Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

2003 Honda Civic Will not Start

Hello all,

I hope someone can help me fix this issue. My girlfriends Honda Civic will not start.

-The keyless entry works
-The lights work
-160k miles
-Purchased with 12k miles on it from Honda Dealership
-Just purchased new tires last week from Pep Boys (installed there)
-Two weeks ago her air conditioner stopped blowing cold air (not sure if this is pertinent to the main issue), antifreeze was filled, fuses are fine.
-The car sounds as if it is trying hard to turn on.

Yesterday she had to get a jump and she drove it to advance auto and they ran a check and told her the battery is fine and so is the wiring. So, she did not purchase a new battery. She drove home and this morning it would not start.

Please help. I have attached a sound file

Thank You

Your battery is weak… It may still be ok, but it is not fully charged… Now this can be because your GF did not drive it long enough after the jump to charge it… Or it can be because you have a drain on the battery (a light left on for example)… Get another jump start, and go for a long drive. Let the car sit for a few hours, if it starts fine then you are good to go. If not then start looking for a battery draw, and or have the battery re-tested.

Sure sounds like a dead battery with it cranking so slowly but you say that the battery is fine.
It is definitely related to that area, though. Check the battery connections, both sides.
Especially check the the fatter cable going to the starter as it may not be making good contact.

Get a booster cable. Use the black side only - leave the red side alone and just let it dangle.
Hook one black side up to the NEGATIVE battery post and hook the other side of the black booster cable up to a large bare metal part of the engine. Again: Do not use the POSITIVE terminal or positive lead.
Try to crank it now.
If it cranks quicker and wants to start, you have a bad ground strap somewhere - maybe from the battery to the body or from the body to the engine.

It could also be that you have some sort of parasitic battery drain that leaves it stranded overnight but let’s first check the above.

I replaced the alternator on my '03 Civic a month or so ago at about 120K miles. Sounds like the battery is not getting a charge. Is the battery light “on”?. My alternator worked intermittently for a few days before it failed completely.

The AC problem was the AC switch in the dash on my Civic. That was replaced last summer with no issues since. Your problem might not be the AC compressor, or low refrigerant. It took a while to track down my problem to the switch. This is pretty common problem with that era Civic. Don’t let someone start throwing expensive parts at this until you rule out a bad switch.

Wow, thank you guys so much. I actually walked 2 miles to the nearest pep boys and they informed me that the battery was dead. Took it back to Sears and had a prorated discount.

I’m not sure how advanced auto missed this but it could be what gsragtop stated earlier. Replaced with new battery and that was it. Thanks again guys, I appreciate it a great deal!

Great! Glad it was something simple and you got it resolved.


The bad switch - is that something that I can try to fix myself or would you recommend bringing to mechanic?

I had my Civic at a reliable shop. The AC compressor was not engaging, so I had a shop checking out the reason, and eventually they boiled it down to the switch. Therefore I didn’t replace it myself.

If you can get the switch from Honda (mine took several weeks to arrive due to Tsunami) you should be able to replace it. You have to pull the dash panels to change it out and the plastic parts can be tricky to handle without breaking.

If your AC compressor is cycling on and off then it isn’t the switch. In my case the AC just stopped working and the AC compressor and cooling fan were not coming on.

If it happens again in the future, Sears Auto will usually recharge and do a load test your battery for free. At my Sears anyway, they’ll check the charging system too.

Thanks again guys

I am glad you found the cause. Next time, you might consider the safety switches that keep the car from starting.

If it has a manual transmission, it could be the clutch safety switch, which makes sure the clutch pedal is pressed before you start the car. If it has an automatic transmission, it could be the neutral safety switch, which makes sure the transmission is in park or neutral before you start the engine.

If it’s an automatic, try putting the transmission in neutral. If it starts in neutral, but not park, the switch is probably the problem

As for the AC, you need to get it to a specialist. There are a lot of things that could keep it from working properly. Here is a partial list, low coolant (freon) charge, compressor relay, the heater control valve, throttle position sensor (that would cause other problems as well), a temp sensor, expansion valve or bad compressor. Oh yeah, the AC switch as well.