Towing quandary for 1996 Honda Civic that won't start

Hi. I’m in quite a predicament! I’ve got a 1996 Honda Civic that has not been used for 2 years. It’s been sitting in a public parking garage. I am facing the task of needing to get it out of the garage due to required annual inspection. The car won’t start on its own. When I got GEICO Roadside Assistance over to help, the guy jump started the car, but (unsurprisingly) it did not sound pretty. He said it’s likely dirt in the fuel pump. Now I am on a budget so I’m already worried about costs. I can’t afford to have parking tickets keep piling up but I have nowhere else to put my car. He suggested the next step should be revving the car for 30 mns to help clear dirt from the fuel pump. I’m not sure how accurate this is, as some experts seem to express concern about damage to the engine. Some say never rev your car, ever. So I am very concerned! I may need a low clearance tow for this car if I can’t get it started. When GEICO guy did the jump start, the car turned on, lights and everything! But it sounded funny (kept whirring with noise and was louder than normal) and it smelled like gasoline. Should I not drive this car even if it does turn on and moves? He said it would be safe to drive. I’m not so sure I trust that! Would revving be the best or worst thing to do? Should I let it just sit for 10 mns before revving it? How long before I can safely drive it (what signs should I look for?)

Do you know of any good low clearance towing companies in Westchester NY that are affordable for someone on a budget?

This been really weighing on my mind and any help at all is much appreciated!

Can’t help you with the towing part. If you lived in a rural area with rural friends, probably one of them would have a truck and a chain and would pull you out while you steer and brake with the car in neutral, at least till you got out so that a regular tow truck could get to you.

I wouldn’t go with only the advice of a tow truck driver. Perhaps he’s right, but it’s also likely he’s wrong. If you wanted to get it checked out by a mechanic, why don’t you just drive it to someone that can do a proper diagnosis?

And I try not to give advice on something that’s not asked, but consider whether you need to keep this car at all. If you are “on a budget,” ask yourself why you need to keep and maintain a car “that has not been used for 2 years.” Even unused cars require a little money and time otherwise you cannot use them when you want.

If you have not driven the car in 2 years, why do you feel you need it? If you only need a car once in a while, the money you save by getting rid of it will go a long way to rent one or uber. I would follow the tow drivers advice, see if you can get it running ok and sell it. A 22 year old Civic isn’t worth much so what do you have to lose.

How are you going to rev the car if it won’t start? If it starts, there is no need to rev it and reving it will not clear the fuel pump, which is in the tank. I’m suspecting you have stale fuel from sitting for that long and the tank really needs to be drained. Cars aren’t cheap so you just need to get it to a shop where they can check for spark and fuel and go from there. I needed a low clearance tow from a ramp too and called my small town guy to come to the big city. Even he could handle it by taking the light bar down until he cleared the ramp. So I doubt they will have a problem supplying an appropriate tow if you tell them the clearance.

You will need to recharge or replace the battery before starting this car again. If you attempt to drive it out with a discharged battery it may stall on you requiring several jump starts. If the engine started for you with the tow truck drivers assistance you could probably drive the car, consume the old fuel and refill the tank. Racing the engine for 30 minutes inside a parking garage is unnecessary and won’t be well received.

Many cars have issues in garages. Tow companies tow them every day. Truck is no bigger than a suburban. No need to overthink the “size” of the tow rig. Have it towed to garage. Drain gas. Have shop check it out. $250?

After two years of no use, I’d guess the gas went bad and that is why the car runs poorly. If it is in a parking garage, you might be able to roll it down to the first floor and out onto the access road where it can be towed to a shop to drain the gas and check for other issues.