Honda Balks--Desert Census Lister Uneasy

My 97 Honda Accord (93,000 miles) stalls periodically–sometimes as mild as a balk and sometimes quitting altogether. It doesn’t matter if the engine is cold or warmed up, on the straightaway or on hills, etc. My dealer, who could not duplicate the problem after it was in the shop twice, replaced the steering switch, determining it was an ignition problem, and told me not to have any weight on the keychain. I had very little weight on the keychain at the time and have had absolutely NO weight on it since the “repair” in December 2008. The problem has resurfaced. There was a recall notice for this problem some years ago but my particular VIN was not included. After pursuing the matter with Honda officials, I was told “too bad.” According to information I retrieved on the internet, this particular problem occurs after about the 75,000 mile mark and weight on the keychain has little to do with it. It’s a potentially dangerous situation, especially if I’m on the freeway. It’s even more dangerous if I’m out on a desert trail trying to find housing units in preparation for the US 2010 Census!

If you get a check engine light, the dealer will have to fix it. Its covered under the 14 year 150k mile warrantee.

Thanks, Keith. So far, no check engine light has shown up and I’d prefer to be proactive on this rather than risk being rear-ended on the freeway when the engine dies. I wasn’t aware of the 14 year, 150 k mile warranty. Do you have any clues about what the problem is–such as, would a completely new ignition assembly take care of it? Appreciate your input.

The age is about right for some of the components in the distributor to become erratic. Changing the entire distributor with a remanufactured one will replace all of those problematic components. The dealer won’t have a remanufactured distributor. You need an independent shop/mechanic to replace the distributor. Part: about $200. Labor: maybe 1 hour.
The ignition switch was/is a recall replacement. Did your helpful dealer tell you that?

I was aware there was a recall (see original message) but my car’s VIN wasn’t part of the recall–that’s why I went to the “higher ups” in the Honda organization. The best my dealer could offer (this, after we’d purchased three brand new Hondas over a 10-year period)was the weight on the keychain, blah, blah. Since the warranty has expired, I’ll be taking the car to an independent shop next time. I’ll have them check out the distributor. Thanks for the new lead!

Your car is 12 years old (but with low mileage), it’s at the age where minor problems are going to become a regular occurance. Since the ignition switch was replaced twice and your car was not one included in the recall anyway, the problem probably isn’t in the ignition switch. I would take the car to an independent shop and get a 2nd opinion. With that said, after 5 months since the previous repair,unless they have a 1 year warranty or something similar, the Honda dealership is under no obligation to try to perform another repair for free.

Was the steering switch the dealer replaced actually the ignition switch? On Honda (and some other makes/years) the ignition switch is separate from the ignition lock. They are connected by a rod. A heavy bunch of keys could wear out the ignition lock; but, not the switch.
It’s, also, possible for the PGM-FI Relay, located behind the dash, to become erratic. This, most often happens in hot weather when the interior gets very hot-----like when the car has been baking in the summer sun.
If you hear an irregular clack behind the dash, it could be the PGM-FI relay. If you do hear it, tell your mechanic.
I have an older Honda which has this problem. [I should fix it; but, the cobbler has no shoes]. I carry a spray can of Starting Fluid (NOT, Starter Fluid) for those times it stalls, or fails to start. I pull the small vacuum hose off the large black intake tube, and spray a shot of the Starting Fluid into it, put the hose back on, start the car, and away!!! (until, the next time}.