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My car doesn´t start or has other problems: troubleshooting

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My car doesn´t start or has other problems: troubleshooting

Postby el_jelly » Fri Sep 12, 2008 8:56 am

My car doesn't start: why and what can be done

Since many people are having starting problems lately I made up this using info scattered everywhere including this forum, my experience and manuals. :)

Sooner or later it will happen, your car doesn't starts. Maybe it gave you some warning previously that it would take vacations from you or maybe it was something sudden but in any case, in our cars there are some common causes for it to happen. And don´t get frustrated, it happens to everyone and ours are 20+ years old ones so, problems are expected.

The first and best advice: if the engine rotates (you hear it turning and trying to start) and it doesn't starts then don´t continue to do it on and on. You can damage your starter or drain the battery and then you will have another big problem. Although I tried to get some very precise info, I can´t guarantee that the following are the exact causes for your car problem. Now let´s go...

Problem: Engine will not rotate when attempting to start.

Probable causes:
- Battery terminal connections loose or corroded. Try to move them and check again. Baking soda diluted in some water or plain coca cola can get rid of some of the corrosion and help it start.
- Battery discharged or faulty. If you can´t get your headlights on or they are very dim this could be the cause. If you have a multimeter check the voltage in the terminals, it should be way more than 12 V.
- In automatic transmission equipped cars the tranny is not completely engaged in PARK. If the tranny has problems try it in Neutral. I have seen this so many times...don't know why but women are prone to do this ;D
- In manual transmission equipped cars the clutch is not completely depressed, if the tranny is in first. Try to press the pedal or put the tranny in neutral.
- Broken, loose or disconnected wiring in the starting circuit. Check with multimeter to see if the starter is getting 12 V at its terminals when the key is in the ON position.
- Starter motor pinion jammed in flywheel ring gear.
- Starter motor solenoid faulty.
- Starter motor faulty. In this case, as in the previous try to hit the starter with something like a stick, a ratchet, etc. and try to start again. In most cases this will work, however after some time you will be beat the hell out of the starter and it won´t work anymore...time to take it out dude.
- Ignition switch faulty. Sometimes you can find burn wires on the wires or maybe loose connectors.
- Flywheel teeth worn or broken.
- Blown fuses in the inside fuse box or in the engine fuse box. Although a long shot on this troubleshooting, simple things like this can be the main cause.

Problem: Engine rotates but will not start. Or engine starts but stops immediately.

Probable causes:
- Fuel tank empty. Are you sure the fuel gauge is working? When was the last time you added some fuel? Driving around with empty tanks is for losers, try to have more than 1/4 tank or better take a walk or take the bus.
- Faulty main relay. Common symptom is the car starts sometimes and others not, then almost every time it won´t start until finally doesn't start anymore. You can take it out and replace it or repair it (if possible).
- Leaking fuel injectors or leaking fuel lines. This sometimes is easy to discover because of the odor.
- Faulty carburetor, fuel pump, pressure regulator or some other component in the fuel system. When you put the key in the ON position you should hear a whirring sound for about 2 seconds, that's the fuel pump pushing fuel to the engine. If you can´t hear that it´s probably bad, sometimes (it worked for me) if you get down the car and hit the fuel tank hard the fuel pump may start to work, but it wont last long, probably less than your last date. :D
- Fuel not reaching the fuel rail or carburetor. You may hear the fuel pump working but if it´s not giving enough pressure the car won´t start. Also if the fuel lines are clogged or broken you will not get enough fuel. The best way to check this is with a fuel pressure gauge, either take the car to a shop or a mech to check it or buy some gauge like the B&M one that is mounted permanently over the filter.
- Battery almost discharged (engine rotates very slowly).
- Battery terminal connections loose or corroded.
- Ignition components damp. If the dizzy cap is broken and water gets inside the car will not start.
- Worn, faulty or incorrectly gaped spark plugs. Faulty or incorrectly installed spark plug wires. Low quality wires and plugs are the worst things you can use on your engine. Use good ones, they are not expensive.
- Broken, loose or disconnected wiring in the starting circuit or in the ignition coil. If the alternator connections are loose the car may start and stop.
- Loose distributor is changing engine timing.
- Broken or loose timing belt.
- Faulty coil, ignition or overall dizzy.
- Vacuum leak at the gasket between the intake manifold/plenum and the throttle body. The car maybe will start but it may stop. Sometimes you can discover this with the hissing sound the vacuum leaks produce.

