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Old 09-17-2011, 01:52 PM   #1
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Default 1991 Honda Civic DX - incredible slew of problems

Hey,

I used the search engine but couldn't find anything very specific to my set of circumstances.

I have a 1991 Honda Civic DX that has run beautifully in the 8 years I've had it. I don't remember it ever needing any repairs. But a few months ago, for reasons I won't get into, I stupidly pulled out fuse 14 (alternator/solenoid valve) under the steering wheel while the engine was running. There was a spark between the fuse and its socket and the car shut down and would turn over but not start, and ever since then I have been on a hellishly expensive quest to get it running again.

First I replaced the entire distributor and nothing changed. Then I noticed for some reason there was no fuse in 14 so I put one in and it was running wonderfully again, or so it seemed. I was able to drive it for a couple of days when it started dying while driving. I replaced fuse 14 with a special fuse holder, and also replaced the spark plugs as well as putting in fuel injector cleaner, and it seemed ok again but started dying again. I replaced the main relay and again it seemed alright for a while before it started dying yet again. After leaving the headlights on all night the battery died, I replaced that too, and still it dies while driving. Now it won't even start.

Can anyone help me figure out what could be wrong? I do not have anywhere near enough money to get raped by a mechanic. A friend was telling me about his $900 fuel pump replacement, and that's more money than my car is even worth.

Any help would be VERY appreciated. Thanks.

-Jake
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Old 09-17-2011, 02:07 PM   #2
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Default Re: 1991 Honda Civic DX - incredible slew of problems

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Originally Posted by octodigitus View Post
Hey,

I used the search engine but couldn't find anything very specific to my set of circumstances.

I have a 1991 Honda Civic DX that has run beautifully in the 8 years I've had it. I don't remember it ever needing any repairs. But a few months ago, for reasons I won't get into, I stupidly pulled out fuse 14 (alternator/solenoid valve) under the steering wheel while the engine was running. There was a spark between the fuse and its socket and the car shut down and would turn over but not start, and ever since then I have been on a hellishly expensive quest to get it running again.

First I replaced the entire distributor and nothing changed. Then I noticed for some reason there was no fuse in 14 so I put one in and it was running wonderfully again, or so it seemed. I was able to drive it for a couple of days when it started dying while driving. I replaced fuse 14 with a special fuse holder, and also replaced the spark plugs as well as putting in fuel injector cleaner, and it seemed ok again but started dying again. I replaced the main relay and again it seemed alright for a while before it started dying yet again. After leaving the headlights on all night the battery died, I replaced that too, and still it dies while driving. Now it won't even start.

Can anyone help me figure out what could be wrong? I do not have anywhere near enough money to get raped by a mechanic. A friend was telling me about his $900 fuel pump replacement, and that's more money than my car is even worth.

Any help would be VERY appreciated. Thanks.

-Jake
Why haven't you replaced/checked the alternator? That would have been the first thing I did.
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Old 09-17-2011, 02:13 PM   #3
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Default Re: 1991 Honda Civic DX - incredible slew of problems

replace the alternator and charge the battery, should be fine.
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Old 09-17-2011, 02:25 PM   #4
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Default Re: 1991 Honda Civic DX - incredible slew of problems

What are the symptoms of a bad alternator? I don't see why that would do this. I've had suspicions about the fuel pump, would that make sense?

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Symptoms of a bad alternator include hard or slow cranking when you try to start your vehicle, lights that seem too dim, and of course the "BATT" or "GEN" light glowing on the dash.
When I'm trying to start the car and it's turning over it sounds normal. Sometimes it does start.

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If your car starts and runs, or if the engine turns over normally when you try to start it but it won't actually run, there is probably nothing wrong with your alternator, starter , or battery.
Your alternator is probably functioning properly.
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Old 09-17-2011, 02:55 PM   #5
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Default Re: 1991 Honda Civic DX - incredible slew of problems

A failing or bad alternator/battery can absolutely cause your car to die while driving. It's happened to me numerous times. I've even had alternators test out fine on the machine in parts stores yet still intermittently fail on me.

