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"Automobile Won't Start - Troubleshooting Question" Topic

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664 hits since 6 Jan 2015
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Mako11 Inactive Member06 Jan 2015 2:49 p.m. PST

I'm driving an older Honda Accord coupe (1988), and am having issues with it, so would appreciate some feedback on confirming the problem.

I replaced the battery in about 8 months ago, and the battery cable terminals are clean. The starter seems to be fine too, since it will kick over every time I try.

However, immediately after starting, there's an electronic chirp in the car, and then the engine dies.

It will start up, over and over like this, but again, just dies

So, given that, it appears to me that the electrical system, and starter are fine, but that there is either a computer brain board issue, and/or a fuel flow issue.

Given that the fuel filter has only been changed once in 200,000 miles, I'm hoping that is the issue, and it is dying from fuel starvation, and not the fuel pump, or computer board, since both of those cost a lot more to fix.


I'm leaning towards replacing the fuel filter first, since I think it is probably the most likely cause of the issue, and because it is the cheapest item to replace.

TNE230006 Jan 2015 3:09 p.m. PST

"…but again, just dies"
just dies instantly or sputters and dies?
fuel related issues I have come across are usually sputters

"…there's an electronic chirp in the car…"
what kind of chirp?
I am imagining something that might be from an alarm
does your alarm system cut off fuel/ignition?
could be a faulty alarm sensor/switch?

Mako11 Inactive Member06 Jan 2015 3:57 p.m. PST

Just dies, immediately.

Then, I can restart it, and it'll do the same thing, over and over. Seems like it wants to run, but won't.

In the past, I've revved the engine immediately after starting, to keep it running, in either park, or neutral, but that doesn't work now. It was also idling poorly at stopsigns and lights, so I usually had to give it a little gas to keep it at/above 1,000 RPM.

The plugs were changed a year, or so ago, but again, they shouldn't be bad, given the minimal driving.

It is a fuel injected engine.

We did have an alarm system installed at one time, but that has been removed.

I also thought it could be some sort of safety interrupt with the automatic transmission, too, but don't really know.

What is crazy is it did this about a year ago, and then got better.

We don't drive it much. Just around town, primarily.

It's only had one fuel-filter replacement in 200,000 miles, so figured that's probably as good a place as any, to start.

napthyme Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Jan 2015 4:10 p.m. PST

Could be some sensor shorting out because it is wet.

RavenscraftCybernetics Inactive Member06 Jan 2015 4:59 p.m. PST

bad O2 sensor or fuel pump.

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP06 Jan 2015 5:56 p.m. PST

The car IS 26 years old. Perhaps it expired from natural causes.

45thdiv06 Jan 2015 6:09 p.m. PST

It still has a distributor since it is from 1988. There is a sensor in the distributor that is computer controlled to fire the spark plugs I. The most efficient time.

I had a Subaru that did then same thing. Would start and then just shut off completely. Some times with a back fire.

My guess would be to have the car hooked up to a computer and have the electrical systems checked. But, I would also change the fuel filter too. 200k is a lot of miles on one little filter. :-)

Mako11 Inactive Member06 Jan 2015 9:54 p.m. PST

Hmmm, sounds like a number of possibilities.

Forgot to mention, since that occurred some months ago, and has been fine since, that the car actually just cut off once, while driving down the road, and seemed perfectly fine, just beforehand as well.

No coughing, or sputtering, it just shut off.

Took me a few seconds to figure out that had even occurred.

Very strange, especially since I was able to eventually get it started again, and it's run pretty well for months since then, with no work done to it.

Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP06 Jan 2015 11:01 p.m. PST

If it still has a distributor, check to make sure that
there is not a hairline crack in the distributor cap.

Had a car once with very similar symptoms – the problem
was a crack, very tiny crack, in the distributor cap and
it was a really tough problem to track down, especially
because of the intermittent nature of the symptoms.

goragrad06 Jan 2015 11:22 p.m. PST

One way to check the distributor cap for cracks is to spray some WD-40 around the interior. Had to do that once with a 66 Impala. Had spent a couple of days trying to diagnose that – and my father was a pretty fair shade tree mechanic.

If it had sputtered I would have suggested water in the gas as the problem and advised Heet to get it out.

Cerdic Supporting Member of TMP06 Jan 2015 11:38 p.m. PST

Sounds like something electrical to me. I would start by checking the ignition system.

Personal logo Andrew Walters Supporting Member of TMP07 Jan 2015 9:49 a.m. PST


When you say it starts, you mean that actual gas-burning is happening? It's not just turning over from the starter motor?

