CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Acura Integra - distributor ?, no start (SOLVED)

Hello car talk forum.
Several months ago a friend offered to see me his old 1996 Acura 4 door automatic 265,xxx miles on the cheap.
After inspection showed bad AC & a going upper ball joint - easy fixes - I began checking out the engine etc.

The cap & wires are green on the conductors…

My question. / problem - I pulled plug wires one at a time, engine running.

When I pulled plug wire #3 the car abruptly died & would not re-start
I’m about to junkyard hunt a distributor as I feel I may have blown the coil or something else in the distributor.

Does this seem logical?

What else could I have damaged?

What Honda’s have interchangeable distributor parts or entire distributors? I know some do - but I can’t seem to find a list that’s not all nomenclature and not year/model matches…

Thanks Everyone!

Before replacing things you should make sure that power is getting to the ignition system. You hopefully just blew a fuse out.

Unfortunately it’s a weird situation since I don’t exactly have access to the vehicle until I go to repair it and I need to kind of have everything with me that I may need plus it’s a half off sale at the junkyard this weekend for the holiday and I can always return the parts for junkyard credit which I will certainly use. I did think fuse initially and I believe I used a multimeter to check the main fuses under the hood. Unfortunately I don’t have any sort of a manual for an Acura so I’m not sure what other fuses I would want to check.

When you remove spark plug wires while the engine is running, you can over drive the ignition module in the distributor.

https://www.rockauto.com/en/moreinfo.php?pk=1949918&cc=1000427&jsn=333

When this happens, you ask the module to produce a spark that tries to jump the large gap that was created when the plug wire is removed.

This overheats the module and it burns up.

Tester

1 Like

By removing the spark plug wire from the spark plug while the engine was running you removed the path to ground for the secondary ignition. The spark will take the next shortest path to ground, probably from the distributor rotor tip to the ignition module or pick-up coil, those parts don’t like lightning strikes.

Buy a complete distributor when you go to the salvage yard.

unfortunately there wasn’t one the head and distributor had already been
removed. it’s half-price day what do I expect I guess. I couldn’t find what
other Honda vehicles had interchangeable coils and ICM modules. I’m on my
way now with all the major fuses a multimeter and the test procedures for
the coil and ICM. unfortunately they are about $60 a piece locally and I
can get the entire distributor for about 65 on eBay so I might have to just
do that but maybe it will be a fuse and I will be a lucky son of a b****

Sorry you’re having this difficulty. Your post should remind diy’ers not to pull the spark plug wires one at a time in an attempt to diagnose engine problems. At least not in cars with electronic ignition.

There was a distributor in the Integra? I would not have guessed that. Can one of the mechanics in the group tell us roughly when they went away?

OP’s Integra is a 1996 model

distributors were still quite common during that time

I’m talking about automobiles in general, not specifically the Integra

If you like, I can give you examples of vehicles in our fleet which are several years newer than OP’s Integra, yet still use a distributor

So the ICM tested good on the car and at the parts store. The coil tested slightly out of spec but my specifications were for 68 degrees outside temperature and it was about 88 degrees. Also the coil spring thing that pokes out of the ignition coil and makes contact with the cap is all bent out of shape but it looked very much like it was still making contact where it needed to.
All the fuses and everything related tested good.
$200+ for a distributor, and over $65 each for ICM & Coil at the local parts place, so I’m not throwing money that way needlessly.

Going to take a list of Honda’s with compatible ICMs to the junk yard NOW and see if I can get some distributor guts cheap.

But I’m not so confident…

Any other thoughts on what to check?

Crank no start after pulling #3 plug wire from the plug end while running.

Plug wires #3 and one of the adjacent wires AT THE CAP are green & corroded. The female sockets on the cap at those 2 plug wires are corroded aluminum white.

So the cap & wires suck.

But - would or could pulling plug wires at the engine & that corrosion just cause a no run no start? Seems to me that it’s not likely. I need a cap & wires… But I’m not going to replace them on a whim before I buy the car…

Thanks all!

Spent about 3 hours walking around the junkyard using the old eyeballs and a little bit of the gray matter I had heard that some Honda Civics and possibly Accords use the same distributor. Supposedly the Accords were older they all had external coils blah blah blah long story short:

1995ish to 1999ish Civics have the same distributor. I say ish because there were rows of civics and I’m not sure exactly what year was what. Unfortunately most of them had been butchered. I started off pulling a coil and ICM from a destroyed distributor body. Then I found a distributor body with no cap or rotor and got that. Finally on the way out I found an intact distributor that matches the Integra. As its usual with the junkyard there was no hood prop and the pipe that I used popped loose and I got bonked in the head with the hood. But now at least I have several sets of parts and distributor bits.

I’m going to purchase a set of brand new wires so far I’m only into this for 40 bucks thank you half off day at the junkyard.

However I don’t even own this car. My friend was going to sell it to me at a good price and I killed it when I was checking it out.

