to as the PRNDL input an/or neutral safety switch) tells the transmission control module (TCM) an the engine control module (PCM) that the transmission is in park, reverse, neutral, drive, low, 2nd, 3rd etc.
- U1600 Reverse Input Circuit – The reason for a U1600 error is to cause the service tech to check system wiring, connectors, or other electrical components which are subject to failure. Another reason why I think there is a computer system malfunction within the car itself.
In my printed receipt, here is what they gave me showing what they found and the action they took to “fix” my problems:
After reading this Inside EV forum thread about others with goofy Clarity electronic issues, my level of confidence in the Clarity is at an all-time low, after only three months with the car and 4,600 miles.
I’m going to give it two weeks and, if there are continued problems, I’ll ask Honda to buy back the car or I’ll sell it on the secondary market (or likely trade it in on a Tesla Model 3).
To be continued…
My Honda Clarity is dead.
No, this is not a post about the fact that Honda has pulled back the Clarity PHEV from multiple states to only California. It’s also not because my confidence in the Clarity is low after owning this car for only a few days and then this happened. Or that my wife says, “Just so you know, I am NEVER driving that car!”
Instead the reason I’m saying the Clarity is dead is because, after a long Labor Day weekend with it parked in the garage, I went out two hours ago to run errands in the car and NOTHING on the car worked!
Sigh…I verified it has a fully charged 17kw battery from being plugged in while we were away but I couldn’t get anything on the car to work. Once I unplugged the car and shut the plugin’s door, even THAT would not open. The 4-way flashers were dead. I couldn’t even put the car in neutral to move it out of the garage. There was no charge in the car at all and, like a desktop computer with a bad power supply, the car was not going to “boot up.”
Called Honda’s Roadside Assistance and they arranged to have it towed to the dealership from where I bought the car. That gave me time to read several forum posts about others who have had this same issue, but people said it’s due to dealers not keeping the 12V battery charged up on their lots caused the battery to drain and die. My car had just come in days before I bought it, so that’s highly doubtful.
Adding to my frustrations with this car is that the check engine light comes on frequently and the dealer sees no error codes or anything wrong when I have them look at it. My only conclusion is that this is one poorly engineered automobile.
First car I’ve owned in all my decades on this earth that I haven’t been able to just get in and drive, all while ensuring I maintain it properly. I’m constantly fretting over the Clarity and am wondering when the next issue will appear … but I didn’t expect this on a brand new car with just over 4,000 miles on it.
Unfortunately American Honda’s escalated customer service folks have been no help at all with any of these issues (and are likely instructed to ‘admit nothing’ to ensure Honda isn’t opened-up to any liability). The dealer is great, but they just shrug and say, “Ah…we don’t see anything wrong.”
Guess I should have bought that Tesla Model 3 after all.
My wife and I had a terrifying loss of power in our new 2019 Honda Clarity yesterday AND we were in rush hour traffic on CA-73 (a toll-road that runs from Newport Beach to I-5 in Laguna Niguel, California) driving along at 70MPH.
Here is what happened and how we discovered afterwards that this is an isolated, but seemingly common, quite dangerous issue with the Honda Clarity PHEV.
LOSS OF POWER IN RUSH-HOUR TRAFFIC
It’s late afternoon yesterday (May 31, 2019) and we are headed home from an appointment up in Huntington Beach, CA. We are driving on CA-73 in the Clarity’s HV Mode. When the battery drops to two bars — the baseline where the car’s computer stops the drainage from the battery to power the car — the engine is supposed to kick-in but it began REVVING and then lost ALL POWER.
Since we were going up a hill, the Clarity immediately dropped from 70mph to 40mph in seconds and kept dropping. Pushing the accelerator to the floor did nothing except redline the engine and it gave NO POWER TO THE WHEELS TO MAKE THE CAR GO.
Due to the rush-hour traffic on all sides (and cars coming up behind us at 70mph or greater), we *barely* are able to make it to the shoulder with cars honking and speeding around us! It was a truly terrifying experience. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get the car to power itself. I had to turn the car off, then back on, put it in “Sport” mode, and then we were able to drive it like it should work when the battery is depleted.
Just so you know, the Clarity Plug-In Hybrid has 3 modes: ECON, Sport and HV. ECON is battery-only. Sport is what you’d expect: it uses the battery and ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) to power the car simultaneously. HV mode uses the engine and the electric motor to power the Clarity as efficiently as possible in order to achieve the highest possible MPG.
In seconds I was switching between these modes in an attempt to get SOME power to safely get the car to the shoulder. My wife suggested turning on the hazard flashers which I did, and fortunately several cars slowed down so we could coast over to the side of the road and turn the car off.
After the adrenaline rush subsided, I was stumped that the car wasn’t smart enough to either warn me or, more importantly, to simply self-correct and not put us in to such a dangerous situation.
FOUND OUT I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE
Returning home, I find DOZENS of postings showing this is an issue many people have experienced. I concur with most that this is a DANGEROUS situation and HONDA HAS BEEN SILENT on this major issue.
