98 CRV dying? Need help with diagnosis

I have a 98 CRV that lost engine power as I was driving about two months ago. The first time it chugged a little one time when I was trying to accelerate and it seemed that the engine died (silently, other than the one chug). I put some gas in and it started up fine, I assumed that the gas gauge was going (it did take more gas than the gauge indicated it needed) and started keeping it at least half full. About 5 weeks ago it happened again, but this time it had plenty of gas. I pulled over and it started up again without a problem. It started happening more frequently, usually after coasting for a little while and then trying to accelerate again. I took it in to a local shop with a pretty good reputation, they had a hard time replicating it, but finally diagnosed it as the distributor or the catalytic converter. I’d had the distributor replaced about 6 months earlier so I settled on having them replace the catalytic converter. That didn’t help at all, so I did the distributor (fortunately it was under warranty). That also did nothing to help. I am now $1500 in, out of money for the moment, and the trouble just kept getting worse, to the point that it would idle but not drive. I got out the repair manual and started troubleshooting, figuring it couldn’t hurt.
I went through and changed the air filter and PCV valve, no change. I then changed the fuel filter, and after that it would turn over but wouldn’t catch. I checked the fuel pump (it clicks on fine) and borrowed a fuel pressure gauge. The fuel pressure is reading a bit high (42 psi with regulator vacuum hose attached, almost 50 with it off), could that be the cause of my problems (either original or the new one that now the car won’t even idle)?
Could it be that the (slightly less experienced) mechanic who did the distributor may have messed something up? I was under the impression that these ones pretty much just click into place and that other than the wiring you couldn’t really put it in the wrong way, like you could with some older ones. How would I check this?
What else would cause the engine to intermittently fail?
Thank you for your help!

Have you verified you’re getting spark?

First question, is the check engine light on? If it is, then you need to have the code(s) read. Tell us what the exact code is, not what the mechanic think it means but the actual P followed by a 4 digit number, i.e P0300 etc.

Even if the check engine light is not on, have the codes read anyway. There could be a pending code.

If the mechanic put the distributer in wrong, it wouldn’t have run at all or it would have had a serious misfire, but it never would have run good or idled smoothly.

Here is a partial list of possibilities

rotor (inside the distributor, could have a crack in it)
distributor cap
crank position sensor
throttle position sensor (not as likely now that it won’t idle)
MAP sensor
MAF sensor (if so equipped)

First check for spark, if no spark, look at the first 4 items. You could have just knocked the wire off the crank position sensor.

BTW, I don’t see how that shop could have diagnosed the cat as the problem.

" It is either your distributor or catalytic converter " is not a diagnosis , it is a guess. Any time a shop uses an either or line on you, run the other way and don’t let them try to fix your car. They will just wind up replacing both things and try to convince you that both things were bad, but now a new problem came up that needs fixing.

you may want to check for recalls on cr-v’s, specifically ignition switch. LOTS of honda’s and acura’s had this specific recall. could not find out what the problem was w/ our car. internet digging saved me lots of money as the dealer replaced switch { after mentioning recall } and problem solved. you need to ask BEFORE a repair is done if this item is on recall. they won’t tell you.

jj in florida

There can be many causes to this sort of symptom…

You need to make sure that your timing has been set properly if someone has been monkeying around with your distributor… That’s step one… Step two is that maybe your AIC valve is acting up…How is the idle quality? I mention the AIC valve because it is responsible for the idle duties on this vehicle…and when you take your foot off the accelerator…you then rely on the AIC to let the engine idle properly if it cannot idle your engine…you will notice that you stall out a lot…

Also the throttle body…that could need cleaning…as well as your MAF sensor… All you need to do is spray and wipe out the T-body with carb spray…be sure to open the butterfly valve in there and wipe out all around where the butterfly valve seats…you can also use the carb spray to clean your MAF… BOTH are EXCELLENT things to do in your instance

The AIC is also very finnicky about having the cooling system PROPERLY filled up and topped off…in your vehicle you have a bleed nipple on the engine to help you purge any and all air in the cooling system…I mention this bec the AIC is directly dependent upon engine coolant temp…

So I need to know…how does this vehicle idle? Normal? Does it idle fast when cold and then slowly drop down to normal? Also make sure that the shop TIMED the engine after the distributor install…You may be off time…and stalling can easily be a symptom of this… Esp if the timing is retarded enough…