Besides, with you pulling the alternator fuse, and causing subsequent sparking, etc. I don't see how any logical person wouldn't automatically suspect alternator damage.

Beyond that, I would think any "rules of thumb" regarding failing alternator symptoms under normal conditions would/should be thrown out of the window with the possible electrical problem you created.

Either way, I suppose you could have created some crazy short/issue somewhere else, but I would absolutely rule out the alternator first before going on an expensive wild goose chase elsewhere on the car.
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Old 09-17-2011, 06:40 PM   #6
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Default Re: 1991 Honda Civic DX - incredible slew of problems

I know you said you replaced the entire distributor but did you replace the rotor in it? My CRV died while driving and the rotor was replaced. Now it doesn't die while driving but it dies while idling (red light etc..). I took it to Honda today and it need the O2 sensor and catalytic converter replaced.
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Old 09-17-2011, 07:21 PM   #7
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Default Re: 1991 Honda Civic DX - incredible slew of problems

The answer has been repeated mad times. You probably fried the voltage regulator on the altenator when you pulled your stunt and now it's not giving out anything...either way it's a sure fire bet your Alty's the culprit. Change it..and all should be well. May wanna try another battery, because if the alty took a **** and you ran the car on the battery that puts a massive drain on it..sometimes they don't bounce back.
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Old 09-18-2011, 08:13 AM   #8
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Default Re: 1991 Honda Civic DX - incredible slew of problems

Before everyone treats me like a total idiot, please realize I've talked to plenty of mechanics kind enough to volunteer their advice to me. I figure expert opinion is a hell of a lot more reliable than my own. I can't tell you how many times I've heard that "there would be no doubt at all in any halfway logical or reasonable person's mind that you need to replace part X, dumbass", only to find they were wrong. Until moving recently I had a neighbor who is supposedly an expert Honda mechanic, who steered me wrong several times, along with many "experts" at auto parts stores. Nobody ever said anything about the alternator, even after hearing a detailed description of what happened.

So I appreciate the advice, and in my desperation I'll probably replace the alternator as soon as I get a chance. I've also been told "there's NO chance in hell it's ANYTHING but the fuel pump" so maybe I'll end up replacing that too, although from what I hear that requires removing the gas tank or something along those lines.

Anyway thanks for the advice.
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Old 09-18-2011, 08:34 AM   #9
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Default Re: 1991 Honda Civic DX - incredible slew of problems

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Until moving recently I had a neighbor who is supposedly an expert Honda mechanic, who steered me wrong several times, along with many "experts" at auto parts stores.
I can tell you without a doubt that these people are the most ill-informed of the ill-informed and routinely spew nonsense left and right. I think everybody has that neighbor who likes to think he is an expert in such and such car (and he actually has the rest of the neighborhood believing it) but in reality is an ill-informed dope.

It is also very rare nowadays that you will find somebody at a parts store who ACTUALLY knows anything about real mechanic work/diagnosing. The days of parts places being run by guys with true "know how" are long gone, and many of the said guys are elderly these days. Hell, even most real mechanics at dealerships aren't even better. Far too many these days can't think outside the box or diagnose anything outside of routine trouble codes, TSBs, etc.

Nonetheless, I don't think any of us intended to be smug. It's just that when you look at it on its facts - you pulled the alternator fuse, sparked, and then started having problems. We just don't understand why that wasn't the first thing you did. Always start with the most obvious/logical thing (and hopefully also the cheapest). It could still be something else, but rule out the alternator first.

Once you start getting "advice" left and right from largely ignorant outsiders you can easily go down an expensive rabbit trail.

