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98 Civic Mystery- Starts when it wants, doesn't when it don't

Greetings all! I am in desperate need of some advice. I have a manual 98 civic with 120k miles on it that has recently developed an annoying habit of stalling. The car started fine the other morning so I backed it into the driveway to warm up, no problems there. When I went to leave for work, the car stalled and died. I got it restarted but when I tried to drive it stalled again. It happened as soon as I disengage the clutch. As I said, moving in reverse was no problem. The battery died after I attempted several times to restart it so I charged the battery overnight. The next morning the car fired up right away with no hesitation nut as soon as I released the clutch it started sputtering so I gunned the engine to keep the RPM’s up. I managed to get it into 2nd and even 3rd but as soon as I down shifted for a stop sign it died.
So far I’ve replaced the battery and the alternator, both were on their way out anyways. Then this past weekend I got a good deal on a new fuel pressure regulator and put that on. The car started right up and ran nice and smooth. I took it out for a drive for about a half hour. About 20 minutes into the drive I noticed that when I pressed on the gas pedal, the RPMs wouldn’t move up much higher. Shortly thereafter the car started sputtering while accelerating. When I got home I turned the car off and went inside. I came out about 15 minutes later and the car wouldn’t start. This has happened after every part replacement. New alternator, runs fine for 20-30 minutes,then won’t start again. New battery, same thing. And tonight the gas pressure regulator. Any ideas out there? Could it be the main fuel relay, should I pull the injectors? The plugs and wires are new and the distributor is less than 2 years old and well sealed. I’m at a real loss here. Any ideas???

No Check Engine light?


If there is no check engine light (and we don’t know that yet), I would look at the ignition switch.

I agree with @AlanY here is an ignition switch recall. Call Honda to see if your vehicle is still eligible for a free ignition switch.

You may want to connect a fuel pressure gauge. And leave it connected. When the car starts acting up, look at the gauge.

FWIW I heard a few CarTalk episodes where Tom and Ray told callers to just replace the fuel pump relay on Hondas. Apparently it was a common failure on certain models.

No check engine light. I’ll check on the ignition switch. Would that cause the sputtering during acceleration though?

Ignition Switch wasn’t for my model and the solder on my main fuel relay looks good.

Keep in mind that even though the recall may not have included your model, it could have failed nonetheless. I’ve replaced ignition switches on a couple of Hondas and one Acura that were also not within models covered by the recall.