1990 Honda Accord Car shakes, chugs, loses acceleration and

Tiny
MATTDAWG77
  • MEMBER
  • 1990 HONDA ACCORD
Engine Performance problem
1990 Honda Accord 4 cyl Front Wheel Drive Manual 175, xx miles

Hello,
I have a '90 Honda Accord, and the other day I was driving home from the gas station and car wash when it started chugging, and started experiencing intermittent (almost to the point of whiplash) surges in/out of power every time I pressed the gas pedal. At first I thought I may have got a bad batch of gas (4 gallons), but then the car began to lose power as everything began to dim. The car finally died altogether as I coasted into a store parking lot. It would not restart due to the dead battery (which I purchased new a week ago). After a half hour it recharged itself and restarted but then I noticed a small plume of white smoke emit from the front of the engine. I chugged it the final mile home when it died out in my driveway. The next day I put in high octane gas and gas treatment and a new fuel filter. I jumped-started the car and noticed minimal smoke and then no smoke altogether. The car ran for a few minutes before sputtering out again. Drained battery again. I had the battery tested and charged. Can a toasted alternator emit smoke? It sits in my driveway waiting for my next move. I'm afraid to take it anywhere as I may end up stranded again. Towing is expensive!
Any direction will help at this point!
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Monday, October 25th, 2010 AT 2:36 PM

5 Replies

Tiny
KHLOW2008
  • EXPERT
Hi mattdawg77,

Symptom decription indicates a fault with the charging system and it could be the alternator or wiring circuits. Was the charge indicator showing while the engine was running?

Get a test done on the charging system to confirm.

A bad alternator can result in smoke but the smell would be like something burning.
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Tuesday, October 26th, 2010 AT 1:46 PM
Tiny
MATTDAWG77
  • MEMBER
Hi KHLow2008,

Thanks for info! The last couple of times I cranked it up (since my last post), there did not seem to be any more "smoke". Now I am more looking at the dilemma of a mere alternator replacement. I had the battery charged and started her up and removed the neg battery cable. Immediately the car stopped. It didn't even bother to sputter; it simply cut out to a full stop.

No idiot lights came on while it was running. And when it DID smoke, I could not identify a smell whatsoever which now leads me to believe that it could have been steam, possibly. The day that it crapped out on me, I ran it through one of those drive-thru, high-powered car washes. Coincidence?
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Tuesday, October 26th, 2010 AT 3:05 PM
Tiny
KHLOW2008
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It could be coincidence that the alternator failed after the car wash. The alternator was already on its way out and the carwash could have expedited the process. Alternators do not go bad when going through car washes or puddles.

The smoke cuold be steam due to water remaining in the engine compartment after the car wash. Any water on radiator would produce styeam after some running. Engine would dry out faster with lesser chance of any smoke.
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Wednesday, October 27th, 2010 AT 9:07 AM
Tiny
MATTDAWG77
  • MEMBER
I tested the charging system per your advice and that gave me pretty clear direction that it was the alternator. Tested the battery with a mulitimeter and it was fine. Cranked her up and the voltage was lower AFTER the car was running. Swapped out the alternator last night and she runs like a charm! Thanks for the advice!

I did see a little bit of steam/smoke coming from the engine again. Since it rains constantly here in Seattle this time of year it may be hard to tell. I may have some type of compression check done on it just in case. Oil seems to be clean, coolant seems to be clean and no smoke blowing from tailpipe. All good signs.I think.

Thanks again for your help!
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Wednesday, October 27th, 2010 AT 9:19 AM
Tiny
KHLOW2008
  • EXPERT
You're welcomed.

If you do not have coolant losse issues, then there is nothing to worry about as you mentiuoned it being rainy season.

Any water splashed onto the radiator would result in steam when the coolant heats up and it could be quite heavy steam billowing when the cooling fans are not working.
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Wednesday, October 27th, 2010 AT 10:05 AM

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