96 Accord, Stalling after 15 minutes of driving

My sons car is a 96 accord, he recently moved to North Carolina for an externship. For some reason, it’s developed a new problem. After 15 minutes of driving it will stall, and it will not restart. It seems to be if it’s left to sit long enough, it will restart(it does crank, just not turnover). That period of time it needs to sit seems more then 10-15 minutes, but we are not exactly certain. After several hours, it seems to start and run fine. We had it towed to the mechanic, they where not able to reproduce it. It’s not overheating, the temp gauge stays below half. No check engine light is on.

Some vehicle history…

Before he left for NC, i had the mechanic local (PA) replace the ball joints and tie rods, change the timing belt and water pump. that was about a month ago, and the car was fine. About 2 weeks ago we had to have the rack and pinion replaced. There was a break in the internal power stearing hardline. (i think i have that right)

So anyone have any ideas that the mechnic’s may have missed? Maybe i can point them in the right direction… i’d love to get this fixed correctly.

This can be caused by a faulty crankshaft position sensor. When it gets hot, it fails to send a signal to the computer, and the computer shuts the engine off. Waiting for a cooldown period allows the sensor to start working again.

Intermittent faults like this can be hard to trace; I would take a shot at replacing the sensor and seeing if that eliminates the stalling. On your son’s car, I could be wrong but think the sensor is inside the distributor.

That sounds like a relatively cheap fix to, so it may be a good starting point! Thank you, i’ll talk to the mechanic tomorrow morning about it.

The problem might be also with the ignition module in the distributor.


These can also shut down the engine when they get hot. And if you wait long enough the module cools back down to where it functions again.


Thanks for the reply. Do you guys think i should just ask the mechanic to replace these things? Or should i have them check them? (if that’s possible, i have no idea).

Do you have a hair drier?

If you do, start the engine cold, and while the engine is idling point the hair drier at the distributor.

If the engine shuts off, there’s something goin’ on inside the distributor.


If you can get the car to the shop while it is failing, the shop can test for spark at the spark plugs. It’s almost certainly either a spark or fuel problem.

Someone else mentioned that the “main relay” may be causing this also. I guess the reasoning behind the main relay is, the heated solder joints expand and lose contact while heated up, but once cooled back down they conduct again, and the car runs.

Do that sound plausible as well as the ignition module and the crankshaft position sensor?


Honda’s are known for the PGM/FI relay to cause this problem.

But there usually has to be drastic temperature change within the interior of the vehicle for the relay to fail.


Does it happen if you run it with the gas cap off, or loose? Doing that may set a check engine light - but if the engine keeps running with the cap off or loose, the area to check into would be the evaporative emissions system.

I’ve never tested it with the gas cap off. If this all fails we’ll give that a shot.

I’ve replaced many main relays for a no-start condition, but never for a stall then no-start. Meaning that I’ve never encountered a main relay that was causing the car to stall, only ones that caused a no start after the car was sitting in a hot parking lot or something like that.

The problem you describe sounds like a fault in the distributor–either the ignition module or one of the sensors. These distributors fail enough that they are now available as complete replacement units that usually cost less than repairing what you have now.

Another potential cause if not a distributor issue is a failing ignition switch and which is not unheard of on Hondas. Some years are under a Recall for those switches but I do not think your 96 is one of them.
Recall or not, the non-recalled ones suffer the same as the ones that are covered with the symptoms being a no-start or intermittent stalling.

Tend to agree with the distributor diagnosis; just putting the switch possibility out there.

@ok4450 's idea about the ignition switch is definitely worth considering. Sometimes the weight of the other keys swinging around on the keychain can contribute to this problem. One thing you could do OP as an experiment is remove all the other keys from your key ring, and only insert the car’s key into the ignition switch, nothing else dangling, see if that has any effect. It’s easy to do, so worth a shot.