Repair or Dispair

Beautiful fall day in Atlanta. Low humidity and 68 degrees. Perfect day! Enter the '83 Honda Accord…cruising home on I-20 westbound. Car stutters briefly then dies completely. Pull off to the shoulder, call home, call AAA, and wait. After 20-25 minutes, car starts and appears to run normally. I let the wrecker take me to the repair shop but end up driving the car home from there with no problems. Sidenote: after successful restart, I notice that all the AM radio presets are gone and I have to reprogram the radio. I’ve seen this before but only when I’ve disconnected and reconnected the battery. Ummmmm…

If the car starts and runs fine now, I’d suspect a short (open) in the ignition switch. With a 26 year old car, there are a lot of things it could be, but to me, that is the most obvious. Now if the battery appears dead or you have other symtoms, then you need to start elsewhere.

Case diagnosis car lost power. Cover many bases easily. Clean battery terminal and endpoint connections just in case as if the charging circuit fails it should still run on battery power for a while. Most likely it was an intermittent power loss, usally a car will run with no battery but in the new age of computer cars strange stuff happens. If the ignition switch shorted that would not explain the radio station reset. That indicates to me a complete loss of power from the alternator and the battery (good observation!). So we have to find a common link that would explain no alternator power supplied to the engine and no battery power supplied to the engine. If it was the ignition switch the radio would not have lost it’s memory. The alternator is usually well grounded being bolted to a metal bracket. Did you have to jump the car to get it started?

This clearly suggests an intermittant total ciruit open.

I’d want to start by checking all battery connections and ground straps for secure and uncorroded connections, including the engine ground. Checking the fusible link might not be a bad idea also, Although I think it’s extremely unlikely.

Checking the bolted connections from the alternator to the mount to the engine can’t hurt either. Again, they’re longshots but what the heck.

The ignition switch is certainly possible, but I know of no way of checking it since it’s working now.

ditto all the above

After approximately 20 minutes, the car started right up. Battery did not appear rundown. Good strong turnover. No jump necessary. The lady at the shop said it might be either an overheated ignition module or fuel pump relay.

They always say something like that. Whenever there could be a loose and dirty battery connection, they always suggest something like “live fuel transducer glitch caused by overheat transmittal deficiency”. There’s a gigabyte shortage going around and the vaccine is on back order.