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88 Honda Accord LX

Thirty degrees outside, but car was garaged all night. Started fine this morning (as always), but when I pulled it out after five minutes, it died as soon as I hit the road. The battery has juice, the tank is almost full, and it’s turning over…but just not catching. I rolled down the hill for a little ways trying to pop the clutch and get things going, but to no avail. Maintenance is up, and while the car is older, it runs fine and has no serious problems. Solenoid? Fuel lines? They shouldn’t be frozen…unless I bought sh***y fuel without knowing. Ideas??? We’re supposed to be headed home tomorrow…would be nice if it wasn’t on the bus!

If the fuel line was frozen it would not have run for five minutes.

How many miles on this car, and when was the last time the timing belt was replaced? Do you know if the engine is getting fuel, and if there is spark?

Well, if it is “turning over” when you turn the ignition key, then clearly it is not the solenoid. And, as mcparadise stated, if you had a frozen fuel line, the engine could not have run for 5 minutes.

Since this car is 20 years old, I am wondering if it is carbureted or if it is fuel-injected. If it is carbureted, I would suspect a carburetor/choke problem. Or, as mcparadise suggested, it is possible that the timing belt has snapped–but that is the worst-case scenario, and you shouldn’t assume the worst right now.

You might want to try starting it with a shot of aerosol starting fluid. Since you don’t yet know whether this is a fuel-related problem or a spark-related problem, the use of starting fluid would help to answer that question. If it starts when you use starting fluid, that tells you that the ignition is working, and would seem to narrow it down to a fuel-related problem. If it still doesn’t start with the use of starting fluid, then that would seem to indicate that there is no spark.

232 K for mileage…and the last belt I know was replaced was the fan belt. I’m three hours away from home, and don’t have the tools necessary to take a look at anything. This is what I get for taking things out to make room for luggage.I wondered the same about the spark…and as for the timing belt, it was done at 200 K. The engine isn’t sounding any different, or working any harder.

Shorthanded as I am, if its the fuel line, am I just going to have to take it in to a shop? And if its the spark, how can I tell which one isn’t firing?

Remove the distributor cap and then have someone try to start the engine. If the rotor in the distributor doesn’t rotate when attempting to start the engine, the timing belt has failed.


If one spark plug isn’t firing, none of them are. It’s not too hard to get a test spark plug from an auto parts store and test for spark.
While you are at the auto parts store, you can pick up a spray can of Starter Fluid. It can be used with fuel injection or carburetor.
One third (1/3) of 1988 Hondas had fuel injection, 2/3 had carburetors. Which one is your car?


…or, the distributor drive gear could have become stripped. That happened on my father’s '63 Plymouth Slant Six!

The distibutor on a Honda engine doesn’t utilize a gear. Instead there are two different sized tabs that engage two different sized slots on the end of the camshaft. That’s why you can’t incorrectly install a distributor on a Honda engine.


You don’t need tools to check for spark or fuel spray reaction.
I have an old Honda. Sometimes it cranks without starting. I could fix it by changing the alternator; but, I know that if I wait a while, it will start and run until it decides to stop, again-- which could be many miles.

Hmmm…That sounds like a good design–as opposed to the nylon drive gear that stripped on the old Slant Six. Do other modern engines have an arrangement similar to Honda, eliminating the distributor drive gear?

In that case I don’t think the timing belt is the problem. It could be, but it’s only 30K miles old, so not likely. Wouldn’t hurt to see if the camshaft is turning as the engine cranks, however, just to be sure.

I saw that you have a carb. The choke may be staying closed. See if it is frozen (I doubt it). Your float(s) may be filled with gasoline. You may be able to change the full one without completely removing the carb. Most parts stores have replacements. If you have the plastic floats with the top glued on, it’s time for the glue to quit. This was a typical Honda problem in the EARLY eighties. Make sure your coil wire is pushed in all the way.

Volvo does the same thing.

Since we do not know if the problem is fuel or spark related (or much worse, if a timing belt has snapped which means the bus for you) you might consider checking the fuses.

This model uses a fuse for the ignition coil. A 25 cent fix if that’s the problem and pray that it’s a fuse and not the timing belt.

Do the carb 88’s have a fuel pump relay? That’s a common problem on the FI (LXi) models.

Simple test…Pretty sure this has a carb.

Take a small amount of gas (1-2 oz) and pour it down the carb throat. If it’s a gas starvation the car should startup immediately…then die.