Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

1991 Honda Civic DX

Ok my car is not starting. It is not turning over when you turn the key and push in the clutch. I can here a relay click under the drivers side dash. I can push start it and it runs great, sometimes it will start and run fine but it is a frequent problem now. Any suggestions on what could be causing me these problems.

It sounds like you have a bad clutch interlock switch. It’s also known as a clutch pedal ignition lock switch.

I’d bet you have a dead battery. Have you had it tested?

The starting circuit on your vehicle operates in this way.

Power passes thru the starter relay, then thru the clutch inter-lock switch, then to the starter solenoid. The click you hear under the dash is the starter relay. So the problem might be with the clutch inter-lock switch or the starter solenoid.

To test the inter-lock switch, unplug the electrical connector to the switch at the clutch pedal. Insert a jumper wire into the electrical connector. If the engine now starts the clutch inter-lock switch is defective. If the engine still won’t start, then the problem is with the starter solenoid.


On my Corolla at least, if the starter relay inside the passenger compartment is clickiing, that means the clutch interlock switch is ok. I expect this is a problem with either the battery or the starter selenoid. It could be a bad starter relay, but it is quite unusual for those to go bad. I doubt that is the problem.

Have your mechanic measure the voltage at both electrical terminals to the starter motor, the thick wire, and the the thin wire, leave them connected, during attempted cranking. If both voltages are above 10 - 10.5 volts, the problem is the starter selenoid or some other problem with the starter motor.

I’m going to agree with George on this that if the interlock were bad the starter relay would not be energizing. I guess the best place to start is to check the starter motor connections when the malfunction is happening. 12VDC applied; it’s the starter assembly. 12VDC missing, it’s the starter relay contacts. I think either could sound like the clicking was coming from under the dash.

The click could be the main relay. Keeping in mind that my memory is very hazy due to the age of the car I might add this in regards to the clutch interlock switch.

Many types of cars have a tab on the clutch pedal that depresses the plunger on the switch. Some tabs have a rubber pad on them to cushion the plunger.
When new, the pad is soft, pliable, and returns to form when the clutch pedal is depressed.
When aged and the rubber becomes hardened, the plunger may make a dimple in the rubber and the dimple will remain even with the pedal depressed.

I’ve fixed a few no-start problems by using adhesive to attach a small metal flat washer to the pad. Eliminating the dimple allows the switch to operate again.

Not saying this is the problem; only something for consideration.

I think ok4450 is right - the click is coming from where the main fuel relay is on that car, and that will engage without the clutch safety switch - only the starter is killed with the safety switch. I’d be taking a hard look at the starter and its wires if the clutch safety switch proves to be good.

The way to tell if the clicking sound inside the passenger compartment is related to the clutch switch or not, try it with the clutch pedal out, then in. If the click is only heard when the clutch pedal is in, that’s good evidence the clutch switch is working.

It’s also possible for the clutch switch to get a bit stupid if the pedal is excessively loose due to too much free play.
I can’t remember if the clutch switches are threaded or not on this model but if it is loosening the lock nut and screwing it a turn forward might get it going again.

Yes, I had this exact problem on my Corolla. The switch is a sort of cylinder within a cylinder arrangement, with one cylinder riding inside the other when you press the clutch pedal. The contact points wear thin and corrode after thousands of clutch pedal depressions. The effect on the starting operation on my Corolla wasn’t a total failure, but an intermittant failure instead. It wouuld engage the starter sometimes, but not others. Eventually I isolated this to the clutch switch. Replacing the switch with a new one proved an inexpensive fix.

Still, if the small relay clicks inside the passenger compartment, on early 90’s Corollas at least, that means the clutch pedal switch is making good enough contact to enable the relay, and – if the starter motor and selenoid contacts, battery, etc, are good --the relay clicking should cause the starter motor to engage.