Headlights dim, feels like it might stall

hi there. i’m curious what might need to be fixed or replaced on my 200 honda civic (automatic); occasionally, when idling or driving, my car feels like it will stall. once, i could see the headlights blinking slightly (not a full blink, but dimming and then coming back, erraticly). i do a lot of driving and am concerned. thanks!

Try removing both ends of the battery cables (both of them) and cleaning both the cable and where it goes very well and reattaching making sure they are secure.

thank you — what should i clean them with? (and, do you suspect the battery is the problem? as i said, this problem is erratic)

Maybe the throttle and idle air control valve/port could use some cleaning, also.

could i do that myself? (i’m not a mechanic!)

I agree with checking the cable ends. but at eight years old I think it’s time to get the battery and charging system checked. Your battery is beyond its lifespan and will definitely cause these symptoms.

Re doing it yourself; unless you have access to basic tools, are familiar with the basic systems under the hood and feel comfortable removing and replacing some components find a good mechanic. I am imclined to guess that since the battery is capable of cranking the engine without fail, it and the connections are not the cause of your problems even though they may be due for cleaning. Reading between the lines, I am guessing that the engine is stalling due to its idle speed dropping too low because of carbon and sludge building up on the throttle and idle air control… FWIW

that sounds about right – it feels like the idle speed drops, but it’s so infrequent, and the car never has other troubles (starting, etc), so maybe that’s it. sludge! who knew. think i can safely keep driving with it like that for a little bit?

If the possibility of a stall doesn’t present a safety issue for you, continuing to drive won’t likely harm anything. But the problem is an indication that maintenance is lacking and will worsen and other problems will likely arise from the lack of maintenance also, including no start/no crank from poor battery connections, etc.

okay, thanks. i have brought the car in recently for other things, so fortunately overall maintenance isn’t lacking, but as far as this issue goes… how much do you think it would cost to have this work done?

It would be unlikely to take more than 1 hour to clean the throttle, etc. Labor flat rates range from $55 to $100 per hour. A few cars require removing the throttle and other components which would require gaskets being replaced. As a SWAG, the price at a good shop would be from $35 to $100.

Make sure your alternator belt is not loose or worn and slipping.