Although all the previous are the most common causes (more than 80% of the occasions) still there are other reasons less common:
- Bad ecu.
- Mechanical damage inside the engine. Damaged valvetrain components like valves, springs and retainers, and camshaft can cause the engine to start and stop or don´t start. Damage inside the block like blown piston rings, broken rods, pistons or crankshaft or severely damage cylinder sleeves may impede the engine from reaching good operating levels, loose compression and ultimately stop and don´t start again.
- This really can happen: you install a kill switch to make the car inoperable and accidentally activate it while driving, or you forget you activated it when you stopped, or you are so drunk or intoxicated that you forgot about it. Good luck with that since you are the only one who knows where it is or how to disengage it. Too bad if you are with a hot chick. :(
- The same can happen if the kill switch goes bad or the previous owner installed one and he didn´t mentioned to you. The same goes for passive alarm system that disable ignition, main relay or other starting signal to the ecu.
- Strong electrical or magnetic fields or interference can screw the electronics on the car making it inoperable. Don´t ask me how or why, I know this can happen and UFO related sites report it has happened all over the world. ;D

Remember that, depending on the problem you may still be able to start your car, IF its manual trans, by pushing it while in gear and depressing and releasing the clutch until it start.

*********************************************************************************
Reference guide to common problems and probable causes. (source: haynes manual)

From the book: "Remember that successful troubleshooting is not a mysterious black art practiced only by professional mechanics. It's the result of the right knowledge combined with an intelligent, systematic approach to the problem. Always work by a process of elimination, starting with the simplest solution and working through to the most complex - and never overlook the obvious. Finally, always establish a clear idea of why a problem has occurred and take steps to ensure that it doesn't happen again. Remember, failure of a small component can often be indicative of potential failure or incorrect functioning of a more important component or system."

****************** ENGINE ******************

Problem: Engine hard to start when cold
- Battery discharged or low.
- Malfunctioning fuel system
- Faulty cold start injector or injectors leaking
- Distributor rotor carbon tracked
- Carburetor choke not operating properly

Problem: Engine hard to start when hot
- Air filter clogged
- Fuel not reaching the carb or fuel injection syst.
- Corroded battery connections, especially the ground.

Problem: Starter motor noisy or rough in engagement
- Pinion or flywheel gear teeth worn or broken.
- Starter motor mounting bolts loose or broken.

Problem: Oil puddle under car
- Oil pan gasket and/or oil pan drain bolt washer leaking
- Oil pressure sending unit leaking
- Cylinder head cover leaking
- Engine oil seals leaking

Problem: Engine lopes while idling or idles erratically
- Vacuum leakage
- Bad TPS
- Leaking EGR valve
- Air filter clogged
- Fuel pump not delivering enough fuel to the system
- Leaking head gasket
- Timing belt and/or pulleys worn.
- Camshaft lobes worn.
- Dirty EACV.

Problem: Engine misses at idle speed
- Spark plugs worn or not gaped properly
- Faulty spark plug wires
- Vacuum leaks
- Incorrect ignition timing
- Uneven or low compression
- Idle speed incorrect
- Carburetor or fuel injection system malfunctioning
- Sticking or faulty emission system components

Problem: Engine misses throughout driving speed range
- Fuel filter clogged and/or impurities in the fuel system
- Low fuel output at the injectors or carb
- Faulty or incorrectly gaped spark plugs
- Incorrect ignition timing
- Cracked distributor cap, disconnected distributor wires or damaged distributor components
- Leaking spark plug wires
- Faulty emission system components
- Low or uneven cylinder compression pressures
- Weak or faulty ignition system
- Vacuum leak in fuel injection system, carb, intake manifold, air control valve (eacv) or vacuum hoses

