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My daughter drives a 1999 Honda Civic. Last week my husband replaced a cracked radiator and radiator hoses and my daughter drove the 3 hours back to college. Today, now that my husband is out of the country for a month, it began acting up again and I’m turning to you guys to help.



She got gasoline last night and drove the car back to her place. Tonight when she went to start it she had trouble but she got it going, but when she began driving it would lurch forward and then cut out. She had trouble getting it started. When she did, the engine began reving but the car wouldn’t move. Then it cut out again. She got it going and then it would cut out again. She finally got it home again but with a constant cutting out and reving.



Where do I begin looking for answers?

Did she mention if the Check Engine light ever came on?

Tester

no warning lights

Did the revving happen when it was in D (DRIVE) or P (PARK)? If it was in D (DRIVE), the automatic transmission fluid level may be low, allowing the transmission to slip.
There isn’t any specific thing that the symptoms point to. A number of electrical, ignition, and fuel areas will have to be checked.
Fuel filter is probably original. It should be changed.
The ignition switch, which is connected to, but isn’t part of the, ignition lock, could be bad.
Then, there’s the ignition system, which makes the spark, is suspect.
Wiring can’t be ruled out, either.
By now, you realize that you need a mechanic.

Man, I was hoping people would say “bad gasoline”. I will find out about the revving in drive or park. The college kid is still sleeping in. Would all these things just happen so suddenly like that? So, it probably isn’t related to my husband’s recent car repairs on the radiator? What if she did get bad gasoline? Is a there a way to treat that first and see if it is that? and a mechanic? How does one find a reliable one in a strange town?

Bad gasoline occurs very infrequently, and it’s also the excuse that unskilled mechanics will sometimes use when they don’t know what the problem is.

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Bad gas won’t cause the engine to rev. It would just run rough and maybe stall.

Have her check to make sure the coolant level is still full. If that’s fine, then have her go back to the gas station and check the pump she used. The only thing I can think of that might cause the engine run like this is if she mistakenly filled it up with diesel fuel.

Tester

Surging idle is usually caused by a vacuum leak. The trouble is that there are many places where air can leak into the system, and some of them are hard to locate. My most recent surging idle problem turned out to be an intake manifold gasket.

The symptom of the car not moving in drive when the engine revs up seems out of place. I would question her on this one to make sure she said what she meant. If that is indeed happening, I would ask your husband if he drained some tranny fluid when changing the radiator and forgot to replace it.

It is generally prudent to look for a problem as an unintended effect of a recent repair. In this case, there could be air still in the system that is causing the temperature sensor for the fuel injection system to give an erroneous reading. I would also look for a vacuum hose or air duct that got disturbed during the radiator work and subsequently cracked or came loose. Plastic hoses and tubes always seem to crack underneath, so you have to remove them to examine them for cracks.

Correction: I talked to my daughter again. The car is revving in drive. But it is not stalling. The engine will rev even if her foot is not on the pedal but the car will not move forward. Does that help solve this mystery?

I suspect when your husband changed out the radiator perhaps one of the transmission cooler lines did not get clamped down properly and caused transmission fluid to leak out. Low transmission fluid would then cause the transmission to slip. Should be an easy fix, however I wouldnt recommend trying to drive it any further until its repaired. This wouldnt explain the revving of the engine when foot is not on the pedal, but I would question if thats whats really happening.

Yep. Check the tranny fluid level. If it’s low the tranny will slip and the car won’t move. The reason the engine revs is, when the transmission is placed into drive, the Idle Air Control motor bumps the engine idle speed up so the engine doesn’t stall with this load on the engine. But if the tranny is slipping, there is no load on the engine. So the engine revs.

Tester

I agree with AcousticBob. I’ve been trying to think of what would provoke the symptoms your daughter is experiencing, and this one makes perfect sense. I would definitely check the transmission fluid and not drive the car until she knows it’s at the right level.