I’ve found about 15 places where people have described the exact issue we experienced, but some also discuss other situations where the car had this revving-no-power problem (revving is also euphemistically called “angry bees”) even without a depleted battery. At CarComplaints.com there are several, including many like these:
January 15, 2019: “3 days after purchase I was driving on an interstate when the car suddenly lost all power. I managed to pull to a slow lane but the lack of power continued for another 5 minutes. It had been running on battery just prior and I had 2 bars of power left. The outside temperature was about 15 degrees. The internal combustion engine began to race but only began to give adequate power to the wheels after 5 minutes. A terrifying experience. Honda checked out the car and said nothing was wrong. I am hearing of other cases being reported like mine.”
Steve Borsch note: This is what happened to us, but the outside temperature was approximately 67 degrees. In the next two CarComplaint’s posts I’ve bolded specific items of note:
January 09, 2019: “Car revs up when driving down the highway but drops speed to 10mph. It has done this 2 times once in town and once on US-23 while driving 70mph. There are several complaints about the car doing the same thing to other Clarity owners and this is a highly dangerous situation that Honda should take care of! Reineke Honda in Findlay Ohio had my car for about 3 weeks and while test driving it the car did the same thing for the service manager Mike Stevens. They took a control box off a brand new Clarity per Honda’s suggestion and I am driving the car and had no new problems so far. They were not sure this would fix the issue but so far it hasn’t happened again. This is a dangerous failure in the car and I am lucky I wasn’t driving in Columbus, Ohio the 2nd time the car did it or I would have been rear ended! Honda needs to make sure this problem is fixed!!!”
February 09, 2019: “On approx 6 occasions, when EV power is used up, the car switches to ICE mode with issues. When traveling up hill, it feels like the transmission is not engaging. The vehicle losses power, and does not accelerate. The ICE revs extremely high without speed gain. Have also experienced a downhill situation with nearly full EV in EV mode. Vehicle feels like it disengages drivetrain. When pressing the accelerator, there was no response. One feels helpless when this occurs. Most of the time, the car had switches from EV to HV automatically, without issue. But, the above phenomena has happened 6 times in the last year this is unsafe. The vehicle was sold as an EV, with a gas engine to take over when EV runs out. At no time was there any explanation regarding potential situations that would cause the vehicle to become unsafe and lose power. One should not have to ensure reserve EV power for potential power loss situations. When these situations have occurred, upon shutting off the car and exiting, there is a strong smell of burning rubber and other material similar to transmission and brakes, or hot metal. Clearly something is overheating, and if the vehicle was not shutdown and allowed to cool, a reasonable person might conclude that significant damage to the engine, electric motors, EV battery, or transmission would take place. I am no longer driving the vehicle as a pure EV for city driving. The fear of power loss without control is extremely upsetting, and consequently, not getting the value of vehicle. My spouse will not drive the vehicle as driver or passenger if the trip is to exceed 20 miles in one direction. My gas savings has dropped considerably as I am unable to risk running out of EV before my trip ends. This vehicle has been taken to the dealer 3 times, and inspected by Honda of America. They deny there is anything wrong with the vehicle.“
WHAT’S NEXT, HONDA?
What do I do next? More importantly, what do YOU do next, Honda? Almost all postings I’ve read say that dealer investigations turn up nothing and are a waste of time. I suspect it’s because the fundamental software code is at fault, something a dealer cannot fix.
HONDA: This is clearly a software issue since the switchover from HV Mode’s battery/engine, to only the engine, does not happen correctly. You must fix this before someone (or multiple people) die in a horrific crash and you are found to be at fault for not addressing this issue.
WHERE IT HAPPENED: Here is where it happened to us yesterday — we were headed southbound on CA-73 up a hill and the ‘shoulder’ we had to pull over on was on a bridge over El Toro Road, with cars racing by at top speed:
WHY A TWEET AND THIS POST: The primary reason I tweeted Honda today and am writing this post (and will tweet it too), is to document what happened, where it happened, and to have an audit trail in case something happens to me or my family while driving this car … or Honda does nothing to fix this issue and puts an unknown number of Clarity PHEV owners in continued jeopardy.
After coming back from our Memorial Day weekend adventure in Palm Springs yesterday morning, I headed over to Rancho Santa Margarita Honda to check out the colors that the Honda Clarity comes in. Though I’d pretty much decided on the Modern Steel Metallic (a dark gray) they had a silver with black interior and a green with tan interior on the lot.
I bought the green with tan interior, a green they call Moonlit Forest Pearl. “Oh, how romantic,” I thought sarcastically. But it was the color my wife, Michelle Lamb, said she loved weeks ago when we first test-drove a Clarity, but which I rejected because of the tan interior and its tendency to get filthy quickly. Since Michelle does color specification for major companies (including automotive) I trust her judgement. Plus I did love the color too!’
