1988 honda accord LX starting problem and loss of power

Discussion in 'Accord' started by stretchuhoncho, Dec 22, 2005.

  1. Hi everyone. This is my first time on a user group, so please bear
    with me.

    I love my 1988 accord LX, but have two problems with it lately. The
    symptoms are:

    1. on a cold day (say <40 deg F), it will start great, run for about 15
    seconds, then die.
    It will then almost start, doing the same thing, and get progressively
    worse each time I try, until it just does not fire at all. If I keep
    trying, after 5 or 10 minutes, I can sually get it to start. It does
    not _always_ give me this starting trouble on cold mornings, only
    sometimes (hence my trouble diagnosing the problem).

    I have already tried lots of dry gas, and new plugs. I also found, on
    an internet site, the suggestion to replace the distributor ignitor,
    which I did. I thought for a while that the new ignitor had fixed it,
    but now the problem is back.

    2. In what I perceive to be a separate problem (but it might not be),
    the car will run great, but after an hour or more of running at say >40
    mi/hr, the car will suddenly start to buck and lose power. It usually
    seems like it is about to die totally, but keeps sputtering along. I
    usually just keep things calm, and try to keep the revs up, and the
    problem goes away, in something like 3 to 10 minutes.

    I had a similar problem a few years ago (especially on cold, rainy
    conditions), and I found on an internet site the suggestion to check
    the vacuum diverter that sends warm air up to the carb from the exhaust
    manifold. I checked that, and it was not the diaphram, but the vacuum
    line leading into it that was bad. That fixed it. Now, a few years
    later, the symptoms are similar (but moist weather does not seem to be
    related). I replaced the two fuel filters a few years ago, plugs and
    air fileter recently, ignition wires a few years ago (gen honda).

    The car is in great shape. Burns no oil, 213 k miles, 30-35 mpg. I
    love it. But if I can't fix it soon, my wife will force me to give it
    up. Please help!


    Does anyone know:
    Are these problems related?
    Any ideas on what each might be?
    stretchuhoncho, Dec 22, 2005
  2. stretchuhoncho

    Elle Guest

    Until some of the pros see your message, some things to

    How old is the ignition coil?

    How old is the battery?

    I wouldn't expect genuine Honda ignition wires to go bad
    within a few years, but still: Have you checked their
    resistance lately? Should be under 15k ohms each. Looked at
    them with the car running in the dark?

    Carburetor ever been cleaned?

    See also http://www.tegger.com/hondafaq/faq.html#startrun
    for more ideas about your Honda's starting/running problem.
    Elle, Dec 22, 2005
  3. stretchuhoncho

    Remco Guest

    It would be impossible to say for sure, but it could have something to
    do with fuel delivery. I am not excluding spark or air, though, since
    we don't know anything yet.

    Perhaps power to the pump disappears periodically, the line is clogged,
    fuel pressure of not right or the pump is not working right.
    Next time it happens, see if smacking the plastic panel near your left
    knee helps. The main relay (switches power to the fuel pump) is under
    that panel and is notorious for making bad contact.
    Is the problem worse with an empty tank? I ask because the fuel pump is
    cooled by being immersed in gas (I think that is the case with Hondas
    also). Sometimes older pumps start misbehaving when they aren't getting
    proper cooling.

    Look at www.tegger.com and check out the no start symptoms described to
    see which matches your condition best. Then report back with your

    Remco, Dec 22, 2005
  4. stretchuhoncho

    Remco Guest

    Good point - Forgot that an 88 is a carbed car and may not have the
    components I described.
    OP, Follow Elle's advice.
    Remco, Dec 22, 2005
  5. Thanks for the tips. I'll wait until it won't start in the morning and
    then get my wife to come out and crank it for me while I check things
    out. I looked at the www.tegger.com web page. It looks very good and
    is a great reminder for me. Thanks for the site. I knew all of that,
    but have forgotten it. Why? Because I have a 2-year old, so it's hard
    to get my wife away from taking care of him to come out and crank the
    engine for me. On my last car that I worked on a lot (a 1971 Sabb 99),
    I could hot-wire the starter so I could crank it myself while under the
    hood; with this car, I have not worked on it enough to have figured out
    how to do that.

    By the way, how does the pcv valve come out of this car? It looks to
    me like it is in a u-shaped hose just in front of and below the bracket
    that holds the air cleaner to the valve cover. It looks like if I take
    the whole air cleaner housing off I'll have good access to it--but I
    can't really see how it is attached. It looks like it sticks into the
    block or intake manifold or something, with a hose attached to the
    other end. I have not changed that in at least five years, and I am
    sure that I should put a new one in. Again, thanks a lot for helping
    me out.
    stretchuhoncho, Dec 23, 2005
  6. stretchuhoncho

    Elle Guest

    It's best to have the new one in your hand while you're
    looking for the old one.

