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Old 05-27-2009, 06:26 AM   #1
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Default Engine Cuts Off While Driving (1994 Honda Civic EX)

I have been having serious trouble with my Honda Civic. I just don't know what to do. If you have any suggestions, I would greatly appreciate them. Here's what has been happening with my car (1994 Honda Civic EX with 171k miles).

Friday, April 3: This is the first time I had a problem. While I was driving, I lost power. The windshield wipers stopped working. The power steering and power brakes stopped working. I pulled over to the side of the road and just sat there trying to recover from the scare. I didn't realize I still had the car on, but approximately five minutes later the power came on again by itself. I had the car towed to a Honda dealership even though it seemed to be driving fine. After a visual inspection of the car, the Honda service center said they thought it was because I have had a distributor O-ring oil leak for so long and there is now oil in the distributor causing the sparks to die. They actually recommended that I just keep driving the car until it stops driving because to try to fix the problem might be a waste of money. The work on the distributor would be between $600-700 and they were not even sure it would fix the problem.

Sunday, April 5: This is the next time I drove my car. It started fine. I lost power driving on the highway but it came back on immediately. I parked and went to church for two hours. Then I drove to a friend's house for lunch. After lunch, my car would not start. It would sound like it was going to start but then it would just die. I tried numerous times and tried pumping the gas. After about a 15 minute break, I tried starting it with my foot completely pressing down on the gas pedal. The engine revved and I threw it into Drive and took off. The car died at the first stop sign in my friend's neighborhood but started right back up. I was able to drive about 40 minutes home without any problems.

On Weds, the fuel filter was changed. The car started but I did not try to drive it.

Sunday, April 12: This is the second day I tried driving my car since the problem started. I drove to church without any problems. After church, the car started on the first try but it took longer than normal. I drove to a friend's house for lunch without any problems. After lunch, the car wouldn't start. I tried repeatedly with my foot on the gas pedal. At last, it turned on with the engine revving strongly, and I threw it into Drive and made the 40 minute trip home.

I'd like to see if it is possible to narrow down what could be causing the problem. If some of the potential fixes are inexpensive, I might just try them to see if they will work, like for example, replacing the spark plugs. Also, I'd like to find out if I should keep trying to start my car with my foot on the gas pedal and how long I can go on like this. I haven't driven my car since April 12because I'm afraid at some point it just won't start again and I'll be stuck who knows where. Buying another car now is not an option.

Thanks for thinking through this with me.

Lisa
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Old 05-27-2009, 07:30 AM   #2
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Default Re: Engine Cuts Off While Driving (1994 Honda Civic EX)

Dont pay 600-700 to swap out the distributor, buy one for 20-30 dollars and have a friend install it if your not good with cars, maybe invest in changing the altenator aswell but starting the car with your foot on the gas could put a toll on your car after awhile, and slamming it into drive at a high rpm could ruin your transmission then you will be in even bigger problem. Also when was the last time you gave your car a full tune up? on all the basics
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Old 05-27-2009, 07:56 AM   #3
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Default Re: Engine Cuts Off While Driving (1994 Honda Civic EX)

Do the dash lights go out when the car cuts off and dies? If so, then the ignition switch needs to be changed.

Otherwise it could be the alternator.
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Old 05-27-2009, 08:25 AM   #4
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Default Re: Engine Cuts Off While Driving (1994 Honda Civic EX)

Sounds like a combination of a few things. Check the battery connections, make sure they are free of corrosion and on nice and tight. Then have the battery and alternator checked to see if they are charging and holding charge. Then give that baby a tune up. A bad distributor is not gonna kill the power. Good luck i hop that helps.
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Old 05-27-2009, 08:34 AM   #5
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Default Re: Engine Cuts Off While Driving (1994 Honda Civic EX)

As mentioned, if you lose power and the dash lights turn off, then check the ignition switch.

In addition, does the CEL remain on steady when the key is turned to ON(II)?

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Old 05-27-2009, 08:41 AM   #6
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Default Re: Engine Cuts Off While Driving (1994 Honda Civic EX)

Check the PGMFI relay.
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Old 05-27-2009, 10:13 AM   #7
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Default Re: Engine Cuts Off While Driving (1994 Honda Civic EX)

A big thanks to all who have replied so far. Yes, I'm pretty sure the dash lights have gone out when the engine has cut off. I have replaced the air filter and fuel filter and had the oil changed recently (and back in November a friend checked on the spark plugs which were overdue but looked new), but I've neglected the other tune up steps. So I will start there.

