1999 Honda Accord Power goes off when ignition is turned on

  • 4 CYL
  • FWD
  • 109,000 MILES
The power seems to go dead (sometimes) when trying to turn the ignition on. All power to the car is gone when this happens (clock, lights etc - absolutely no power when the ignition is on). Some times the clock will come back on when the ignition key is removed, but not always.

Battery less than 1 yrs old, starter replaced last year with rebuilt. Has a remote starter and alarm.

I try disconnecting then reconnecting the battery, tapping the starter lightly with a hammer, Re-seating coil wire on starter. The power usually comes back on sometime while doing all the above, but not consistently enough to find the problem.

When the power comes back on - starter turns over normal (not like a week battery).
Do you
have the same problem?
Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010 AT 5:20 PM

1 Reply

Hi vmaxer. Thank you for the donation.

This really sounds like a battery cable issue. The next time the problem occurs, try moving the smaller black battery ground wire that bolts to the body. If you turn the headlight switch on, you will have a nice easy visual indication of when good things start to happen. If moving that wire helps, check for rust or the bolt is loose. Wiggle both large battery cables too. If one of the cable clamps are loose or dirty, you will see sparking when they try to make better contact. Don't spend a lot of time making pretty sparks. "Get 'er done". Repeated sparking can aggravate computers on the car, and surges can cause some fuses to blow when there isn't actually a problem. If the cable clamps are clean and tight, look where the cables are crimped to the clamps. Although Honda doesn't have much trouble with cables, corrosion could build up under the insulation where you can't see it. We can diagnose that later if it becomes necessary.

You can check the heavy black ground cable where it is bolted to the engine too, although that should mainly cause a cranking problem with the starter. Other lights and the radio use the smaller wire that goes to the body. A problem that is becoming more common on any brand of car is a loose red positive battery cable where it bolts to the under-hood fuse box. That connection might be under a plastic cover. You can find it by following the cable from the battery. Look for any large connectors too. If wiggling them gets things working, suspect corrosion on the terminals. Clean them with electrical contact cleaner and a small wire brush or sandpaper. The terminals were originally plated to prevent rust. Often vigorous cleaning will solve the problem, but once the plating is gone, corrosion will reappear again before long. Ask the folks at your local auto parts store for a special electrically-conductive grease that will reduce the chances of more corrosion in the future.

If you don't find the cause of the problem in the battery cables, it will be necessary to use a voltmeter or test light to take some measurements. Holler back if you know how to use them.

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Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010 AT 11:41 PM

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