1998 Honda Civic stalls randomly

I have a 1998 Honda Civic with > 200k miles. It drives very well normally. Its problem is that it stalls randomly while driving. There is no ‘sputtering’ or ‘chugging’. The engine just stops running suddenly and the check engine light comes on.

I turn the ignition off, and try to restart. If the check engine light stays on when I turn the key, then it will not start. If it the check engine light goes off then it restarts fine.

Additionally, there is a sound that is associated to my knowing if it will start again. If the check engine light goes OFF, there is a sound like a pump that cycles. If the check engine light stays on, then there is no sound.

Once the check engine light goes off and I can start it, I’ve taken it to a shop and had them check for error codes, which there are none. I’ve let the shop drive the car around and they have not had the issue occur while driving.

This issue seems to occur most often when it is above freezing, and usually after I’ve been driving in 5th gear. Though that comment about the gear is not always repeatable or consistent. It has stalled in ANY gear, just seems to stall the most when I’m in 5th or shortly after.

We’ve replaced the battery, checked the alternator, replaced the ignition electronics, and had them check for error codes which hasn’t resulted in one yet.

The Honda dealer was the worst, saying there was a blown head gasket and engine damage, so I needed to replace all that for $3900.

It has been frustrating, as you probably imagine. :slight_smile: The occurrences of this is 0-2 times per trip in the car. Often times where aren’t places to pull to the side of a road. I’m also in $400 deep now with zero solutions between taking it to Honda’s shop and another local shop.

Any suggestions welcome, and I can clarify any information if needed. Thanks all!

Has anyone suggested replacing the main fuel pump relay? These relays usually cause starting trouble when interior temperatures are high, but it the relay is bad it could cause intermittent problems such as you describe, especially considering the miles. The relay is under the dashboard.

Of course, that assumes a fuel issue is causing the starting. You seem to have covered the spark side.

When the engine stalls several lights should come on. Do they, or is it just the CEL?

When you turn the key to “on,” before you start the engine, the CEL should ALWAYS come on. Only when you start the engine should it go off. If it stays on after the engine is running, then there should be codes stored.

Thanks for the reply.

When I do hear what sounds like a pump cycling, there is a ‘click’ under the driver’s side dashboard. So…here is what I hear/see when I turn the key to the “ON” position normally:

  1. check engine light comes on
  2. pump cycling sound for 1-2 seconds
  3. click under dash when cycling sound stops
  4. check engine light goes off

I’ll pay better attention to what lights that come on additional to the CEL next time it occurs.

The CEL does always come on initially when I turn the key to ‘ON’. But goes off in 1-2 seconds (if the car is going to start normally). The CEL stays on when after a stall when the engine is not going to start right away. If I let it sit for a couple minutes, then it will start normally (like the steps I described above).

No one yet had suggested the main fuel pump relay until now. Is it a heat and/or moisture issue with the relay? I’ve noticed that I do not seem to have this issue when the outside temperature is below freezing.

What I’ve been told is the solder joints within the relay crack, and when the relay gets hot it expands and can lose contact. When this happens the fuel pump gets no power and the engine won’t start.

If the cycling pump noise you hear is coming from the rear of the car it might be the fuel pump. If it’s coming from the front it could be the ABS pressure pump. I don’t think a problem with the ABS pump would cause a stall, but a problem with the fuel pump would.

Has anyone checked the fuel pressure? Maybe the pump itself is failing.

Am I correct that you had the engine repaired by a Honda dealer for $3,900? Did this stalling happen before the engine repair?

Would this condition with the fuel pump relay also be able to make the engine suddenly stall without warning (no chugging, no hiccups, etc.)?

The fuel pressure has not been checked.

I had taken it to Honda first, but their suggested repairs greatly exceed the value of the car. So, I didn’t opt to replace the engine. The second shop I took it to seemed to think the Honda garage was ridiculous, because the car runs great (save for the moments when stalls).


Hey all. I just wanted to post that I found the issue, and repaired in myself.

The solution would seem like a fuel-pump relay…though there was no ‘chugging’. In looking up what relays we could purchase to try, we found that there is no fuel-pump relay. However, there is a MAIN relay…which governs the fuel-pump AND the injectors. Hence, why when my car would stall…the engine would just suddenly be off. No power to the fuel-pump or the injection system…no run.

So…if you have a Honda Civic 1998 doing this whole stalling while driving with no chugging (e.g. engine just shuts off), consider checking the MAIN RELAY. The part was around $50 at O’Reilly’s. I pulled the glove-box and the dash side panel, and replaced the relay myself.

Car runs like a charm now.

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Thank you for starting discussion on this issue. I have just recently started to experience this problem in my Civic. I wanted to check with you and see if the main relay has completely solved the problem for you (since it has now been a few months)?

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I just bought a 98 Civic CX hatchback with a 1.6L also, paid $1500. Added another $1500into it for a trip home 800miles. Car ran great after all new parts & inspections. I got 27.4 miles from home and died.

Same as above! Except with mine I’m hearing a clicking noise where the ECM is located. Is this where the main fuse is? I’ll figure it out eventually.

Anyways I was pissed off. Missed Father’s day and my lil nephews graduation. Oh I was hot! Looking forward to spending $220 in gas instead of $650 with my truck.

I will read a lot more into this in other places. As I plan on slowly built the car into something special. Has 178k miles but runs perfect and 33-37mpg. Love it, wish it was a 5speed manual though. Peace & God Bless Y’all!

It had better be something special because you already have more in this old vehicle then it is worth . And the person who started this thread has not posted here for 9 years

Some Civic’s of this vintage had a problem with the fuel injection system main relay. Symptoms: stalling, cranks but won’t start. You might try replacing that part on a flyer, esp if it isn’t overly expensive.

This car is under a Recall (along with 16 other Recalls) for a failing ignition switch. The symptoms are intermittent no-starts or stalling while driving.

Call the local Honda dealer and provide the VIN. You can have this done free of charge IF the Recall has never been performed before. There’s also one about the fuel tank exploding and exiting the car so that might be one to check on also… :slight_smile:

The switch problem (same with the main relay) problem is caused by long term high amperage current drawn by the fuel pump. Eventually that high current heat starts burning things along the line.