Honda Civic:

89 Honda Civic 1.5

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# 1  3/6/2010 12:59 AM

88Pontiacproblems
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Registered: 3/2/2010
Posts: 10

89 Honda Civic 1.5

Alright, let's try to fix this one.

  It started with our battery not keeping a charge.  We bought a new battery, and had the alternator checked.  The alternator checked out fine, but the new battery was still dying.  So my brother in-law replaced the distributor and coil.  He said they were draining the battery.  The car ran for three days, then my wife thought she ran out of gas.  So I brought her a gas can where she was broken down, but the car still didn't start.  We towed it home and this is what I've checked so far.

Note: Now, When I try to start the car, it turns over and will eventually start but dies instantly after starting.  It takes a lot of turning over for it to start for that one second, but after it starts and dies it seems to repeat the cycle (amount of time it takes) to start and die again.

When we first got it home, when I'd crank it, it would  crank then a weird poof sound.  It doesn't do that any more.

This is what I've done. 
I've replaced the spark plugs, still no start.  I checked the codes and there were none at first, then a code 16, so I researched that, and came to a conclusion that from constantly cranking the car over trying to start it I melted the solder on main relay.  So I re-soldered it, Still no start.  I pulled the fuel line off where it connects to the filter, turned the key on and got sprayed.  I just got done checking for spark by holding a plug connected to a wire to the block, got spark on all four. 

After cranking and cranking I take the plugs off and they appear wet, only one doesn't, but why would they be wet if they're sparking?

So, I hope you can help, my wife's on her way back from the store with a voltmeter and alligator clips.
I thought that maybe my brother in-law messed something up, but it ran for three days after he changed the distributor and coil.  Do you see any connections?  In the mean time I'm going to check the ignition coil with the  voltmeter, and plug wires (though if I'm getting spark the wires should be fine, right?).  And my buddy said if I take the distributor cap off and I crank the engine, that the rotor should turn at a steady pace, and that if it  jumps fast and then slow or is irregular than I need to replace my timing belt.

Thank you guys and looking forward to your advice, don't know how much longer my Grand Am is gonna hold up for us.

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# 2  3/6/2010 3:16 AM

TechHelp2
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Registered: 11/24/2009
Posts: 1299

Re: 89 Honda Civic 1.5

OK. Multiple stuff again.

First of all, a distributor cannot drain a battery. There is no voltage applied to the distributor unless the ignition is on. That leaves me to believe that the correct installation of the distributor should be the first thing to check, and the no-crank condition may reoccur. The timing may be off, poor connection, or who knows what.

After that is eliminated, you gotta check the basics -- spark, fuel pressure, injector pulse, and so on.

If the distributor is unrelated, and everything else checks good, I'd be looking to make sure the timing belt hasn't let go -- sheered off teeth and corrupted valve timing. Quickest way is to check the timing mark alignment at the crank and cam sprockets.

Again, it ran fine but the battery died in a few days? Replaced distributor, now it cranks but won't start? Focus on the distributor, and when you get it running, refocus on what killed the battery.

Last edited by TechHelp2 (3/6/2010 3:17 AM)


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# 3  3/6/2010 6:50 AM

88Pontiacproblems
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Registered: 3/2/2010
Posts: 10

Re: 89 Honda Civic 1.5

Well I took off the distributor cap and I saw a screw laying loose.  Turns out the rotor inset screw fell out.  So I put it back in, but it doesn't fit tight there's play in the rotor, is that how it's supposed to be?  Anyways, I put it back together and started the car it ran for a second then died.  So I took the cap back off and had my wife crank while I watched the rotor, it spins at a steady pace, but the plastic shield that's under the rotor just lays loose in there and the rotor broke off a piece of it.  I left it off, will this cause a problem?   

The cap, distributor, and coil are all new.  When I pulled the cap off I saw that the piece  on the cap that goes into the coil looked like it had a white ashy coating on it, Is that okay?

I find it hard to believe that the rotor should have a wiggle in it because the screw doesn't tighten the rotor to the shaft.  Did my brother in-law use the wrong screw is there. Is it supposed to have play in the rotor?

Do the spark plugs being wet tell you anything?  Again I tested for spark and I'm getting spark, after cranking the engine for  a while I took out a plug and it was wet.

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# 4  3/6/2010 2:58 PM

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Registered: 9/27/2008
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Re: 89 Honda Civic 1.5

The rotor should be secured tight to the shaft, and that plastic shield is secured when you install the distributor cap (don't leave it out).

Make sure the contact point and spring in the cap, which inserts into the coil, is not missing. And if it's a new cap, coil and distributor, you shouldn't be seeing a white ashey coating anywhere. With mileage that may be normal.

If the rotor screw fell out I would have to assume that was the cause of the crank but no-start, which flooded the engine. And with that corrected, you may just have to clean the plugs.


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# 5  3/19/2010 1:57 AM

88Pontiacproblems
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Registered: 3/2/2010
Posts: 10

Re: 89 Honda Civic 1.5

So I added some washers to the rotor, and got it tight.  Turns out my brother in law only replaced the coil, cap, and rotor.  I'm getting spark, but the car still won't start.  My brother in law says he thinks it's the head gasket.  My neighbor thinks it's the timing.

How could the timing have gotten off?  From the rotor screw falling out?  I'm not sure how to check the cam and sprocket to see if they're lined up.  How do I do that?  When cranking now, the car won't even attempt to start, but the poof thing is gone. 

I checked all the fuses, and they're good.  If the distributor, coil, cap, or rotor were bad, would I be getting good spark, because I am?

