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Honda won't start

Hi! I have a 2002 Honda Civic with 88K miles. Yesterday I was visiting a park for a few hours, and when I returned to my car and turned the key, nothing happened. No noise whatsoever. I tried again, same thing. I waited about a minute, tried again, and the car started up fine, and I had no further problems with it the rest of the day. Now, today same thing happened, only this time it started up on the second attempt. Yesterday the weather was humid but cloudy, but today’s problem happened at 9 p.m. I should also mention that I had this problem a couple of times last summer, brought the car to the dealer who couldn’t find anything wrong with it, except some rust on the starter solenoid which he said he cleaned. I hadn’t had a problem since. So, any suggestions?

This can happen sometimes if the battery cables are a bit loose or corroded. An easy thing to try is to clean off the terminals real good, and then make sure they’re good and tight on the battery.

If, by some chance, this car still has its original battery I suggest you have it tested. Most batteries don’t last that long.

Thank you, I will check both suggestions. If it were a dead battery issue, would it sputter when I turn the key? In this situation there was no sound whatsoever.

If it has an automatic transmission, the next time this happens, turn the ignition switch so the dash lights come on. Step on the brake pedal and shift the transmission into neutral. Now try starting the engine. If the engine starts, there’s a problem with the transmission select switch.


Hondas have also had some problems with the ignition switches and some year models are under Recall for this. I don’t remember if the '02 models are or not.

Rust on the starter solenoid, huh? That sounds like a lame brush off diagnosis to get you down the road because they did not know what the problem was.

OK4450 – I agree, I did think the dealer was blowing me off, but I couldn’t replicate the problem while I was there (of course) so there wasn’t much more I could do. And it didn’t happen again after I took it in.
I also read other topics on here and thought it might be a problem with the main relay? The symptoms don’t seem to fit exactly but I do only seem to have this problem in summer.
Thanks to all.

Main relays have been a problem with Hondas but this affects the ECM, fuel pump, etc.
With a faulty main relay the engine will be physically cranked over by the starter motor but may not start.

Since this symptom involves stone silence with nothing going on then the suspects should be what Tester mentioned (the neutral safety switch if the car has an automatic transmission) or the ignition switch.

Next time it does this, gently wiggle the transmission shift lever a little and then see what happens. If it starts then odds are the neutral switch is bad.
Eighty-eight thousand miles is a bit young for a neutral switch failure but it’s possible if the car has gone through a lot of starting cycles. (lot of short hop trips, etc.)

The recall for the electrical system igintion switch is not for the 2002.
There are other recalls for the 02 check them out at this website:

Good luck,

As OK4460 says, the clue, " …turned the key, nothing happened. No noise whatsoever." puts the problem squarely on the wiring circuit that powers the starter. This circuit passes through the ignition switch, neutral safety switch, and starter solenoid. Any one could be faulty; but the first suspect is the ignition switch.

Thanks to all for the responses – so far this problem has only happened once more, and I was able to start it up on my second try, so I haven’t been able to test your recommendations yet.
From the sound of it, whatever this problem is it is most likely confined to starting the car? As opposed to something that would cause a breakdown while driving? I had a scary experience a few years ago when my alternator died while driving, and now that I am planning a brief roadtrip soon it makes me a little nervous. Thanks again.

It could be the main relay, which is under the dash (if the location hasn’t changed over the years). They develop hairline cracks in the solder on the board. I’m replacing mine today. I’ve had intermittant trouble with it, but it behaves (when it won’t start) exactly as you describe.

But if the problem is the main relay, wouldn’t the starter motor still turn over the engine? The OP reports that after turning the key “nothing happened. No noise whatsoever.”

My understanding is that failure of the main relay means the fuel pump does not run, but the starter motor circuit is not affected.

when you turn the key to the on position, check to see if the green Immo light goes out. If it does not go out within 5 seconds. It could be in the transponder key or in the trasponder coil around the ignition or in that immobilizer system. If the light goes out, this indicates no problem there, then check the ignition switch. It could be the lock also but it is less likely.

let me try this again. Turn the key to the on position. Observe the green inmmo light. When it goes out, the car should start. If the light does not go out, The car will not start. Then i would suggest the immobilizer system because the car will respond with silence when the key is turned to the start position. An intermittent problem would be hard to diagnose but this method will give you a direct approach to the immobilizer system.