    I don't think it's the U-shaped hose at which you're
    looking. See the drawing of part #18 at


    Also, www.autozone.com has a free repair guide for the 1988
    Accord. Follow the pointers at the site. There should be a
    description of the PCV system there, possibly with photos or

    Way to chase down those possible vacuum leaks.

    I don't see a grommet attaching to the PCV valve in the
    drawing, but if you find one, replace it, too. They can leak
    with age, as you may know.

    Not sure if there's any interference to remove to get to the
    On most (many?) cars, the PCV valve vents gases from the
    crankcase (via a breather chamber, which tends to be located
    about mid-engine height; lower than the PCV valve; higher
    than the oil pan) to the intake manifold. It does on my 91
    Civic and I think most of the other Hondas I've looked at in
    drawings. So look for pipes connected thusly.
    Elle, Dec 23, 2005
  7. stretchuhoncho

    SoCalMike Guest

    how about the distributor cap and rotor? OEM, of course. and id check
    out the condition of the insides- oil leaks, dust, "red dust", etc...
    SoCalMike, Dec 23, 2005
  8. Again, thanks for the tips! And thanks for directing me to the
    majestichonda site. Someone else (actually another honda dealer)
    turned me on to it already, but had I not known about it, your
    direction there would have done it.
    Another generally good tip! I have had the new pcv in my garage for
    several years now, so I know what this one looks like.
    I mis-spoke. I meant that it looked to me like the pcv might be
    located _under_ , i.e., one end sticking into, the u-shaped hose.
    According to the exploded view on the very useful majestic site, it
    does look like the pcv sticks into a u-shaped hose (#8), so I will feel
    better about proceding! My official honda shop manual showed a generic
    view of the pcv and its hoses--which does not look like mine, and it
    threw me off.

    Thanks for the tip about the autozone site. I did not know that one,
    and it is great!
    I checked it out, and it is very helpful. In fact, their photos (fig 2
    and fig 3) at

    show exactly the location and configuration of my pcv. Great!
    Fig. 3 shows the u-shaped hose--after the air cleaner bracket has been
    removed! (one can't see it too well with the bracket on.).
    In my car then, I will have to take off the air cleaner housing (or at
    least the bracket that goes from the air cleaner to the valve cover),
    the latter of which is simple.

    Thanks for the tip about the grommet. I did not think of that, but it
    makes a lot of sense to me.

    I think the suggestions here have been very good. Thank you all.
    stretchuhoncho, Dec 23, 2005
  9. Dear SoCalMike--

    Thanks a lot for your tip. It's easy to forget the obvious things, so
    it's nice to be gently reminded! Upon your prompting, I checked my
    parts receipts, and I see that I replaced them when I replaced the TEC
    vacuum diaphram about 1 1/2 years ago. Of course, they could still be
    bad. I probably have spare old ones around, so I could put them on and
    check things out (if only this problem would stop being so
    My main problem in all of this is patience. I lack it. I don't feel
    like working on the car now, but I need it working. I used to work on
    my car(s) a lot, but haven't so much in the past 10 years (ever since I
    started buying recent model Japanese cars which don't seem to require
    as much repair work!) The encouragement from all of you is very
    stretchuhoncho, Dec 23, 2005
  10. Dear Remco--

    Your tips about the fuel pump are very interesting. My wife seemed to
    think the loss of power and bucking problem at highway speeds was
    correlated with the tank being less than half full. (Unfortunately, I
    probably told her that although she might have a point, I could not
    think of why the gas level would matter!) Even though my car has a
    carb, would all of your thoughts about the fuel pump still apply? The
    carb need gas too!

    Thanks for taking the time to give me your help.
    stretchuhoncho, Dec 23, 2005
  11. stretchuhoncho

    Elle Guest

    snip for brevity

    Finally someone besides myself has peered into Autozone's
    fantastic online free repair manuals! It has manuals for
    Hondas 1995 and earlier, among other makes of car. They are
    as detailed as the modern Chilton's series, which from my
    reading replicate at least a lot of the Helm manuals. It's
    good to have your review on the record.

    Good luck.
    Elle, Dec 23, 2005
  12. stretchuhoncho

    Misterbeets Guest

    I would replace the fuel pump unless it has under 100 K mi. They're
    only about a hundred bucks. I had one wear out, and present
    intermittent bucking.
    Misterbeets, Dec 26, 2005
  13. stretchuhoncho

    Remco Guest

    (I think you posted this a couple of days ago -- sorry, I must have
    missed it, because I didn't see it until just now)

    If it has an electric fuel pump and that pump is indeed located inside
    the tank, it is one suspect that could cause your issues. See if the
    problem consistently goes away with a full tank -- if so, chances are
    your pump is having some issues.