Thanks for your help.

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# 6  3/19/2010 12:21 PM

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Re: 89 Honda Civic 1.5

Let's take a step back. Again, if the spark plugs are wet (with gasoline) you could be just plain-old flooded. Hold the throttle wide-open while cranking, or remove and clean the plugs. If the plugs are wet with coolant, the head gasket may be the problem. Also be sure no one has rotated the distributor and changed the ignition timing, and the fuel is not contaminated.

Got a good spark, fuel pressure, and fuel is being sprayed from the injectors in the throttle body, leads us to something mechanical.

You can check compression on all cylinders with a compression gauge, and check the timing belt.

To check the timing belt remove the upper plastic cover, and then rotate the crankshaft counter-clockwise until the white timing mark on the crankshaft pulley lines up with the pointer on the lower timing belt cover. Then look at the camshaft sprocket to see if where it says "UP" is pointing straight up. If not, rotate the crankshaft 360 degrees until the white mark lines up again. At this point the engine should be at Top Dead Center of cylinder #1, "UP" on the camshaft sprocket should be pointing up, and the 2 horizontal lines on the left and right of the cam sprocket should line up perfectly with the top surface (where the valve cover meets) of the cylinder head.

If everything doesn't line up, the belt may have jumped a few teeth. This would require replacement of the belt, and confirmation of no additional valve train damage.


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# 7  4/7/2010 1:04 AM

88Pontiacproblems
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Registered: 3/2/2010
Posts: 10

Re: 89 Honda Civic 1.5

Thanks for your reply, I'm having problems getting the timing belt cover off.  I've taken the two bolts out of the top cover, it wiggles around, but I can't get it off??? 

I've got a Haynes book, and it doesn't specifically tell me how to remove the cover.  There's a section that explains how to remove the timing belt and sprockets.  It says I have to remove the engine mount, Is this necessary to take off the upper cover???

I've gotta make some progress on this vehicle.  Thanks for your help.

Another question:  If my ground or positive battery wire has wiggle in it where the wire meets the clamp, which clamps to the post, will it prevent the car from starting.  My battery's dead, all this time I've been jumping it with my pontiac, could this be preventing me from getting it started?  When I hook up the cables the car turns over as if it has full power, but I'm just fishing here. 

One last question (Not to take away from my original "most import question" about the timing cover)  my adjusting nut for my clutch cable isn't snug, it's just loose, is it supposed to be loose.  My brother in law and I changed the clutch in it, but I'm not sure how to adjust the adjuster knob???

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# 8  4/7/2010 3:09 AM

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Re: 89 Honda Civic 1.5

Thanks for your reply, I'm having problems getting the timing belt cover off.  I've taken the two bolts out of the top cover, it wiggles around, but I can't get it off?

I've got a Haynes book, and it doesn't specifically tell me how to remove the cover.  There's a section that explains how to remove the timing belt and sprockets.  It says I have to remove the engine mount, Is this necessary to take off the upper cover?

ALLDATAdiy.com shows a detailed view with complete remove/replace instructions. The last 2 parts that come off before the upper and lower timing belt covers are the engine mount and the valve cover. Although I'm pretty sure you can pry the upper cover in and out without pulling the valve cover.

Another question:  If my ground or positive battery wire has wiggle in it where the wire meets the clamp, which clamps to the post, will it prevent the car from starting.  My battery's dead, all this time I've been jumping it with my Pontiac, could this be preventing me from getting it started?  When I hook up the cables the car turns over as if it has full power, but I'm just fishing here.

If it's loose, fix it. If it's not the starting problem now, it will be down the road.

One last question (Not to take away from my original "most import question" about the timing cover)  my adjusting nut for my clutch cable isn't snug, it's just loose, is it supposed to be loose.  My brother in law and I changed the clutch in it, but I'm not sure how to adjust the adjuster knob?

There's a nut and a lock nut at the transmission end of the clutch cable -- neither should be loose. They're used to adjust the clutch release lever freeplay (13/64-1/4 inch). When correct you should also have .6 - .8 inches free travel at the pedal.


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# 9  4/9/2010 12:47 AM

88Pontiacproblems
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Registered: 3/2/2010
Posts: 10

Re: 89 Honda Civic 1.5

(Got a good spark, fuel pressure, and fuel is being sprayed from the injectors in the throttle body, leads us to something mechanical)

Okay... so I got the cover off and the belt is fine, and the marks line up.  So, I'm running through the checks again. 

Got spark on all 4 plugs.
checked my injectors with a ohmmeter and they're reading was good.

How do I check if fuel is being sprayed into the throttle body?  I don't have any fancy tools, is there any way to check the pressure without a gauge? 

While trying to start it again today, it started for half a second then died. 

Hopefully you can aide me in determining if the engine's getting fuel, the way it's supposed to

Thank you

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# 10  4/9/2010 3:16 AM

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Re: 89 Honda Civic 1.5

Previously the spark plugs were wet with fuel. Are you sure that's no longer the case?

You should be able to remove the air cleaner and look down into the throttle body with a flashlight. Then check for a visible fuel spray from the 2 injectors while cranking. Warning: ignition should be disabled and safety glasses worn.

No fuel, and you can hear the fuel pump running in the tank, then you need a fuel pressure gauge. Low pressure can be caused by a bad pump, fuel regulator, clogged filter or kinked or obstructed line.

At this point, as opposed to buying a pressure gauge, I'd suggest spending the money on diagnostic time with a good technician.


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