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What to do about my 1990 Honda Accord

I’m in a quandry. I have a 1990 Honda Accord that has slightly over 150,000 miles. We bought it used about 2 years ago. The gist of the problem is that it decides to not start in parking lots sometimes. I drive to the store, do my shopping, and then it won’t re-start. You can hear it crank, but it won’t catch. I usually call AAA. When they show up in 15 to 20 minutes, the guy usually sits in the car and it starts right up for him. Sometimes I actually manage to get it started before AAA shows up. Anyone have ideas as to the problem? Should I bother to get it fixed or just trash the car?

Here’s the issue: we pre-paid (in full, over $40,000!) for a Phoenix Motorcars all electric Truck over 2 years ago and bought the Honda to last a couple of months until the truck was released. Well, they delayed, and delayed and then declared bankrupcy and we can’t get our money back. They finally got in touch w/ me and said they would give us a truck when it was released (heard THAT before) and it should be early in the coming year (again heard that before). If we buy a new car, then we may end up having to sell the new one after just a few months. Fixing the Accord, it’s not just the starting issues. There MUST be a short somewhere as the battery will slowly loose charge if it just sits for more than about 3 weeks w/ out being driven. In addition, the brake pedal will sometimes slowly drift towards the floor while I’m at stop lights and I have to pump it to keep the brakes working.

My first thought is if you can afford to drop $40K cash on a vehicle not yet being manufactured, keeping a 20 year old Honda running should not be a problem.

Aside from that…it sounds like a fuel problem to me. Have it towed to a reputable shop and see what they can find. Good luck.

We knew we needed a new vehicle and decided to put all of our car budget (more than we really wanted to pay) into an electric vehicle. When we paid, the “delivery date” of the vehicle was less than 4 months away, which didn’t seem too far. (We normally budget and our other car is a Honda Fit.) This was 2 years ago and the economy wasn’t so bad. Now our house has lost more than half what we paid for it (and are still paying for through our mortgage) as we live in Stockton, CA, the foreclosure capitol of the USA.

I did call the mechanic recommended for my town on the Car Talk website and he said it may be a bad fuel injector relay as he’s had to replace quite a few of these in the past. Does this sound reasonable? He said it would be about $150 to fix. Is this a good price?

Your starting problem is likely a bad main relay. Cheap part (get it from and easy replacement, though you’ll have to be a bit of a contortionist, and small fingers will help. Hondas of this era were famous for having easy-to-kill main relays.

Your brake pedal problem is a bad master cylinder. Do not screw around with this. Get it fixed. One day it will suddenly fail, and you’ll discover that when you try to brake and the pedal sinks without slowing the car. If you’re handy, this is a job you can do. Again, it’s a pretty easy job. 2 bolts, two screws, 2 brake lines to remove, you’ll want a turkey baster to get the fluid out of the reservoir, and I’d recommend just replacing the brake fluid while you’re at it. Might as well. I can give you a step by step if you want to do this yourself.

Regarding the battery - if the battery is not pretty new, it’s not surprising that it’s getting drained after being parked for three weeks. There isn’t a short. A short would either drain the battery very quickly (as in, overnight or faster), or it would blow a fuse. You have a slow power drain on the battery. Your clock and your radio both use battery power even when your car is turned off (to maintain the time setting and your radio presets), and there are other systems that draw power as well. You probably just need a new battery.

All of the above is cheaper than buying a new car.

Thanks! Do you happen to have a place I could look to see where to check the main relay (and the fuel injector relay)? My husband is pretty handy w/ a multi-meter, but knows NOTHING about internal combustion engines as he’s an electrical engineer. (He diagnosed a bad part in our oven and put the new part in fine, but the oven had the electrical schematic taped to it!) The problem happens intermittently, so it might be hard to diagnose. However, I can carry around a multi-meter and check it when the problem occurs as long as I know where to check. Is the relay easy to replace? Do you know of a tutorial on replacing the thing? He might be up to changing it if he has a tutorial (the oven fix had a tutorial on youtube, which helped).

I don’t think we’re up to fixing the master cylinder ourselves, unfortunately. Is this usually expensive to have done?

We have a detachable-face radio that we ALWAYS remove as we originally though that was the problem. We also just replaced the battery last spring (as we thought that may be the problem also, and that didn’t seem to help w/ the battery going dead problem.

Removing the face of the radio will not stop the radio from draining the power. The memory boards are contained in the radio body, not the face. The only way to stop the radio from draining power would be to remove the entire radio.

Additionally the clock is a separate unit and will still draw power.

If you’re still concerned about more power than those two would draw being drawn when the car is off, tell your husband to pull every fuse and then re-install them one at a time to see which circuit is causing the parasitic drag. Then find out what’s on that circuit and test the components to see which one is drawing power. Report back here with which one it is.

The master cylinder can be quite expensive to have a shop replace. I was quoted $600 to do it on my Toyota. I ended up doing it myself for $50 in parts.