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86 Prelude Not Starting


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06-26-04, 11:16 PM   #1  
WaltSnider
86 Prelude Not Starting

I looked for a search function, but finding none, I'm posting this now... I apologize if I overlooked one.

1986 Honday Prelude, 1.8 L engine, 5 speed manual, DX (or regular) coupe 2 door.
Not Starting, or if it does, runs for 90 secs - 5 mins and dies. (More detail below.)

Inital problem:
Had 2, replaced bearings in left front knuckle (or lower control arm), doubt it has anything to do with the starting/running problem, but I'm a computer tech by training and have seen strange things not supposed to be related in the past, so I thought it may be worth mentioning.

Other problem:
About 2-3 months ago, driving about 80 on the interstate hwy, the RPM's (tachometer?) dropped to 0 (on the meter, engine was still reving and responded to accelerator being pressed) and after about 3-4 seconds, went back to normal. My spedometer doesn't work, so I guage my speed by the gear I'm in and RPM's I'm at... mentioning this only because I don't know if the spedometer would have dropped too. This behavior repeated 3 more times on the way home. Spoke to neighbor's son (17 yrs old, dad is a diesel mechanic for more than 30 years I believe) and he said I was probably just pushing it too hard... I typically don't go above 70. I accepted it (Previously knew VERY little about cars) and went on about my business, being cautious to watch my speed and had no problems for a couple months.

About 3-4 weeks ago, car repeated similar behavior, but worse. When the car would 'crap', whether I'm holding accelerator or not, the car would begin to brake suddenly (I suspected engine breaking?) and I'd hit the clutch quickly and rev the gas a bit and it'd subside. Spoke to the neighbor himself and he told me it's my fuel pump. I replaced the pump and both filters.

2 weeks ago, still getting the same problem, although the car is dieing even if I give it more gas while holding the clutch down. Would let me restart the car even while I was in motion (car in neutral of course) with the key. Told neighbor, said he'd get back to me. Roommate (older than I am with signifigant experience in auto repair as compared to me) suggested I do normal tune-up stuff, so I replaced plugs, wires, air filter (I'm tired, can't think of what else I did). Still having problems.

1 weekish ago (Tuesday), called roommate's friend who's a retired Chevy master mechanic, he said it's the igniter in the distributor. Replaced it (Thursday night) and ran well for a while until tonight where it stranded me 20 miles from home. I removed the connectors from the igniter (it's behind the rotor just in case I'm not using the proper term) and reseated them as I've done this with computer components in the past and it started. Got my friend and son in the car and no more than 90 seconds rolled by and the car died and would not restart, even would not kickstart. Roommate came and got me and now I'm typing this out.

I didn't mention above that I got a new coil and we tried it before replacing the igniter and there was absolutely no change in the way it didn't start.

Lastly, I'm not a mechanic, but am learning fast. I have some mechanical experience, but probably not enough to speak of. I have a min wage paying job and have put about $550 into this car (blue book is like $560?) in the past 2 months (fixing doors, etc.) and am a single dad with no child support, so the cash is kinda tight and I'm running out of funds, so I really could use cheap solutions, although I'll do whatever it takes if there's no cheap solution. Yes, I could have gotten another car but who knows what problems would come with it, at least this one I know about... more or less. I've had this since '98 or '99 I think, never really mainted it before... this is my wakeup call to take care of cars in the future... I used to scream like a little girl when my hands got dirty, but now look forward to learning all I can so I can take care of my friends and family in the future without them having to use mechanics... btw, haven't brought the car to a mechanic because I simply can't afford it. I'm going back out tomorrow either morning or afternoon to play with it more... I suspect we're bringing a new coil in case that's gone bad since the other one was tested, that aside I'm clueless... I'm really new to this.

If anyone can lend a hand and wants some help with their computer, I'll be glad to return the favor.

Thanks in advance for reading all this and trying to help!!!!

