1988 Honda Civic Sdn - Hard Start When Hot

Ray, I have a 1988 Honda Civic, DX, 1500 cc engine.

Occasionally, perhaps more often in summer. I drive it, stop, shut it off, then when I get ready to go it just spins over and doesn’t start. If I wait a minute (no cheating, it needs a full minute) then try, it starts almost every time. Sometimes it takes a second minute.

It’s been doing this for at least three years.

Ray’s not here… but you put up with this for 3 years, why ask now?

Next time it won’t start, don’t wait a minute, turn the key on but not start, then off, 3 times. See if it fires right up. If so, I’d suggest a leaking fuel injector or a leaking check valve in the fuel pump.

Thanks for the prompt reply and the suggestions on what to look for.

Yeah, sometimes if I turn the key on and off five times, waiting each time for the “check engine” light to go off, it’ll start. But not always.

Why worry now? My wife give me hell every time it happens when she is in the car with me (she doesn’t drive this car alone) saying that one of these times it won’t start at all.

Thanks again,

The hard starting might be due to vapor lock.

Vapor lock occurs when the gas in the fuel rail boils from the engine heat, making it difficult to start the engine.

Carry a bottle of water in the vehicle. The next time the engine won’t start, open the hood and pour the bottle of water over the fuel rail to cool it.

If the engine starts, that’s vapor lock.


And the vapor lock could be caused by a weak/failing fuel pump.

Good advice above. Another idea, next time it happens check for a healthy visible spark at a spark plug during cranking. If there’s no spark happening the problem likely is in the ignition system rather than the fuel system, possibly a heat related crank position sensor failure.

This was a common complaint years ago. Often the fuel pump would not run, especially when the interior was hot, because of a failed solder joint in the fuel pump relay (also called main relay) that is under the dashboard. If when you turn the key to Run (not all the way to start) you do not always hear the fuel pump run, that part is a top suspect. There were also ignition switch problems in Hondas of that vintage.

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Yep, I forgot about that common Honda problem. I’d replace it, pretty cheap and easy.

Likely main relay and if problems persist the ignition switch. The ign. switch is in line with the main relay so both can be affected due to the high electrical current being run through them.

An aging fuel pump, partially clogged fuel filter, etc can kind of goad this problem along.