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Hydrophobic Accord

My 1998 Honda Accord will not start on rainy days. Typically what happens is that if it rains over night and I leave the car on the driveway, the following morning the car will crank but will not start. Or, if I keep the car in the garage for the majority of a rainy day and I then try to start the car, it will crank but will not start. Last week I took the car to work and during the course of the day it rained, about 7 hours later when I hopped in the car to go home, the car cranked but would not start, so I had to leave it overnight, fortunately a co-worker was around to give me a lift home and back the next morning…got him a 6 pack of his trouble. Anyway, it stopped raining that night, so the following morning, I tried to start the car, and as it’s always the case, it started right up, no hesitation, no nothing, started right up. The car has 210K miles, but the problem started around 205K, if that makes a difference. What might be going on?

Spray the spark plug wires and ignition coil with silicone protectant. This will seal out the moisture. If this doesn’t work, replace the spark plug wires.

Common problem with older gasoline cars, especially if the plug wires have not been replaced.

Unless you know when the wires have been replaced and they tested good, I would just replace them BTW don’t go for the expensive fancy colored or fat expensive wires, they are often less functional than OEM wires. Get the OEM wires, better quality less money. Replacing wires is like replacing plugs, it is regular maintenance.

In addition to the wires, I’d also replace the distributor cap and rotor. Just keep track of which wire goes to which plug, etc.

Above 3 posts are on the right track. When my younger brother was in college he had an old Dodge with the same problem.

Being poor and resourceful, he took the morning paper and set it on fire under the hood. This is not a recommended practice, of course, but it dried the wires out sufficiently without setting the car on fire. And it started.

Start with new wires and plugs as recommended.

Thanks everyone for the suggestions. I replaced the spark plugs and moved the car onto the driveway. It finally rained last night so I was able to test. I wish I could report better news, unfortunately the car did not start this morning.

I let it dry for a few hours and it finally started. However, it didn’t start right up, I had to hold the key in place for about 30 seconds before the engine turned-over. Not only that, but as long as the car was in park, I could rev the engine, it sounded like it was about to stall but didn’t. However, as soon as I placed the car in reverse and pressed the accelerator, the car stalled. I waited another 10 minutes and with resistance the engine stared. This time I was able to place the car in reverse and backup onto the road, but when I placed the car in drive and accelerated the car stalled. At that point the newspaper story came to mind, fortunately car started right up, so I waited another 2 minutes and finally I was able to drive away.

Hope this added information helps some. Otherwise, I’m onto the distributor cap. We’re expecting more rain towards the end of the week, so I’ll update this thread then with results. Thanks again.

If this doesn’t work, replace the spark plug wires.

I would suggest that if it DOES work you should also replace the plug wires. The spray is a temporary fix. If they plug wires are having problem on wet days, they likely past due for replacement.

Right - the spark plugs themselves were not likely the problem to begin with (though perhaps in need of replacement anyway). Did you replace the wires as well? Most every post referred to the wires. Then there is the distributor cap/rotor (if so equipped).

Get a spritzer bottle of water, start the car and start spritzing ignition system components. Look for the one that makes the engine stumble.

Agree with cigroller and the others. The wires, (along with cap & rotor if equipped) must be replaced.

Had this problem many years ago. Turned out to be condensate collecting on the inside of the distributor cap. It ususlly happened whenever the humidiy was very high (raining?) My fix was to open the cap and wipe off the moisture, then go. Never found the cause for this, just lived with it.

One thing I did that helped some, was to put a dab of silicone grease on each wiper nib and the rotor tip inside the distributor cap.

My apology fort the confusion…I actually meant to say that I replaced the spark plug WIRES, not the spark plugs. But as far as the spark plugs, they have been changed at least once since this problem started, so I’m thinking it’s probably not the plugs themselves. Anyway, based on the posted, I went ahead and also replaced the distributor cap and the rotor. It was easy going until I dropped a screw, which seemed to take longer to retrieve then to switch out the parts. Anyway, now it’s just a matter of waiting for the rain…which according to weather.com won’t happen until sometime next week now. I’ll post a response then…thanks again everyone.

You don’t need to wait for rain. Just get a mister bottle full of water. Start the car, pop the hood and mist.

Next time it won’t start during conditions like this pop the distributor cap loose and check the inside of the cap for condensation.

Heat attracts moisture so it could be that when the atmospheric conditions are right the engine heat will pull in moisture as it cools down.

Try spraying the entire cap, plug wires, etc. with WD-40 and see if this problem goes away. (engine off of course)

Spray the spark plug wires and ignition coil with silicone protectant. This will seal out the moisture. If this doesn’t work, replace the spark plug wires.

#1 I wouldn’t do that. Most of that stuff is flammable.
#2 The coating it leaves attracts dirt which holds moisture which makes the car harder to start.

Best bet is to find the problem.

Spray the ignition components with water on a nice sunny day when the car is easy to start. After each spraying try to start the car. When the car doesn’t start…the last thing you sprayed is probably the problem.

If you do find condensation in the cap, suspect that the cap is cracked or its rubber seal broken and replace it. Condensation cannot form inside the cap unless moisture-laden air has a path into the cavity to deposit its moisture.

Another common cause of wet weather starting problems is a cracked coil housing.

The old shade tree mechanic way was to try it after dark. Have a bud crank the engine while you listen and look for spark. If you see or hear none as stated previously distributor cap and rotor, clean the coil connections, was the coil wire part of the plug wire replacement?