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Honda Civic 1997 CEL light--extended warranty about to run out

There’s been a CEL history on this car, but I thought it was all fixed.

Here’s the bottom line: I took the car to a Honday dealer for the free service allowed by the extended warranty.

What finally turned off the light was replacing the coil, done at a local shop because I didn’t know about the extended warranty.

The service writer says that the coil couldn’t possibly have caused the light to come on for codes 0302 and 0304.

“OK”, I said, “then there’s still something wrong with this car. Let’s find it and fix it”.

Their reply was that the only inspection and troubleshooting they can do is read stored codes of which there presently are none.

The service writer says the light will eventually come back on. The car is out of the extended warranty in a few days.

I called North American Honda and have talked to them twice. So far, they will not use their resources to answer the question of whether or not the coil could cause those codes. They also said they wouldn’t pay for the coil because I was within 50 miles of a dealer, yet went to an independent shop.

They also said that even though the light was on several times during the warranty period, they will not cover me when the light comes on again, assuming that the coil wasn’t the problem as the service writer said.

In my words: the car has a problem, I brought it to the dealer who can’t or won’t find the problem, yet when the problem decides to throw a code and turn on the light…I am out of luck.

The Honda rep was nice about it, but said that, yes, I’d be out of luck.

Here’s what I’d like to create a discussion about:

1. Yes or no, the coil can or cannot cause 0302, 0304, and the light to come on.

2. There is no possible troubleshooting beyond seeing if the light is on an checking for stored codes.

3. I’m really out of luck if the light comes back on after March 27th.

For reference, here’s my earlier thread


Also, Google Honda 98-081 for the extended warranty and free service details.

Finally, the ultimate irony…I made an appointment specifically for the service referenced in the SB. I let them do a state smog check as long as I was there. After a couple of hours the service writer tells me I’ll have to come back another day because they don’t have the parts called out in the SB. I would have thought that when you make an appointment several days in advance, they’d check to see if they had the parts before you actually arrived. I guess I’m old fashioned about checking for parts and doing troubleshooting beyond sticking one’s head in the window and seeing if the light is on.

  1. A coil can absolutely cause a misfire.

  2. True, but only because these days dealership mechanics tend to be idiots with
    flowcharts rather than diagnosticians. That’s not your fault. Tell them if they can’t figure it out, to fly in someone from corporate who can.

  3. Bullcrap. You brought the problem to their attention before the warranty expired. They don’t get a “get out of warranty work free” card by being too incompetent to fix it before you go over the mileage.

3) Bullcrap. You brought the problem to their attention before the warranty expired. They don’t get a “get out of warranty work free” card by being too incompetent to fix it before you go over the mileage.

Worth repeating.

Your CEL light should illuminate for your codes… 0302…Misfire cyl number 1…0304… misfire cylinder 4… You should def get a code for those issues.

HOWEVER Since your car has a central coil and a distributor cap the coil itself wouldnt cause those codes specifically…the distributor and wires…“Distribute” the spark energy to each plug. SO if you had a misfire in cyl 1 and 4 i would look at the plugs, distrib cap and rotor, and wires first…Basically do a tuneup.

I suppose if the coil didnt get the message to fire from the distributor pickup it could be responsible for the codes…but I would put my money on the plugs cap and rotor and wires …SInce you already replaced the coil. If you had an ignition system with a central coil pack and no distributor then the coil could absolutely cause those codes specifically. In your case do a basic tuneup Include The dist cap, rotor, plugs and POSSIBLY the wires but def cap rotor and plugs…do an air filter too while you are at it and the PCV valve…BASIC TUNEUP.

Let me know if I can help further.

The coil can cause the misfire, but I’m afraid you are out of luck. If there is no code during the warrantee period, then they are not responsible after the warrantee expires.

