1997 Honda Accord 1997 Honda Accord LX Dies Unexpectantly W

Tiny
OSUSKATES
  • MEMBER
  • 1997 HONDA ACCORD
  • 4 CYL
  • FWD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 134,980 MILES
Problem Summary:

The car unexpectantly dies within ½ - 1 mile from my house after I start it up first thing in the morning and start driving down the road. The problem is random. It hasn’t done this since I replaced the ignition control module (ICM) on February 8th, but died twice today (February 21th). I have taken about 10 or more trips with the car during this period. Some times I have gone 1-2 days between driving the car. Once I get past the 1 mile mark, without stopping at a nearby grocery, corner store, etc. It runs fine and will run fine the rest of the day. I’ve never had it die after the initial first start of the day *and* within the 1st mile of operation or stopping at a close market/store.

Additionally, the car idles under 500 RPMs (usually around 400 RPMs). According to my Haynes manual, the idle speed should be between 650 and 750 rpms with IAC valve connected. Also, there is no check engine light before or after the car dies unexpectantly.

So, now I’m wondering what I should try next to resolve this unsafe issue. Others have reported their cars dying even after running for a long time, but mine so far has only died within the 1st mile after starting it up after sitting overnight *or* for a day or so.

What would people on this forum suggest I troubleshoot next or try replacing?

Car: 2.2 liter (4 cylinder) NON-VTEC engine. The faulty ignition starter switch has been replaced (in 2002) that was part of a Honda recall. Local Honda dealership has tested this part and confirmed it is working properly.

Details:

On January 27, 2010 I purchased a used 1997 Honda Accord LX that had about 128,400 miles on it. The car had no maintenance records with it, so I was purchasing it “blindly." When I was initially looking at the car, I started it up and let it run in the dealer lot for a few minutes and a couple of times it stalled while I was checking out the various functions of the car (A/C, door locks, radio, windows, etc.). The dealer chalked it up to the after market car alarm system installed and my extensive testing of the various peripherals. Due to the fact that the car wouldn’t start while the alarm system was engaged, I thought he was right and we just armed/de-armed the system to get the car to start up again. I took the car for a test drive had an independent Honda dealership do a full inspection of the car (worthless in the end) and everything checked out so I purchased the car - which was in excellent shape visually (inside and out).

Well about two days later the problem with the car not running smoothly started to crop up again. I left my house and drove about ¼ mile down the road to pick up some food before heading to a friend’s house and was in the store about 5 minutes and when I returned to my car, it started fine but stalled and it took me about 3-4 minutes and several tries to get it started and idling correctly. After this it ran fine, but I noticed while I was driving down the road, the tachometer jumped all around for a few seconds before “settling down" (this only happened once). The car ran fine the rest of the night.

The next day the same thing happened when I went to purchase some fuel injection cleaner (thinking this might be the problem) at the local auto parts store that is ¼ mile from my house. When I got out of the store, I couldn’t get the car started initially. It took several tries before I was able to get it running again.

The next instance of dying unexpectantly came on a rainy day right after I left my house. Within 1 mile of my house the car unexpectantly died while doing about 40 MPH. I couldn’t get the car restarted, so I had it towed to the dealer I bought it from. We were unable to reproduce the problem, so we expected the alarm system might be faulty causing the engine to cut off unexpectantly. So we disconnected it and I said I would monitor the problem and report back.

About 2 days later, it died after I turned into the parking lot of the grocery store down the street (about ¾ of a mile down the road). I was unable to get it to stay running each time after I got it started (about twice). I tried holding the RPMs at 2000, but after about 2-3 seconds of running, it would just die cold. I pushed it to the parking area, and called my mechanic and was going to have him listen to problem, and it started up just fine and ran fine.

After this I turned to the Internet and found several others who were having similar problems with their 1990 vintage Hondas. Many of the experienced Honda techs suggested the ICM module and external coil pack had gone bad (an apparently common problem with Honda Accords from this time period). So, on Feb 8th I replaced the ICM module (the old part was an original Hitachi ICM with the Japanese factory stamp on it) and put silicone heat transfer paste from Radio Shack on the module as well as the heat transfer plate.

The car has run great with no problems until this morning (February 21th) when it died twice within 1 mile from my house. Both times I was able to get the car to start right up unlike previous times when I had to wait 5+ minutes to get it to start again or try repeatedly for a few minutes. I even let the car warm up for a few minutes in the driveway of my house (this has never made a difference in the ongoing problem).

Update 10-9-2010:

Well, I have more concrete evidence to report on my particular problem. It looks like it is weather (temperature specifically) related. I haven't had one single mysterious stall since April/May when the weather here in Florida warmed up (above 80 degrees). Yesterday morning, October 6th, the thermometer said 71 degrees and after I started driving it down the road it stalled again. Two stalls within the first mile on October 7th. I drove the car in the late afternoon on October 8th after the temperature had warmed up, and the car did not die at all.

