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96 Honda Civic. Broke down while driving

1996 Honda Civic LX 198,000miles

Was driving the car for about 15minutes. Went to step on gas, with no effect. Just coasted to the side of the road. Car continued to run. When car was shut off… would not restart but turns over.

Some other facts:

*When turn key to ON position can hear fuel pump.

*Haven’t tried to jump but turning over like normal.

*Car is full of gas

*Probably not relevant…but exhaust needs repaired…it is seperated somewhere forward of the muffler.

* Not sure when the fuel filter was changed last.

Is this most likely a fuel injector issue?

Would the car turn over if the alternator was out? What about the spark plugs?

Please help. Thanks.

Somebody told me it might be the ECU or PCM…the computer that controls the engine. Anyone agree?

Start with the basics: check for fuel being injected and for ignition spark. Where else would you start?

How do I check for fuel injection? An automotive stethoscope?

Pull your distributor off or peek in valve cover with a flashlight while cranking. If nothing moving while cranking (either distributor or valves) your timing belt is snapped.

It sounds like it could be the throttle.  Is yours mechanical or electronic?  I would guess mechanical for that year, but I am not sure.   

I suspect Andrew missed part of your comments.
  • Went to step on gas, with no effect.
  • Just coasted to the side of the road. Car continued to run.
  • When car was shut off… would not restart but turns over.

Spray Starter Fluid into the large black plastic intake tube. If the engine starts and runs a few seconds, the problem is fuel supply pressure or volume. I’m not saying the cause is the fuel injectors, themselves. If there is no, or low, fuel pressure, the fuel injectors won’t have fuel to inject.
Change the fuel filter and check the fuel pressure.

Your description “car continued to run” steers me away from a timing belt, but you may as well check it as andrew j suggests. Our '95 Civic did exactly the same thing last Summer and it turned out to be as simple as spark plug wires, which were “only” on the car for 25 or 30k. I changed plug wires, spark plugs, cap and rotor and it started right up, ran great. How long has it been since you did any of those types of items? Ever have the timing belt changed? I’ve never had a fuel related problem with our '95 Civic, but I change the filter(s) as per the owners manual and I’m careful about where we purchase fuel. Joseph . . . the throttle is mechanical on a '95, probably the same on the '96 . . . easy to see and work on . . right up on top. The suggestion by hellokit is a good one . . . open the air cleaner box (you’ll have to take out 4 screws that hold the face on) remove the air filter, and then spray starter fluid into the black plastic pipe while someone is cranking the starter. Post back. Rocketman

First, get the exhaust leak fixed. There are two reasons for this. The first one is that it can kill you. The second reason it that if your air intake is sucking in exhaust gas, that isn’t good for the engine. Have you checked the condition of the air filter?

Let’s face it. After 13 years and almost 200,000 miles, it could be anything.

When you said “Went to step on gas, with no effect” was there really no effect? Did the engine roar and speed up but the car didn’t accelerate did it really do nothing at all?

“What about the spark plugs?” Did you check the condition of the spark plugs? When were they last replaced?

Rented a scan tool from the auto parts store.
Doesn’t indicate a defective ECU or PCM.
It only shows- Primary heated O2 sensor heater circuit fault.
Probably from using an after market gas cap or something?

Checking Spark and changing fuel filter tomorrow.
No idea when fuel filter was changed last.
Could the fuel filter cause the symptoms?
Did fill up with gas 15min before car broke down.

*Timing belt was changed @ 120,000 or so.

There’s really not enough info given to get close on the guessing. At that mileage it could be any one of several dozen things.

The odds of a faulty ECU are very slim and the O2 sensor fault is not the cause of the car dying.

You may hear the fuel pump running but that does not mean the pump is putting out enough fuel pressure to run.
A possibility is a faulty ignition switch. Some Civics were under recall for this but off the top of my head I don’t remember if the 96 is involved or not. Recall or not, the same problem can exist even on non-recalled vehicles.

The odds of the fuel filter causing this are pretty slim but a clogged filter can contribute to killing the fuel pump. If you change the fuel filter dump the contents out of the old filter and allow it to dry for several hours.
After that time, try blowing through the filter. You should be able to blow through it very easily. If not, the filter is clogged and the pump could be at fault.

Blow through the new filter before installation as a comparison and do not attempt to blow through a just removed old filter that is still wet inside. The gasoline restricts the pores in the filter and it may make it appear the filter is clogged when it is not.

*Timing belt was changed @ 120,000 or so.

Ouch! The timing belt should be changed every 60,000 miles. That is where I would look for the problem.

Years ago, the recommended mileage for timing belt change was 60,000 miles. I believe that through the '90s, the recommended was at least 90,000 miles intervals.
The code for the oxygen heater circuit could be from a fault in the oxygen sensor, the wiring, or the engine computer (ECM). If the oxygen sensor heater isn’t working, the oxygen sensor signal will be delayed 3 or 4 minuets until the hot exhaust gases heat the oxygen sensor rather that electrical current. If your car doesn’t have to go throuh State Emissions Test, you could leave it alone.

No, Honda moved to the 90k-105k interval as most cars had.

Not according to the owner’s manual for my 98 Civic.

  • Changed spark plugs and fuel filter
  • Took air filter out and sprayed starter fluid, while cranking= nothing.
  • Took distributer cap off. Wheel moving and can see spark at dist when cranking.

I think I’ll change spark plug wires next. Still think throttle problem?

Not the timing belt, but still can’t determine if you’ve got spark at the plugs and whether fuel is getting to the injectors. It wasn’t the fuel filter. The fuel pump can still be running but not generating sufficient pressure. Or you could have a clogged screen in the fuel pickup in the gas tank. To safely check fuel pressure and flow can be dangerous and may be better left to a pro. When you change the wires put on a new cap and rotor. Failure of the cap (cracking) or rotor is more likely to stop you suddenly than wires. There are other components such as “cold start” system, that can impact fuel delivery. There may only be so much you can do before getting a pro involved.

Yes, change the distributor cap and rotor, and the spark plug wires. Then, see if there is spark at the end of the spark plug wires while the engine is being cranked.
Let us know the results.

Changed spark plug wires and bought a spark plug tester.
Changed distributor cap and rotor.

BUT… in the process of removing the 3 screws for the dist. cover 2 of the screws broke off. Spent half the day trying to remove those pieces in tight space w/ 90degree drill tap with no luck.

Put the new rotor and dist. cover on with the one good screw. Did have a dim light in the spark tester and now I’m not getting anything.

I’m going to be buying a new distributor now. Any chance the coil or components in the distributor will solve my problem? or…am I just buying it for the clean screw holes?

Also…how critical is lining up the rotor with the #1 spark plug when putting the dist. cap on. How accurate does that have to be lined up?

I know that I don’t know what I’m doing…but I’m going to try for a little longer :slight_smile:

The distributor is the first suspect for lack of spark. It contains sensors, etc, which make the spark happen. It’s best to get a remanufactured distributor, which comes with a warranty.
There are two brands of distributor. This shows how to tell which is which. There are, also, menus for testing the different parts of the ignition:

yes it is important to align the distributor. Have you replaced ignitor, about a $35 part and easy to mistake for a starter problem.