CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

93 Honda Prelude stalls randomly

I have a 93 Prelude that randomly shuts down and stalls. When this happens there are no signs of life in the car. All lights and accessories shut off and the car stalls. After anywhere from 2 mins to 15 mins you will be able to restart the car and continue on your way. I am the only owner of the car. It has 83,000 miles on it. At this point it happens very randomly without warning. Usually about 3 or 4 times a month.

First thing I would try would be to replace the main relay . . . the car is 19 years old and you state that all electrics shut off. Good luck! Rocketman

+1 with Rocketman.
That’s a very common problem of Hondas of that vintage.
Here’s how to check and repair it: http://www.tegger.com/hondafaq/startproblems.html#mainrelay

Most likely it is the relay as posted above. But it could also be the battery terminals, or the battery itself. As the engine compartment heats up, if the battery connection is marginal anyway, the heat can cause a thermal expansion of the terminals and cause the battery connection to fail. Once it cools back down, the metal contracts and the problem goes away. Suggest to have your mechanic do a load test on the battery and clean and re-tighten the terminals.

Thanks everyone. I will try all solutions and let you know what I find.

If the (head)lights shutoff then I would suspect the battery, battery cables or ground strap.

It sounds like a bad ignition switch to me. I just changed one on a 1999 Odyssey with similar symptoms. I’m not talking about the key lock cylinder but the switch behind it. This doesn’t sound like a main relay issue in this case, IMHO. The switch can be changed without removing the lock cylinder and is commonly available in the aftermarket.

Well I took it to the dealer on two occasions. First, I had them replace ignition switch. Symptom occurred about an hour after of highway driving home. Second they replaced the main relay same symptom but I got home before it shut off. Should I replace the positive battery terminal? Kinda at a stand still on where to go from here.

Does the radio die when the car dies?

As George suggests, I would try cleaning the battery posts and cable clamps. Also, if you have a second vehicle in the family, try swapping batteries and see if the problem follows the battery or not.

The car completely shuts down when this happens. It sputters before hand though.

Dealer cleaned the post and cable clamps also. Might try the battery swap.

If not even things like the dome light or radio does not come on, a connection is totally missing. It could be that it is dirty but it is likely totally corroded.
It points to a bad connection to the battery or possibly a bad battery but let’s assume the latter is fine for now.

Get a cheap multimeter from harbor freight and check the battery voltage. If that’s normal, leave the positive on the battery and put the negative lead of the multimeter on the engine. It should still read 12V.
Then pull a convenient fuse out that you know should always be live (the one that fuxes parking lights is often good). Measure across it with the positive lead of the multimeter and across ground.
You should still read 12V.
Somewhere you will not read 12V and that’s where you need to investigate what has a bad connection.

Guys, it’s not the relay. It’s shutting down when it’s already running. That makes it most likely either ignition switch/wiring related, or battery cable/bad battery related.

We half agree, SF. He says the entire thing shuts down so nothing works. That can’t be due to the ignition switch. I think it is the battery or related connections. .

Ron, don’t start swapping stuff yet. There’s nothing more frustrating than spending money and it not be ‘it’.

if you’re driving, not at night, and the ignition switch fails such that it acts as though it is in the off position, “everything” would turn off - everything that’s on, that is. But I agree with you - the first thing to check is the battery.

Okay, in retrospect you’re right.

Ron, does the dome light still work with the door open when everything dies?

As you have this shutdown issue, does it help to quickly turn the key, not all the way just from acc to run(NOT START) when you have this problem? Do some of the things like radio come back?