I looked at the circuit board for the fuel main relay yesterday (October 8th) and did not see any cracked solder joints which can cause problems. Anyone have any ideas on what parts might be affected by the cold morning temperatures?
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Thursday, October 14th, 2010 AT 3:55 PM

9 Replies

Tiny
KHLOW2008
  • EXPERT
Hi osuskates,

Thank you for the donation.

Recheck the PGM-FI main relay. For the newer model, if the relays are concealed whereby you are not able to see the coils, you might not see any cracks. Any cracks on the soldered joints might be too minute to be discernible so resoldering is the best way to eliminate the problem.

When engine could not be started after stalling, check what is missing, fuel or ignition sparks.

As to the low idling speed, get the throttle body and IAC cleaned and readjust the idling speed to specs.
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Thursday, October 14th, 2010 AT 5:04 PM
Tiny
OSUSKATES
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KHLow2008,

Thank you for the reply. I'm going to get a hold of a soldering gun and re-solder each of the joints with new solder. I put my hand on the PGM-FI main relay unit each time I started the car and felt the three clicks described on various websites consistently. They said if you feel these three clicks consistently, then the main relay isn't the issue. I've been told that it has two circuits, and if the one that "talks" to the computer/ECM unit is bad, then the car will die immediately, not just "sputter" to a stop.

Not sure if I have the equipment to check the fuel or spark. I have tried to leave the car with a mechanic overnight, but he was unable to reproduce the problem. He even hooked up a fuel pressure gauge and said everything was normal.

I'll report back when I get the PGM-FI main replay cleaned up and put back into place.

Any other things I should check? Remember, I know for a fact that it is temperature related. The cold weather this fall has caused it to start acting up again. Some have suggested moisture can get into a cracked distributor cap, but mine looks fine.

Thanks,
Steve
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Thursday, October 14th, 2010 AT 7:58 PM
Tiny
KHLOW2008
  • EXPERT
Not likely to be moisture in the distributor cap because if that is the cause, the engine is likely to misfire or have lack of power when cold.

To check the sparks, pull out the spark plug wires from any of the cylinders and attach a spark plug to it. Fround it to the engine and get someone to crank the engine for you.

The Engine Coolant Temperature sensor is another item that would cause difficult starting and related to temperature.

Fuel pressure could be normal when it is operating or starting correctly, but how about when it failed to work?
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Friday, October 15th, 2010 AT 9:01 AM
Tiny
OSUSKATES
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10-15-2010 Update:

This morning I let the car warm up for approximately 4 minutes before driving it. I then pulled out of my driveway and drove around the less busy roads around my house and I got only about 1/4 of a mile down the road before it stalled. For the past couple of days I have just started it up and drove (without the warmup period) and got almost 1 mile down the road before it stalled.

So, this tells me there is something about a warmup that makes it stall. I then have to let it sit for about 1 minute 20 seconds or so before it will start up again. If I try starting it up right away it will just crank and not start.

I'll see if I can get help checking the spark after it dies. I'll have to get a mechanic's help for the fuel pressure. I'll also check my Hayes manual and see where the engine coolant temp. Sensor is located.

Solder gun is on its way.

Thanks,
Steve
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Friday, October 15th, 2010 AT 9:46 AM
Tiny
KHLOW2008
  • EXPERT
ECT is located under the distributor on cylinder head. It is next to the temperature sending guage.
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Friday, October 15th, 2010 AT 9:51 AM
Tiny
OSUSKATES
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Any way of testing the ECT gauge, or do you just replace it?

Thanks,
Steve
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Friday, October 15th, 2010 AT 2:34 PM
Tiny
KHLOW2008
  • EXPERT
ECT is tested using scan tool to check the temperature readings. Usually a trouble code would be triggerred if there is any fault with the ECT.
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Saturday, October 16th, 2010 AT 7:18 AM
Tiny
OSUSKATES
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KHLow2008,

I just got around to resoldering all of the joints within the PGM-FI main relay unit yesterday (Nov. 18th), and it started fine after I completed the job. When I started the car this morning (Nov. 19th), I let it warm up for a few minutes, and somewhere around the 4-5 minute mark, it died as it sat parked. I waited 2 minutes and 30 seconds, and it started right up. So, the PGM-FI main relay unit has been ruled out as a contributor to the problem. What can I check next?

Thanks,
Steve
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Friday, November 19th, 2010 AT 8:44 PM
Tiny
KHLOW2008
  • EXPERT
Check the fuel pressure when it stalled. Problem could be a failing fuel pump or its circuit causing it to stall.

When engine stalled, note of all the dash indicator lights comes on.

If dash indicator lights do not come on, it could be a faulty ignition switch.
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Saturday, November 20th, 2010 AT 11:53 AM

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