Either the air, fuel or ignition is getting choked off. Certainly a twenty seven year old fuel filter is going to offer the fuel pump a lot more resistance than a new one. Why hasn't that ever been replaced? Obviously you want to check the air filter and the entire route the air takes into the engine. Then check to see if the spark plugs are firing – there's some kind of device you can put on the spark plug wires to see if the ignition charge is coming down the line.

Air, fuel, spark, one of the three isn't happening. Figure out which first, then figure out why, then you're nearly home!

Mako11 Inactive Member07 Jan 2015 3:55 p.m. PST

No distributor cap, since it is fuel injected, which I guess is either good, or bad.

I know how to deal with distributor caps/points/rotors, through lots of first-hand experience, but sadly, virtually none with fuel injected systems.

I looked on Google, and it appears there could be a number of issues, e.g. ignition switch where the key is, some sort of main fuse underneath the dashboard (apparently connections poorly soldered in some cases), hairline crack of the coil wire, EGR valve leak/problems, fuel pump and/or electrical connection to the fuel pump, fuel line pressure leak, etc.

I have replaced the fuel filter once, but only once.

I'll definitely replace the fuel filter, since I know that needs to be done, and hope that fixes it.

Then, if not, will have to work from there.

Hard to say if the car is actually burning gas, but it sounds like the engine is running, before it just cuts off immediately, after using the starter.

I assume it is/was, since sometimes this happens, and eventually I can get it running again, and it doesn't exhibit symptoms like this for several months, or more.

Someone mentioned keeping the starter engaged, instead of releasing it, since supposedly there is a clutch to keep it from destroying itself, as a way to check to see if it is the ignition issue. Not sure the car has that, since I seem to recall loud rasping metallic noises, if the starter is kept engaged for too long, so not sure that is a good idea.

Thanks for all the suggestions.

I appreciate them.

Personal logo Andrew Walters Supporting Member of TMP07 Jan 2015 5:43 p.m. PST

Fuel injection means no carburetor, nothing to do with distributor.

Electronic ignition means no distributor, I think.

There is no clutch between the starter motor and the engine, it's a thing called a bendix drive, some kind of worm gear that drives a thing back and forth. If the starter motor is moving faster than the engine it will drive the starter motor shaft forward to engage the engine, and when the engine is spinning faster than the starter motor it will drive the shaft the other way to disengage and shut off. If you turn the key to the fourth position while the engine is running the bendix drive will indeed make a most unpleasant noise, and if you do this much you will need a new starter motor. But if you *keep* the starter engaged I don't think this happens, the engine should make the starter stop. But I'm not sure and you don't have a normal operating situation, so you're probably wise not to experiment.

Do you smell raw gas at the exhaust when the car dies? That could mean ignition. ButI think the best route is to change the fuel filter and then test to see if the spark is getting to the plugs, that will let you know whether or not to look for an electrical issue. Electrical issues are mysterious and time consuming, so first figure out if you have that going on before you try to play with anything or you could be wasting your time and not know it.

Best of luck!

Mako11 Inactive Member09 Jan 2015 12:36 a.m. PST

I believe I've finally figured it out tonight.

Yesterday, it wouldn't start, but after leaving the starter engaged a bit, and giving it a bit of gas pedal revving, I got it to run. I thought perhaps the fuel injectors were clogged, and that I'd blown out the blockage with the revving.

Tonight though, same scenario. Turns over fine, but immediately cuts off when the starter is disengaged, no matter how much foot I put into the gas pedal.

However, since it was at night, I noticed that after turning the key back to the run position, all the idiot lights on the dash were dark, even though the key was in the "on" position. Not good.

I jiggled the key a little in the ignition, and behold, we get the idiot lights back again, so, it appears that the ignition switch is bad.

I was able to get it started and drive to the store, and then restarted again to get home.

Need to figure out how to repair, or replace the ignition switch, I guess. Suspect it is far too old to be under the mandatory recalls for ignition switch replacements by all the manufacturers out there.

Still, good to finally figure out what it is.

That also explains why it shut off driving down the road as well. Must have hit a bump just right to make the ignition jiggle, and the car to cut off a while back.

Also, makes sense about the chirping noise too.

Personal logo Andrew Walters Supporting Member of TMP12 Jan 2015 12:10 a.m. PST

#1 thanks for posting the ending of the story, I really wanted to know what happened.

#2 I truly, truly hope you have it figured out. Electrical problems are notorious for being evasive, confounding, ninja-like. You might get the switch replaced only to find…

#3 There are a ton of Honda how-tos on the internet. I'm sure you'll find a few videos that show you how to do the job.

#4 If you suspect there ever was an ignition recall I'd call the dealer. Phone calls are free. Or the info should be on the web. Some part of it may be covered, and if they recalled something in there that isn't the problem and isn't covered you might want to swap it while you have the dashboard taken apart.

Good luck!

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