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Engine idling?

I drive a 12-year-old Honda CRV with 185K miles on it.

Recently, I had the car in the shop to fix an oil leak in the engine. I also had the catalytic converter replaced, since its connection point was badly rusted. Since I got the car back, I have been experiencing intermittent trouble accelerating the engine when I first start up in the morning. The engine idle sounds normal at first, but when I take my foot off the brake and put it on the accelerator, nothing happens for several seconds. Eventually, the engine seems to kick in and accelerates almost normally, though a bit more slowly than it used to.

The problem seems better if I make sure to rev the engine loudly when I first start it up and worse if the weather is damp or it has been raining since I last drove. After a few minutes of driving, the problem has always gone away so far, but it is nerve-wracking to pull up to an intersection, stop, and then have trouble accelerating to get through it, especially when there is oncoming traffic on the cross street.

Does this sound like a problem with the idling, or am I experiencing the beginning of transmission trouble, or could it be something else? Is it likely to get worse over time?

Many thanks for any suggestions,


I would guess bad plug wires. Next time it is damp open the hood and see if you can see any sparks jumping from the wires or just change them.

knfenimore’s suggestion is a worthy one.
However, I wonder about the possibility of something else having taken place at that recent repair visit–namely, whether it is possible that the shop mistakenly drained your transmission.

If you had an oil change at that last visit, it is possible that the trans was drained, rather than the engine’s crankcase. A situation like that would lead to a grossly-overfilled engine crankcase, as well as a dry (or almost dry) transmission, and this could also explain the symptoms that were reported.

Whenever there is even the slightest chance of a trans-related problem, the first thing to do is to check the transmission distick in order to determine the level, color, and odor of the trans fluid.
Have you done that? If not, I suggest that you do so before you drive the vehicle again.

And, while you are at it, I suggest that you check the engine’s oil dipstick also.
Then, please come back to this thread, and report your findings.

It would help to know where the oil leak was. Chances are the mechanic did something to disrupt something in the same vicinity as the leak. When ever a problem occurs immediately after a maintenance or repair, you have to go back over the maintenance or repair area. Maybe a vacuum line was left off or a connector not plugged back in. Do you have a check engine light?

Thanks to all 3 of you! I will report back what I find out.

Where was the oil leak you had fixed?
The reason I’m asking is that this engine has a variable valve timing system operated by the oil pressure, and if the leak required disasembly of the front of the engine that might have not been set up right. Valves out of time can cause your type of operating problems.

I also wondered about the cat converter replacement. Was a direct fit OEM replacement used or a generic cat converter?

Do you have any CEL light?

All the above good ideas. Especially the possibility of a bad or incorrect new cat.

I’d add that you suggest your mechanic consider

  • EGR problem. When you accelerate, this can trigger the EGR to activate. It’s b/c nitrogen pollutants can be emitted during acceleration, and the EGR helps reduce these. But it isn’t supposed to activative the EGR if doing so - depends on the operating condition – would cause a noticeable acceleration problem. The EGR system usually depends on proper vacuum to it, and on it knowing the coolant temperature. A problem w/either could cause this.

  • Vacuum leak. A hose or vacuum operated device is either not properly connected or is otherwise leaking. Any air bypassing of the MAF causes a lean condition, and this is usually most apparent during acceleration from a stop. Lean can also cause engine overheating sometimes too.

  • Engine timing problem. If the engine timing (either valve or ignition) was accidentally changed during the process of fixing the oil leak, this could cause poor acceleration.