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96 Honda Civic start up trouble, runs ok after starting up

96 civic 120K miles, stock, automatic.

In March I was running low on fuel, maybe 1 gallon left in the tank. It took a few cranks and on the last try i gave it a little gas and it started, albeit very rocky for about 1 minute of driving, filled up immediately and 2 freeway miles later, no real issues. I live in LA so very low ambient temperature is not a problem.

April through May, starting was a little rocky, it was inconsistently rocky too, sometimes there was no problem. Usually it’s weak, stuttering, sometimes just cranking but I seem to get it to start. I stopped giving the pedal gas because I read that’s bad (I own a vintage bike, so it’s news to me). I don’t drive that far and figured I’d try some Seafoam and some freeway miles would clean out any debris. Helped for that tank a bit for the next tank before the problem came back.

Still getting the rough starts, but now when I give the car gas as I pull out sometimes it doesn’t accelerate for 15-30 seconds, maybe 25 yards then it drive like normal. No dying at all but getting worse with starting up.

I’ve tried turning the key (not turning the engine over) 5 times and cranking on the 6th and it seems to help.

Any ideas/tests to try? I thought maybe it’s the fuel pump or fuel filter but read it could be an ignition coil/ spark plug/ spark plug wire issue. Two different ball games.

My MPG is not really dropping
I had a new fuel filter put in in February as routine maintenance (thing was on so tight had to bring it to a shop so no rookie mistakes there).
Timing belt &water pump replaced 6,000 miles ago

I would start by cleaning the idle air control (IAC) valve and the mass airflow sensor (MAF).

It’s sounds like the vehicle has a fuel pump that’s starting to go out.

Have someone check static fuel pressure and the residual fuel pressure.


An excellent suggestion.
I’d also have the ECU scanned for stored fault codes. And bring the maintenance up to date if that’s due. Old sparkplugs have been the cause of more operating problems than Carter has Little Liver Pills.

As regards stepping on the gas when starting the car, that can clear a flooding condition if one exists by opening the throttle plate, but flooding isn’t a problem in modern cars.

In the old days, and on your classic bike, engines had carburetors with “accelerator pumps” on them. The accelerator pump sprayed some fuel from the float bowl into the venturi to help the car start. Carbureted cars also had “high idle cams” that set the idle high for cold operation by virtue of a bimetallic temperature sensitive spring. The pedal had to be pumped to allow the spring to set the high idle cam for starting.

But modern cars don’t have float bowls, accelerator pumps, or high idle cams. The fuel metering in modern cars is totally controlled by the ECU based on the sensor signals. Pumping the pedal while starting does nothing useful. It’s harmless, but also useless.