Problem: Engine stumbles on acceleration
- Spark plugs fouled
- Fuel injection system or carb needs adjustment or repair
- Fuel filter clogged
- Incorrect ignition timing
- Intake manifold air leak

Problem: Engine surges while holding accelerator steady
- Intake air leak.
- Fuel pump
- Loose fuel injector
- Defective ECU

Problem: Engine stalls
- Idle speed incorrect
- Fuel filter clogged and/or water and impurities in the fuel system
- Distributor components damp or damaged
- Faulty emissions system components
- Faulty or incorrectly gaped spark plug wires
- Faulty spark plug wires
- Vacuum leak in the fuel injection system, carb, intake manifold or vacuum hoses
- Valves clearances incorrectly set
- Fault in the carb or in the fuel injection syst.

Problem: Engine lacks power
- Incorrect ignition timing
- Excessive play in distributor shaft
- Worn rotor, distributor cap or wires
- Faulty or incorrectly gapped spark plugs
- Fuel injection system or carburetor out of adjustment or excessively worn
- Faulty coil
- Brakes binding
- Automatic transaxle fluid level incorrect
- Clutch slipping
- Fuel filter clogged and/or impurities in the fuel system
- Emission control system not functioning properly
- Low or uneven cylinder compression

Problem: Engine backfires
- Emission control system not functioning
- Ignition timing incorrect
- Faulty secondary ignition system (cracked spark plug insulator, faulty plug wires, distributor cap and/or rotor)
- Fuel injection system or carburetor in need of adjustment or worn excessively
- Vacuum leak at fuel injectors, carb, intake manifold, air control valve (eacv), or vacuum hoses
- Valve clearances incorrectly set and/or valves sticking

Problem: Pinging or knocking engine sounds during acceleration or uphill
- Incorrect grade fuel
- Ignition timing incorrect
- Fuel injection system needs adjustment
- Improper or damaged spark plugs
- Worn or damaged distributor components
- Faulty emission system
- Vacuum leak
- Carbon buildup in cylinders

Problem: Engine runs with oil pressure light on
- Low oil level
- Idle rpm below specification
- Short in wiring circuit
- Faulty oil pressure sender
- Worn engine bearings and/or oil pump

Problem: Engine diesels (continues to run) after switching off
- Idle speed too high
- Excessive engine operating temp
- Vacuum leaks
- Ignition timing not correctly adjusted
- Carburetor in need of overhaul

****************** FUEL ******************

Problem: Excessive fuel consumption
- Dirty or clogged air filter element
- Incorrectly set ignition timing
- Emissions system not functioning properly
- Fuel injection or carb internal parts excessively worn or damaged
- Low tire pressure or incorrect tire size

Problem: Fuel leakage or fuel odor
- Leaking fuel feed or return line
- Tank overfilled
- Evaporative canister filter clogged
- Fuel injector internal parts excessively worn


****************** ENGINE ELECTRICAL SYSTEM ******************

Problem: Battery will not hold a charge
- Alternator drivebelt defective or not adjusted properly
- Battery electrolyte level low
- Battery terminals corroded or loose
- Alternator not charging properly
- Loose, broken or faulty wiring in the charging circuit
- Short in vehicle wiring
- Internally defective battery

Problem: Alternator light fails to go out
- Faulty alternator or charging circuit
- Alternator drivebelt defective or out or adjustment
- Alternator voltage regulator inoperative

Problem: Alternator light fails to come on when key is turned on
- Warning light bulb defective
- Fault in the printed circuit, dash wiring or bulb holder


****************** COOLING SYSTEM ******************

Problem: Overheating
- Insufficient coolant in system
- Water pump drivebelt defective or out of adjustment
- Radiator core blocked or grille restricted
- Thermostat faulty
- Electric coolant fan blades broken or cracked
- Radiator cap not maintaining proper pressure
- Ignition timing incorrect

Problem: Overcooling
- Faulty thermostat
- Inaccurate temperature gauge sending unit

