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low idle, weak acceleration, sputtering, 1995 Civic


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#1 Swish7

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Posted 03 August 2007 - 01:46 PM

Hello,

I have a 1995 Civic EX with 160,000 miles. Stock VTec engine. After towing the car to FL, and receiving it back from a body shop (overdue work, not a recent collision), I noticed it was idling weird. The symptoms are:

- Idles at just above 0 RPM, all the time (on start, hot, cold, wet, dry, etc)

- During acceleration, the scar sputters (as if water were in the gas or something)

- If while driving at a high speed (say 60 MPH), I let the RPMs fall to 2K, the car sputters exactly as it does during acceleration

- The exhaust/catalytic converter area doesn't smell quite right. I'm not sure if this issue is related or not.

From researching this forum and others, and Cranny's excellent responses, it sounds like the problem could either be an IACV or a blown gasket. However, I am only a novice mechanic and don't have the free cash at the moment to let a mechanic "figure it out".
Any advice on how to diagnose and fix these problems would be appreciated. I've a haynes book, so I can follow the detailed steps therein. The car used to have the "pulsating idle" problem, but this issue is very different.




If this is a blown gasket, what is the most cost effective way to fix w/out having to do it myself?

#2 cranny

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Posted 03 August 2007 - 03:34 PM

if you car is spewing white smoke from the tailpipe , and your car is giving off sweet smelling exhaust , its a head gasket most likely. the fact that your car will not fast idle when you first start it is very strange. it definitely leads me to beleve theres an IACV or FITV issue. it might have been from sitting for as long as it took to fix the body , how long was that exactly? i mean if it was fine before it went into paint , and when you got it back it was working like crap , its gotta be somin that sitting affects. valves and such.

#3 Swish7

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Posted 03 August 2007 - 03:51 PM

if you car is spewing white smoke from the tailpipe , and your car is giving off sweet smelling exhaust , its a head gasket most likely. the fact that your car will not fast idle when you first start it is very strange. it definitely leads me to beleve theres an IACV or FITV issue. it might have been from sitting for as long as it took to fix the body , how long was that exactly? i mean if it was fine before it went into paint , and when you got it back it was working like crap , its gotta be somin that sitting affects. valves and such.



Thanks for the response!

- White smoke? Haven't noticed it.

- The smell is funky, I cannot tell if it was sweet or not. I know the smell you're talking about b/c I've experienced that before w/ a different car.

- The car was on a tow device for about 3 days while moving here. Prior to this it was a NYC car, so it was mostly only driven to move back and forth for alternate side parking. Then it was in the body shop for 2 weeks.

Another thought I had was that they had jiggled something (electrical, sensor, etc) while replacing the hood, bumper, and left front fender).

However, now I have a new problem....the car "suddenly" won't start. Being the curious dip I am, I started it up today and noticed it was idling around 1K. This is the first tiem in days (days of rain mind you) that it had idled OK. Prior to this, I had futzed around with the eletrical, plugging and unplugging the spark plug caps, distributor, sensors, etc. So, wondering if it had indeed one of the spark plug caps had been loose, I ran the car with one of the caps off (1st from right). It ran fine, no change, except for on acceleration (not driving, just idling). So, I tried the same on the 2nd cap from left. I pulled that one off, started it up, and listened to it run. Soon thereafter it stalled out. Now it won't start.

What the heck did I do? I had also sprayed some bolts with WD40. Did I short out something electrical? Or worse? Man I'm an idiot. I'm the original owner and this car had been perfect for 12 years...

#4 cranny

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Posted 03 August 2007 - 07:33 PM

i doubt you did anything when replacing body panels , i cant think of anything you could hit or break that would cause this. im wondering if you have the firing order wrong maybe , have the plug wires been mixed up , or all off at once? do you have an engine light on when the car last ran?

#5 Swish7

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Posted 03 August 2007 - 08:36 PM

i doubt you did anything when replacing body panels , i cant think of anything you could hit or break that would cause this. im wondering if you have the firing order wrong maybe , have the plug wires been mixed up , or all off at once? do you have an engine light on when the car last ran?


There were no engine lights on when it last ran. There was nothing besides the symptoms I described (low idle, sputtery acceleration) going on with the car before it stopped working. The car wasn't running hot or anything like that. One thing I didn't try was to buy gas from a different station.

I don't think the plug wires are mixed up. I took one off at a time. Each spark plug war seems to be a certain length, so it will only go onto the right plug.

So, I guess I couldn't have caused any damage from running it on 3 cylinders. Hopefully my wife will accept that. She thinks I broke the car!

Strange problem.

#6 cranny

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Posted 03 August 2007 - 08:52 PM

take the plugs out and have a look at them. im guessing its tuneup issues.

#7 Swish7

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 08:33 PM

take the plugs out and have a look at them. im guessing its tuneup issues.


