'98 Honda Civic EX stalled and shifter locked

I have a '98 Honda Civic EX with 260K miles on it. Car normally runs better than my newer cars. Yesterday on the way to work, I came up to a stop sign, and the car died. I put it in park and tried to restart several times. It cranked over fine, but sounded like it had no spark. After several attempts, I thought I would just put it in neutral and get it out of the road. I turned they key on and tried to put it in neutral, but the shifter wouldn’t unlock. After turning the key on and off what seemed like a hundred times, the unlock button on the shifter finally unlocked. Without even trying to put it in neutral, I turned the key all the way, and the car started right up. I believe this same thing happened to my wife several months ago, except she just told me it died and the engine light came on. Could this be a problem with the ignition switch?? Any thoughts?

You have to have your foot on the brake as well as the key in the on position to move the shifter. You can also move the shifter by removing the key from the ignition and inserting it into the slot next to the shifter and pushing down. It’s a mechanical override for the safety switch.

You and another poster with a 98 Civic may share the same problem, the main PGM relay located just behind the lower dash/steering column panel just above your right leg. Honda has made improvements in the design of this relay but they still do fail occasionally. Not as bad as they did in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

Thanks Keith. I did have my foot on the brake when trying this. I will check into the relay. Thanks for the advice.

The next time this happens, see if your brake lights are working. If not, then the problem is with the brake switch at the top of the brake pedal.

My 99 will stall out on the freeway and city driving at times. I immediately put it in neutral. There was another discussion about a similar happening. That model of civics had ignition switches get recalled. If you have a lot of keys on your chain the weight will amplify the problem.