Old Honda and bad timing


I have an '85 Honda Accord with 185,000 miles on it. It’s been a great car, but recently it became so sluggish I had to have it towed to a repair shop. They diagnosed bad timing (after overcharging me for the tow), and put a new timing belt on it, after telling me that “there might be something else wrong with it, but we won’t know until we put the car back together.” After several hundred dollars of work, that is. Anyway, I told them that I wasn’t willing to put any more money into the car (translation: Wasn’t willing to give THEM any more money), and after changing the belt, they parked the car and I went and picked it up. It still runs like crap, although since I don’t trust these guys, I’m willing to believe that they just skipped an easy fix for something, took the money for the hours of labor on the belt, and sent me on my way. The car still seems like it has “bad gas” or something in it, although after I drove it a little yesterday, it did run a little better. But it’s still underpowered and skips, and doesn’t have near the power it used to. I dumped some fuel injector cleaner stuff in it, and I don’t know what else to do now. Is it dying for good? Did the mechanics dump sugar in my gas tank after I accused them of lying about how much the tow would cost? What can I try next, or should I bury my lovely Honda in the lake?


I would have hoped that they already check things like spark plugs and wires.

Do you know how they diagnosed the bad timing?


The spark plugs and wires are only about a year old. How they came up with “bad timing” I don’t know, but the car was barely running when I had it towed. In a day’s time, it went from “a little sluggish, needs some cleaner in it” to a top speed of about 15 mph. I thought that was kind of weird in itself.


Bad timing could be from the old timing belt jumping a tooth. There is other basic maintenance that needs to be done, or assured that it has been done, recently (within months): 1. a fresh fuel filter; 2. new distributor cap and rotor; 3. air filter; 4+. check the Chilton’s or Haynes. Check (have checked) the vacuum advance (timing), and the mechanical advance (timing), and the distributor’s timing setting. AFTER a fresh fuel filter, check the fuel pressure AND volume. The engine vacuum should be used (using a vacuum gage), as a diagnostic aid, by following the vacuum gage diagnostic chart in the Chilton’s or Haynes. Check all the rubber vacuum hoses for deterioration or damage. A vacuum leak can cause poor engine performance. (Of course, a LOT of things can, too).


OK, I know a couple of these things have been done/checked/replaced within the last year or so. I’ll go down the list for the rest of it. And find a better mechanic this time…



My guess is there is an exhaust restriction, probably the muffler clogging. I’ve seen it before once. Unless you are mechanically inclined, I suspect that in the end you will have to take it to some shop to fix this vehicle. So take it to another shop and get another diagnosis.


have the catalaytic converter checked.sounds like its clogged and if you don’t replace it soon it will fry the motor


Are there any trusted, reliable, qualified mechanics in the area?


There are several things that can cause sluggish running; ignition timing, clogged catalytic converter, and in your case, possibly a carburetor problem since most Accords of this year were carbed.
Wonder if anyone has considered the possibility of a choke flap being stup partially closed?

The absolute first thing that should have been done in a shop is run a compression test IMHO. It’s the proper thing to do on any car; and especially considering the mileage.

If you have a cylinder or two going down then parts can be thrown at it forever without accomplishing anything.


Is that a rhetorical question? Of course not! There probably are, but I fell into the demographic mechanics love–out-of-state plates, new to the area, and an old car. Plus I live 50 miles out of town. Oh, and female.

Eventually I’ll get my beauty fixed (again), but I’m not inclined to go kiss up to another mechanic right now. I just hope the car keeps running until I get around to it. I"m going to replace the fuel filter and see if that helps.


I did some reading about the compression tests, but my car isn’t overheating, it isn’t smoking, and (I drove it about 80 miles yesterday) it seems to be getting as good of mileage as it ever did. Just runs like crap…


That has nothing to do with it. An engine can have low compression and still not overheat, burn oil, or smoke.