Honda Civic 98, engine suddenly dies

hi all,

I am at my wits’ end with my 98 Honda Civic LX.
The problem starts around late summer of last year.
It is sporadic, so I didn’t quite pay attention until one day the engine died on the highway after I picked up the kids at the school. It didn’t make any sound nor giving any warnings, just suddenly died. After that highway episode, it seems like it just taken its own fancy schedule as far as when to die, so to say. In a given day, it could 4 episodes in a day. Then it runs perfectly for some weeks then it starts again and went away again.

Went to my mechanic twice, who couldn’t find out what’s wrong with it. His suggestion was ‘to let it die completely and bring it back here’ Uhm no…, not going to wait until we got into accident, thanks.

It just quietly dies while being driven. I had to turn it completely off, wait for some moment and try to turn it on again. Sometimes it just turns on again without me being frustrated and there were moments when I had to do several attempts. Once I heard clicking sound before the engine died, only once, the rest makes no sound at all. No lights are on.

I figure, I might ask around first, maybe someone handy with cars could give me pointers as what to do.
Thank you so much in advance.

The problem might be with the PGM-FI relay. Honda’s of your vintage have a history with problems with this relay. This relay not only supplies power to the fuel pump, but it also supplies power to the Engine Management Computer.


I’ll agree and here’s a story: I think Tester was the first one I knew of to mention the main relays being a problem on Honda/Acuras in hot temps. When my son called some years ago with his 96 Acura that just died on a hot summer day, the relay was the first thing I thought of. I stopped and picked one up at the dealer on the way up there, put it in in about 10 minutes, and never had a problem since. Son thinks I’m really good to diagnose it over the phone but it was just a good guess. To me it would be worth the $50 non-returnable part.

A failing ignition switch can also cause this problem and I’m pretty sure that your car is one of those Hondas under a Recall for faulty switches.
You might consider calling a local Honda dealer and providing them the VIN from the vehicle. If it’s in the range then you can have this repair done free of charge by the dealer.

@Bing@Tester knows his stuff but @mcparadise was one of the first to mention the main fuel relay problem with Honda vehicles over 12 years ago. I’ve been with Car Talk since the late 90’s and I still remember early Car Talk history. Please add to my correction if you’ve been on this site longer than me.

I’ve been on the website since 1996.


My '99 Civic died at a stop. Starter worked but no catching. Failed Ignitor. I suspect this electronic part has been failuring for a long time since my mileage has gone up 20%…

thanks all.
I’ll talk to my mechanic to check on those parts. Thanks again.

Thanks @Tester…I must have missed your comments regarding the main fuel relay problem. I do remember @mcparadise because I fixed my niece’s Honda after reading his comments. That was sometime in 2000 before she moved to Alaska. I stand corrected.