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2003 Honda CRV - Engine Light/knockback on accelerate/wont pass 60mph

My wife’s 2003 Honda CRV.

On her way to work she called to complain about a knock back feeling when she accelerates. No sound, just the knockback feeling. Car struggles to accelerate past 60. Engine light came on.

She’s at work now 45 minutes away from home. Whats the best thing to do? What are the most likely culprits?

Advice much appreciated.

Get the engine codes read and let us know what they are. Most chain auto parts stores have OBD-II code readers that they will loan you for free, then they will print the codes off the reader for you.

It really depends on whether that Check Engine Light is lit-up steadily, or whether it is flashing/blinking.
If it is lit-up steadily, then she should drive to your usual mechanic’s shop for diagnosis.
If the CEL is flashing/blinking, she should have the vehicle towed to a mechanic’s shop for diagnosis.

The presence of that CEL means that a Diagnostic Trouble Code has been recorded, and the exact code(s) are the beginning of the diagnostic process. From afar, and without knowing what DTCs have been recorded, nobody could possibly give you an accurate diagnosis.

If you want to post back with the exact DTCs, then we can likely provide some specific ideas, but right now everyone would just be shooting in the dark. The codes will be in a format similar to “P0123”.

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I know what an engine knock is. It’s a sound. Also, I’ve knocked back a few adult beverages in my day, but this isn’t a sound you’ve got and I’m not familiar with an automotive “knockback”.

Can you use some other words to describe knockback? What is it?

Some Check Engine Light alerts (depending on fault codes that triggered it) will put the vehicle into a “limp home mode”. When that happens it can accelerate poorly, have harsh upshifts and downshifts, may stay in second gear, and not go very fast that way. Does that describe “knockback”?

What is it?


Great feedback so far thank you all. Im still waiting to hear back from wife if the engine light was steady.

For this type of work, should I count on or avoid the dealer? I assume that depends on whats wrong… correct?

With a 14 year old vehicle, there is no reason to go to a dealership for repairs.
Any mechanic who is worth his salt should be capable of fixing this problem.

And, like CSA, I have to confess that I have no clue regarding what “knockback” might be.

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Find out, if you can, why/how it’s struggling to go fast. Is it running “rough” (shaking, vibrating, etcetera) or is it just over-revving (engine racing, but car not up-shifting)? Ask her what the tachometer (you have one, right? The thingy that’s not the speedometer that has RPM written on it and a moving needle and numbers.) is it pointing to (between 5 & 6, 3 & 4, etcetera) when it does not want to go beyond 60mph.

It can be driven in limp-home mode, but at reduced speeds (provided the engine light is not flashing, but steady). Wife may have to take side-streets instead of highway or free-way (limping, right?) or you might have to go to the rescue! Feel the magic! (Been there, done that).

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As @VDCdriver said, you don’t have to use the dealer. They are likely the highest cost, but they are experts on that vehicle. If you don’t feel comfortable with anyone else, the dealer can likely do the job. You could look for a private garage by asking everyone you know who does good work. Eventually, a few names will come up often, and those are the guys to try.

Still waiting for the answer to this.

I’m guessing “knockback” is due to the engine is misfiring occasionally, so it feels like the car is going along ok, then loses speed in fits and bursts, like it is being knocked back by an invisible hand pushing on the front bumper occasionally and randomly. The more common term “engine knock” is something else, doesn’t cause sudden/short decelerations, and is usually quite audible. Both misfiring & engine knock can cause loss of power.

As far as what to do, if the check engine light is flashing best to tow the car to a shop, as driving with a misfire can result in expensive to fix damage. If the check engine light is on steady, the car can probably continue to be driven in a prudent manner, avoiding rapid accelerations if possible, but at the minimum the diagnostic codes should be read out at the first opportunity. Find an inde shop with good recommendations that focusses on Honda’s or at least Asian cars.

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Ok I have some more info.

The engine light was steady. So I told my wife to drive home safely.

She says that going to work in knockbacked 3 to 5 times. She said no sound but felt like she was being “jerked back” when she tried to accelerate past 60… Gas cap was removed and put on tight and light still on.

60 mph no problem anything past 60mph and best she could get was 60-65mph. She didnt floor it but said she was “working it and it was clearly a struggle”

Coming home no knockbacks but engine light was still on. When she went up a steep hill she says it knocked backed and she heard a “dropping sound” 3 times as she accelerated up the hill. She says “you feel it, its obvious”.

CSA My wife says your description of the “knockback” is accurate.

First thing to do is to get the trouble codes read. Most auto parts stores will read them free. The codes are of the form P0123. Report them to us here.


Now we have two bits of unorthodox terminology that are essentially meaningless to anyone other than the driver who coined these terms. What the heck is a “dropping sound”?

Have you driven this thing to verify what it is doing. Nothing against her but her terms just don’t lead to any helpful ideas.

I believe you are referring to this? I had a hunch, but now I’m pretty certain that a fault of some kind (engine/transmission) is turning on the Check Engine Light and purposely putting the car into “limp” mode (a basic default program in the car’s computer).

The car will need the DTCs (diagnostic trouble codes) read by a technician an the fault diagnosed and repaired. Hopefully it is not a major problem.

I have seen a failed transmission sensor cause this, for example, and that is not a major problem ordinarily.

60 mph and seems like a fast limp mode to me. Until there is a code it’s all speculation.

60 sounds about right from my experience, second gear in an automatic from 2003.

If the car is actually in limp mode and the OP’s wife has been driving it at 60 mph, the engine must have been…screaming. I wonder if the OP’s wife ever happened to look at the tachometer when she was driving at 50-60 mph.

I really appreciate everyone’s help. Big time.

Ok, went to autozone and got code P2646.

Unfortunately my wife doesn’t know the difference between a tachometer and a lego set. I did the best with the wording as I could. Unfortunately I fell asleep early last night so I didnt have a chance to test drive the car or take it for an oil change like I wanted to do. I am not a car geek by any stretch but Im a firm believer in the basics (aka oil changes, maintenance as instructed in owners manual, etc)

She states she was 3,000 miles over the recommended time to get her oil changed.

The car is sitting at the auto shop. We use a Cottomans shop for about 4 years now and so far they’ve been excellent. They’ve put the car on the lift several times and didnt charge us for small jobs, or charged us very little. They have seemed very fair so far.