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2002 Honda Accord stalling on start-up

My Accord has recently been stalling on start-up, and I’m trying to figure out if it’s something I need to worry about. Here are more details:

It only happens sporadically (though more frequently recently), and only after the car is warmed up. The car starts up fine, but then a few seconds later the engine sputters and stalls. Second and third tries at starting it up are no different (still stalls). If I can get the car into gear and moving quickly enough (before it has a chance to stall), the car runs absolutely fine.

I took it to my regular mechanic and they, of course, were unable to reproduce the problem. They checked “everything” (including starter and fuel pump) and said it all tested “normal”. It’s otherwise running perfectly well.

My observation: the times when it stalls, it sounds/feels like the engine doesn’t rev up enough to “catch” (sorry for my non-technical explanation). I don’t know a whole lot about cars, but this seems like a fuel pump issue, right? Maybe it’s only acting up sporadically, which is why it tested normal at the shop?

An added mystery that probably doesn’t have much to do with the problem, but that I find intriguing and would be perfect for Tom and Ray!:98% of the time, this happens when the car is parked in a parking garage. I can only remember 2 times that it’s happened after being parked outside.

Replace the fuel pump relay and report back.

insightful’s comment is spot on. For some reason Honda fuel pump relays tend to fail intermittently like this. It’s a pretty common thing reported here. Concur with insightful, that’s where I’d start too.

If it was starting ok when it was at the regular shop and the problem is the relay, they wouldn’t be able to tell that’s the reason b/c the relay was working then. It’s sort of odd they didn’t suggest to at least temporarily replace the known to be a problem on Honda’s relay though.

Do you mean that the engine sounds like it is slow while the starter is engaged? As if the battery were weak or low?

The other suggestions are also spot on… unless it does sound slow or sluggish when you go to restart…if that is the case it can be something else.


Thanks for the responses! Honda Blackbird: no, it’s not like a weak battery - it’s like the doesn’t rev high enough to “catch” and keep running. That’s the best way I can think to explain it. I’ll definitely look into getting the fuel pump relay replaced. Any thoughts on how much that should cost me, parts and labor?

@krysta, can you record the sound on your phone or tablet and post it here?

THAT…sounds like the camshaft is out of phase… They sound like they almost want to start…but dont…its close…but it doesnt start. I can hear a cam “one tooth off” from a long ways away…but not this far away. Haha.

Have you ever changed the T belt ?

I had similar issues on my Buick. Cleaning the throttle body is a fairly easy and cheap thing to try, and it fixed my issues.

I don’t know the different car models and makes like some of you top mechanics do. But, why can it not be idle Air Control? That would correlate with tmanp’s suggestion.

It can be the AIC…but when the AIC fails it fails in a manner that doesn’t mimic this symptom. I do like the Cleaning the throttle body idea however.

Id be interested to know if the timing marks line up anymore…when they dont the engine has a certain “flatness” to it when cranking over. Very hard to suggest anything from all the way over here though.


OP writes …

Any thoughts on how much that should cost me, parts and labor?

The relay’s oem parts cost is probably around $60. The shop will probably bill you for 1/2 hour of labor too. So you’re looking at maybe $120 to test the faulty-relay theory. If your shop works on Hondas quite a bit they may have a spare relay they use for testing this already, so if it turns out that’s not the problem they’ll just put the existing relay back in. Your shop works on a lot of Hondas, right?

Thanks everyone. The problem hasn’t happened at all since I first posted (I haven’t taken the car back in to the shop, either, so nothing has been done to the car). Honda Blackbird: I have changed the timing belt, within the last 5 years. I’m wondering if it’s worth it to take it in again, since the problem hasn’t recurred in a couple of months…

How many miles since the last timing belt change? The recommended interval is 90,000 miles or 6 years. I’d wait another year if you don’t reach 90,000 miles since the last change before then.

You may just have got a tank of bad gas there OP. Sputtering and stalling at idle, esp when the engine is cold, is a common symptom if there’s a little water or other contamination in the gas. When I lived in Colorado this was a common problem, not so much here in San Jose for some reason.