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1997 Honda Accord starting issues

My 16 year old son has been driving my mother’s 1997 Honda Accord LX with the intent of buying it when he’s saved up the money. The car was bought new, and has always been very reliable. Lately, though he’s had some starting issues. Sometimes, when he turns the key in the switch, the car will fail to start and the horn will sound. When he turns the switch back off, the horn stops, and when he tries again, the car starts. Other times, though, it keeps doing the same thing, and he has to find other transportation. I had never encountered this in the car myself, and thought he might be doing something wrong. But last week, we were in the car together ( he was driving) and it did the same thing. I didn’t see him do anything incorrectly, and the car started on the second try.

I have no idea what might be causing this, and when I laeft it with my mechanic for a day, he couldn’t duplicate the problem. A couple of things might be relevant, though.
It only happens when the car is warm. It’s never failed to start cold. Also, with age, the ignition switch frequently sticks, and the key has to be jiggled to make it turn.

I hope someone can help us with this.

Try moving the steering wheel back and forth a bit when it won’t start, see if that changes anything.

There is something called the clockspring which makes connections between the controls in the steering wheel and the rest of the car. The horn uses that, for example. That may be the problem.

Replacing the ignition switch now before it fails completely might be a good idea and could solve your problem. Also if this vehicle has an after market alarm that could be bad also.

To get a good answer, you need to be clearer on the symptoms. Fails to start covers a lot of territory from cranking but not starting to fails to crank. Fails to crank also needs further description, clicks no crank, no sounds from starter, whiny sound from starter but engine not turning.

Also, is the horn continuous or intermittent beeping?

Horn is continuous until switch is turned off, Keith. As for failing to start; nothing happens. No turnover, no click, nothing but the horn. And Volvo,I have thought of replacing the ignition switch, but without knowing that will remedy the problem, I’m reluctant. I don’t want to dive into that that whole trial-and-error money pit. And no, there is no alarm on the car at all.
Bill, we’ve had to move the steering wheel to turn the key for some time now.
I’ll look into that clockspring idea and see what I can find out.
Thanks for the input, guys. If you or anyone else has any ideas, I’m open to suggestions.

I would not consider replacing the ignition switch as throwing parts at it. It is showing signs of possibly failing at a very bad time or place. I call that preventative maintenance.

I don’t agree that it is the ignition switch. Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I think the problem is down in the wiring harness. These can be the most difficult problems to isolate. It sounds like you have some wires that have been damaged and bare wires are touching each other.

I don’t think it is the clock spring either, but I’d at least look at that.

There is a fuse and relay panel under the hood and the issue could be located under it. You are going to have to inspect the wiring harnesses that go down the steering column and under the fuse and relay panel under the hood. Also look for damage to the connectors in the fire wall.

This will be a very time consuming job, unless you are very lucky and stumble across it early. Start by inspecting the outsides of the wiring bundles looking for any damage to the wrappings or loom covers. Any evidence of abrasion, heat damage or water damage would be a big clue as to where to start.

Horn honks when you turn the key to “start”. hmmm … This is indeed an unusual problem. I don’t think I"ve ever heard this question posed here before. what you need is that portion of the car’s wiring diagram to have a chance of figuring out what’s causing it. Do you have a way to post that info here?

If not … this is just a guess of course … as keith above says, you may have a short circuit in the wiring harness involving wires common to the ignition switch and the horn button. You might bet lucky by poking your noggin up under the dashboard, maybe you’ll see something unusual, like a loose connector or bare wire where there should be insulation.

There’s also a chance – another guess – is the horn honk is done by the body module or something similar, and that function is messed up for some reason, and the high current used during starter motor operation is contributing. Might be a good idea to have your battery load tested and make sure the connections at the battery are clean and tight.

Absent luck, or any of the above guesses, you or our shop is really are going to need a wiring diagram to have a chance at finding this.

If the horn is honking during the starting process…methinks there may be an alarm…either factory or aftermarket that you are unaware of. You need to see what is what.

Now if you never mentioned the horn… I would suggest you buy a new PGM/Fi relay…they are a WELL WELL known Honda no start cause…and they are one of the few… the other causes are the ignitor assy inside the distributor…which is also replaceable.

Your Horn Honk comment has my curiosity piqued…As a former Professional Alarm installer…Ive seen this more than a few times.


Thanks for the input, Blackbird. The car was bought new, with no alarm, and none was ever installed. I’m actually taking it to have the main relay checked out tomorrow.

Call the Honda dealer with the VIN. These cars are under a recall for faulty ignition switches and if the VIN falls in line and the recall has never been done in the past this repair can be done for you free of charge.

I’d have any other outstanding recalls done at the same time. Any freebie should be taken advantage of.

Incomplete recalls can be checked online;