Problem: External coolant leakage
- Deteriorated/damaged hoses; loose clamps
- Water pump seal defective
- Leakage from radiator core or coolant reservoir bottle
- Engine drain or water jacket core plugs leaking

Problem: Internal coolant leakage
- Leaking head cylinder gasket
- Cracked cylinder bore or cylinder head

Problem: Coolant loss
- Too much coolant in system
- Coolant boiling away because of overheating
- Internal or external leakage
- Faulty radiator cap

Problem: Poor coolant circulation
- Inoperative water pump
- Restriction in cooling system
- Water pump drivebelt defective or out of adjustment
- Thermostat sticking


****************** BRAKES ******************

Note: before assuming that a brake problem exists, make sure that
- the tires are in good condition and properly inflated
- the front end alignment is correct
- the vehicle is not loaded with weight in unequal manner


Problem: Vehicle pulls to one side during braking
- Incorrect tire pressures
- Front end out of line (have the front end aligned)
- Front or rear tires not matched to one another
- Restricted brake lines or hoses
- Malfunctioning drum brake or caliper assembly
- Loose suspension parts
- Loose calipers
- Excessive wear of brake shoe or pad material or disc/drum on one side

Problem: Noise (high-pitched squeal when brakes are applied)
- Front and or rear disc brake pads worn out. Noise comes from the wear sensor rubbing against the disc (doesn't apply to all vehicles). Replace pads with new ones immediately.

Problem: Brake roughness or chatter
- Excessive lateral runout
- Uneven pad wear
- Defective rotor

Problem: Excessive brake pedal effort required to stop vehicle
- Malfunctioning power brake booster
- Partial system failure
- Excessively worn pads or shoes
- Piston in caliper or wheel cylinder stuck or sluggish
- Brake pads or shoes contaminated with oil or grease
- New pads or shoes installed and not yet seated. It will take a while for the new material to seat against the rotor or drum.

Problem: Excessive brake pedal travel
- Partial brake system failure
- Insufficient fluid in master cylinder
- Air trapped in system

Problem: Dragging brakes
- Incorrect adjustment of brake light switch
- Master cylinder pistons not returning correctly
- Restricted brakes lines or hoses
- Incorrect parking brake adjustment

Problem: Grabbing or uneven braking action
- Malfunctioning of proportioning valve
- Malfunction of power brake booster unit
- Binding brake pedal mechanism

Problem: Brake pedal feels spongy when depressed
- Air in hydraulic lines
- Master cylinder mounting bolts loose
- Master cylinder defective

Problem: Brake pedal travels to the floor with little resistance
- Little or no fluid in the master cylinder reservoir caused by leaking piston (s)
- Loose, damaged or disconnected brake lines

Problem: Parking brake doesn't hold
- Parking brake linkage improperly adjusted


****************** MANUAL TRANSAXLE ******************

Problem: Knocking noise at low speeds
- Worn driveaxle constant velocity (CV) joints
- Worn side gear shaft counterbore in differential case

Problem: Noise more pronounced when turning
- Differential gear noise

Problem: Clunk on acceleration or deceleration
- Loose engine or transaxle mounts
- Worn differential pinion shaft in case
- Worn side gear shaft counterbore in differential case
- Worn or damaged driveaxle inboard cv joints

Problem: Clicking noise in turns
- Worn or damaged outboard cv joint

Problem: Vibration
- Rough wheel bearing
- Damaged driveaxle
- Out of round tires
- Tire out of balance
- Worn CV joint

Problem: Noisy in neutral with engine running
- Damaged input gear bearing
- Damaged clutch release bearing

Problem: Noisy in one particular gear
- Damaged or worn constant mesh gears
- Damaged or worn synchronizers
- Bent reverse fork
- Damaged fourth speed gear or output gear
- Worn or damaged reverse idler gear or idler bushing

Problem: Noisy in all gears
- Insufficient lubricant
- Damaged or worn bearings
- Worn or damaged input gear shaft and/or output gear shaft

