This problem never happens at the shop!

Ok…I have a 99 Honda Civic with 165,000 miles. No major problems,until now. If the car sits over the weekend, it has a very rough start. It sputters, and sounds like the whole thing is shaking. Inside the car it smells like exhaust. I drive down the street, and the car struggles to go into 1st and 2nd gear, like there are weights dragging behind it. Then all of a sudden it feels like it coughs up a hairball, and goes into 3rd gear smoothy. The car proceeds to drive fine all day. I take it to the autoshop, and it doesn’t happen! They can’t figure out whats wrong without seeing it. It happens more frequently in cold weather.

Sticky EGR valve?

This is just a WAG.

You may need to leave it over a cold night so the shop can get the total experience.

You have a bad computer on the engine or teansmission. My best guess.

Has anyone considered scanning this vehicle to see if any codes are present? That should be step one.
Any Check Engine Light on?
Struggles to go into 1st and 2nd? Manual or automatic transmission?

There’s a number of things it could be but pulling codes should be your first step along with providing some more useful info.

It sounds like you might have more than one problem. Regarding the rough start, you might have a dirty throttle plate. This is something you can address with a can of throttle cleaner. The other problem sounds like a transmission problem. When was the last time you had the transmission fluid changed? Have you checked the transmission fluid level? In what condition is the fluid?

Regarding the exhaust smell, remove the heat shield covering the exhaust manifold/catalytic converter (they are one piece in front of the engine in your car) and look to see if it is cracked. If it is cracked, get it replaced ASAP. If exhaust is getting into the air intake system, it could cause problems. Check the air filter and see if it shows signs of exhaust passing through it. Is the air filter visibly dirty? Once the car heats up, a crack in the exhaust manifold will close up when the metal expands. So if your symptoms seem to go away after the car warms, it would be in line with a cracked exhaust manifold.

Dont go condemning the transmission yet!!! The drivability issue needs to be addressed FIRST. Drivability problems can and WILL affect transmission functions… I’m with OK about getting it scanned…


It seems to me that the first thing the shop should have done is scan the ECU for codes. They may not have, but I’d like to think that the OPs shop is as professional as you and OK4450 are.

Interesting…I had an exhaust manifold that was cracked, and I replaced it with headers. I actually don’t think I have a catalytic converter…they may have had to take it out with the headers. The check engine light has been on for years, with no problems. The dealer told me the code was due to a EVAP bypass valve, with a possible new PCM? The dealer did not explain this much to me, and did not give me any reason to replace it. It also would have cost $1200.00, for a car that might be worth $3500.00. I would rather get a new car at this point. My mechanic told me he couldn’t do much either with the computer because only the dealership can access that? I don’t get that. The air filter is one of those cannisters, like the cold air intake ones, so I wash it each year rather than replacing it. I will look at it again though when I get a chance. Thanks for the input, I appreciate it.