My 2003 HONDA

I love my 2003 Honda Civic which now has 124,000 miles. One problem: when I start my car in a parking lot, (I’m not kidding), more often than not, my Honda will hesitate and then stall and shut off as I try to exit of the parking space. It never does this at any other time; the dealer cannot repeat this strange occurrence. I’m afraid that this will start to happen in more dangerous circumstances (like entering a freeway)…but so far, it only happens in parking lots. Yes, I know, this is strange, but I’m not making this up.

Its really not strange at all and its root cause is probably something really basic - such as a minor ignition problem. How old are the spark plugs and wires?

Of course, there are other possibilities but you haven’t said much. Is this only when cold? Only when hot? Doesn’t matter? How does it idle? Is it perfectly smooth and at the right rpm (probably in the 800 range).

At 100 to 110K miles your civic was due for a lot of maintenance items. Including new spark plugs, timing belt, valve adjustment. Was this service completed? The spark plugs in this car are supposed to last 100K miles, if you haven’t changed them and now you are at 124K that would explain the stalling.

It could be lots of things, but get the scheduled service up to date first and then see if the problem persist.

Thanks for the reply. To add more info: this occurred before and after new spark plugs, new wires and a change in transmission fluid…which the dealer recommended to see if this would solve the problem. The problem sometimes occurs when I first start up the car after sitting in a cold parking for a while and sometimes when it is warm. I turn on the engine, put it in drive (it’s an automatic) and the car just sits there sputtering until I shut the system off and start again. It’s never happened after stopping on a long trip, only when I am on little errands (hence the parking lot thing). Anyway, thanks! It has not happened in three weeks…which means nothing! I still love my car, but this is really confusing me.

I had the great 100M tune up …timing belt, transmission fluid change, plugs, new water pump, etc (with lots of other stuff) to the tune on $1800. My dealer is very responsible and told me that the car is ‘perfect’ 9except, of course for this little problem which the dealer cannot replicate! Thanks…I had not expected such interest and concern. SInce I love car talk, I should not have been surprised!

Well, folks here do like to help out. For future reference, include all the info you have up front (e.g. 100K service and all that it included). Otherwise we play this game where suggestions are made and the info comes later.

And please tell me that the check engine light has not been on in the midst of this. For some reason many people think it can be ignored.

Problems that a shop can’t replicate are really hard to sort out so you’ll have to decide how much time you want to pay for for investigation. I will tell you that for some reason it is really hard to get a shop to drive a vehicle under the exact circumstances that create a problem - I’d imagine that no one has tried to replicate the problem by running or simulating “little errands.”

Did the 100K service include a fuel filter? (Maybe you should just pull out your invoice and list it all).

Presumably it included a new air filter.

Did anyone check the fuel pressure? I would do this, and I would also check how well the system holds its fuel pressure. If the fuel pump’s check valve is going south the fuel system will be draining down while stopped and on restart you’ll get some mixture of air and fuel being fired in when first starting up, or it may be taking some time to get the fuel pressure up to specs.

Do you ever smell fuel when you restart the car - as if the engine is flooded?

It wouldn’t hurt for the idle air control valve (IAC) to be cleaned.

Plugs, wires, transmission fluid, etc. is not something that would cause this problem.
Since this seems to occur after startup and on a warm engine I would suspect one of two things.

An Idle Air Control valve problem.

A fuel injector or fuel pump check valve this is leaking off and causing lack of fuel pressure.
(If the car starts right up and runs fine for say 10 seconds or so before it stumbles and dies then I would suspect the IAC valve. If it stumbles from the get-go it could be any of that.)