*edit*

You also may STILL need another battery. Like the other guy said once the battery gets fully discharged (like by running the car solely on the battery) they often don't bounce back.
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Old 09-18-2011, 10:38 AM   #10
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Default Re: 1991 Honda Civic DX - incredible slew of problems

When ExtraBlackRex mentions the "voltage regulator" for the alternator, I assume that's synonymous with "relay"? Is it built into the alternator? Is it possible the alternator itself is fine, and I just need to replace some fried relay?

I already replaced the main relay, I'm not sure if that part protects the alternator from excess voltage on a 91 Civic DX.

Yea, I'm definitely jaded when it comes to "experts", and frankly have no idea when I can trust someone's opinion on this whole ordeal.
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Old 09-18-2011, 10:51 AM   #11
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Default Re: 1991 Honda Civic DX - incredible slew of problems

The Voltage regulator is built into the inside of the alternator. It is soldered in the alternator. Yes it is possible to replace just the voltage regulator but you have to know what you are doing. Its not an easy thing to do but an alternator/starter shop could do it for you. I have had it done by a family friend that owns one of these shops and honestly its not really any cheaper to have it done than to just buy an alternator from a parts store like Autozone or Napa. The inner parts of alternators and starters are becoming harder to find which makes them more expensive and then you will have to pay for the labor to have it fixed. Honestly your best bet is to just buy a new alternator.
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Old 09-18-2011, 03:16 PM   #12
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Default Re: 1991 Honda Civic DX - incredible slew of problems

Okay, so I had a spare fuel filter lying around and threw it in the car. A bunch of fuel came out of the output hole from the old one and a ton of black and gray crap came out of it. Lo and behold the car runs 1000x times better. I drove it about 80 miles and it shut down once while driving, started right back up again and drove the remaining 45 or so miles without a hitch. So I'm thinking some place between the gas tank and the spark plugs is clogged or dirty.

Is it at all possible this is the case, and the alternator is fine? I would think the main relay would have fried when I pulled the fuse and thus protected the voltage regulator.
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Old 09-18-2011, 03:23 PM   #13
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Default Re: 1991 Honda Civic DX - incredible slew of problems

The best way to find out if the alternator is bad is to take it out and take it down to a Napa or Autozone and have them test it. It is free to test it and then you will know forsure what is or isnt happening.
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Old 09-18-2011, 03:27 PM   #14
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Default Re: 1991 Honda Civic DX - incredible slew of problems

You said that it ran better but.. still died on you while you were driving it, which would still point to a bad alternator.
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Old 09-18-2011, 04:23 PM   #15
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Default Re: 1991 Honda Civic DX - incredible slew of problems

This post got out of hand real quick... Listen let's clear some stuff up right now...

The "idiot" light on the dash that has a symbol of a battery is STRICTLY for the alternator in a no charge situation. If the light comes on when you put the key forward and goes off after you start it then you can assume te alternator is charging. Typically a bad alternator will just cause a no charge situation. There are some instances where when the voltage regulator is bad it will cause a parasite load when "off". Regardless the ALTERNATOR has nothing to do with how fast the STARTER turns the engine over - UNLESS the alternator is locked up and the belt drags the engine down. The starter on the other hand could need more or less amps depending on it's condition. This also has some additional factors of wiring and battery condition. Typically a bad battery will cause the alternator to have to run more and typically burns them out due to excessive heat. A bad alternator can lead to draining the battery to the point of no return/ recharging or jumping to so many times it exceeds it's rate and it fails.

The mix of things that Honda adds is the ELD... this is essentially a load detector that helps the ECU compensate injector pulsewidth and the likes depending on the alternator voltage output. There is tons that could be going on - but since no diagnosing has been done yet it's hard to give a good diagnosis.