One thing you can do is go to an AutoZone or other car parts place that offers free code reading and get it checked for codes, even if your check engine light is not on. You could have a pending code, one that has only been detected once and hasn’t turned on the light. Do this on the last day of the warrantee period and if a code is pending, go straight to the dealer and get it documented. Then if the light comes on within three more drive cycles, you are covered.

You have only one coil so it really should have set P0300 instead of the specific cylinders. This really indicates bad plugs, wires or distributor cap.

All good answers: thanks everyone.

Just to clear up some loose ends, the light has been on several times and the local shops have replaced the wires, spark plugs, distributor cap, and rotor several times.

The last fix found a burned spot in the coil where it was arcing. The coil was replaced and the light has been out since then, about 5 months. I did have a previous thread on this site and told the story as it unfolded.

North American Honda called me again yesterday. They’re certainly pleasant enough on the phone, but are adamant about not paying for anything that happened so far or doing anything now if the light is not on.

Their position is that there is no problem if the light is off when the warranty expires. If the light comes on later, they contend it will be a new problem because if there was a problem now, the light would be on.

The point about pending codes is interesting. Autozone, etc, can not do free scans anymore in California. Would the dealer be honest with me about pending codes? The local shop will charge me for reading the codes, but it is something I’m considering.

As a practical matter, I wonder how much downside I have. Honda is about to replace the wires, sparkplugs, distributor cap, and rotor, and change the oil, all for free. This is under the terms of the extended warranty settlement they made with the government.

I have already replaced the coil and there was a defect in it.

My goal is to drive the car (actually it is my girlfriend’s car) and not have the light come on and not spend a lot of money keeping it off.

With what I’ve done already, and what Honda is about to do, I may have a good shot at doing nothing further and hoping for the best.

I don’t see much practical way of fighting with North American Honda. I agree that they shouldn’t get a “get of warranty free” card, but how am I going to fight them on that? Other than not buying another Honda (which I brought up to no avail), I don’t see where I have any leverage.

I do have Honda on complying with the notification requirement of the consent decree they signed as payment to the government for their original violation which involved tweaking the parameters of the CEL light (naughty, naughty). The decree says they’re supposed to use R. L. Polk and state registration lists to find Honda owners. In my girlfriend’s case, they mailed the notice to a former address and the letter was returned. They have that all documented, but they went no further in finding her, which I believe is a violation of the consent decree. Had she known almost anything to do with the CEL light was covered under the warranty, this would be a whole different story.

There is an EPA address listed for complaints, but, do I really expect the EPA to jump all over this and make Honda pay for the coil and the potential of the light coming on again in the future? I suspect Honda is easier to deal with than the government and I’m getting little or nothing out of Honda.

North American Honda did finally admit that the coil could be the problem. The rep eventually understood that the entire distributor is covered by the warranty and that includes the coil which is internal.

As a last ditch, the rep said they can’t pay for the coil I paid to replace because they have no control over its quality. He got really quiet when I told him the local shop got the coil from a Honda dealer.

For now, I have an appointment at the Honda dealer next week. They say that this time they have the parts. I’m debating about asking the local shop to look for pending codes, but I need to look in my wallet first.

Does anyone have any additional ideas, especially about gaining some leverage over Honda?

Just wondering how you can get an extended warranty on a car that is now 14 years old?

Honda got the U.S. government really mad at them. Apparently, Honda tweaked some CEL parameters and the government claimed emissions were increased.

Honda “consented” to a settlement under which a large number of Hondas and Accuras were given 14-year warranties on most anything relating to emissions. I only found out about this on this Car Talk board when I posted last time the Check Engine light was on. Honda wasn’t as aggressive at finding the owners as they could have been.

Put “Honda Service Bulletin 98-081” in Google and you’ll see what’s covered including some free maintenance. You can also Google the related 82-page consent decree which I read while North American Honda had me on hold.

Honda must have really angered the government over this.

On the other hand, consenting to a decree and actually doing all of the work are two different things. There was an upside for Honda in this. It got many people going to their Honda dealer instead of the local shops. Of course, you can read on the internet that many times the dealer would find “additional” (paid) work that needed to be done.