Problem: Slips out of gear
- Worn or improperly adjusted linkage
- Transaxle loose on engine
- Shift linkage doesn't work freely, binds
- Input gear bearing retainer broken or loose
- Dirt between clutch cover and engine housing
- Worn shift fork

Problem: Leaks lubricant
- Side gear shaft seals worn
- Excessive amount of lubricant in transaxle
- Loose or broken input gear shaft bearing retainer
- Input gear bearing retainer O-ring and/or lip seal damaged


****************** CLUTCH ******************

Problem: Pedal travel to floor - no pressure or very little resistance
- Broken clutch cable
- Broken release bearing or fork

Problem: Unable to select gears
- Faulty transaxle
- Faulty clutch disc
- Fork and bearing not assembled properly
- Faulty pressure plate
- Pressure plate-to-flywheel bolts loose

Problem: Clutch slips (engine speed increases with no increase in vehicle speed)
- Clutch plate worn
- Clutch plate is oil soaked by leaking real main seal
- Clutch plate not seated, it may take 30 or 40 normal starts for a new one to seat
- Warped pressure plate or flywheel
- Weak diaphragm spring
- Clutch plate overheated

Problem: Grabbing (chattering) as clutch is engaged
- Oil on clutch plate lining, burned or glazed facings
- Worn or loose engine or transaxle mounts
- Worn splines on clutch plate hub
- Warped pressure plate or flywheel
- Burned or smeared resin on flywheel or pressure plate

Problem: Transaxle rattling (clicking)
- Release fork loose
- Clutch plate damper spring failure
- Low engine idle speed

Problem: Noise in clutch area
- Fork shaft improperly installed
- Faulty bearing

Problem: Clutch pedal stays on floor
- Broken clutch cable
- Broken release bearing or fork

Problem: High pedal effort
- Clutch cable or linkage binding
- Pressure plate faulty
Last edited by el_jelly on Mon Sep 09, 2013 9:20 am, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: My car doesn´t start. How to resolve

Postby 88efCiViChaTCh » Fri Mar 04, 2011 8:56 am

K get this my ef turns over right but wont start, um.... In certain parts of the car say for instance the signal switch when I flick it up to turn on my turn signals does nothing but flicker on check engine light and high beam light in cluster same when turning on roof lamp swanks at certain times like now no power in inside the car at all but when i turn key engine tries to turn over i have has stater is new alternator is new everything is connected under hood even took fuses out and replaced nothing could anyone help with this problem is there a way to bypass anything or what can i do? Please help
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Re: My car doesn´t start. How to resolve

Postby Nitehawk770 » Wed Jul 20, 2011 7:26 pm

I'm new to the whole "Honda" thing.....owned domestics up until now. Engine cranks, my dad says its not getting spark. Car ran like a champ yesterday. 91 EX 4dr, d16(A1?) 187,000 miles. Sorry for being such a noob, but any help you guys (and gals) can share would be awesome.

Need to know where simple things like the fuel pump relay, and anything I can troubleshoot from my backyard are located.......lookin under the hood of this car is the equivalent of trying to learn Japanese.....HELP!
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Re: My car doesn´t start. How to resolve

Postby Issar79 » Thu Jul 21, 2011 3:33 pm

See below
Last edited by Issar79 on Thu Jul 21, 2011 3:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: My car doesn´t start. How to resolve

Postby Issar79 » Thu Jul 21, 2011 3:54 pm

Hi I just recently replaced my "fuel pump relay" actually called the "main relay", though some parts stores referred to it as the fuel pump relay.

It is located just behind and to the left of your change holder or just above and to the left of the hood release latch. Kinda hard to get to but not impossible, I did it myself yesterday and it took about 15 mins, most of the time is just unscrewing a hard to reach bolt that holds the relay in.

Here is how I did it. I find the best way is to remove the change holder and fuse panel; then laying on your back and looking into the area behind the change holder you should see it. You going to need a 10mm wrench to remove the bracket that keeps it attached to the car, then use needle nose pliers or anything else to remove the plastic clip that hold the wiring to the car. Once the nut and clip are removed you should be able to pull it though the space that was taken up by the change holder. At that point you can remove it from the wire connector.

