The hard to diagnose idle problem I was having on my '98 Civic finally got bad enough that I took it to a shop to get it fixed. I couldn’t find the thread where I first mentioned it, but ever since I got the head gasket done, the car was weak idling at startup when it sat for more than 8-10 hours. It would drive like it wasn’t getting fuel or spark, I’d pull over and sit, and the idle would dip down, rise up, and then normalize and everything would be fine until the next time I started the car.
My mother recently had a partial hip replacement, so I brought her to my house for three weeks of recuperation. For the four weeks between the surgery (plus one week in the hospital and rehab), my car basically sat for a month not being driven. I had a solar trickle charger hooked up, so the battery was fine.
When I went to start the car up after a month of sitting, it wouldn’t start. It would crank and crank, but in order to get it to start, I had to give it gas by pressing on the gas pedal. After that, it started fine, but the idle would constantly surge up and down. It drove fine under load, but idling was up and down when sitting still.
I dropped it off at my favorite shop yesterday, and while they were diagnosing the problem, I had them check the power steering leak. I decided that if it was just the PS pump, like I suspected, I’d let them fix it. It turns out both the rack and the PS pump are leaking, so I’m going to go with @Rod_Knox’s recommendation to convert to manual steering when the leaks get worse. In the meantime, I’m going to keep topping off the PS fluid.
It turns out the idling problem was caused by a faulty idle air control valve.
@Rod_Knox, you asked me to post the results when I follow your instructions. I’m not ready to do it yet, but I’m getting close. I’ll keep you posted.
The good news is the reason getting the car running right is so important is that I have a job interview 100 miles away from home on Monday, and I want to make sure I make it there on time. If I get the job, I can easily afford a new car. Now that I have the summer off from graduate school, and one class to go before I get my master’s degree, I’m focusing on advancing my career and going to a lot of job interviews, so I need my car to get me there. She’s less than 7,000 miles away from my 300,000 mile goal. That’s how long I’ve always planned to keep this car.