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Civic Runs - Engine randomly stop and won't restart - then normal 5 minutes later

Car: 98 Civic HX

History: The regular car until 2015, then only driven Dec - Mar.

Possibly Relevant: Last year noticed the tank was leaking gasoline but only until ½ full.
Solution: Only fill it ½ full.

Problem: Engine quits at random times after normal operation.

	When the engine stops, everything else is normal
		Engine cranks.
		After turning engine on, fuel pump runs and stops as normal;
	Engine cranks but does not start.

Unsatisfactory solution: Wait 3 minutes, start the car, and drive as normal.

After 3 minute wait, performance is normal after re-start.

It has happened three times - or every time I’ve driven it this year.

Possible problem is water/ice in the fuel system?

I would appreciate better ideas.

This is an extremely dangerous solution. I strongly urge you to address the leak. Gasoline fumes surrounded by oxygen, as they are when exiting a leak, are subject to flash combustion, and the flash could easily follow the fumes right into the tank, wherein there exists a half-tank worth of gasoline saturated air… the perfect conditions for a massive explosion. To blow up old structures farmers used to mount a spark plug in a 55 gallon drum partially filled with gasoline and set it off from a distance. Many a rural barn has been razed that way.

The operating problem could be a wide variety of causes, not the least of which is old gasoline. The list, however, includes long-overdue maintenance. Has it illuminated the CEL? Do you know the codes? How many miles does it have on it? Can you provide more details about the vehicle’s maintenance history? Have you done a compression test on it?

NOTE: that leaky gas tank gives me the willies. I urge you, please get this addressed before worrying about the operating problem.

Agreed. Fix the tank. If gas can get out this means moisture can get in.

Also, this era of Honda is prone to ignition switch failures. Many in this era are under a Recall for this.
Call the Honda dealer with the VIN and they will tell you quickly whether it’s covered or not. It’s free.
Switches can be easily tested in a no-start condition if you have a test light and a small amount of electrical expertise.

If the Recall has been done before then it will not be covered again. Recalls are a one shot deal.

The Honda fuel pump relay (sometimes called the fuel injection or main relay) is a common problem reported here. Intermittent failure modes, often only when the engine is warm. I realize you say the fuel pump seems to be working, but make sure it is actually working when this problem happens.

After that you’ll first have to figure out if this is caused by no spark or no fuel. So next time this happens, check for spark at the spark plugs, , and test the fuel rail pressure.

It seems that the ignition switch can be ruled out. I hear the fuel pump run and shut off. And all instrument lights (and everything else) remain on.

Also, although it has only been three times so far, the required wait of 2 minutes (which I admit may just be by chance with only three samples) doesn’t seem to fit. And, it has always started immediately the first time each day. Can’t be the ignition switch to my thinking.

For the time being, I am also ruling out the igniter. I had one of those go bad years ago. It was similar, but, then, the engine would start running rough and then quite. This is as if the ignition switch was turned off.

But, it can be the ignition switch. Everything in the car is the same except except the engine isn’t running anymore.

The problem might be with the crank sensor.

If the computer loses the signal from this sensor, the computer see’s no reason to operate the ignition system/fuel injectors.


Seems like a real possibility. This can be intermittent?

What’s the prognosis? Imminent complete failure? Slow / rapid progression?

What really stumps me is the rapid recovery from nothing to normal in 2 - 3 minutes.


I found the container of “Dry Gas” I bought last year. I read the “instruction.”

“Treats up to 20 gallons.”

The tank now holds about 5 gallons, and I recalled putting in 1/4 of the container last year.

It seemed a little heavy. I took off the top and the seal was still there. I looked for the liquid level and it was full. Apparently I had bought it but never put any in the tank. Memory is not so good.

I put about 1/4 of it in the tank. Didn’t need to go anywhere so I let it sit for 2 days. So far I have driven it twice over three days and it has performed perfectly or as perfectly as a car with 250,000 miles can perform.

Problem seems to be solved.