Fixed water pump and timing belt, broke main relay and gas pedal?

I have a '91 Honda Civic hatchback. It’s not much, but it feels a bit like a go-kart, and I am fond of the car. I had a badly leaking water pump that I just got replaced (along with my timing belt, and a small little flimsy belt that the mechanic I think called an alternator belt). When I came to pick the car up from the mechanic, it wouldn’t start (engine would crank, but no start). After about a half hour, my mechanic thought of something: he tried hitting the main relay, by my clutch pedal, with a flashlight. Suddenly the engine light turned off, and now when you crank the engine, it starts. This just happened today. Now, any time I want to start the car, I have to give this main relay thing a little push, and then the engine light turns off and I can go. There is another problem. The gas pedal sticky. By which I mean, if I push the gas pedal down, when I pull my foot back off the pedal, it continues to accelerate just a little. It does this in any gear, including neutral, just a small bit of revving, unless I reach down and pull the pedal back up.

Now, a little background, because right now you’re probably thinking, “What a moron mechanic,” so in his defense, here is some background on the car’s history:

I have had occasional warm start problems for the last year or so. Hot starts are just fine, and in fact are quickest of all starts, if I have been driving for at least 10-15 minutes. But if I just go to the shop, a 5 minute journey, that’s when the problem occurs. It also seemed to happen mostly when the gas/petrol was a little low (but not on empty). Also, if the weather was just right (about 95 degrees) a couple of times this summer the engine wouldn’t start until the day had grown cooler, or I push-started the car with the clutch in first gear. Again, this may have been with the gas/petrol a little low.

Here is a more detailed description of the warm-start problem: when I put the key in the ignition, the engine light stays on. If I turn the key all the way, the engine cranks, but does not start. I wait 1-5 minutes, then the engine light comes off, and once that happens, if I turn the key, the engine will start.

Back to my two issues that are new since I picked my car up from my mechanic : 1) sticky gas pedal 2) main relay acting weird. 1) The gas pedal is a brand new issue and he will fix that for free. 2) I have had issues with the warm-start before, so perhaps my main relay was simply on its last legs, and just happened to die? This repair will not be free.

Can a gear-head or petrol-head please give me your opinion on this question: should the main relay repair be done for free? On the one hand, something was up with my warm-starts even before today. On the other hand, the issue is different now, and I have to push the main relay a little bit in order to get the engine light to come off so I can start the car. It seems weird to me that the issue has changed so much. Why would it change? I don’t believe the main relay is near my water pump or timing belt. For that matter, why is my gas pedal sticky now? Are there cables that go near the water pump that could be stuck to something?

Please forgive my lack of mechanical knowledge, and to be honest I don’t know what the main relay is relaying, but I am doing my hardest here to think logically and scientifically and understand whether my mechanic should be charging me for tomorrow’s repairs. My mechanic is a young guy, just bought a garage and started work there this month. Great prices, genuine, good guy, and he comes recommendated strongly by my friend, who is a handyman, and knows a fair bit about cars, and uses this mechanic for repairs that are beyond his ability. That said, the mechanic, while genuine, and a good guy, did not inspire a great deal of confidence in me, and I fear that perhaps he is simply a bit incompetent. I do not believe he is trying to cheat me. But I do want to know whether he ought to replace that main relay out of his own pocket.

One last IMPORTANT THING: I forgot to leave him my car key, and it was blocking his garage because we the car parked at an angle, so he jacked my car up and moved it! Could that somehow be responsible for the new issues?

Just a helpful bit of advice. If you shorten your post and and stick to the essentials it is easier for those offering help to weigh in on it.

I did not parse your entire post but any main relay or sticky throttle problem would not be caused in any way by a timing belt/water pump installation or by jacking the car up to move it.

That main relay, if original, is 25 years old and a lot of electrical current goes through it. The fact that it survived a quarter of a century is a miracle in itself.
Main relays and ignition switches are a common failure with Hondas.

As to whether those repairs should be done for free; no way in hxxx.

i agree with @ok4450 I couldn’t have said it better. We see this happen here often. A mechanic repairs a car then something totally unrelated goes wrong and they want to blame the mechanic. Sorry if I seem harsh.

Seems to fair to me, My 2 Cents, all I ask for is your opinion :slight_smile:

You just need a new main relay. The last one I bought was a little over $50 but imagine they are more now. The sticky throttle is a separate issue that the mechanic will take care of, unless the cable itself is worn and needs replacement.

What do you want this mechanic to do? Unplug the Main PGM-FI relay for you and plug the new one in? It took me longer to type that sentence than it would to unplug the relay and plug the new one into the harness.

Throttle sticky… Its either a gummed up throttle butterfly valve…OR more likely since an incompetent was recently under the hood and had to handle the throttle cable while doing the services you outlined… You need to look at your throttle cable to see if it is routed properly…is not kinked or is not fraying. A throttle that does not function properly IS A HAZARD TO YOU AND ALL OF US ON THE ROAD… LOOK AT THE CABLE…AND THE THROTTLE VALVE… FIX WHAT YOU NEED TO FIX…

OR PARK YOUR VEHICLE until you gain at least a basic amount of knowledge to operate the Machine the vehicle IS. You are endangering people with a sticking throttle.

Buy a new PGM-FI relay off of ebay if you want…and unplug the old one…plug the new one in… Literally takes less time than…the above sentence took to type…yet again… It really is “Plug n Play”

Your post and your lack of knowledge scare and partially anger me. If you know this little about the machine you are driving …it does not bode well for other people or motorists. PLEASE…Educate yourself a little more. Because honestly this level of knowledge is unacceptable.

Sorry to seem mean…but… Seriously… Fix your throttle issue…and plug in a new relay.

Pretty easy stuff kiddo.


oogabooga wrote:
Also, if the weather was just right (about 95 degrees) a couple of times this summer the engine wouldn’t start until the day had grown cooler, or I push-started the car with the clutch in first gear.

Not working when the interior is hot is a classic symptom of a failing relay on an old Honda. You shouldn’t expect it to be replaced for free. You should replace it before it gets worse and strands you.

Faulty main relays on Honda’s are a not uncommon thing reported here. I think Tom and Ray mentioned this on one of the past Car Talk shows too. Replacing the relay with a new one will likely result in no longer having to carry around a stick to whack it with.

And a sticky throttle on a 1991 car isn’t unexpected either. In an ideal world the throttle body would be removed, placed on the bench, and given a good cleaning inside and out. But maybe your shop can come up with a less time consuming fix.

People like you with rolling relics make mechanics run and not want to work on their antique cars.

Stuff breaks and none of that is mechanics fault. Maybe the mechanic (over)charged enough for other repiars to cover fixing your sticking gas pedal. The main relay is a common weak point of that vintage Honda. Sticking gas pedal is nothing unexpected in a 24 year old car.

Just touching an old car it may break something. Not the mechanics fault just a risk you take with repairs as old things are fragile. (Smart) mechanics should let customer know up front removing something may turn into breaking it and require more money or overestimate.