2000 Honda Civic Sdn - Spudders and Dies

Hello Ray,

I’ve listened to you guys for years, at the advice of my (now deceased - got PSA?) brother. He was my baby brother and I miss him terribly, especially when my car won’t work.

I am proud owner of a Honda Civic 3 door Hatch DL (not a sedan). It has 32,000 original miles (no kidding) and I, as a little old lady, purchased it from another little old lady 6 years ago. It’s not likely to make 50,000 with me. I’m a walker but I love this car.

The only repairs I’ve made are muffler pipe and 4 new tires. Two weeks ago I started it up and it sputtered, chugged and whined and died. I tried again and got it started, drove it but halfway to my destination, I got scared and turned around and drove it home. I haven’t move it since. It will start but it’s rough.

I’m not mechanical but most say like a belt (dried out, like me) or the alternator.

I’ve never reached out to you before and wondered if you had any thoughts.
thank you so much,

Paul, my brother, would be proud of me.

with gratitude,


Is the Check Engine light on?


no. and I think the battery is okay.

Actually it doesn’t necessarily die but I’m afraid to drive it.

It’s rough and then there is (sometimes) a whining sound that at one point continued a bit after I turned to car off??

Could be you got some bad gas, or gas w/water in it. If the tank is on the low-fill side, fill it up with a full tank of fresh fuel, might work. About the only somewhat consistent Civic problem we seem to get here is a problematic main fuel injection system relay. Other than that, maybe ask your shop to check the spark plug condition, check for a robust spark, good fuel pressure, and a fuel trim test. The symptoms are consistent with either an intermittent spark or fuel problem. This seems like something a good shop could figure out without much trouble. Do you have a shop you consistently use?

BTW, this forum is occupied by various car experts and non-experts, none of which as far as I know are Ray. The Car Talk staff does forward some of the questions here on to Ray though, which he answers in his Dear Car Talk newspaper column. You can read that column here too, click on cartalk.com, upper left.

I appreciate and will follow your advice.

I’m not used to this little (perfect for me) car having any problems.

Many thanks!

You aren’t the only one with otherwise reliable cars w/ problems. My truck has been running well for several years, no problems, when it all of a sudden stopped running, right in the middle of the road. I had to recruit 3 helpesr to push it into a hardware store parking lot. Then I had to fix the problem in the parking lot by going into the store to buy the tools I needed as I discovered I needed them … lol … . that problem turned out to be with the spark.

Time to get it to a shop, may just be regular maintenance stuff, spudders so reminds me of potatoes :slight_smile:


Like Barkydog said, time for a mechanic. Many items need to be addressed on a time interval rather than just mileage. The sputtering may just be from lack of use, gas does go stale. Only use gas that is TopTier rated, you can see the brands on TopTiergas.com these brands have extra detergents to keep your fuel system cleaner.
As far as maintenance items.
Oil change- Honda probably specified x-miles or every 6 months which ever came first.
Coolant-every three years
Brake fluid-every three years
Transmission fluid-30,000 miles
Spark plug-might be 100,000 miles, but at 20 years might be wise to change them.
Timing belt if original, definitely needs replacement.
Better check the age of the tires too!

Sounds like a lot, and it is, but cars and their parts do age even with few miles driven.
If everything is done at one time may well be several thousand dollars but will provide many more miles of service from your vehicle.

Every once in a while take it out for a nice long drive. Happy walking and motoring.

how many miles have you put on it in 6yrs? it has 32k now
1600yr is 30/week

Well, today when I tried to start it, it clicked like the battery was dead.

I think I’m surrendering to the mechanic at the nearest gas station and have it towed.


Where are you going to find a gas station with a mechanic ? I have not seen one of those in years .

well, you are right. Today when I tried to start it, it just clicked. Dead battery plus…

I must surrender to the nearest mechanic and get it towed.


thank you.

very thorough.

Today when I tried to start, she just clicked. So battery plus…?

I am surrendering to the local mechanic and having it towed in to his shop.

Never thought of timing belt, but at 32K miles, could it be?

Many thanks,

The new symptom might actually be good news; it’s possible all you need is a new battery. Good choice on your part to go for a shop diagnosis. They’ll do a battery/charging system test. If the battery’s age is 6 years or more, very good chance you need a new one. Best of luck.

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I like the repair route. Tow to shop. Let them tell you what’s up. You are not a 28yr old amateur tech. Hmm, use internet. Find 12 reasons why? Change part A,b,C? Though I prefer getting a newer, modestly priced replacement.