Face it, even I had Honda do the California smog check while I was sitting in the waiting room anyway. They charged $20 more than my local shop who lost the work over this…and…I still have to spend another afternoon in that waiting room because Honda didn’t have the parts needed even though the parts were listed in the service bulletin and I had an advance appointment. I’m still a bit burned over that. I would think that they would check for parts when you make an appointment for something specific and they know what parts are needed. Well, they don’t check for parts and I’ll have to drive to the next town a second time and spend the afternoon in their waiting room again.

I wonder if any of the other companies are any better.

Government settlement. The government requires that emission control systems detect misfires, and apparently some misfires go undetected by the Civic. As a result, Honda agreed to extend the emissions warranty to 14 years / 150k

I’m sorry, but in all your writing, I don’t see anywhere where your car is actually driving bad right now, after the coil change.

Is the car running properly right now, or are there issues with the way it drives?

If it drives fine, what is your concern?
Is it just to get your money back from Honda?
If yes, then ask the shop of they still have the old coil, reinstall it, set off the CEL, and then go to Honda for a replacement part. Then sell the one you paid for on eBay or CraigsList.

If it doesn’t drive fine, then you should probably have a compression test done, and give us those numbers, and we can go from there to determine possible faults the car is having.


Don’t be sorry. This is all a learning experience. The more people with different ideas talk about the issues, the more we’ll all learn.

A couple of points:

This discussion started with the Honda service writer saying that the coil could NOT have possibly been the problem.

The light has been on several times and each time throwing parts at the car (plugs, wires, cap, rotor) has turned it off for a period of time. The replaced coil has kept the light off for quite a while, although the service writer says that can’t be the fix.

You see the dilemma? If the coil didn’t fix it…then fix what needs fixing!

Yes. The car runs just fine and has run fine through all of this, but you can’t pass a smog check with the light on, so running fine isn’t enough. (At this inspection the light was off and it passed).

Next problem: this car belongs to a cautious woman. The first time the light came on, she parked the car and had it towed to a shop. Afterwards, I told her that she didn’t have to do that, but how many cataytic converters have been ruined by excessive driving after the light comes on?

To look at this another way, she’s spent around $700 on problems that are supposedly under warranty…a warranty she wasn’t notified about.

So, yes, I think Honda has a touch of responsibility here. If the coil fixed it, they should pay me for the part, especially since they sold it to me(her).

If they’re going to keep insisting the coil didn’t fix it, they need to fix the car and not hope the warranty runs out before they find the problem.

Having said all of this, I see where you’re coming from. The last shop checked the compression and it was fine. The car runs fine and the light is out, today, anyway. What should Honda fix if everything seems to be fine?

On the other hand, had Honda been even a little more aggressive at finding the owners, the car would have been towed to them the first time the check engine light came on and this story would be entirely different.

I still have the removed coil. I like your idea, but I just don’t have the time to pull off this manuever.

It would make a good Car Talk call, though!

If the car will pass an emissions test, then the code has not been detected in a number of drive cycles. That means the problem is fixed.

Did you tell the Honda rep that you have the bad coil? Since you have it and you had a new Honda coil installed, you might get a partial refund, but probably not the whole thing. Wouldn’t hurt to ask.

I’ll just add one thing:

You gave bad advice when you told her it was OK to keep driving. A misfire code triggers a flashing check engine light. Any time it’s flashing, the only thing to do is to pull it over immediately and shut it off before you damage something else.

All instances of the light have been a steady light.

If the car will pass an emissions test, then the code has not been detected in a number of drive cycles. That means the problem is fixed.

Can you go into more detail on this? Is this the same as pending codes?

As to the coil: I had it when I went to the dealer. The dealer didn’t want to see it and said only North American Honda could authorize warranty payment and I should phone them. Their response was no, that because there was a dealer within 50 miles I shouldn’t have gone to a local shop.