Beat up honda: What's my play?

Hi All,

I’m a noob who knows next to nothing about cars, but I was hoping to tap your wisdom.

I have a 2000 Honda Accord 2 door coupe with a v6 and 186k miles. It’s beat. The frame is somewhat bent from when I tried to change a tire in -14 weather and put the jack in the wrong place and the door creaks when it opens. The alternator was replaced but since then every light on the dash lights up when I brake. The radio and air conditioning don’t work. My kids have trashed the leather in the back, and the side view mirror is hanging by a thread. There’s also rust in the wheel wells. But it’s a Honda, and a mechanic told me it was sound as of three months ago and I’ve put many road trip miles on it this summer and it still drives well. I’ve been reluctant to take on a car payment, as I have another year left on some hefty alimony payments. I’m trying to squeeze every drop out of this.

I just went out and it wouldn’t start. The battery seems fine, as the engine is trying to start, but it won’t turn over (for the last month there has been a high pitched whine shortly after starting it when the car is not warmed up). What should I do? At this point I am not sure I should do anything but tow it to a junkyard. If I have to buy another car, I don’t want to put any money into this at all. But there is a mechanic a mile away. Is it worth towing it to him and getting an estimate? If he says something like $500 then I am just going to have to re-tow it to a junkyard? Or should I pay anything under $xxx amount, get it running, and then trade it in or try to sell it?

I need to decide pronto, as I use street parking in a city that will ticket aggressively for street cleaning and/or having a car sit there for more than a couple days without being moved.

Any thoughts?

The squeal is probably a belt. Squirt a little starter fluid in the intake. If it starts it’s the fuel pump. If not, then there is no spark. Costs add up quickly. You could get an estimate, but they are going to charge you a diagnostic fee. Usually around $100.

You won’t get much for it even if you fix it. I suspect that the choices are junk yard or fix it and use it. With all the problems you mentioned, no one will want to buy it for more than a few hundred bucks.

It’s worth springing for a tow and a diagnosis. It could be something easy to fix and you might get another year or two out of it.

Does the engine seem to turn over a little faster than normal when trying to start it?

If so, the timing belt may have failed.

The wife’s Accord with the V6 engine started making a whining noise.

It turned out the worn timing belt was causing the whining noise.

The belt was worn so thin, that when the covers were removed, the insides of the covers were covered with rubber dust as was the front of the engine.

Caught that one in time!


If I were to pay someone to look at it, what would a ceiling be on a repair bill in the hopes of getting another year out of it? What’s a timing belt going to run? I love not having a car payment, but this car was my ex-wife’s that came to me in the settlement, and it has not been well maintained. I also drive in and out of NYC twice a month, which is hectic, so I feel like I need to bite the bullet and get something that is reliable…

The ceiling is impossible to determine. Could be $5000.
Timing belt plus the usual tensioner, water pump, is about $1200

Until you train your kids to use more care…or they get old enough to be more cautious, I’d fix this one. Why ruin another interior. You could shrink wrap the kids!!!

As far as your problems go, I would have it towed and diagnosed. You have a lot wrong and most of it wouldn’t be related.

When the alternator was replaced and all the dash lights kept coming on, you should have taken it back then. You cannot expect them to guarantee the work if you come back a month later and complain.

FYI You have your terminology wrong. Turning over is when the starter turns the engine when you try to start it. Then it either does start/fire or it doesn’t.

If the battery is turning the starter at about the same rate as you are used to, then you can eliminate the battery and starter as the problem.

Still you need Fresh air, compression, spark and fuel.


The no start could be a bad fuel pump relay.
Give the underside of the dash on the driver’s side a firm whack with your hand.
If it starts that’s it. Guess where the relay is located?
The dash lights could be a ground strap the mechanic forgot to re-connect when they did the alternator.

These just might be two cheap fixes that get it rolling again.

Do you know anyone with a Philips screwdriver?

And knows where the distributor cap is located where the spark plug wires are attached?

Remove those two screws, pull the distributor cap away from the distributor and watch the rotor inside the distributor while cranking the engine over.

If the rotor doesn’t rotate while cranking the engine over, the timing belt failed.


Here’s what I’d do in this situation. Check all the fluid levels. If ok, open the place where you put oil in the engine and have someone crank the engine. On many cars you can see the camshaft or sprocket through that hole. If that is turning, the timing belt is probably ok. Careful, as some oil may spurt out of that hole when you do this. Also check the accessories powered by the accessory drive belt, the alternator, a/c compressor, etc that they are turning as you crank the engine. If everything seems ok to that point, my guess is an ignition or fuel problem. First off, check all the fuses. Next is to decide if you want to tow it to a mechanic. The odds are that as long as the car was running ok in the days before this happened, it will cost you around $350-$550 to diagnose and fix it. Plus the tow charge. If that’s too much, you might try asking the mechanic to make an initial diagnosis first, the call you to discuss what to do. The initial diagnosis might cost less than $100, plus the tow.

One more thought, from the owner of a 40+ year old truck and a 20 + year old Corolla. If you’ll allow me to read between the lines of your post, I think your life is already too complicated, and an unreliable car is the last thing you need. You don’t have time to be fixing your car or dealing with mechanics. If at all possible, see if you can find a way to get a newer more reliable car. If you are able to swing it, I think you’ll breath a big sigh of relief.

Honda’s of that era often have a failed relay that causes a no start even when the starter is working normally. The bad relay means the fuel injection isn’t working (no fuel) and there is another relay that affects the ignition system (no spark). This is a simple and inexpensive fix.

If the fuel pump relay is gone, the pump won’t work when he turns the key. If you can find a quiet moment, turn the key to Run, but don’t hit Start, and as you turn it on, listen for the buzz of the fuel pump. It should buzz for about 5-10 seconds. No buzz, pump’s not working - relay.

Not 5-10 seconds.

1-2 seconds.


This method of turning the key on and listening for the fuel pump to run, that wouldn’t work on my Corolla. The fuel pump never runs in that situation on my Corolla. And it would never run in that situation on my 70’s VW Rabbit. So just curious, does this fuel pump noise at key “on” happen only w/Honda engines?

It does run for a couple or few seconds when I first turn the key to On (Run). That’s on a 1999 Honda Civic.

Sometimes, esp. with very low fuel level and the car sitting overnight, I have had to cycle the key several times from Off to Run, listening for the fuel pump to run briefly each time. Then turning the key to Start, the car will start. I think the engine has lost fuel pressure overnight, maybe to a leaking check valve between the tank and the engine, or a leaking injector,

Honda must allow it to run to prime the fuel rail, but won’t allow it to run indefinitely, in case there’s a fuel leak somewhere, for safety reasons.

Every car I’ve had with the pump in the tank, you could hear it run for a couple of seconds when you turn the key on. None were Hondas though.

Let’s see . . . 15 year old car with 186,000 miles, bad maintenance schedule, body damage, trashed interior, rust, bent underbody, doesn’t run. Is that about it? With kids being driven in/out of a major city on busy highways you need to think about this and junk the Honda. Watch TV and look for a $99 a month lease on a new little Hyundai or something, the commercials are on all the time. Just about anybody can afford $100 a month for basic transportation. I’d hate to hear that you got stuck with your lids on the LIE at midnight and something bad happened. Time to move on. Good luck! Rocketman

Going from a paid-off . . . but admittedly poor condition car . . . to leasing a loser Hyundai

Sounds like a bad deal to me

I’d nurse this old Honda along for awhile. Long enough to save money, to BUY a decent used car, with less miles and in better condition