I agree on people being worthless - if they can't look it up on a $50,000 machine or read on some forum/TSB they can't figure it out. Gone are the days of putting the phone up to an engine to figure out what is wrong; not because cars have more crap on them - just because the way this world is heading... yuppies.
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Old 09-18-2011, 04:31 PM   #16
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Default Re: 1991 Honda Civic DX - incredible slew of problems

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Originally Posted by Projekt_ED3 View Post
The best way to find out if the alternator is bad is to take it out and take it down to a Napa or Autozone and have them test it. It is free to test it and then you will know forsure what is or isnt happening.
DO IT!
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Old 12-18-2011, 10:56 AM   #17
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Default Re: 1991 Honda Civic DX - incredible slew of problems

Okay, so I finally took it to a repair shop. The guys there said all they had to do was clean out the inside of the distributor cap -- I got it dirty when I replaced the igniter and coil. They said the cap was in bad shape and should be replaced sooner or later. It ran absolutely great for a while until it did the same thing again. So I replaced the distributor cap and rotor and it ran perfectly for about a month; I forgot anything was ever wrong with it.

Then one day on the road it did the same thing again. I opened up the (brand new) distributor cap and the peg that goes into the coil was broken in half! So I got a new distributor cap and it's doing the same thing again: running great for a few minutes then dying, then restarting just fine and dying again.

So now, could there still be a problem with the alternator / internal voltage regulator? I'm going to go get it tested at Napa now. A friend thinks maybe the voltage regulator is letting too much electricity through which destroyed that coil peg in the distributor cap.
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Old 12-19-2011, 09:11 AM   #18
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Default Re: 1991 Honda Civic DX - incredible slew of problems

I had an igniter blow up in my distributor one time. It burned up the rod, rotor, and caught the cap on fire all at the same time. I replaced the cap and igniter and the car never gave me problems like that. The voltage regulator in the alternator keeps your car from sending too much power to the battery. I don't believe that it would have any affect on the distributor since that voltage should be regulated by your ecu and internally in the distributor. You can check the alternator output with a dmm and your car running. The voltage should be somewhere between 13.4v - 14.5v if you overcharge your battery it will cause the battery to fail faster and could possibly blow up if it gets too hot. I have never seen a battery blow up in a car but I have seen people leave battery charges on a battery too long in the shop and they blew up.
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Old 12-19-2011, 09:29 AM   #19
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Default Re: 1991 Honda Civic DX - incredible slew of problems

LOL @ getting bad advice, then asking for more bad advice on here and getting mad at people for giving (some) bad advice.
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Old 12-19-2011, 09:31 AM   #20
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Default Re: 1991 Honda Civic DX - incredible slew of problems

I had to replace the battery and alternator in my rex about a month ago. least expensive alternator i found was at oreilly's for $74.99 plus a $43.20 core charge. hope this helps...
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Old 03-28-2012, 01:33 PM   #21
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Default Re: 1991 Honda Civic DX - incredible slew of problems

Alright, still having problems.

I have replaced the alternator, as well as 12 or 13 other parts. My car is still doing the exact same thing. I took it to a mechanic yesterday and he said it was clearly a bad coil, I put the old coil back in and it ran great for a day then did the same thing. I'm thinking about getting yet ANOTHER ignition module and coil. My theory now is that the new distributor being the first part I replaced, it got fried by another faulty part which I have since replaced (I've since replaced the ENTIRE electrical system).

Anybody got any advice? I really, really don't want to scrap this car, and I feel like there's some single problem that I just haven't hit on.

Thank you!
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Old 03-28-2012, 02:04 PM   #22
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Default Re: 1991 Honda Civic DX - incredible slew of problems

it probably wouldnt hurt to check all of your ground wires for corrosion/cracking/breaks in the wires
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Old 03-28-2012, 02:10 PM   #23
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Default Re: 1991 Honda Civic DX - incredible slew of problems

I checked/tested all the wires going to the igniter, they're all fine.

Any other wires I should check?
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Old 03-28-2012, 02:29 PM   #24
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Default Re: 1991 Honda Civic DX - incredible slew of problems

Check your ground wires

Valve cover to chassis
transmission to chassis
Thermostat housing
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Old 03-28-2012, 02:39 PM   #25
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Default Re: 1991 Honda Civic DX - incredible slew of problems

Can anyone show me a guide or anything, so I know how to do that?
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