1999 Accord 2.3l died on the highway. No CEL and the engine never stopped running, but the car wouldn't move, wouldn't rev over 1,500 RPM, and after a while I couldn't connect to the ECU

The car drove fine until suddenly slowing to a stop without any warning. Everything on the dash looked fine. Nothing looked out of the ordinary–until I tried to move or rev.

I keep an OBD-II bluetooth dongle plugged in and checked for pending codes as soon as I started losing power. There weren’t any, but when I tried it again Torque just said it couldn’t connect.

Mom drove me home and a tow truck took my car to a shop, but the driver said he drove my car up the ramp, it just hesitated to start.

My mechanic drove her for 10 miles and idled for an hour without an issue. I immediately drove to AutoZone and someone checked my battery and alternator, saying they were working perfectly, but told me to clean the little bit of corrosion on my terminals.

I have driven my car for 4 days without a problem, not even any hesitation on startup.

What do I check next?

Thank you very much! Have a great day!

It is very difficult and expensive to diagnose a one time problem that does not happen again. Was your car low on gas?

It had a quarter tank, but I eventually filled up.

Your tach said motor was running, as you slowed. You could rev motor and were in gear. Did you try reverse? For effort? A 99 has mechanical throttle linkage, not drive by wire.

You might call a local Honda dealer on Monday with the VIN of the car and asked if the ignition switch Recalls (2 of them) have ever been performed. If not, this can be done free of charge to you.

One of those Recalls involves failure of the electrical contacts in the switch. That can cause a no-start or stalling situation.
The other involves the switch interlock.


Curious. I only knew about the airbag recall, but the NHTSA database shows 2 unrepaired recalls and both are for the ignition switch.

Unfortunately, the nearest Honda dealership is 2 hours away and the last time that I tried to drive 2 hours my car died!

The summary states “Worn contacts could cause the engine to stall without warning, increasing the risk of a crash,” so this may be a problem, but the engine didn’t stall, I lost power. I would think it was the transmission, but how come I have driven 50-100 miles since without a problem?

At first I thought that I was in limp mode–until the car completely stopped, but it seems like it needed to cool down or something because it worked for the tow truck driver and my mechanic.

The temperature seemed fine and all of the fluids are topped off.

I am always puzzled by car owners who fail to take advantage of FREE repairs on their vehicle that will improve its performance and/or safety. Obviously it was the previous owner(s), and not you, who ignored the recalls, but it is still a mystery to me why people would ignore those notices.

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That makes two of us.

The ignition switch recall is nearly 20 years old, hasn’t your vehicle been to a dealer during the last 20 years?

OP said motor was running and car was not moving. That is not an ign switch issue.

Probably not, because outstanding recalls are typically taken care-of when you bring a car to the dealer’s service department, even if you weren’t aware of the recall.

True, but that doesn’t cancel the reality that it should still have the ignition switch replaced in order to prevent other problems in the future.

It seems like a fuel delivery problem. maybe the pump is starting to act up. or the fuel pump sock gets clogged and when you shut it off some of the dirt falls off and allows you to get enough gas. just a thought.

Lots of Accord and Odyssey transmissions go out around 200,000 miles, if not before, so if I determine that is going out, I won’t worry about the starter switch.

If I am able to figure out what is wrong and fix it without the transmission. showing further problems then I will worry about the ignition switch.

You state the engine hesitated to start; per the tow truck driver. That could mean a number of things.
Hesitate means slow or no starter motor operation?
If so the possibilities are…
Corroded battery terminals which you were told of.
Faulty ignition switch.
Faulty neutral safety switch,
Faulty starter motor.

If by hesitate you mean the engine cranks over fine but won’t run then the possibilities are…
Failing fuel pump. They can work one minute/not the next/and then resurrect themselves.
Failing ignition switch.
Failing main relay.
Failing electronic ignition.

Since you mentioned dying on the highway keep in mind that 3 out of the 4 above are directly related to each other and the weak link in the chain gives up first.

Is there a better term for losing power until I came to a complete stop? :slight_smile:

I haven’t had any hesitation starting since I got my car back. Maybe I was drawing more than the car was able to recharge while I waited for Mom to take me home.

I cannot imagine that slightly-corroded battery terminals would cause my car to come to a complete stop on the highway, but then work fine 5 hours later, but I cleaned them.

At first I thought that I was in limp mode, which would explain being limited to 1,500 RPM, but not being unable to move my car.

In the back of my mind I wonder if I have 2 problems or at least my car does, or among the problems my car has, there are 2 relevant to this discussion, but neither causes an error code?

This discussion is about limp mode without a CEL:

I doubt you have a bad ECM, that said if the CEL is on there is a code set. The only time I have heard of issues with the dash not working properly and trouble reading codes is a battery issue. The first thing to look at would be the cables to the battery, they need to be clean and tight. Then check the body ground and make sure it is clean and tight. Also, check the engine ground connection and the transmission ground connections. If you have a voltmeter check the resting voltage of the battery, it should be 12.7v on a fully charged battery. The other issue it could be is a bad temperature sensor, there are 2 . 1 sensor for the ECM and 1 for the gauge. There is 1 fan switch sensor on the thermostat housing.

Not only did he experience limp mode without a CEL, but the car had difficulty starting.

I don’t know about those sensors, but I should check the grounds. I found the diagram in the FSM, so I will check those.

I ran across this: “Insufficient oil pressure will throw the ecu into limp mode but no cel and no idiot light(until 7psi or under).” Ecu limp mode without CEL possible? - Honda-Tech - Honda Forum Discussion

How low would the oil pressure need to be for my car to come to a stop?

I will check the grounds and start working through this troubleshooting guide: The Basics | EricTheCarGuy