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Honda Civic 98 starts funny

My Honda Civic 98 starts funny. It will hesitate about 3-5 seconds before cranking and sometimes after starting the starter will grind momentarily before letting go.

Ignition Switch ?
Starter ?

1998 - 2000 Honda Civics were part of a Safety Recall (stalling problems) for defective ignition switches. I’d check this out with a Honda dealer.

Also, it’s possible that you’ve got a starter that’s going bad and hanging up. If that’s the case then it needs to be checked and / or replaced ASAP before you do damage to the ring gear of the flywheel, unless that has already happened.


fbizaoui, how long have you owned this Civic? How many miles are on the odometer?

You need to let off on the starter sooner. If you hear grinding, you are holding the key in the “start” position too long.

When you say it “will hesitate about 3-5 seconds before cranking,” do you mean it cranks but takes 3-5 seconds to start?

One common problem with small Japanese cars (it’s more of a characteristic than a problem, in my view) is that the fuel system takes a few seconds to pressurize. Try this:

  1. Turn the key to the “on” position, but don’t start the engine.

  2. Listen for the fuel pump. With the radio off and quiet surroundings, you should be able to hear it. I can hear it in my 1998 Civic. Wait for the fuel pump to disengage.

  3. Once the fuel pump disengages, start the engine. It should start right away, so let the key go back to the “on” position quickly, before you hear any grinding.

Please come back and let me know if starting the car this way solves your problem.

Another thing to check is the battery. You can get the battery tested for free at many auto parts stores. If yours is more than three years old, get it tested.

CSA: I’ve already gone thru the adventures of replacing under the recall the ignition switch. I think its ok, at least the symptoms are different. I think it is the starter.

Whitey: we have owned it for about 3 years with about 200,000 miles. It won’t crank for 3-5 seconds When I wait to hear the fuel pump stop pressurizing and then turn on the ignition switch I get the same symptoms or worse now it just won’t cranck at all. The battery has been checkjed by the auto parts store. It was ok.

What is the best online parts store in your experience. I’m thinking of getting the starter from an online store but would like some guidance as there is some much chaff online. Thanks!

I just google the phrase “honda OEM car parts” and usually come up with a lot of reliable results (actually, I use However, in a case like yours, I would buy a non-OEM part at a local auto parts store instead. I wouldn’t want to wait for the starter to arrive, or deal with sending it back if something goes wrong. Besides, you are dealing with a 13-year-old car with 200,000 miles on the odometer. There’s no need to spend extra money or wait several days for an OEM starter. You can’t keep this car forever, so there’s little reason to splurge on OEM parts. A rebuilt starter from the corner auto parts store should work just fine.

Make sure you confirm it’s the starter before you spend your money. It sounds like the issue is probably the starter, but make sure you go through the steps of doing the proper testing with a circuit tester or test light first. Someone else here can probably explain the procedure without looking it up, and I don’t have my repair manuals with me right now.