Fuel pump? Or distributor? Or what

I have a 94 honda civic. It’s been having problems starting. When it won’t start you have to pump the gas a lot and it will then start. You can smell a lot of fuel when this happens so unsure if it is the pump. Maybe it’s a combination of several things. Replaced spark plugs, new wires connecting to battery. And just put in a new fuel filter. All seemed to slightly help for a minute. But now driving today went to start the car and it wouldn’t stay running if I let go of the key. Finally got it to stay on seemed fine then as I was driving and wasn’t pressing on the gas peddle the car started losing power so I pressed the peddle it sputtered (kinda sounded like something clogged in tail pipe) and regained power. Please help!

94 Civic my guess has a carb. In the way olden days you had to push the petal one time to the floor to set the choke, side story we had a poster restoring an older car, and this was starting problem.

Do not know if the procedure applies to your car, but if it is caburated when cold pull off the air filter and see if the choke plate is closed. If fuel injected kindly ignore this response.

Turn the ignition switch to the run position for two seconds and then turn it off. Repeat this a few times.

Locate the fuel pressure regulator, https://www.rockauto.com/catalog/moreinfo.php?pk=47041&cc=1168725&jnid=416&jpid=1, and remove the vacuum hose from the regulator.

If gasoline leaks out of this connection, the regulator diaphram is leaking and the regulator requires replacement.


Pumping does nothing in a fuel injected engine.

My guess is that you have an injector sticking and/or leaking. That’s allowing the fuel to drain back to the tank when you shut the engine off, eliminating the gas in the fuel line making starting hard. It’s also leaking when the fuel line is repressurized, giving you the fuel smell.

A good shop is going to have to look at this. Injectors can be tested, but most shops find that uneconomical and might recommend changing the injectors.

A weak fuel pump will usually cause low power at speed, when more fuel feed is needed to keep the pressure up. But it never hurts to test the pump. It’s and easy and affordable test.

My husband is a mechanic but this has kind of stumped him so I’m trying to get different ideas. Thanks for the opinions keep em coming :slight_smile:


“My husband is a mechanic but this has kind of stumped him so I’m trying to get different ideas. Thanks for the opinions keep em coming :)”

Here’s my opinion . . .

Your MECHANIC husband should be the one that’s asking us for advice

Has he even hooked up a fuel pressure gauge?


@db4960 please be nice. Kelsey is an interested party, and you come off a bit harsh. Is the car fuel injected?

If your husband wants to throw a good guess at the problem replace the distributor.


“please be nice.”

I made a very good point, and I have nothing to be ashamed of

My idea about hooking up the fuel pressure gauge is good advice

By the way, that car definitely has some form of fuel injection. By 1994, all new cars sold in the US had fuel injection. For the time being, I’m going to assume it has EFI. I know there were still some vehicles in 1994 that had TBI, but I think Honda may have gone from carbs directly to EFI . . . ?

But now driving today went to start the car and it wouldn’t stay running if I let go of the key.

Say what?

@db4690 I was referring to the point about your mechanic husband should be asking the questions, sometimes my wife finds ways to give me hints and clues, and I found the remark in poor taste for a person trying to help. You are right it looks lke the cars are totally fuel injected at that point, and I agree with @rodknox that the distributor is a probable issue.

When I posted this he was at work. I’m trying to help him figure it out. We don’t have access to all those tools. He comes from a family of mechanics. But doesn’t work in that field anymore. So no he hasn’t hooked it up to a gauge yet.

@auto-owner I turned the key to start it and it started but as soon as I let go so it wasn’t cranking the car died.

That’s what my husband was leaning towards as well @Barkydog. But wanted some more opinions before we spent all that money.

From this point on, I’m staying out of this particular conversation

I’ll just be an observer

Based on what little I’ve already read, I’ve formed some very strong opinions . . . not necessarily bad, by the way . . . and I think it’s best if I didn’t state them


What it might need is an igniter or ignition module in the distributor.


The module functions in two modes. These are the start and run modes.

When starting the engine, the module allows full battery voltage to the coil to make sure a cold engine starts while starter the drags the battery down.

Then once the engine starts and the charging system comes on line, the module steps the voltage down to the coil so the coil and the rest of the secondary ignition isn’t fried.

So it may be that the module is functioning in the start position, but fails in the run position.


@db4690 I’m going to show him all of the opinions so he can read them himself and decide what he wants to do. He hasn’t even seen them yet. All are good opinions.

I agree, be nice. Lets face it folks, its the females a lot of times that listen to PBS and Car Talk and the guys would kind of poo poo it. So it stands to reason that wives may ask a question instead of the husband. If the answers are good, maybe the husband will join.

OP, did this severe starting problem occur immediately after some repair or service? Or did it happen gradually, and one day it just wouldn’t start no matter what you did, so you replaced the spark plugs, wires, and fuel filter?

When I read the description of your symptom, what came first to my mind was a problem with the fuel system. I’m guessing this car is fuel injected, so clogged filter, injector, pressure regulator on the fritz. It’s quite easy to accidentally get gunk into what is supposed to be the “clean” fuel line going to the fuel rail, pressure regulator, and injectors during a fuel filter change, so if this happened right after the fuel filter was changed, that would be my best guess.

It gradually happened. Slowly started having problems starting but would start. Then wouldn’t start and it wasn’t getting fuel. Spark plugs were changed when it had small problems. Then wires and fuel filter after not starting. He also changed the ignition control module. He said everything he has replaced was super old. So makes us think maybe it sat parked for awhile. We’ve only had it almost a yr

@db4690 pretty sure it is the ignition switch. Thanks for your input! My husband looked at it and drove it around tonight. :slight_smile: