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97 Honda Civic Sputters/Stalls when wet

Hello Everyone,

I’ve got a 97 Honda Civic EX that sputters and stalls when it gets wet. It’s difficult to get the RPM’s up enough to get any momentum. It’s almost as if something is slipping. I had a similar problem with this before where there was a lot of squealing involved too, but that’s not much of an issue this time. The last time I took it to a mechanic in Ohio he just tightened a belt (possibly the serpentine) and sent me on my way. That worked wonders but I don’t know if that’s the problem this time, not to mention I can’t remember if it was the serpentine belt or something else. I just don’t want to go to a shop and say “oh yeah, my serpentine belt is slipping when it gets wet,” and then have the mechanic think to himself “here’s a sucker!”

This has become a severe since I’ve moved to San Francisco. The foggy dawns have really been getting to me in the morning when I need to go to work and having to park on a one way street going uphill doesn’t help.

Any help will be much appreciated!


Difficult to understand your post. A slipping belt will make noise but it won’t cause the car to “sputter/stall”. You have what is called a driveability issue,something is causing your engine to run poorly and it is not a slipping belt.

Do you have a illuminated “check engine” light?

The old (possibly original) spark plug wires have a lot of tiny cracks. Look at them with a magnifying glass and see for yourself. When the dampness is on the wires, it provides paths for the spark to jump away, and not, reach the spark plugs.

I agree with hellokit. The old spark plug wires are likely to be at least partially responsible for the sputtering and stalling.

This is unrelated to your current problem, but has the timing belt ever been replaced? If not it needs to be done. If the timing belt breaks you’ll have a much bigger, and more expensive, problem.

You didn’t mention anything about maintanence of the car. This is the classic symptom of a car that needs a tune up. Old spark plugs can be sensitive to moisture. As hellokit pointed out the spark plug wires degrade in time and become sensitive to moisture. If the car has a distributor cap, it and the rotor also are affected. Dirt and dust give the moisture something to hang onto so just cleaning them off the plug wires and distributor cap can help get you going, but replacing these parts is the only good long term solution.