Okay, I have a couple of questions since I am clearly not all that great with cars. From RonJ's post, how do I know if the CEL remains on steady if the key is turned on? Of course, it would help if I knew what a CEL is. Also, from NVTurbo's message, what is a PGMFI relay?

Again, many thanks!
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Old 05-27-2009, 10:21 AM   #8
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Default Re: Engine Cuts Off While Driving (1994 Honda Civic EX)

Click here to learn about your CEL.

This sounds to me like a bad igniter unit in the distributor. If so, the engine won't have spark at the plugs only when the engine won't start. Click here to learn how to check for spark.

If the main relay is the problem, you won't hear the low humming noise of the fuel pump for 2 seconds when you turn the key to ON(II). Again, this test is done only when the engine won't start.
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Old 05-27-2009, 11:53 AM   #9
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Default Re: Engine Cuts Off While Driving (1994 Honda Civic EX)

I just tried to turn on my car for the first time in 45 days. I was out of the country for a month and in denial the rest of the time. :-) When I turn the key to ON (II), I get absolutely nothing (no lights, no sounds, nothing). When I turn it to ON (III), it makes a wretched sound although I can hear the car trying to turn on but it doesn't it.

Something tells me now that a tune up isn't going to do it. Am I wrong? (I really hope so). What should my first steps be? I recently moved to this area (Alexandria, Va) and I don't have a mechanic. I've used Honda dealership service centers a lot in the past, but I always negotiate ahead of time, which will be impossible if I don't know what is wrong and I have to tow the car there.
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Old 05-27-2009, 11:55 AM   #10
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Default Re: Engine Cuts Off While Driving (1994 Honda Civic EX)

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Originally Posted by Please Help! View Post
I just tried to turn on my car for the first time in 45 days. I was out of the country for a month and in denial the rest of the time. :-) When I turn the key to ON (II), I get absolutely nothing (no lights, no sounds, nothing). When I turn it to ON (III), it makes a wretched sound although I can hear the car trying to turn on but it doesn't it.

Something tells me now that a tune up isn't going to do it. Am I wrong? (I really hope so). What should my first steps be? I recently moved to this area (Alexandria, Va) and I don't have a mechanic. I've used Honda dealership service centers a lot in the past, but I always negotiate ahead of time, which will be impossible if I don't know what is wrong and I have to tow the car there.
Remove the battery and have it checked at an auto parts store. It needs to be charged or replaced. When you have a good battery installed, again initiate the tests I described in my previous post.
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Old 05-27-2009, 12:54 PM   #11
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Default Re: Engine Cuts Off While Driving (1994 Honda Civic EX)

The CEL is commonly known as the Check Engine Light. It is a little light near the speedometer that looks like a miniature picture of your car's engine. If it is on then the car's computer may have some codes stored in it telling your mechanic what is wrong.

It sounds like you are well overdue for a basic tuneup. Replace the spark plugs, plug wires, distributor cap, distributor rotor, distributor o-ring, and such. It won't necessarily solve all of your problems but it wouldn't hurt.

But with your engine cutting out on the car that could be an ignition relay, the distributor, or the battery/alternator. Start with the ignition relay as it is not too expensive and can be checked to see if it is still working without replacing it. The alternator and battery can be checked by your local autozone or dealership. A failing battery/alternator could cause the stalling out of your car but it wouldn't really benefit from stomping on the gas and dumping your transmission to get the car going.

You likely have some electrical problem. I would start with the electrics definitely.
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Old 05-27-2009, 03:14 PM   #12
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Default Re: Engine Cuts Off While Driving (1994 Honda Civic EX)

A bad distributor/ignitor won't cause the car to lose the dash lights. It's either ignition switch or alternator (I'm thinking ignition switch because if it was a bad alternator the car wouldn't have started so many times since the initial problem occured).
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Old 05-27-2009, 04:05 PM   #13
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Default Re: Engine Cuts Off While Driving (1994 Honda Civic EX)

Thanks everyone for helping me to narrow down the problem!
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Old 11-29-2011, 07:10 PM   #14
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Post Re: Engine Cuts Off While Driving (1994 Honda Civic EX)

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Thanks everyone for helping me to narrow down the problem!
Hi,

have you settle with the problem? Just want to know how do u settle it?

tq.
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Old 11-30-2011, 03:53 AM   #15
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Default Re: Engine Cuts Off While Driving (1994 Honda Civic EX)

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Hi,

have you settle with the problem? Just want to know how do u settle it?

tq.
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Old 12-03-2011, 02:09 AM   #16
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Default Re: Engine Cuts Off While Driving (1994 Honda Civic EX)

battery/alternator..in my case my ECU was burned for some reason..took me 4 days to noticed it..
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