98 Accord, Engine Randomly Losing/Re-Gaining Power

I have a 1998 Accord, 4-cylinder VTEC standard transmission, 226,000 miles. Last fall I first experienced a problem with the car where within 5-10 minutes of starting the engine and driving, the engine seems to lose power/fuel and RPMs act as if they’ll drop low enough for the engine to stall. If I take my foot off the accelerator, and reapply, the engine seems to gain power again. Also, if I open the accelerator to full while the problem is occurring, it can occasionally “push through” and gain power again. Similar things will happen while stopped. In neutral, RPMs fall low and suddenly jump back up and then settle into normal idle. The problem never persists longer than 10 minutes within starting the car.

I took my car into a local shop that came recommended by a friend. They investigated a “check engine” light that didn’t help explain the problem and were never able to recreate the condition themselves. They replaced a few parts but lost the work order so I don’t even know what they changed, but the problem seemed to have solved itself for a while.

Recently it started up again and I would love to sort it out. While listening to Car Talk a couple weeks ago, it sounded like the guys had an idea about a problem similar to mine, but the caller guided the conversation in another direction. Anyone else experience this or have any ideas about what I should recommend the shop investigate?

Has anyone replaced the fuel filter? That could easily cause that problem and is usually a cheap easy thing to try.

There are a number of things that could cause a problem like this but without detailed info codes, what parts were replaced, and car in hand it’s very difficult to narrow down.
Assuming the CEL does not provide a code pointing to something that could in theory cause this you might consider:
Intermittently failing fuel pump.
Ignition switch.
Main relay.
Fault in the secondary ignition.

Your car is under a Recall for faulty ignition switches which can cause symptoms like this and if the Recall has never been done then you can have this performed at any Honda dealer free of charge.
Keep in mind that the fuel pump, main relay, and ignition switch can all be affected by one common problem; an iffy fuel pump. Excessive fuel pump current draw will, over time, burn up the main relay and ignition switch.