I can tell my buddy is getting pretty annoyed with me because he needs his garage space and he can’t really even sell the car now because it doesn’t even run. So I either at minimum have to fix it or fix it and buy it.

I don’t really need it at this point but if I fix it I’m going to buy it because the Price Is Right.

However I am very close to writing the entire thing off LOL.

TL:DR

What else could I have screwed up given the description of the failure mode?

Thanks All

Congratulations on your new stash of parts!

Sorry to hear that :frowning_face:

If you were to look at the underside of the hood, you’ll typically see an emissions sticker, which includes the model year of the vehicle. On some other vehicles, it’s on the upper radiator core support, or on the plastic fan shroud

If you want to keep this friend, I’d say you’re in a “you broke it, you bought it” situation.

;-]

If you’re going to buy it if you can fix it, but you have to fix it anyway, b/c you broke it, it sounds like you are going to buy it no matter what. Suggest you make the purchase, then your friend’s mind will be at ease and may not mind letting you keep it there until you can get it started and drive it to your place for the final repairs. Were I in this situation I’d start by fixing what I already know is wrong; i.e. replace the spark plug wires between the distributor and the spark plugs, and the distributor cap, and the ignition rotor. At that point you can check for spark at a spark plug, and go from there. Most likely if the wire/cap/rotor replacement doesn’t get it started, you’ll have to replace the ignition module. Either that or the whole distributor, which includes the ignition module probably. That’s how it is configured on my Corolla of similar vintage anyway.

There’s a chance that the problem is the gadget that senses the dist shaft position too btw. If that doesn’t work, the computer won’t realize the engine is turning and won’t command the ign module to produce a spark.

As far as the situation goes I’m not locked into buying this car per se. My buddy needs his garage within the next two weeks and I can’t really get in there again given both of our schedules until the end of this week. I think I could sell the car for my buddy on Craigslist as it sits for what he was going to charge me for it.

However I would actually like to purchase and keep the car. My buddy has AAA but he’s getting a bit annoyed and doesn’t seem to amenable to using one of his AAA tows to help me move the car right now.

And the other side of things is the car is already going to need a battery and it uses a funky weird battery that’s tiny and funny shaped so my small foreign car top post battery will not work so I’m already into the car for a battery if I buy it. Plus whatever blew out as I was testing it was bound to blow at some point. Of course everything is bound to blow at SOME point…

Here’s where I am at I’ve got a distributor off of a Civic that should be the exact same, another distributor that has what looks to be a great ICM and coil which hypothetically would just need a nice cap and rotor, and a coil and ICM from a third distributor. These are all junk yard Parts purchased half off so if there’s anything involving the distributor or any of the bits inside of it I think I’m good it’s just a matter of getting the parts installed.

Are you talking about the hall effect pick up sensor or crankshaft position sensor I guess that is built into the distributor? If you open a Honda distributor it’s the black three-sided module looking thing that is not the ICM or the coil? In any case I’ve got two of those between the distributor bodies that I picked up. I don’t think that part is actually transferable between distributors but I should be able to build a good distributor out of the parts that I have assuming the whole distributor that I got doesn’t work.

So my big question now still is

TL:DR.

Other than under the hood fuses or fusible links that are in the under hood fuse box, plug wires, distributor cap rotor and given the previously described failure mode: WHAT ELSE?

Meaning since I’m not going to be able to go over there until the end of the week and see if this distributor works and in interest of this friendship I need to try and keep my time working on it in his garage to a minimum… I need to try and bring everything else I might need with me.

Thanks again everyone!
-Mark

Yes. How it’s configured depends on the distributor, but it senses the shaft turning.

@markvickroyjr It appears that you broke the car. Buddy annoyed , of course he is. Pay for the vehicle and have it towed to your place at your expense and don’t ever buy or sell a vehicle to a friend or relative again.

3 Likes

I think you are on the right track, and will be able to fix it. Eventually. You could probably fix it faster by using new parts rather than junkyard parts, but that’s quibbling. Worse case you can get a shop to diagnose the problem using their factory scan tool, than you can fix it from what they tell you is wrong. Worse case parts wise, you might have damaged the ECM. Probably not. But it’s a possibility.

:+1: I think given my parts stash that I’m covered as far as distributor
problems may go. however…

the ICM on the installed distributor tested good both in car & at the
parts store.
Coil tested good also - but the spring that contacts the cap on this
particular distributor configuration was all bent out of shape.

at this point I’m on hold until I get a chance to go back to the car but
I’m still left with the same question I posed at the end of my last post:
WHAT ELSE. :confounded:

I’ll update the thread when I return to the car hopefully with a big :slight_smile:
and in the meantime maybe somebody can point me towards other potential
issues.

Probably a group 51R . . . this is very common for Honda/Acura vehicles. Any auto parts store should stock this. Costco also stocks them, for a very reasonable price

I can’t blame him. It should be your responsibility to get the car towed to your place, since you’re going to buy it from him, right . . . ?!