    To see if it is a power issue to the pump, you could clip a small
    lightbulb with some wires attached across the power leads to the pump.
    Put the bulb someplace where you can easily see it (like from your rear
    view mirror).
    Since your problem is intermittent, next time you are having problems,
    make sure that the bulb is indeed lit. If it is lit, you know it isn't
    the power to the pump.

    Pumps do go bad, but I'd hate for you to shotgun replace it without
    knowing for sure and here's my reason:

    A friend of mine was complaining that intermittently his car (saab or
    volvo, I forgot) would start bucking, lose power and then be fine
    again. First we replaced his filter as that is cheap and often the
    When it didn't fix it, we figured it must be a bad pump or pressure
    regulator. The injectors were fine, we had determined. Spark was great.
    His would actually die faster on a full tank, which makes sense in
    Totally by accident, we found that the gas cap was supposed to be
    vented. He had somehow put another cap on (possibly at a gas station,
    left by someone else) it that did fit but wasn't vented and caused the
    car to stumble after it had been driven a while.

    That your problem is related to the gas cap is a long shot, but I am
    just illustrating that with this swedish car we initially thought it
    was related to having an intermittent fuel pump (hence my reluctance to
    tell you to replace it).

    Have we for for sure determined that your problem is a fuel delivery
    problem? Non spark is easier to check for.

    Remco, Dec 26, 2005
  14. Dear Mister Beets:

    Thanks for your response. My car has 221k miles and is going strong.
    The fuel pump has never been replaced. I don't know if you followed
    the thread, but I had another problem, which I don't know is related.
    On starting, the car sometimes starts, runs great--for about 10
    seconds, then dies, after which it won't start (although if I keep
    trying, I can usually get it to catch). The other day, when it would
    not start, I finally had someone to crank while I checked the spark
    (which looked fine). I then shot some starting fluid straight down the
    throat of the carb, and it started up beautifully. That the starting
    problem is a fuel problem.

    Thanks for your input.
    stretchuhoncho, Dec 28, 2005
  15. Dear Remco:

    Thanks again for your input. I am pretty sure it has an electric fuel
    pump since I have never seen one under the hood in all the times I have
    been under there. I'll look into this suggestion.

    Do you recall my other problem? On starting, the car sometimes
    starts, runs great--for about 10 seconds, then dies, after which it
    won't start (although if I keep trying, I can usually get it to catch).
    The other day, when it would not start, I finally had someone to crank
    while I checked the spark (which looked fine). I then shot some
    starting fluid straight down the throat of the carb, and it started up
    beautifully. That the starting problem is a fuel problem. Maybe
    they are related.

    stretchuhoncho, Dec 28, 2005
  16. stretchuhoncho

    Remco Guest

    It could be related -- if your car has a main relay, that can indeed be
    a symtom of having a bad main relay. Look at the tegger.com site and
    see if the main relay problem describes what's happening to you.

    Tie a small lightbulb or voltmeter across the fuel pump and see if you
    have power when starting and running. It would be that the power is
    fine when starting (actually priming the pump), but then drops out when
    the car starts running.
    A main relay can be repaired under most circumstances as they are prone
    to having dry solder contacts -- also described on Tegger.com.

    Hope you get it fixed soon.
    Remco, Dec 28, 2005
  17. stretchuhoncho

    pabloonya Guest

    im having a problem starting my hondaaccord lx before it kept on turning
    over and would not start i changed the distibiror and the points i think
    at least that what the place i took it to said. now its doing the same
    thing. i looked at the spark plugs and they were black and burnt out do u
    think changing them would help. any help in this matter would help thank
    u Pabloonya
    pabloonya, Dec 28, 2005
  18. I thought only fuel-injected Hondas had main relays? This Accord in
    question has a carburetor.
    High Tech Misfit, Dec 28, 2005
  19. stretchuhoncho

    Remco Guest

    What year? It has points?
    Go to www.tegger.com and see how closely your no-start condition
    matches the descriptions. It also has somethings to try.
    Then return here with your findings.

    Remco, Dec 29, 2005
  20. stretchuhoncho

    mmdir2005 Guest

    Oh the same old Honda starting problem. I posted starting problem
    fews time before. Ok all the starting problem from Main Relay, Fuel
    pump, starter,
    I did not believe my worst starting problem was on fault alarm system.
    My car did not start in the morning all the time in past 3 or 4 yr. I
    never find out what
    the real problem was. Someone suggested changed the Main Relay so I did
    I accidently discovered I had the fault alarm starting system that
    the car not to start up in the morning. See before the starter to run,
    the alarm system must check on
    right. I got the false alarm system check. I luckily find out where the
    alarm problem coming from.
    now finally all the starting nagging problem is gone. The car starts
    all the time first try in the morning.
    My point is this: look for any fault alarm system.
    mmdir2005, Jan 1, 2006
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