1998 Honda Civic Electrical Issue

Hi. I have a 1998 Honda Civic with 166Kmiles that is new to me. For about 1.5 months I had no issues but about a month ago I was driving and noticed something odd. If I tapped the brake, the lights would dim and the radio would cut out. Not everytime but frequently. As I was coasting into my parking spot, I pushed the power window button to close the window and the car stalled. After that I started having hit and miss troubles getting the engine to crank. Either it would crank or there was NO power (i.e. no dashboard lights, radio, etc.) at all. Jump starting would help but I had to gett the cables just so. Last week it gave up occasionally starting. I can still jump start but again the cables have to attached just so. Once started the car will run but I have to keep it above idle or it might stall. I replaced the battery to no avail.

What is my next step in solving this electrical system problem?

Check both ends of the battery cables. They have to be clean - both on the cable and the connection point - and connected solidly. Don’t overly tighten the battery posts. If the cable ends don’t look really clean, cut back some of the plastic cover and make sure there’s no rot (rust or white “powder”) under there indicating a failing cable. I suspect it is the ground, but you’d be wise to check them both.

Also check the grounding strap from the engine to the frame. That has to be clean and tight, too.


Along with cleaning the battery cable connections also check the main alternator output connection and make sure it is in good chape. Make sure the fan belt is good and snug. Clean the battery to chassis connection. It may also be a good idea to have a load test done on the charging system to make sure the alternator is working to its’ full capacity.

+1 for chaissos and thanks. The positive battery connection was one of those aftermarket steel ones that bolts onto the wires going to the rest of the system. When I opened it up I saw much rust on the terminal AND the wires very tarnished and green. I cut back the wires to fresh copper and replaced the rusty terminal and bam, car starts with no issue. I cleaned both terminals and and the negative battery cable, applied dielectric grease and now everything seems fine.

Glad it’s working, and thanks for letting us know.

You may want to remember those cables…as they’ll probably need actual replacing sometime in the not too distant future.