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Sputtering And Croaking Honda

Q. Hello, and thank you very much for posting a much needed and appreciated help offer.

First: I have a 1989 Honda Accord. Model SEI
Programmed fuel injection/12 valve
Automatic transmission-Power steering/Air conditioning
I think it's a 2.0 engine but I'm not sure.

My ongoing problem is this: When I try to start the car, it will at times just sputter, and then die. I must then sit there and wait several minutes, and most times, it will then start. This can happen anytime. When I first try to start it in the morning, when I pull in for gas and then try to restart, just anytime at all. There are times I can go for a couple of weeks and this won't happen. Then out of the blue, so to speak, it will again intermittently refuse to start . Neither myself or the other men in the family can make heads or tails of this. I would love to fix this headache and would be indebted to you for a solution. I thank you in advance for whatever advice you can give.


A. This is the type of problem where I would look for a possible pattern. Does this only happen when it's raining or very damp out? If it does, I would look at the ignition system. You could very well have bad ignition wires or cracks in the distributor cap. This is easy enough to test. Get a spray bottle and fill it with water. Start your car and spray the distributor cap and ignition wires while the car is running. Wet it down good. If the engine starts to breakdown or you see sparks, you found your problem.

The other thing I would look at is fuel pressure. A fuel injected vehicle needs from 35 to 45 psi of fuel pressure to run right. To check this you will need a fuel pressure tester. It goes in line between the fuel pump and fuel injectors. In the fuel pump there is a check valve to maintain this pressure when the engine is not running. If the fuel pressure drops, say over night, then the pump must build up the pressure while the engine is cranking. This would give you the sputtering type of start you are describing.

The three most likely causes of fuel pressure bleed down is a bad fuel pump check valve, a leaking injector(s) or a leaking fuel line. Since it seems to be happening fairly quickly, I would think the more likely possibilities are a sticking check valve or a fuel leak. You can visually inspect the lines for a fuel leak and if you find one, get it fixed immediately!! There are few things more dangerous than a high pressure fuel leak. I had a black BMW 530I come into the shop with just such a leak. It was white before the line started leaking.

If you decide to get a fuel pressure tester and install it, look at it before you start your car. if it reads zero and exhibits the symptoms, and it will, then you have the problem. if it reads above 35 psi and still exhibits the symptoms, then the problem lies elsewhere. At this point, the only other thing I could recommend is taking it in to a shop that can diagnosis it further.

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