98 Honda Accord Hesitates On Startup

In the last 2 weeks my 98 Honda Accord has started to hesitate when you start it up in the morning (or the first time for the day). It only hesitates for 2-3 seconds and catches and starts up fine the rest of the day. I know it’s not the battery the battery is less than 2 years old and the battery plugs have been replaced recently as well. There is no check engine light flashing or anything saying there is a problem. Curious if anyone has had this problem & what it might be? I can clarify that it isn’t making the noise you’d associate with the battery being dead (trust me, I’ve been in the car with a dead battery and will never forget it!). Any help or suggestions would be so greatly appreciate!

So you mean: it turns over normally but doesn’t catch, right?

If so, try this: turn the key on to right before the starting position. Do that a couple of times (actually maybe 5 times to be sure) before actually starting. This will prime the fuel system. There’s a check valve that makes sure that fuel does not leak back into the tank so you don’t have to prime the system in the morning but it could be that this valve in your car is bleeding slightly.
If that’s it, you could just deal with it by doing what I described every morning. I believe this valve is located in the gas tank on a Honda, it being part of the fuel pump. It isn’t a super cheap fix.

I shall give it a try. It has yet to fail starting at all (hoorrayy) but it just seems to wait a second to catch itself and get going, I just find it strange that the rest of the day if I am driving it it is just fine.

It works the rest of the day because it probably hasn’t been sitting quite as long as it has when it sits overnight so the fuel lines are still primed: there’s still a significant amount of gas in the lines. That bleed back is likely very slight, especially since the problem is relatively new.

Give it a whirl for a couple of days and report back.

Any thoughts on spark plugs? or loose cables being a problem as well?

If the spark plugs were truly loose, you’d get misfires and most likely your check engine light would turn on. Even if it didn’t turn the light on, the car wouldn’t run right, sputter, idle badly, lose power, etc…
It runs okay once you get going, right?

If by ‘cables’ you are referring to your battery connections, you’d have a hard time turning the starter over. That takes a fair bit of current to do and a bad battery cable usually shows itself that way.

If by ‘cables’ you mean spark plug cables, sure - they go bad but again: you’d see it most of the time while driving. Bad plug cables tend to get more sensitive when they get wet, when water has splashed on then when driving in the rain or when it is really humid outside, causing bad starting conditions. Is that what you are seeing?

Yes, once it starts all is well. That’s why I am also wondering if something could be loose also.

If by a delay you mean that the starter motor is hesitant before engaging the engine (no click sound or a pause before the starter motor operates) this could be due to a faulty ignition switch.

Your car is under a Recall for problematic ignition switches and if the Recall has never been done before then you can have this done free of charge at any Honda dealer. There are other Recalls out on this car so ask that any other outstanding Recalls be done at the same time.

If it cranks over for a bit before starting and/or runs a bit ragged after starting then I agree with RemcoW about the fuel pump check valve. That would mean a pump replacement.

I assumed it turned over normally but just didn’t ‘catch’ to start. If it doesn’t turn over normally, @OK4450 is spot on.

No it turns over fine. It’s also been suggested to me that it could just be the battery (going to have the battery charge checked today) as there are periods of time (2 weeks at most) that it doesn’t get driven. Does this seem feasible as well?

Sure. It sits there for two weeks, slowly draining the fuel line back into the tank. If it does it overnight, it most certainly does it over a two week period.
Give it a try and see if it works. If it does, great - if it doesn’t, it will have bought us a clue.

Other than the advice you’ve been given, I strongly suggest that you take advantage of every Recall that may be open on this car They involve personal safety and every one is free of charge to you.

They not only include the ignition switch, but also seat belts, parking pawls, ball joints, and exterior lighting.
Ball joints especially can be lethal to the occupants of a car when and if one fails.

thanks for all the feedback, took it to the mechanics and had battery tested which came back clean as did the starter and alternator. Said it may be our lovely San Francisco fog and cold and the fact i hadn’t driven the car for a bit that’s causing it. So who knows!

RemcoW: thank you for the suggestion on the gas pump & turning the key a few times before starting. Tried it this week one morning and had no problems. Will be taking it to hopefully be repaired in coming weeks to avoid bigger issues! Thank you again for the information, was truly helpful!

RemcoW’s idea of doing the “key dance” before turning the key far enough to start the engine is probably all you need to do. I don’t think any bigger issues are lurking related to this problem. My 1999 Honda Civic exhibits the same symptom sometimes, esp. when tank is low or it’s been parked for days. Doing the key on/off two or three times, letting the fuel pump run for its couple of seconds each time, has always done the trick.

As long as you and other drivers of your car are aware of this quirk, you can save the 200+dollars installing a new fuel pump would cost and put it toward something else!

Thanks for the suggestion, may just do that!

We currently have a 98 Accord LX I-4 (155,000miles) in the fleet at my house. Recently my sister was having hesitation and replacing the fuel pressure switch remedied the problem. It started small, then eventually started sputtering at stoplights/stopsigns.