94 Accord cranks but doesn't start

In brief: My 1994 Honda Accord cranks but doesn’t start immediately

Problem: When I turn the key the starter will turn over (battery works obviously) but the engine doesn’t start. The check engine light stays on. When the check engine light goes off (1-10 minutes after cranking the engine) I can hear a click and a hum (maybe the fuel pump starting?) and then I can start the engine again and it will work.

Background: The car has about 125k on it. The check engine light is always on. I took it to a dealer, and they say the engine light is due to a bad oxygen sensor. Also until recently I had been having trouble getting the starter to work too. I would turn the key and the car would just make a clicking sound and sit there. Repeatedly turning the key eventually turned the car on. Recently I went on vacation and left the car sitting for a week. Now the starter turns over every time but I’m still having the same problem with the engine not starting right away.

I forgot to mention, the check engine light staying on has been a problem for a long long time but this newer problem only started a few months ago. They are not coincident.

Don’t assume that because the starter turns the engine it has sufficient power to also be concurrently producing a good spark. And that CEL light could easily be telling you that the engine is misfiring, long overdue for a good thorough tuneup.

Start by getting the battery, cable connections, and charging system all checked out. Then get a good thorough tuneup. Post back with the results.

NOTE: unless I miss my guess that car has an OBD-I setup. If the light is still on, post back.

The dealership I took it to didn’t find any problems with the charging system. I did try hooking it up to another car’s battery but that didn’t solve the problem unfortunately.

Actually it sounds like your fuel pump isn’t going on until extended cranking and you may be wearing your starter out as a consequence. You may have a fuel pump going south, a bad fuel pump relay, or even the engine computer is not turning on the fuel pump when it is supposed to prior to cranking. First thing would be to get a fuel pressure guage on it to test for fuel pressure when it doesn’t start, then go from there. Another possibility I suppose would be the ignition switch itself isn’t signaling the computer that it is in cranking mode. Turn the key on and see if you hear the fuel pump or not. If its the switch, could be just maladusted.

While it sounds like your fuel pump is not going on and that is the problem, that would only be a guess. That CEL (check engine light) is just a kid in class waving her hand trying to get you attention because she has the answer and you are ignoring her because Fred last week raised his hand for some dumb reason. You really should take care of the original error message as well because your car may run better and because you will not be blinded the next time something turns on the light. You need to have the codes read. Some places will read them for FREE. Try Autozone or Advanced Auto Parts. Get the exact code (like P0123) not just their translation into English and post it back here.

Auto Zone, nor other auto parts stores, don’t do OBD I cars.
There could be more than one trouble code trying to get out of the check engine light. The check engine light is caused to flash its code by jumpering a connector in the passenger’s foot well and the ignition key turned to RUN (ll). There are three prime suspects on Hondas: the ignition switch; the PGI-FI relay: the ignition module inside the distributor.
This Web site can help you with this: www.tegger.com/hondafaq/startproblems.html

First of all thank you everybody for your input. I have some additional information that might be able to shed light on the problem. Recently the electrical system just completely stopped working out of the blue. I would turn the key and nothing would happen, the car was dead. So I popped the hood and disconnected and reconnected the negative terminal on the battery. Now the car is getting juice again but in addition the motor not turning with the starter, the starter won’t start either until I turn the key from II to III rapidly for a few times, anywhere from 5-15 “turns.” I doubt this is very good for the car but I really just dont know what to do with this hunk of junk anymore.

This is a continuation of the problem from back in Aug. or Sept.?
You stated that you replaced the ignition switch I think. Which part did you replace; the electrical or the key and tumbler?

…because…those symptoms are of a defective ignition switch. You need to make sure that the ignition key and lock cylinder are turning the ignition switch fully to START.