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Honda Civic battery appears dead, then starts up after 20 turns

1995 Honda Civic appears battery is dead, takes 20 turns to start up, then has trouble with RPM’s while driving. Even the clock and radio reset I thought the battery was so dead, but the car still starts up every time. And sometimes when I accelerate it has trouble keeping up and chokes a bit. Is this one problem or two? It seems electrical to me. Thanks for your expertise guys!

Check the battery cables for clean/tight connections.


I takes 20 turns of what to start up? 20 turns of the key? 20 turns of the engine? Is the engine turning over very weakly/sluggishly when you turn the key? Or what? You description is entirely vague.

Power system issues can cause this. But how many miles are on it? When did it last get very basic maintenance stuff done to it, like spark plugs & wires, fuel & air filters?

Right, I mean turns as in when the engine tries to turn over, its very sluggish at first and then gets faster and faster until finally the car starts up. Got looked at last year when I had to replace the power distributor. Its got about 150K miles on it.

It’s not the battery. More likely corroded connections at the battery and possibly grounds. And the engine may be worn out, unable to generate the needed compression until the oil reaches the rings. Just some thoughts.

But, it’s definitely not the battery.

What leads me to it being electrical is that every morning this car is dead, lights won’t turn on, no radio, no interior lights, nothing. But then she slowly comes back to life again and is good for the rest of the day.

Right - bad battery & ground connections are electrical. That’s probably what you have. 18 yr old car? Those cables are not what they used to be. Check it all out including main grounds, connections at battery & alternator, main power junction box. Slice off some insulation to get a look underneath. If the cables themselves look clean underneath work in the connections. If you find corrosion under the insulation you probably just want to do a complete replacement.

Many auto parts stores will check your battery & alternator for free.


Overnight the H2SO4 separates from the H2O and sinks to the bottom of the battery cells. Water surrounds the top of the lead plates. Continued cranking sends electric current into the battery. Out-gassing occurs on the Pb and PbO2 plates. The out-gassed bubbles agitate the electrolyte, mixing the H2SO4 with the water. The upper parts of the lead plates, formerly surrounded by water, are now surrounded by a water and acid mixture.

Measure the specific gravity of the electrolyte whan the battery is low. Take readings from the upper and lower parts of the electrolyte. Follow with specific gravity readings when the battery is operational.

Report back here.

Since you say the clock and radio reset it means there is a power connection problem to the main distribution panel under the hood. First thing to do is clean the battery connections using a battery post cleaning brush. Then check the wire running between the battery and the fuse panel under the hood for a connection problem. Clean the chassis ground wire from the battery also. If you don’t find a problem in those areas then check the fuse panel for a bad connection. If there are any fusible links used make sure they are making good connection.

I’d bet a 6-pack of beer that the battery terminal connections are corroded, dirty, or worn out so they aren’t making good contact. You have classic signs of this, which I’ve experienced on many cars over the years.

I agree with oblivion!!

Checked the battery connections today, everything looks pretty good, even cleaned them for good measure. The problem is still there and getting worse, I can’t go more then 10mph without the RPM dial jumping up and down and the motor stuttering terribly. Any other suggestions before I break out my credit card and bring this girl into the shop?

This doesn’t sound like a battery problem. Something else is going on. Not enough information for me to figure out yet.

You need to have your alternator tested.

The alternator may be generating some AC voltage due to some bad diodes inside it. To see if that is correct disconnect the plug on the back side of the alternator and then start the engine and see if the trouble goes away while the alternator is disabled. If the trouble clears then you need to replace the alternator. The other trouble you first mentioned is due to other issues I think that I talked about earlier.

Maybe the electrical part of the ignition switch is failing. Many Hondas are under a Recall for this and Recall or not, many of the vehicles not covered by a Recall also suffer the same problems.