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Unknown Issue with my 2001 Honda Accord

The problem: Over the past few weeks, when I start my car (and as it continues to run) it does a few abnormal things that I’m not used to. It doesn’t start like this every time but it seems to be happening with greater frequency lately. (1) I can hear it chugging along (that’s how I would describe the sound) and I can notice a lot more smoke coming from the mufflers. The smoke is white and pretty dense. (2) As I give the car more gas, it seems to take a while for it to shift gears or recognize that I’m giving it gas. (3) The lights and fans seem to “dim” if I’m not giving my car any gas. This is noticable not only to myself but my hard of hearing father. (4) If I come to a stop, I can feel the engine rumbling. (5) The engine light comes on SOMETIMES but not always. More often than not it won’t be on at all when this is happening.

Some background info: As stated in my title I have a 2001 Honda Accord LX. It has never done this in the past. I’ve been using my car starter a lot more lately and I live in the frozen tundra of North Dakota. I think it might be related to the cold, as it gets colder it seems to happen more often. The SRS light is always on but has been on consistently since before this problem even started.

What I’ve already done: I’ve taken my car to a mechanic and since the problem wasn’t occuring when I took it in, they just ran some computer checks. The computer log found nothing wrong (no recorded errors or problems). I got my oil changed (since I needed to get that done anyway) and it’s still happening.

Any help with this issue would be awesome! Thank you!

Has the coolant level dropped?
It could be a leaking head gasket fouling one or more cylinders with coolant.
The lights dimming could be from very low idle speed when its “chugging”.
Wouldn’t hurt to get the battery, charging system and serpentine belt checked.

You may be getting or have gotten bad gas from somewhere. A high moisture content in the gas coupled with very cold temperatures would cause this.

Where do you live?

My car puts out a cloud of white smoke as I accelerate from every stop these days, my tranny takes a while to upshift, and I don;t have much power until my engine warms up…but it’s 5 degrees F at my house (as of 10:00 this morning). That’s all normal in 5 degrees F.

The dimming lights are not normal. They suggest a weak battery, a failing alternator, or possibly a low idle. Or, perhaps more commonly, overdue maintenance. Do you keep the engine tuned up properly?

If the maintenance is overdue, get it done.
It the battery is 5 years old, get it replaced.
Get the charging system (and battery if it isn’t old) tested.

If you live in a warm climate, the cloud isn’t normal either. Post back.

SMB, he said he lives in North Dakota. But you do have a point, it could be a battery connection that is causing the problems. He may not need a new battery, just some good old fashioned preventative maintenance.

Ah, North Dakota. My old stomping grounds. I missed that. Until I get the surgery on my other eye (Feb 11th), I’m literally half blind.

Yeah, I guess all that cold weather stuff applies. I’ll even add my sincere best wishes. In the weather they’re having right now, the could use some moral support. Been there, done that.

Thanks for all the responses. I’ll address some of the theories so far.

  1. Bad gas - This has occurred through two different tanks of gas from different stations in town. Don’t think it’s that.

  2. Coolant levels - I haven’t noticed any drops in fluids or any leaking happening.

  3. Temperature issues - the only reason I mentioned the white smoke is that it’s an irregular amount coming out. I know how my car usually performs in these conditions since I’ve grown up in ND my whole life and know my car fairly well. (As I’m sure you can imagine @the same mountainbike.) That being said, I think temperature definitely could be a factor. This morning my car did all of the things mentioned above as I went to work. When I came back it didn’t do a thing. The temp is only 11 degrees here right now but after the temps we’ve been having, it feels like 60!

  4. Battery issues - I tend to believe it has something to do with this (which could explain why temperature might also play a role).

The plan: I’m going to be taking it in and have the computer scanned again for more errors (since the engine light came on). If nothing shows up I’m going to have my mechanic look into most of the above mentioned things.

Most Big Box auto repair places will test the battery and charging system for free. That would be a good place to start. I expect you may have more than one problem going on here. Assuming there are no codes stored or pending, after getting the battery and charging system checked out, if this were my car I guess the next thing I’d do is check the vacuum system for leaks, and if that didn’t fix it, I’d do a fuel pressure and a compression test.

My guess is that you have a bad EGR valve and also need the “pathways” cleaned out using carb cleaner to get all of the soot and carbon out of the passage ways. This may be causing your misfiring, which also means less than smooth motor idling, and also low electric output so your lights dim. Not too difficult to do as the process can be found on Good luck.