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Civic 2000 Won't Start... Usually

I have a green Civic EX that uses VTech Parts, but is not a VTech. I believe that’s because it was manufactured in Japan. She’s got about 140k miles and usually still runs strong. Lately, I’m having a lot of trouble getting her started and now she won’t start at all.

It seems that it will only start in the evenings, but won’t even do that reliably.
Car won’t start intermittently.
Strong gas smell
Has spark, Orange on the far cylinder, and a blue/orange on the closest one.
Replaced entire distributor. Replaced cap, rotor, plugs and wires as well.
When it does start, it runs smoothly.
Ether (starting fluid) doesn’t affect the engine at all.

Does anyone have any ideas?
Thank you.

This is a long shot, but I wonder if the ignition switch is faulty. When you turn the key over to start, only the starter motor, the ignition system and the fuel pump are activated. If something is wrong so that only the starter motor cranks the engine without spark, the car is not going to start.
Also, I think there is some sort of relay on Honda Civics that cause intermittent starting. I have a friend with a Honda Civic that had to replace this relay.

I’d consider the ignitor to be the issue. If you have t a timing light or spark tester (harbor freight’s $3-one works well) see if you’re getting proper spark.

This model is under a Recall for faulty ignition switches. If this Recall has not been previously done then contact any Honda dealer with your VIN and you can set up an appointment to have this done free of charge.
The symptoms vary but can certainly cause the problem that the car is now suffering.

There are other outstanding Recalls on this model so I would have them all done in one shot. It’s all free of charge so take advantage of it.

Recall not withstanding you have weak spark. Orange spark is a classic indicator of a bad coil. Also maybe the wires are getting old. But orange spark is a bad thing and you need to deal with the spark.

I’m assuming it cranks fine but doesn’t “catch”. And the CEL isn’t lit. And no pending codes.

It could be getting flooded with too much gas during start for some reason. That would explain the gasoline smell. And why it starts better in the evening, as the temps are cooler in the evening. Cooler temps require a richer mixture to start the engine. The problem may be that the starting fuel/air mixture isn’t being adjusted properly to what is required for the measured coolant temperature. A faulty coolant sensor could be the cause for example. Or whatever it is that adjusts the starting mixture. 90’s cars had something called a “cold start injector”, that would be a suspect if you have one, but your car may just use the ECU to do this function, widening the pulse injector timing on cold starts. In which case it could be something in that function, maybe a faulty fuel injector or fuel rail pressure.

An experienced Hondo mechanic should be able to figure this out.

Granted a weak spark can be caused by a faulty coil or igniter but burned contacts through the ignition switch causing a major voltage drop to the ignition system could also be behind the problem. The Recall is because of the burned switch contact issue.
Seeing as how this problem is intermittent and the engine runs fine when it does start is why I made the suggestion about the ignition switch. Getting a repair for free is also worth something. :slight_smile:

I do not disagree, just I saw he details differently.

All I can say is orange spark. You have valid points but orange spark is way bad almost top of the charts poor coil why not start there?

You don’t say if this Civic has an automatic transmission or a manual transmission, but in any case, the first thing I’d look at is the neutral safety switch (if it’s an automatic) or the clutch safety switch (if it’s a manual).

If you have an automatic, the next time it won’t start in park, try putting it in neutral to see if it starts. If this fixes your problem, it’s probably the neutral safety switch. The neutral safety switch just makes sure your car is in park or neutral before you start it.

Testing a clutch safety switch might not be as simple, but generally, if you can start the car by getting it rolling, putting it in gear, and popping the clutch, the next step would be to bypass or replace the clutch safety switch to confirm your findings. Of course being able to push-start the car could mean you have a bad starter too.

Here is a bit of a conversation that I had with my buddy that’s trying to figure this out for me.

That last person’s comment strikes a chord with me. I think he may be on to something.

I believe that the car has had trouble turning off, because it thinks that it’s not in Park.

His response

The problem with that (like the clutch safety switch), is that it stops the starter. That way you don’t try to start the car in drive and have it lurch forward.

It should run even with weak spark. I would guess fuel pressure. The relay that runs the pump could be bad.