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A classical "Mechanic can't find anything wrong" issue

The car is a 99 Accord LX with 162,xxx and the automatic transaxle, properly maintained.

2 days ago I was idling at a stop light with the A/C on and it was 85ish degrees out. The car started to run poorly, lacked power, then cut off about a minute later and would crank, run for a split second, and then die. W

With the help of a friend, got it pushed off to the side and he listened when I turned the key to “ON”. He could not hear the fuel pump pressurize and neither could I. No luck with a restart so I called the tow truck which took about 30 minutes.

The tow truck driver showed up, cranked the engine and it started and continued to run. We elected to have the car towed to John (my independent mechanic) just to be safe.

It was after 5 PM when I got the thing there and he couldn’t look at it same day, and he was swamped yesterday so he didn’t get to look at it until today. Summary: Car sat in John’s lot for 1 day.

This morning I got the call saying that the car is ready to go and that they could not find anything wrong with the car and thus could not reproduce the issue.

I said fine and went to pick it up ($0 for diagnostics, at least). When I walked out to the car to start it, it wouldn’t start on my first and only attempt. I walked back in and said “there it just did it…” One of the other techs walked out with me and started it right up…go figure.

Do I have any choice but to keep driving the thing until it gets to the point that it’s a consistent issue?

About a month ago I had a similar episode of the engine running poorly with the “maintenance required” light flickering on and off, but it didn’t actually shut off on me, then. A few days later the CEL came on for an EGR code which I now realize was probably just a coincidence.

Oh well, it is a 12 year old car. If you google this issue, “Fuel pump relay” comes up quite a bit. Thoughts?

These are classic symptoms of a fuel delivery problem. It could be the relay or the pump. Any decent shop interested in your busines should be able to troubleshoot this.

The shop you took it to was honest in not charging you, but you need a shop that can also diagnose the probloem, whether it turns out to be the fuel delivery or ignition related. It sounds like this one wasn’t really interested.

And '99 should have stored some codes other than the EGR code.

Find another shop. This one apparently isn’t interested.

I would not be that hard on the shop. Older Honda’s had the fuel pump relay problem, but I think that was taken care of by 1999. We have a 97 Accord w/ 176k, live in the south and we have never had a problem with this relay.

I hate to say it, but you can’t figure out the problem till you experience it. I think this problem will get worse fast and your mechanic will soon be able to figure it out.

I would argue that there are a lot of possibilities that they could check out without having to duplicate the problem. Sometimes a problem simply cannot be found until it gets worse, but more often than not it can.

Yes, I would prefer to have this issue diagnosed and taken care of before the car stalls at a busy intersection again and requires another tow.

Just a thought, but when was the last time the fuel filter was replaced? This is the most neglected maintenance item besides the transmission fluid change. Many people don’t think about it until there is a fuel problem.

Don’t Forget About The Safety Recall For Ignition Switches On These (98-99) Accords (L4 & V-6).

Honda’s got a 7 page bulletin (9/24/02) on this.

“Electrical contacts in the ignition switch can wear prematurely due to high electrical current passing through the switch. Worn out ignition contacts could cause the engine to stall without warning. Although the engine will restart in most cases, a vehicle that stalls while driving increases the risk of a crash.”

Don’t know if your’s got replaced once or not. Do you ? Anyhow, one way or another, it could be bad.


This car is under a Recall for the ignition switch and that can cause the problems you’re experiencing.
If this Recall has never been performed you can have it done at the Honda dealer free of charge. Take care of the freebie first. (No code for this problem either.)

If the switch doesn’t cure it then I would consider a failing fuel pump and/or main relay.
This kind of thing can be intertwined to a certain degree. Half clogged fuel filter makes the pump work harder which makes it draw more electrical current. This current runs through the main relay and on some models even through the ign. switch itself.
More current means more heat and over the long term electrical parts start dying.

Thanks Busted, CSA, and ok4450…

No, the fuel filter has not been replaced since I bought the car second hand with over 118,000 miles on it. It isn’t mentioned in the owner’s manual and John has never recommended it so I haven’t bothered with it. Surely they would have checked that when it was in the shop today though?

I’ll do my homework on the ignition switch recall and go from there I suppose…I hate the feeling of driving around just waiting to get stuck again…

Those ignition switches are a known problem even on the ones that are not covered under Recall. There are several Recalls on your car so I would have them done in one sitting since it’s all free as to parts and labor.

Some years ago my son had a 96 Acura and it stalled on him on a hot day. He was about 50 miles away so on the way up I stopped by the Acura dealer and picked up a relay. They said they weren’t a problem anymore. We put the relay in in about 5 minutes and he drove away never having the problem again. It was a $56 shot in the dark, but outside of the ignition switch under recall, that’s what I’d put in. After those two, fuel pump.

I’ll get cracking on the ignition switch if John simply hands the car back over to me again tomorrow…

The Ignition Switch was diagnosed this morning. I called Honda and they indicated that they already replaced it once so this one is on my dime. Oh well. Thanks for everyone’s help.

With the switch being replaced once and only 162k miles on the car then I’d be leaning towards a main relay and/or fuel pump problem.