 
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06-27-04, 04:05 AM   #2  
The first thing I would do is stop listening to the neighbor kid. He has no clue. Next, you need to stop throwing parts at it. That's not the way to find a problem. The way this has to be diagnosed is you have to run some tests while it is dead. You need to test 3 things

1) Good hot spark at the plug using a spark tester

2) Injecter pulse tested with a noid light (assuming it's injected)

3) Correct and constant fuel pressure (tested with a gauge)

Once you know what is dropping out, we'll know which path to take from there.
This may sound like a pain but it is the only way to proceed to prevent throwing more money away. You would have spent less than $100 for a diagnosis had you brought it to a shop in the begining instead of the $500 you've wasted already.

 
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06-27-04, 05:03 AM   #3  
I'm not 100% on this but I think Honda uses a main relay that causes this type of problem.

 
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06-27-04, 09:13 AM   #4  
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Posted By: Desi501 The first thing I would do is stop listening to the neighbor kid. He has no clue.
Agreed.

Posted By: Desi501 Next, you need to stop throwing parts at it. That's not the way to find a problem. The way this has to be diagnosed is you have to run some tests while it is dead. You need to test 3 things

1) Good hot spark at the plug using a spark tester

2) Injecter pulse tested with a noid light (assuming it's injected)
It's carbureted...
Posted By: Desi501 3) Correct and constant fuel pressure (tested with a gauge)

Once you know what is dropping out, we'll know which path to take from there.
This may sound like a pain but it is the only way to proceed to prevent throwing more money away. You would have spent less than $100 for a diagnosis had you brought it to a shop in the begining instead of the $500 you've wasted already.
It doesn't sound like a pain... it sounds like a new path to take to find the real problem. I'll see if the neighbor (dad) can test the fuel pressure and spark for free... he's got a shop here in town. Too bad I moved from Ft. Lauderdale, I'd ask you to come over Desi! In the past, with the old igniter, I've tested each plug by taking it off and placing it on the valve cover (I think that's what you call it) and got spark from each... I haven't tested it since the new igniter/pluts/wires were put on. I think when I go out, I'll bring a new coil with me as it's a couple bucks and if it gets me back to town with it, then it'll be money well spent in my opinion.

When I'm out there today, I'll test the plugs individually and see if I have spark on any.

Another thing I think I failed to mention is that after sitting over night, it starts up for a bit and gets me moving, although seldom all the way to my destination.

I'll check the spark and gas today and post what my findings are... could the sitting overnight thing have anything to do with the problem? Don't I have a pair of jets (dual carb) that spit gas into the carbs or something? Could they be getting clogged with stuff that needs to be cleaned?

Posted By: davo I'm not 100% on this but I think Honda uses a main relay that causes this type of problem.
Well I'm not trying to be a smartass, but if it was a relay, would it work and not work then work and not again? I'd assume it'd be off and stay off.

Anyway, I did check as both books I have for it (Chilton and Hayes?) say there's a relay, but checking under the hood and dash, the only thing that's fuel-like is the gas gauge and the fuse is good... other stuff there is for wipers, radio, etc. I didn't try swapping another fuse out with the one that's there for the fuel gauge, but I think it's worth a shot... it's free and will take me 30 secs.

Well thanks you too and I'll let you know what happens tonight.

 
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06-27-04, 09:35 AM   #5  
You may assume anything you like as an American citizen but yes relays can work properly and then not work properly.So you decide if you want to call Honda to see if it applies to your model and year.Btw I've had Hondas that shut off because of burnt ignition switch contacts.Does the clock go out at the same time?

 
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06-27-04, 10:12 AM   #6  
Posted By: WaltSnider Agreed.


In the past, with the old igniter, I've tested each plug by taking it off and placing it on the valve cover (I think that's what you call it) and got spark from each... I haven't tested it since the new igniter/pluts/wires were put on. I think when I go out, I'll bring a new coil with me as it's a couple bucks and if it gets me back to town with it, then it'll be money well spent in my opinion.

