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Civic cranks but will not start


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My son has a 95 Civic. 5 speed M/T. AC does not work. He was losing antifreeze every time he drove the car. He said he never let it overheat. (He's car savvy enough not to let it overheat)

We drove to the gas station and he put 1/2 a tank of gas in the car. There I noticed the antifreeze dripping and I found the heater hose going into the head just underneath the dist had a hole in it. I noticed the car would just sit there and surge up and down while sitting at a stop light. Like he was revving it up and down but he wasn't, it was doing itself. (maybe a vaccum leak?) We drove to the auto store and I decided to just pull the heater hose and see if I could cut it at the the connector and put it back on without buying a new one.

I pulled the hose and of course some antifreeze poured out. The car wasn't hot yet as we only drove a couple of blocks to the auto store. The hole in the heater hose was just at the clamp. So I cut the bad off and put it back on.

He got in and started the car and it ran for about 1 min. Then shut off. It would not start again. It would crank and crank and crank but would not start.

Not sure if the antifreeze would have shorted something out that is detrimental to letting the car start or not but I wouldn't think so.

I pulled him home and started troubleshooting the next day.

Here's what I've checked.

Battery shows 12.36 volts sitting there.

Main fuel relay sounds like it comes on for a few seconds then off as when the engine is suppose to start.

Dist. seems to work good.

Spark plugs looked soaked when I pulled them (cylinders flooding) but outside the cylinders each plug has good spark laying against the valve cover.

Pulled gas line off fuel rail and seemed to have good back pressure at the fitting.

Checked compression on all cylinders. All okay. Air dried the cylinders as I had the plugs pulled.

Checked Igniter in dist as the Helmes book describes, it seems to be okay. Although the blue wire on the ingniter to the tach had about 165 K ohms. Not sure what that means.

I have AIR, FIRE, & FUEL.

What would stop the car from starting all together?

Vacuum leak? Surely not. Run rough? Yes, but not start at all?

Where is the ECU located?

The Haynes manual I have is actually for an Accord not a civic although they show the same distributor parts.

I think I've checked the igniter the correct way. Does the wires going to B and D need to have voltage or are they tied to ground?



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So after checking more today, I now have NO SPARK.

I used the Haynes manual to check the igniter but I wasn't sure if I did it all right.

There is a white wire with a blue stripe from the coil that is on the "B" terminal of the coil or the negative of the primary side of the coil that goes to the C terminal of the igniter. According to the Haynes manual there should be voltage on this wire when the key is ON engine not running. And there is voltage.

There should be voltage on the "A" terminal of the coil or postive of the primary side of the coil when the key is ON and engine is not running. And there is voltage. This wire is black with yellow stripe and it goes to the C terminal or middle terminal on the igniter. There is a yellow with green stripe wire that is on terminal "E" and no voltage. It does show continuity between it and ground. I'm not sure if it is suppose to go to the ECU and I don't if it is suppose to have voltage.

I have about 15K ohms from the lead spring of the secondary on the coil to the "A" and "B" terminals on the primary of the coil.


Does anyone know how to troubleshoot a distributor and associated parts?

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Low resistance on the secondary winding suggests a short or shorts internally in the windings which would lower the coil output by reducing the step-up voltage which can lead to a weak spark.


Double check your readings, but your Ignition Coil may have kicked the bucket.

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The book said the resistance on the secondary winding should be somewhere around 13K to 18K ohms. I had 15K so I thought that was no problem.

Here's a question about the rotor and cap. Does the rotor actually touch the post of each plug wire connector on the cap? Or does it just spin around and get close enough to have the spark jump the gap and send high voltage through the wire to the spark plug?

The reason I ask this question is I cleaned the carbon buildup on the posts of all 4 wire connectors in the cap and the outer edge of the rotor and am now wondering if it is even making a connection. Then I got to thinking maybe they don't touch at all anyways.

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Not sure how to troubleshoot internal distributor problems like you electrical egg-heads are. When the symptoms fit I always just replaced it with success. You are correct that the distributors are functionally the same as long as you are comparing the 4 cylinder versions. The housings are different but internally the same. I switched the internals and rewired the pig-tail from an accord junk yard distributor to make my del sol run.


Your surging idle may be the IACV (Idle Air Control Valve) There is an adjustment screw on it that can be tweaked and/or it needs a thorough cleaning and it should resolve the lessor of your current problems.

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