How to Check a Honda Insight’s Battery Power
“It has the look and feel of a luxury car,” said one proud new owner of a 2021 Honda Insight. “But without the sticker shock!” (We hear this a lot.)
Other Honda Insight owners rave about its spirited performance and responsive handling. Still more are wowed by its smooth ride and spacious interior.
The one feature, however, that unites them all in praise of the Insight is its impressive gas mileage, a benefit attributed to its hybrid technology—which uses a blend of gasoline and electric to power the vehicle.
The simplest explanation of how the Insight’s hybrid technology works is by using an electric motor combined with a gasoline engine to power the car. The electricity is derived from an IMA high-voltage battery pack (not to be confused with the car’s conventional 12-volt battery) that recharges itself by capturing and storing energy that is typically lost during normal braking and deceleration.
The IMA battery—short for Integrated Motor Assist—is installed between the car’s transmission and its gasoline-powered engine. Its primary task is to power the car until the internal combustion engine takes over. When functioning properly, the battery will power the car at low speeds or when idling in traffic, resulting in greater fuel efficiency.
Bear in mind that the Honda Insight’s IMA battery comes with a 10-year/150,000-mile warranty, which means that the average model should travel at least that many miles before the battery pack may need replacing. Often, it will last much longer with proper care and maintenance.
If your odometer is showing significantly fewer than 150,000 miles and your fuel economy has begun to slip noticeably, this can be an early warning sign that the battery pack needs to be serviced. Another sign of a weakening battery is when the gasoline engine kicks on and off more than usual. In either case you should take your Honda Insight to an authorized service center for diagnostics and service.
On the other hand, if you simply love to dote over your Honda Insight and want to keep a constant eye on the status of all its systems and fluids—including the IMA battery’s charge—there is a way to accomplish this without a visit to your service technician.
First, we suggest a visit to Honda Insight Central, an online forum dedicated to issues that specifically involve Honda Insights. There in one of the many discussion topics, you can read about procedures for testing your Insight’s IMA battery.
Some of these procedures are less scientific than the others and tend to involve a lot of guesswork. However, the consensus of opinion suggests that the most reliable way to check your IMA battery’s charge is by using an OBD2 scanner, an electronic device that plugs into your car’s computer and scans for problems. (“OBD” is shorthand for “On Board Diagnostics; and the “2” means it is universal and can support different car manufacturers.) This is the same sort of first-line diagnostic tool that your Honda service department uses to assess for problems whenever your “check engine” light comes on.
There are literally hundreds of these OBD2 devices on the market ranging from $20 to over $200, with the difference mostly explained by the breadth of their capabilities. Recently, obdstation.com—which rates and compares these automotive scanning devices for consumers—ran a comparison of the best OBD2 scanners for Hondas. This is well worth a read if you are planning to purchase such a device, as it can also help you monitor and troubleshoot for other potential problems throughout your car’s various operating systems.
Of course, if you suspect for any reason that you IMA battery is anything less than fully operational, a visit to an authorized Honda service center is strongly recommended.
In the meantime, relax and enjoy the ride.