No, your not getting the point. Testing spark when your not experiencing the problem is useless. Testing for spark with a spark plug doesn't tell you much. It takes much more KV to fire that plug when it's under compression. That's why I specified using a spark tester.
What good will it do to buy a coil and carry it with you if you haven't determined you have a coil problem?
These specific tests have to be performed while the car is in a "no start" condition. ALL of the tests have to be done at that time regardless of finding a fault in any one of them. That's the only way we can get a picture of what's happening in there.

 
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06-27-04, 10:38 PM   #7  
WaltSnider
Posted By: davo You may assume anything you like as an American citizen but yes relays can work properly and then not work properly.So you decide if you want to call Honda to see if it applies to your model and year.Btw I've had Hondas that shut off because of burnt ignition switch contacts.Does the clock go out at the same time?
Again, I wasn't trying to be smart, I'm just using my knowledge from working with computers for many years... the circuit either works or it doesn't in those cases, it's not intermittent (sp?).
Yes, the clock went out once yesterday or Friday... never did that before. I was wondering about that.
I was told the ignition switch was OK because my idiot lights come on when you turn the key... is that accurate?

 
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06-28-04, 02:43 AM   #8  
Posted By: WaltSnider Again, I wasn't trying to be smart, I'm just using my knowledge from working with computers for many years... the circuit either works or it doesn't in those cases, it's not intermittent (sp?).
That statement is both wrong and insulting to a professional that's trying to help you. Yes, a relay can be lazy and yes, it can be intermittant.

Posted By: WaltSnider I was told the ignition switch was OK because my idiot lights come on when you turn the key... is that accurate?
That doesn't rule out everything.

 
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06-29-04, 06:56 AM   #9  
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Well again, I sincerely apologize if I was sounding insulting... I didn't realize it.

Roommate and I spent the whole day (10:30am till 8:30pm) working with the car and we've come to the following conclusion: when the car warms up, we get no spark.

We came to this conclusion by taking the following steps:
In the morning, I drove about 4 mins and the car died. Roommate thought it was the wiring harness (from the control module / igniter to the coil) so I brought it with me. Showed it to a guy at the local auto parts store and he showed me two wires that were touching. He told me it could be the reason it doesn't start sometimes and does others... the wires could be touching/not touching. Roommate taped them up and he brought me back to the Prelude in his car (there was about an hour for it to cool). Started just fine and I drove it to the bank (assuming that was the problem and it was fixed), then to McDonald's and it wouldn't start from there. I forgot the ground and reattached it (it must have been touching the distributor by accident up to that point) and tried to take my son to the doctor and the car died again, after running about 4 mins and my roommate rebuilt the wiring harness between the distributor and coil, let it cool for 30-45 mins, we replaced it and I came home and let the car run to test the heat theory and after about 3 mins, it died again with no hope of starting. Roommate used electric meter (forgot the proper name) and tested the coil and wiring in the newly created harness and it all was fine. After an hour, we moved it into the garage where it now sits. Additionally, the same circuit has a fuel cutoff relay that I ordered to test per davo's suggestion. (Desi - I'm not buying it initally, the guys at the autoparts store said they'd let me take it home and if it works, they'll let me pay for it then... they've been through nearly everything too, they're being nice to me )

Question: Are we correct in assuming heat has to do with the no spark problem?

I'll post tonight what comes of the new relay. Thanks again, guys.

 
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06-29-04, 04:51 PM   #10  
Well, you've proven that heat aggravates the problem but you haven't done anything to isolate the problem. While it is dead, you need to locate the + and - terminals for the coil. You'll need the voltmeter and a testlight. With the key on, you should have 12volts at the + side of the coil. If thats OK, take your testlight and ground the lead and touch the - side of the coil while someone cranks the engine. You should get a pulsing of the testlight. Let us know what you find then and we'll tell you where to go from there.

