Check Engine Light flashed 3x then off-NO OBD code on attached ScanTool-2000 Accord ex 4cyl 198k mi

My question: was there some some OBD code or light I should have expected (that didn’t show)? What did the flashing Check Engine Light mean?

At 10:30pm last night, I picked my wife and bro-in-law up from the Logan airport, and on the way to drop BIL at his house, I saw a brief whisp of steam/smoke rise from the passenger side hood/wheel-well when idling at a top-light. I exclaimed that the car was smoking, but BOTH my wife and BIL insisted that we had been stopped over a steam grate. (In 70 degree weather? I puzzled, but since BOTH said that had been the case…).

A few minutes later, the check-engine light flashed (three times, I think) and then went off. I drive with an OBD ScanTool attached on the dash, so I immediately switched it to scan the codes, but it reported “clear” / no codes! Either immediately before or immediately after, the car lost accelerating power for 1 or 2 seconds (at most), but then resumed normal driving. No other dash lights were on, though I did not look at the temp gauge.

I am a former chef and professional cook, and have a VERY sensitive sense of smell-- there was NONE; I watched attentively, and the absence of further smoke/steam seemed to support the unseasonal steam-grate hypothesis. I had also picked up the car within the last 24 hours from THE HONDA DEALERSHIP, who I had asked to look everything over to ensure another 6 months of problem-free driving. (I rejected their offer of a $249.00 “triple flush” of transmission, brakes, and pwr steering.) We have otherwise had zero problems with the transmission or cooling-- the car is old, but maintained reasonably well and driven less that 5000 mi / year. Boston driving, but not aggressive or 19 years old!

No further thought, as all seemed okay except for the brief “blip”, and pregnant wife, brother-in-law, two dogs, and I all wanted to get home.
Drove the 2ish miles to our apartment, with no further blips. At a stoplight about 3 blocks from home, a LOT of smoke/steam started coming out from the hood. Still no lights or OBD codes! At that point, I pulled over within 5 seconds, and noticed that the temp was pinned or nearly so (If there is supposed to be a light on the gauges, I had it all the way dimmed). Looking under the hood, the spray pattern on the hood insulator made it easy to find the split in one of the hoses connected just under the distributor (about 1.25in OD; I’m guessing coolant or transmission, based on the symptoms??).

While waiting for a tow-truck (since I wasn’t even sure if it would do any damage to drive the remaining blocks to my driveway), and after things had a chance to cool a bit, my wife restarted the engine for a second so I could check if any additional fluid came out of that split, but none did. Once the temp was back down towards the low end in 20ish minutes, I drove the car about one block so I could stop blocking traffic-- it drove fine, and the temp didn’t visibly rise in that 200 yards. Still, the CEL was not on (or flashing) during startup or while running, and there were NO OBD CODES.

Call me paranoid, but I look at the hose more closely due to the fact that the dealership had tried to sell me on a transmission flush within the past 24 hours, and had also done a few other sketchy things. The split in the hose was very neat, one-inch long, and perpendicular to the axis of the hose; no cracking, bubbling or other damage was visible. I have no idea how hoses split, but I would assume axially or at the exterior of a bend would be more common. Again, call me paranoid, but this looked as clean as it would if you had used a new razor blade. I am not suggesting that the dealership cut my hose, but the thought did cross my mind-- in the past, they’d tried to sell me a $250 master cylinder when a $10 brake fluid sensor/cap was the problem, and they had just insisted that i needed new rotors and pads even though I had put on less that 18k miles in the three years since I had gotten “lifetime” ceramic pads. They also marked that “customer’s request”, distinct from all the other items on the bill marked “Technician’s Rec”. I will never again trust any of the Spice Compartments dealerships, even though the employees have all been awesome, in person.


Check engine light flashing = SEVERE misfire which may damage the catalytic converter

While I don’t consider transmission flushes a good idea . . .

Brake fluid is hygroscopic and absorbs water over time. Ideally, the brake fluid should be flushed every 2 years. In any case, you’re overdue.

The question of power steering fluid flushes will probably get you very different answers. I’ll not get into that.

Even though you only put 18K on those ceramic pads, it’s still possible that your rotors have runout.
Is your brake pedal pulsating when you step on it at freeway speeds?

db4690, thanks for your response.

I’ve definitely internalized the idea that (in general) a transmission flush is asking for trouble on an older car with no problems.

I can check on exactly when I had flushes done last, but the brakes were A+ at any speed. If anything, I specifically noted to myself that the brakes felt SOFTER on the way to the airport (only drive after picking up the car from the Dealer).

I had a full tuneup at my local shop in Dec2012 / Jan 2013 when distributor cap broke was replaced. I also passed MA’s inspection in February 2013 (which does include at least some brake test, but I’m not sure what). My car may be messy as hell, but I do my best to maintain it. No mechanic has mentioned any problems with any (low) fluids at any oil change in the past.

Dealer’s tech told me over the phone that a stuck caliper necessitated front rotors and pads, despite everything being great. I could understand if a stuck caliper was causing constant rubbing, but the noise had started literally on the way to the dealer, about 2.5 miles from my driveway!

How long should rotors last? We really only drive 5k per year (6k, MAX, if the stars align against us)-- that’s probably 4k of city driving, plus one or two trips to visit family, and neither my wife nor I drives like a maniac. Again, I can check exact records, but I could swear that I had rotors replaced in 2010 (when braking FELT bad), and that a mechanic told me in November 2012 that my brakes seemed fine. (He checked because I asked him to look everything over while he was replacing a bad CV joint / differential.)

Returning to the flashing CEL: it was three (or four) quick flashes, and then nothing (no CEL, no other lights, and no error code)-- is that what is supposed to happen? I was surprised that there was no evidence after the light had flashed, and everything else (power, ride, noise, odor) seemed as it should have been. If there had been ANY ongoing warning light or error code, I would have addressed it immediately (that’s part of the reason why I mounted a ScanTool on my dash in the first place!). Two facts made me think that it was just some “burp” in some system after being serviced at the Honda dealership: (1) it flashed so briefly, and left no evidence; and (2) I had specifically asked the dealer to check any and all drive and safety systems to see if any other work needed was required or recommended, and they reported that all looked fine.


Thanks for the update

It sounds like you’re taking good care of the car

Since “the brakes felt SOFTER on the way to the airport . . .” I would definitely consider getting that brake fluid flushed.

Does the brake pedal sink when you’re stopped at a light?

Does the pedal feel mushy/spongy?

In’m not sure what MA does during their inspection, but they probably did a visual inspection and a performance test on the dyno. When I was working on the army base, that’s how the inspector did it.

FWIW a stuck caliper can overheat the brakes to the point that a rotor will warp. But I haven’t measured rotor thickness and runout on your brakes, so I obviously can’t say anything conclusive from where I’m sitting.

you should always keep your eyes moving like make the sighn of the cross up(down the road) left mirrior ,right mirrior and down the dash board then repeat and repete over and over again always have the BIG picture of what is going on at all times around you and with the car. its called the “Smith System”