Hey Cranny,

I finally got around to changing the plugs and wires. The wires were old. I noticed a teeny bit of dry rot. 3 of 4 plugs looked fine. They should only be a couple years old. The 4th plug looked worse. It was clearly bent. It was a little darker. It also seemed to have a bit more oil around the threads. See the photos linked below.

plug - furthest right...looking at engine
http://s194.photobuc...nt=P1010032.jpg

3rd and 4th plug (far right from above)
http://s194.photobuc...nt=P1010028.jpg

http://s194.photobuc...nt=P1010020.jpg

Now, when I tried to pull the plugs out, I unscrewed them, then had to slip a 3/8th in hose over the end before pulling 'em out. To slip the hose on, I had to push it down on the plug while it was in the cylinder. I doubt that could have caused the damage exhibited in the 4th plug, but I've been wrong before.

Plugs 1-3 had a gap of 050. This is much higher than the recommended 039-043....


Cranny, is it possible debris got in the engine and damaged that plug? It also has a darker color and appears more burnt than the other plugs.

BTW, changing the plugs and wires fixed all the problems I was experiencing. However, I don't know if the coloration of plug 4 indicates a larger problem with my car's 4th piston... Any advice?

Thank you so much for your help. You're very kind.

- Swish

Edited by Swish7, 10 August 2007 - 08:47 PM.


#8 cranny

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Posted 11 August 2007 - 06:43 AM

naa just older engine dude. i wouldnt worry about it. im glad to hear its running good again. wouldnt hurt to throw a rotor cap , rotor button , and PCV valve as well. a little debris down in the combustion chamber , although not a good thing , should really hurt anything. unless its chunks of metal , lol. once the engine first starts , it will spit any debris in there out the exhaust anyways.

#9 crat1520

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Posted 19 August 2007 - 09:44 PM

hey this is so weird. I am facing the exact same thing with my 94 civic hb. now excuse me if this was explained already but.. what exactly was the problem with getting it to start. was it the spark plugs and those cables hooked up to the cylinders? cause I don't know really much about cars. my father nows a little and was doing some tests to see why my car was sputting during acceleration and why it would occasionaly sound as if it wanted to shut off when idle. so he pulled up the 4th cylinder while running. (first from right) and nothing happen. I beleive he put it back first..then, pulled the 3rd and the car shut off. he said "well that one is bad, probably need a tune up or new spark plugs." he never did the others, just re-tested those same two again and now the car won't start at all. I have a co-worker that says she knows someone who just cleans their spark plugs off with a brass brush or something. but spark plugs aren't that expensive are they? do you suggest I should just replace that particular plug or all new cables and plugs? your help is greatly appreciated.

#10 cranny

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Posted 20 August 2007 - 06:14 AM

same thing , give it a tuneup , new plugs , plug wires , distributor cap , distributor rotor button and PCV valve. and the cylinder closest to the drivers side is #1 , not 4.

now , your ol man has it opposite. the cylinder that made the car stall is good. if you pull a plug wire off and it doesnt change the way it sounds or anything , than thats no good.

#11 Swish7

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Posted 20 August 2007 - 07:16 PM

hey this is so weird. I am facing the exact same thing with my 94 civic hb. now excuse me if this was explained already but.. what exactly was the problem with getting it to start. was it the spark plugs and those cables hooked up to the cylinders? cause I don't know really much about cars. my father nows a little and was doing some tests to see why my car was sputting during acceleration and why it would occasionaly sound as if it wanted to shut off when idle. so he pulled up the 4th cylinder while running. (first from right) and nothing happen. I beleive he put it back first..then, pulled the 3rd and the car shut off. he said "well that one is bad, probably need a tune up or new spark plugs." he never did the others, just re-tested those same two again and now the car won't start at all. I have a co-worker that says she knows someone who just cleans their spark plugs off with a brass brush or something. but spark plugs aren't that expensive are they? do you suggest I should just replace that particular plug or all new cables and plugs? your help is greatly appreciated.


If you did exactly what I did, then you fried the distributor. I had to buy a new rotor, distributor cap, etc. The car runs like a champ now.

....unfortunately, the glove compartment handle just broke. WTH? I'm glad my Honda is back to having just the plastic stuff break.

#12 crat1520

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Posted 26 August 2007 - 01:07 PM

If you did exactly what I did, then you fried the distributor. I had to buy a new rotor, distributor cap, etc. The car runs like a champ now.

....unfortunately, the glove compartment handle just broke. WTH? I'm glad my Honda is back to having just the plastic stuff break.



thanks I will try that as well as cranny's suggestion. I also have been experiencing the white smoke problem which smells weird. I just noticed it last week after letting the car sit for a few weeks. I wasn't driving it because it was overheating. my father did some little trick with the heat/ac and stopped the thermostat from sticking now the fan comes on. do you think the head gasket blew from me driving while it was hot? and that's why white smoke comes out?

#13 Yuri

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Posted 19 November 2008 - 10:18 PM

Thanks guys this has really helped me. My civic started sputtering less than a week ago and I thought it might be the fuel injector but I think I might need a tune up.