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1993 Honda Civic Sporadically Not Starting

Over the past 3 years or so, my 1993 Honda Civic began not starting at very random times. Everything would appear to be working but the engine wouldn’t fire up, until after a few tries or minutes. I got the fuel pump relay replaced last March and that helped for a bit but then my car acted up again in June and an electrical connector to the fuel pump was replaced. My car had been starting every time since, until last week. This is the worst it has ever been; my engine took about 3 hours (re-trying it here and there) to decide to turn over and start on its own, worked great for 3 days and then again just would not start. On a whim, I jumped it that time and it worked. This seems strange to me because all the electricity in the car was working when it wouldn’t start, and my battery checked out fine when it was tested recently. I am at a loss and I think my mechanic is once again stumped as well. I know my car is 20 years old, but I love it and am not ready to part with it. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!!!

Does the engine crank over but not catch and start running or does it not turn over at all? If you hear nothing or only a click, I would look into replacing the starter. This is a $40-50 part on most cars and you should be able to do it if you have any mechanical experience.


Cwatkin asked a good question.

If when it’s acting up the starter does not turn the crankshaft at all, someone will need to look at the battery cable connections, check to see if the solenoid is activating. If the solenoid IS activating, but the starter motor is not turning the crank, the voltage at the starter assembly should be checked. There may be enough voltage to engage the starter assembly to the flywheel but not start the engine. Turning the crank with it’s need to overcome compression combined with its need to drag its accessories (like the alternator) for the ride requires a lot more juice than just operating the lights, so the lights going on may not be definitive.

If the voltage is low, the cable connections need to be checked, and perhaps the battery and charging system need checking again…using a “load test”.

If the starter motor IS turning the crankshaft but very slowly, you’ll need to check voltages, connections, etc as per above. It take more punch to start the engine than to turn the crank, simply because of the need to produce a suffcient voltage spike for the sparkplugs.

If the starting activities seem good but the engine just won’t fire, consider a weak fuel pump. A bad check valve that allows the fuel to flow back into the gastank when the car is parked is another possibiity. This is actually easy to check; turn the key to “ON” a few times for about 4 seconds each before turning it to “START”. That’ll give the fuel pump a chance to pressurize the fuel line before the injectors start to open up.

Post back. We care.

Main relay is a known problem with Hondas.

Not just Hondas.

Although you’ve already replaced the main relay (fuel pump relay is part of the main relay), it might be defective again. If that isn’t the problem, try testing the igniter inside the distributor. Do not follow the procedure for testing the igniter in the Haynes manual. It is taken from the factory manual but is incorrectly written. Use the factory manual.