 
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06-29-04, 05:21 PM   #11  
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Posted By: Desi501 Well, you've proven that heat aggravates the problem but you haven't done anything to isolate the problem. While it is dead, you need to locate the + and - terminals for the coil. You'll need the voltmeter and a testlight. With the key on, you should have 12volts at the + side of the coil. If thats OK, take your testlight and ground the lead and touch the - side of the coil while someone cranks the engine. You should get a pulsing of the testlight. Let us know what you find then and we'll tell you where to go from there.
Will do Desi.
Also, tested a new fuel cutoff relay today with no effect... car lasted 7 mins.


Last edited by WaltSnider; 06-29-04 at 05:38 PM.
 
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06-30-04, 02:51 PM   #12  
I did not mean the fuel relay I meant the main relay.Call a Honda parts dept and ask if you car has a MAIN relay.If the clock is out when it won't start it may be the ignition switch.You will need to see if you have power at the coil as Desi said during the failure.

 
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07-01-04, 10:36 AM   #13  
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I had the same problem about a year ago with my 95 Honda Civic Ex. I was driving and all of a sudden it died. Wouldn't start. The next day, tried it, and it started but died again. I had to get it towed to a shop and I was told it was the main relay. Had it replaced for about $200 and I haven't had a problem since. Just thought I should pass my experiance with you.

 
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07-01-04, 04:22 PM   #14  
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Posted By: duce110 I had the same problem about a year ago with my 95 Honda Civic Ex. I was driving and all of a sudden it died. Wouldn't start. The next day, tried it, and it started but died again. I had to get it towed to a shop and I was told it was the main relay. Had it replaced for about $200 and I haven't had a problem since. Just thought I should pass my experiance with you.
Thanks for the help duce, but I think I have it fig'ed out... I hope so anyway.

I went to the dealer yesterday and one of the mechanics told me when the wires in the wiring harness touched each other, it most likely shorted out the igniter. I replaced the igniter and it ran 31 mins straight last night and several starts/stops today. I hope it lasts past 3 days this time.

Desi,
Roommate helped me test the coil, said it was fine. Used his pulser and said he didn't want to use it as he didn't want to burn it out... I don't know what it's for, I'm assuming a timing light? Anyone, I suppose he doesn't have a great unit.

I'll post in a week or so to followup (if I remember) if this was the solution. I'm rebuilding the wiring harness tomorrow with extra insulation and need to find something to act as a gromet. (sp?)

 
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07-02-04, 02:30 AM   #15  
Posted By: WaltSnider
Desi,
Roommate helped me test the coil, said it was fine. Used his pulser and said he didn't want to use it as he didn't want to burn it out... I don't know what it's for, I'm assuming a timing light? Anyone, I suppose he doesn't have a great unit.
Sorry, it wasn't the coil we were trying to test. We were testing the ignition power supply and the pulse signal to determine what other component wasn't doing it's job. Lack of pulse would have pointed toward the igniter. I hope you really found it.

 
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07-21-04, 04:52 PM   #16  
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Well it couldn't last a month...

I don't know if it's the same problem, but here's what is now wrong and what I did:

(New?) Problem: Car normally idles around 1100 RPM. I know it's a tad high, but the car shakes if I set it to less. The past couple days, it's been idling around 1000, I thought no prob, but today, it's going down to 200ish, back to 400, 200, 600, 1100, etc... back and forth. It's not stalled yet and I drove about 60 miles (friend followed me to make sure I didn't get stranded) with no problem, just when it needs to hold an idle on its own. I turned the idle screw about 1/4 turn so it's more or less 1100 now, but it still occasionally goes to 400 or 200.

What I did: I took off the distributor cap and checked the rotor, contacts within the cap and the rebuilt wiring harness. Everything looked ok to me... the wires weren't bare and weren't touching anything other than the two contacts on the igniter.

Additionally I also put on a new coil, just since I replaced nearly everything else, about 2 weeks ago, right after I replaced the igniter.

Don't let me down Desi! I know you're the man! (TIA)

 
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07-25-04, 08:56 PM   #17  
WaltSnider
*bump to top*

 
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