Change holder with the relay already removed....Holder removed, relay is located to the left of the open space

Image Image

Here is the the relay once removed...this is also the approx position it is in when on the car. So when your looking for it look the wide rectangular connection should be facing you.

Image
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Re: My car doesn´t start. How to resolve

Postby Nitehawk770 » Thu Jul 21, 2011 8:30 pm

Thanks, i'll check that first. next question. If I take the oil filler cap off of the top of the valve cover, the cam should spin when the motor is turning over, right? im trying to think of a way to check the timing belt without tearing the car apart. think that would work?
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Re: My car doesn´t start. How to resolve

Postby 91EFbluehatch » Fri Jul 22, 2011 2:51 am

simply take your valve cover off, and put your entire motor at tdc. cams should be aligned if timing didnt jump acouple of teeth
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Re: My car doesn´t start. How to resolve

Postby HonduhDave » Wed Aug 03, 2011 2:27 pm

great thread, my hatch doesn't start right now but I'm pretty sure it's just low on fuel because I am not driving it right now and the gauge is near E. That will be the first thing I try, hopefully that takes care of the issue. Thanks for posting the pics of how to locate the main relay, my buddy keeps telling me that EFs are famous for the main relay going out and I had no idea where it was located and hadn't really thought to look online or in person to figure it out.

I wonder if it can get hot enough for your fuel to evaporate like water does...it was record breaking temps of 110 here yesterday :angryfire:
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Re: My car doesn´t start. How to resolve

Postby warrior23 » Wed Oct 05, 2011 12:38 pm

One more thing i'd like to add to the Main Relay Problem. This is probably rare, but it happened to me.
Main relay was fine but the female contacts inside the plug that goes to the relay were all loose and not
making contact to the relay itself. Gave them all a gentle squeeze..with flat nosed pliers and it fixed the problem.
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Re: My car doesn´t start. How to resolve

Postby somedude88 » Fri Nov 04, 2011 5:12 pm

warrior23 wrote:One more thing i'd like to add to the Main Relay Problem. This is probably rare, but it happened to me.
Main relay was fine but the female contacts inside the plug that goes to the relay were all loose and not
making contact to the relay itself. Gave them all a gentle squeeze..with flat nosed pliers and it fixed the problem.


probably cracked solder joints within the unit, if it gives you trouble again, take it apart and re-solder the joints. Moving the terminals can solve the problem temporarily.
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Re: My car doesn´t start or has other problems: troubleshoot

Postby jjayboi08 » Sun Feb 05, 2012 4:34 am

Having issues with ignition link fuse.Keep changing it and burned 4 fuse already.Need help on this thanks. I have a 1990 honda civic hatchback Dx.
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Re: My car doesn´t start or has other problems: troubleshoot

Postby jjayboi08 » Mon Feb 06, 2012 6:51 am

Changed the starter today. Started the first time but burned the ignition fuse link d 2nd time.Any suggestions?
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Re: My car doesn´t start or has other problems: troubleshoot

Postby el_jelly » Mon Feb 06, 2012 7:09 am

You will have to trace the ignition wires, from the steering rack to the engine bay to see where the short is. If the fuse is blown only after starting the car it will be a little easier to find, if it's shorted just after turning the key to the acc or on position then there will be a lot of wires to check.
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Re: My car doesn´t start or has other problems: troubleshoot

Postby jjayboi08 » Mon Feb 13, 2012 3:10 am

just got my car workin today.It was one of the relays that wasnt working that's why it kept blowing the ignition fuse links.Next stop will be engine upgrade.Which is d best engine for d hatchback 1990?
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Re: My car doesn´t start or has other problems: troubleshoot

Postby mass13 » Fri Jun 08, 2012 4:12 pm

My car isn't starting at the moment. It's been sitting for about a month. The battery light comes on when I try to start it. The radio and dash lights and everything work though. Could it be the alternator? I don't have a voltage tester, is there another way of checking it? Or could it just be the battery?
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