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View Full Version : Honda won't start if it's recently been running - any thoughts?


Stainz
05-16-2004, 11:36 AM
My Honda Accord (1990 - standard - 5 speed) is giving me grief.

If I take it for a short drive, and I leave it for just a short time - 5-20 minutes - when I come back it often won't start ... it sounds like it won't "turn over" or "catch" - hard to explain. If I leave it alone for a few minutes, then it's fine.

The only thing I can think of is: I have a habit of turning on my headlights as soon as I start my car - perhaps on some occasions I'm doing it too quickly, and it's too much of a battery drain? Because this is my totally uninformed belief, when I find myself in these situations, I turn off the lights, the stereo, the heat (or a/c whichever it happens to be that day) ... basically everything, to give the starter / battery as much juice as possible. Whether it's doing that, or it's the few minutes of waiting, it has always started again eventually.

I believe it's the battery, but my b/f thinks it's something electrical. We are both the first to admit we know NOTHING about cars. Any thoughts?

Reeder
05-16-2004, 11:42 AM
It might be your starter getting hot. Once it cools down some it works again. You might try pouring some water on it next time and see if that helps.

t-keela
05-16-2004, 11:56 AM
Take it to a parts house and have them test the battery. If the battery is good then odds are it's time for a starter. They'll get hot like Reeder was saying and won't turn over until it cools off a bit. Sometimes that'll be due to bad design of the vehicle or modifications made to it. Sometimes the heat shield on some cars will be missing etc. but usually it's simply getting worn out, wiring is old etc.
How old is the starter?
Did you check/clean/tighten any and all connections between the battery and the starter?
I've got an old '65 ford pickup that I only take on short trips, usually less than a mile (around the corner etc.) If I don't let take it for a long drive once in awhile the battery will get weak because it is always starting the truck and never runs long enough to charge the battery back up to its full potential. Just a thought.

BTW...I've had that problem a few times in my day. Always park on an incline, preferably backed in. ;)

Stainz
05-16-2004, 04:20 PM
I just bought the car last winter so I'm not really sure how old ANYTHING is ... however, it got super cold here a few months ago, and the car battery died ... COMPLETELY ... when I tried to start it one morning, there was nothing. So I'm wondering if that weakened the battery enough to be causing these problems.

So I'll have the battery tested and if it's fine, I'll have someone take a look at the starter ... and yes, thanks t-keela, I've finally learned to back into my parking spots, just in case someday it all fails ... :)

Stan Doubt
05-16-2004, 04:40 PM
Sounds like the main relay. This is a small electrical relay located just to the left of the driver's knee - the relay gets hot and then won't work until it cools down.

Even though you don't sound like car experts who could test the relay, you can do some simple experiments to see if this might be the cause. For instance, you can try opening the driver's door and fanning it when the car will not start, or alternatively, heating it up with a hair dryer to see if it will cause the car not to start.

This is a very common problem in Hondas of this vintage. Any experienced Foreign car mech will have seen it dozens if not hundreds of times.

Good Luck

CaveMike
05-16-2004, 04:44 PM
I second Stan Doubt on the main relay. Hondas are notorious for this problem.

Harmonix
05-16-2004, 04:54 PM
I've personally been hit by the main relay. (1992 accord, same model as yours)

Basically, if my car got really hot in the inside or I had been driving for a long while it simply wouldn't start.

The main relay is located on the far left of the car above the brake and gas pedals and behind the air conditioning (box of electrical components) which needs to be removed before you can see the main relay. it's a gray rectangle with a plug iirc. Cost me about 50 bucks to replace. I can't remember the exact symtpoms for this one. I think it was that the starter just kept spinning, but the car wouldn't start. (IIRC the main relay controlled among other things the fuel pumps -- and no fuel getting to the engine = no start).

I also had the wires leading from the key mechanism go bad on me. They shorted out. What was odd with that peice was that the car would start, but would immediately die as soon as I let go of the key. If I held the key near the start position but before it actually activated the starter after I had started the car I could actually drive it! (had to do that once for a few blocks... roomie was holding my key).

barbitu8
05-16-2004, 06:05 PM
There's an easy way to test whether it's a gas (fuel pump?) or electrical problem. Take out a spark plug and hold a screwdriver to it. If you get a spark, it's a gas problem.

Omar
05-16-2004, 06:21 PM
I third Standoubt and CaveMike's recommendation on changing the main relay. When i bought my 1990 Honda Accord, it had this exact problem. The lady before me gave me all the receipts to the car, and I could see that she had spent over $1K trying to fix the problem. Fortunately, I had a spare Main Relay, and I just swapped the old one out. The starting problem never came back.

Stainz
05-16-2004, 08:24 PM
Thanks ... but why would giving the car just a couple more minutes of "downtime" after trying to start it with no luck, be enough to let the main relay cool down? I mean, seriously, 2 minutes is enough to do it ...

Spezza
05-16-2004, 09:28 PM
I have a '94 Accord, exact same problem. Only happens in summer months. I don't really have a problem with it, just adapted to the car's attitude. Simple solution: Stop turning the car off and on.

Gary T
05-16-2004, 09:48 PM
The description in the OP sounds like the starter is not cranking, in which case the functioning of the main relay is irrelevant. If this is correct, a faulty starter is the main suspect.