I’ll reiterate what I said in this post 10 days ago about why I made the decision to buy this car and what a great deal I got on it:
- Honda Clarity EV: This is the car. It is SO much more comfortable than either the Hyundai Kona or Tesla Model 3. We opted for the Touring trim (better sound system; leather seats; etc.). Though the EV range is only 47 miles, that will cover our day-to-day driving. For longer trips the Clarity’s Hybrid Mode — where the battery augments the gas use for longer trips with EPA rating of 110MPGe — means we’ll have 90% of our use on electric, and the rest with excellent gas mileage (when the battery is depleted, the combined city/highway MPG = 42).
- Sticker price for the Touring trim = $37,520
- My price after $6,000 Honda discount = $30,861 (offer details)
- Federal tax rebate = $7,500
- Effective car cost = $23,361 (plus tax, license, registration, etc.)
Of course I drove it around a bunch last evening, came home and sat in the car reading the manual, setting up the Homelink garage door opener, and downloading the HondaLink app and configuring it. Yes, I think this will shape up to be my best purchase ever (well … at least my best car purchase yet!). I’ll post something in a few months after I have more time with the car.
After moving to southern California in June of 2018, it became clear that the miles I was driving meant that it was increasingly uncomfortable to spend a lot of time in the white, 2013 Toyota Prius Persona I was driving. This car was one my 100,000+ air miles per year wife was driving up until a couple of years ago, so even after driving out here from Minnesota, the car has just over 32,000 miles on it!
As a not-so-small guy, the Prius was “just OK” as far as comfort was concerned, but not for long distances. Since we’re installing solar — and I did really want to go fully electric with a car — a plugin hybrid vehicle (PHEV) could be an option.
At least a PHEV would work where I live since the distances in California are so vast (just driving up to see our kids in Los Angeles is 59 miles in one direction) that I knew I would need and want range. Especially since electric vehicle (EV) chargers here are almost always full with a waiting line as well so charging for an hour or two is a challenge.
Add to that the “local” trips we have planned:
- Palm Springs: We have a friend there and at least six or more times per year we’ll be driving out there and it’s 105 miles each way plus driving locally. That means a full charge is needed before driving home.
- Steve’s Road Trips: I have over 30 spots picked out for my photography hobby, and at least half of them would be in areas without EV chargers close by. Not impossible, just terribly inconvenient and time consuming to charge-up.
- L.A. Trips: Seeing our son in Santa Monica and daughter in L.A. means driving that 59 miles in one direction. In summer with the heat and air conditioning on in an EV vehicle — and driving around L.A. for a day or two — a 258 mile (or lower) EV range means again, charging is a necessity and L.A. area EV chargers are tough to get and the queues are long.
But to make certain I explored the three vehicles I was interested in buying next, my wife and I drove these three:
- Hyundai Kona EV: I loved this small SUV and had a grin on my face the entire time we were driving it. Still, the 258 mile range was limiting.
- Sticker price for the Ultimate (leather seats; etc.) = $45,500 with no negotiating due to demand.
- Federal tax rebate = $7,500
- Effective car cost = $38,000 (plus tax, license, registration, etc.)
- Tesla Model 3: To keep the cost of a Model 3 EV down and in the same ballpark with the Hyundai Kona EV, I was looking at the Standard Range Plus with 240 miles of EV range. Again, having this car would not meet our needs due to limited range, need to charge, and so on.
- Sticker price for the Standard Range Plus, in white, 19″ wheels, with RWD = $43,000
- Federal tax rebate = $3,750 (lower since Tesla has used-up their full $7,500 rebate quota)
- Effective car cost = $39,250 (plus tax, license, registration, etc.)
- Honda Clarity EV: This is the car. It is SO much more comfortable than either the Kona or Tesla. We opted for the Touring trim (better sound system; leather seats; etc.). Though the EV range is only 47 miles, that will cover our day-to-day driving. For longer trips the Clarity’s Hybrid Mode — where the battery augments the gas use for longer trips with EPA rating of 110MPGe — means we’ll have 90% of our use on electric, and the rest with excellent gas mileage (when the battery is depleted, the combined city/highway MPG = 42).
- Sticker price for the Touring trim = $37,520
- My price after Honda discount = $30,861
- Federal tax rebate = $7,500
- Effective car cost = $23,361 (plus tax, license, registration, etc.)
Though I’d rather have a full EV (especially since we can charge up using solar when it’s installed next month) the limited range doesn’t make sense for my use, especially here in southern California. Plus the car just feels and looks great. It’s comfortable and the ride is fabulous. Oh … and it has Apple CarPlay which I have wanted in a car for some time.
There are compromises I’ll make with this car (it’s not an SUV or even a hatchback; wood look and faux suede on the dash is offputting; I’d rather not have the fender ‘skirt’) but those are small quibbles. The overall size, ride, comfort (for both front seat and rear seat passengers) make this the perfect next car for us.
Interested in learning more about the Honda Clarity? Check out this short video from Kelley Blue Book’s review:
Kelley Blue Book also gave the car it’s 2019 Best Buy award: