'98 Honda Civic EX... Is Mechanic Bogus?



I could really use some advice. I drive a ‘98 Honda Civic EX 4 cylinder w/ 101K. Recently I had been driving it until the tank was about at 1/8 full, then filling up, just to keep on a weekly schedule of filling the tank.

Well, when I would drive it, the needle would show 1/8 tank full, but jumped around at times above the E, but never below it. One time, the car sputtered a bit, so I filled up ASAP, and the car ran fine.

One day, however, I was attempting to run a last minute errand on 1/8 tank. My car has gotten 28.9 mpg before, so I figured it would make it. It didn’t.

It sputtered and died. By died, I mean, I put my foot on the accelerator and was not able to get any acceleration. Luckily, I was able to coast to the shoulder. No indicator lights came on. I was not sure if it was a fuel issue or something more critical b/c I have never had a car die on me before and typically get the low fuel indicator light (But…I am aware that these things can mis read the tank capacity so I assumed that was the case).

When it stopped, the engine was still running like normal. I was too afraid to try and drive it just then, but I eventually did restart it and it drove. I moved it deeper onto the shoulder and waited for help.

A friend came to my aid and filled the tank w/ one gallon - enough to get me to a gas station.

The strange thing is, when I got to the gas station - everything ran just fine on the way there - and my 11.9 gal capacity tank, only took 7 gallons to fill up.

Without adding any bias - by giving the mechanics’ opinions - can anyone tell me what the issue might be??

ps - I took it in to a Pep Boys (convenient hours) the next day, they found nothing, but then a week later I was driving it and the check engine light did come on. Hmmmm.

I did get two other opinons, but I am curious if anyone else has run into this and what they may have found that it was.

(the code was P0420)

Now, the engine seems to jerk a bit more than it used to when the car down-shifts off of a big hill as I brake to a stop or slow to make a turn after driving down a steep hill.

I am now afraid of my car, b/c I really am not sure what the root of the prob. is and when it might stall next. I do not dare let the tank go past 1/4 these days!




First off, don’t automatically assume you’re being ripped off.

The stalling does not likely have anything to do with the PO420, which is catalyst efficiency, although it’s possible another problem could trigger the code.

There are a number of things that could cause your symptoms, and considering I don’t know the maintenance history, etc., my guess would be either a failing fuel pump (when was the fuel filter last changed, if ever?), or a failing ignition switch. The latter can cause the same symptoms as a failing fuel pump.

Your Civic has a recall on the ignition switch and if this has not been performed yet, then a trip to the Honda dealer will get this repaired for you free.


Fair enough,

I have heard fuel pump before, I don’t know if the fuel filter was ever changed. But when Pep Boys ran the diagnostic, they checked the fuel pressure, injector connections, primary and secondary ignition wiring, vacuum hoses…etc. and found nothing. And get this, the deal was that if they found nothing, my $80.00 diagnostic was on the house. And they did not charge me, so I am thinking they must have been honest.

That’s what makes it such a puzzle.

I religiously change the oil, and have had the timing belt changed (@ 90k acc. to the manual. I did get a tune up, but it’s been over a year.

Plus, when the car stalled, we checked the transmission fluids and oil. All were fine.

AutoZone and Ken Towery claimed it had converter inefficieny. Towery’s checked temperature differentiation in the air circ. thru, the front and rear of car to reachthis determination.

Thanks for your interest and concern!

I just hope I am not damaging it by continuing to operate it under the circumstances.


Actually, a fuel pump pressure and volume test is not always a true indicator of a fuel pump’s condition.
They may work fine for a day, week, month and then develop a case of the hiccups.

Last year one of my daughter’s cars did this. It would run fine but she said that every once in a while it would stumble badly and almost die.
She left it with me when she went out of state and I drove that car daily for a week with no problems. Finally take a 200 mile round trip in it and sure enough, it quit me about 20 miles from home - on a 100 degree day of course.
Some roadside diagnosis and it was the pump, no doubt about it. After 30 minutes it started back up and got me home, to be repaired the next day.

However, considering your car is under a recall I would advise having this done first.
A faulty ignition switch can cause the car not to start, to cut out and run rough, or stumble and die at times. The symptoms can mimic a bad fuel pump so weed out the freebie first.
If the recall has not been performed, any Honda dealer is obligated to repair this for you completely free of charge.

I would strongly suggest getting this done first as it may solve your problem. There is also the possibility, although it’s very slim, that a faulty ignition switch could even set your car on fire. It’s not unheard of.


With the mileage on the engine and the performance problems, all the routine maintenance should be performed: spark plugs and wires, distributor cap and rotor, air filter, fuel filter. All of these things together could be all that’s needed. If there is still a problem, you need to find a shop which will do the necessary diagnosis.


Yes, I did get a tune up shortly after I initially bought the car in April of 2006. I will have to check the manual and see what else is up for replacement. I still have that receipt. I got the tune up w/ the typ. parts - rotor, dist. cap, 4 spark plugs and wiring, etc. July last year - they also inc. the parts’ warranties (forgot about those). Thanks for advice! Wow, the $ I have put into that car - unbelievable!


Car on fire? Not Good!!

I will def. look into that recall at the dealership! Hearing about those symptoms you and your daughter experienced puts things in perspective. What great timing cars have for giving out! When the Honda died, I was delivering blue prints to a client. It was an unexpected request and the client needed the blue prints within 15 minutes. Figures my car would die half way to the destination! And otherwise, I would have been on time. It all worked out and at least I was spared the expense of towing.