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RPM and Power Loss on 93 Honda Accord

Hello Car Talk Community. I am a long time listener, just joined the online community. My latest car, 93 Honda Accord, has been my most unreliable car so far but I bought it earlier this year for $800 and it has <75,000 miles on it so I keep fixing it. I would appreciate any leads on its most recent issue. Last night, after filling up about 30 miles before, I noticed the RPM’s shoot down to nothing but then immediately go right back up again. I drove for a couple more miles on the freeway and then it happened again but the RPM did not return to its previous level. Erma (the car) lost power and gradually I steered it off the road as it slowed down. I waited awhile and kept trying to start it up. She sounded peppy (no clicking, squeeling or straining) and the lights stayed on but it just wouldn’t start. Eventually she started again, after about 15 minutes, and drove home with no problems. I live 45 minutes outside of town (where I work and go to graduate school - poor student card) so I am hoping for some guidance for things to try to make sure it doesnt strand me again, especially more permanently. Seems electrical? I recently, in the last 8 months, replaced the starter and the electric ignition assembly, as well as the brake master cylinder. Thanks so much for any help you can offer!

A 23 year old car unreliable? Say it ain’t so, Joe. If you have replaced the distributor already, you might want to check for fuel pressure. That main fuel relay (about $50 last time I bought one) has been a troublesome part for Hondas, especially in hot weather.

So when its not starting, if you can check for spark with a spark tester and rule that out if there is spark, then listen for the fuel pump to turn on. If the pump isn’t running, then suspect the main relay.

Hi Bing, thanks for the speedy response. I haven’t replaced the distributor, that might be a good direction to check out? So, if there is no spark and the pump is not running then suspect the main relay. If there is spark, do I suspect the distributor?

No, the distributor essentially “distributes” the spark to each spark plug at the appropriate time. There are mechanical points that arc/wear down with time. This is a cheap part and usually easy to replace so replace the CAP and the ROTOR.

Ok, sounds like some good things to try first. thank you.

Another first question. Are any check engine lights on? If so, have the codes read and report back…

check engine light is definitely not on. tried starting it earlier today and it started right up a few times w/o issue. thank you!

Right, spark issues or lack of spark are rotor, distributor cap, distributor issues. If rotor and cap haven’t been changed as in general tune up, that could be the problem but generally I think it would tend to run rough not the no start issue.

If you do not hear the fuel pump running, or put a fuel pressure gauge on it and get no pressure, then you could suspect the main fuel pump relay or the pump itself.

By checking to hear the pump or checking for spark, you are ruling out one or the other-spark or fuel.

There can be prior codes stored in memory from when it wasn’t working correctly, so the first step is to read out all the diagnostic codes stored in the engine computer’s memory. Trying to solve this by replacing parts, well, you can quickly run out of money before you run out of ideas what to replace next.

If it happens again & it won’t start, tow it to a shop and have them spray some starter fluid into the intake. If it pops and starts up and runs briefly, then dies, you’ll know the problem is fuel, not spark. That’s a big clue & a long way toward solving the problem.

sounds like replacing the fuel pump relay is a worthy thing to try. ill let you know how it goes!

does the check engine light come on at start up and then turn off when the engine starts? I only ask cause the car is 23 years old. :slight_smile:

On a 93 though with OBD1, you’re going to get very limited information from the computer. I think mainly fuel trim, O2 and air sensor information etc.

i am very thankful for the information offered here from the car talk community! so I decided to try and replace the fuel pump relay and the issue has not recurred - I have driven it now (4) times for about 2 hours each time. seems like that was the problem but we would never have thought to replace it without this discussion. THANK YOU!

We hold our breath. Glad its working out. Truth be told it was Tester here that years ago first mentioned the main fuel relay as a troublesome part in Hondas. May have also heard it on the local auto talk show way back when Paul Brand was still on the air. Just don’t recall.