If I misunderstood, and the starter is cranking (a ruh-ruh-ruh sound while the key is in the "start" position), the the main relay is the main suspect.

Stainz
05-16-2004, 10:31 PM
I guess you could say it's cranking ... but not 'catching' ... that kind of "rrrnn rrrnn rrnnn rnnn" sound, then I turn the key off because I'm afraid of wearing down the battery.

So, I guess I'm looking for a new main relay ... ouch!

Harmonix
05-17-2004, 01:09 AM
Main relays are cheap and easy to replace. Don't worry about it. You'll need a screw driver, flashlight, socket set and patience. get under to where your pedals are and look up with the flashlight. Remove the air conditioning box, then behind it should be the main relay.

and spezza, i'd suggest replacing it. I mean it controls your FUEL pumps. Not a good thing to have die on you. I don't know exactly what else the main relay controls but I swear that after replacing mine it fixed my AC and possibly improved my mileage.

_xiao_wenti_
05-17-2004, 07:30 AM
My 86 CRX has a similar problem, but it only happens when it is cold outside. If I stop before it fully warms up, I have to wait until it cools down before I can restart it. I've learned to work around it.

Kalhoun
05-17-2004, 09:07 AM
My Honda Accord (1990 - standard - 5 speed) is giving me grief.

If I take it for a short drive, and I leave it for just a short time - 5-20 minutes - when I come back it often won't start ... it sounds like it won't "turn over" or "catch" - hard to explain. If I leave it alone for a few minutes, then it's fine.

The only thing I can think of is: I have a habit of turning on my headlights as soon as I start my car - perhaps on some occasions I'm doing it too quickly, and it's too much of a battery drain? Because this is my totally uninformed belief, when I find myself in these situations, I turn off the lights, the stereo, the heat (or a/c whichever it happens to be that day) ... basically everything, to give the starter / battery as much juice as possible. Whether it's doing that, or it's the few minutes of waiting, it has always started again eventually.

I believe it's the battery, but my b/f thinks it's something electrical. We are both the first to admit we know NOTHING about cars. Any thoughts?
My husband just talked to me about this. He has a friend who has one, and I believe it is stated in the Mfr's book that you must run the car for at least 10 minutes or it won't start when you go to start it again. Pretty fucked up if you're just running to the store for something. Call the Honda dealer near you and ask them.

Gary T
05-17-2004, 10:58 AM
My husband just talked to me about this. He has a friend who has one, and I believe it is stated in the Mfr's book that you must run the car for at least 10 minutes or it won't start when you go to start it again. Pretty fucked up if you're just running to the store for something. Call the Honda dealer near you and ask them.
I've never heard of such a thing on Honda, and I can assure you I've started any number of them, run them anywhere from 10 seconds to 8 minutes and not had the slightest trouble restarting them. The only car I know where what you describe is a concern is the first-generation fuel-injected Mazda RX-7, where less than optimal fuel injection programming resulted in fuel fouling of the plugs if the car weren't warmed up after a cold start.

Kalhoun
05-17-2004, 11:05 AM
I've never heard of such a thing on Honda, and I can assure you I've started any number of them, run them anywhere from 10 seconds to 8 minutes and not had the slightest trouble restarting them. The only car I know where what you describe is a concern is the first-generation fuel-injected Mazda RX-7, where less than optimal fuel injection programming resulted in fuel fouling of the plugs if the car weren't warmed up after a cold start.
Maybe that's what I was thinking of. I don't give this sort of thing a lot of thought.

So, does Mazda retrofit the fuel injector?

Gary T
05-17-2004, 11:49 AM
So, does Mazda retrofit the fuel injector?
No. You either let the engine warm up after a cold start, buy an aftermarket modification to the injection programming, or remove the spark plugs and dry them.

leroy_the_mule
05-17-2004, 01:30 PM
I guess you could say it's cranking ... but not 'catching' ... that kind of "rrrnn rrrnn rrnnn rnnn" sound, then I turn the key off because I'm afraid of wearing down the battery.

So, I guess I'm looking for a new main relay ... ouch!

Wait a minute! Did you do barbitu8's gas vs. electrical test? I have a '92 Honda Civic that will do exactly the same thing as your car, especially in the summer. Lots of crank, but no start if I try starting it right after turning it off. I can usually take care of the situation by opening the gas cap, which releases pressure inside the tank, then screwing it bak on right away. Got this one from Click n' Clack. I think they called it "vapor lock".

Kalhoun
05-17-2004, 03:47 PM
No. You either let the engine warm up after a cold start, buy an aftermarket modification to the injection programming, or remove the spark plugs and dry them.
Fuckers.

Stan Doubt
05-17-2004, 06:01 PM
Wait a minute! Did you do barbitu8's gas vs. electrical test? I have a '92 Honda Civic that will do exactly the same thing as your car, especially in the summer. Lots of crank, but no start if I try starting it right after turning it off. I can usually take care of the situation by opening the gas cap, which releases pressure inside the tank, then screwing it bak on right away. Got this one from Click n' Clack. I think they called it "vapor lock".

Please realize that it if the main relay is at fault, your fix "works" due to the opening and closing of the driver's door and the time it takes to perform your gas cap ritual (i.e., it may be just as effective to get out of the car, walk to the rear, open the fuel door, do 25 push-ups, get back in and try starting it).

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