Electrical system shuts down while driving

Hello All,

I have a perplexing problem with my '99 Honda Accord. A couple months back, I noticed the Immobilizer System Indicator light would come on while I was driving. After 15 minutes or so it would go off. This happened about two or three times.

Then, about a day or two later, while driving at a steady speed on the highway, all the dash lights shut off, the speedometer dial went to zero, I believe the radio also shut off, and at the same time, it felt as though a giant had grabbed my back bumper and held it for a split second. It felt as though I had very lightly tapped on the break and let go immediately. After only a moment, all lights, etc. returned to normal.

The shutting-down-on-the-highway thing has been going on now ever since. But now, there is an additional problem. When I come to a stop (usually after having been on the highway) occasionally the car stalls. It has always been very easy to restart immediately, although sometimes there electrical ticking sounds, like the sound made when someone is putting jumper cables on a battery.

Last but not least, this week after a stall at a stop light, I started the engine back up and it seemed as though the gas was sputtering for a few seconds. Also, a new indicator light came on - the Malfunction Indicator Lamp. It has remained on ever since. I could swear that there was also a smell, something like antifreeze? But the car did start and is operating normally.

I finally took the car to a mechanic, who believes it’s a relay of some sort, but he doesn’t know how to isolate which relay it is.

Anyone else out there have any ideas on what to do to fix these problems? Any ideas would be extremely appreciated!


I agree that the trouble could very well be due to a faulty relay or possibly a bad connection. It would be in the main power buss somewhere. It also could be a section in the ignition switch. By looking at a wiring diagram and using what items were having trouble as clues the tech should be able to narrow down the circuit that is having trouble. A pretty effective way to find a faulty relay or bad connetion is to lightly tap on suspected areas using a screwdriver handle and watch to see if anything happens to the electrical systems that were affected.

The ticking sounds you are hearing may be due to a bad sparkplug wire or connection to a plug.

The first place to start troubleshooting all of the newer cars with electrical problems is at the battery, even if there are no signs of corrosion at the terminals you should remove the cables and use a wire brush to clean the battery terminals and the inside of the connectors on the cables.

Thanks so much, Cougar and aanders999. I appreciate the response. I took the car to the Honda repair people and they said that the car was extremely low in oil (how embarrassing!) and that is what caused the engine check light to go on. He also said he believes that is the cause for all the other problems. I couldn’t quite follow his explanation, but I’ll see how it drives, now that it has oil.


You’re welcome. I assume you are having regular oil changes done. If there is a leak somewhere you should at least figure out how often you need to check the status of the oil level so you keep on top of things.