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Automotive/Honda Accord starting problem


I have a 1996 Honda Accord 4Door sedan EX that I purchased new.  The car has 105,000 miles on it and it has given great service until recently.  Several times over the last year with a good fully charged battery only the lights on the dashboard came on when I turned the ignition key to start the sound from starter.  I tried lightly spraying WD40 in ignition switch and turn of key started engine.  After doing this no problem starting for a length of time and then would not start again. A little more WD40 and everything ok for get the picture.  Now after letting the car sit for a period of time the 2 year old battery is dead and only the dashlights come on when trying to start using my truck to jump it off.  Light spray of WD40 no longer facilitates start.
 I have spoken to the owner of our local Asia auto repair shop and he does not recall seeing this particular problem but said bring it in and he would take a look at it.
Would appreciate any suggestions you might have that would help me get this problem least I would have some idea of what is causing starting problem before I have it towed to his shop.

Thanks in advance for your assistance.

Problems of this type almost always result from resistance build-up on electrical contacts due to corrosion brought about by humidity and heat, both exacerbated by aging.  An increase in contact resistance occurs due to heating of contacts due to voltage drop over the contact in question, and that heating itself contributes to increased resistance due to the increased oxidation of the contacts, hence worsening the problem and at an increasing rate.

As you describe it, it would appear that the "start" contacts in your ignition switch could be one part of the problem - the finding that cleaning and lubricating the contact - breaking down some of the oxide - via WD40 - temporarily "solves" the problem does suggest that.  However, it is also likely that other connectors in the same circuit are similarly aging and failing.  Excess resistance anywhere and everywhere in this circuit would contribute to non-action on the part of the power contactor for your starter motor.  To deal properly with that, you need to be able to trace that circuit and check the integrity of the insulation of the wires and the condition of any harness connectors.  Having a shop manual or an electrical diagram for your vehicle would be helpful here.

Too, while your start contactor does appear to "do its job" once it is enabled, it is highly likely that this contactor is also aging, and one thing that could accelerate its aging would be getting insufficient current to pull in its contacts due to that resistance in that already discussed circuit from the ignition switch which feeds that coil.

Normally, these components need to be replaced at some point.  As well, undertaking a routine preventative maintenance program of opening, cleaning, and lubricating or greasing switch contacts and connectors using an electrical-contact specified lubricant will limit corrosion and keep resistance down.

There is other material in the archives here, by myself and others, that addresses this.  Preventative maintenance routines generally cost time rather than money, but is a good trade-off if you want long-term reliability and pleasure form your ride.

Get a manual - OEM is best - and take your time.

Cheers ... EGK  


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Ernest (Ernie) Kenward


The challenges I most enjoy are thoughtful technical questions of a trouble-shooting nature in both electrical, power electronic and mechanical systems, mainly automotive but also machine control and small-machine PLC applications. Please note, however, that I am NOT a walking shop manual! I DO, however, make it a point to have those manuals and other service literature for those vehicles I DO own, and highly recommend that anyone serious about maintenance or modification of their vehicles do the same; MOST of your answers WILL be found there. For that matter, I do NOT go out of my way to acquire shop manuals for any vehicle I do NOT own! That being the case, any general query to me along the lines of "What is the meaning of this code read from the ECU of my 2015 XYZ?" or "Where is the fuse for the windshield washer pump found?" (try your car's electrical distribution panel for a start!) will not go far. What I do offer is a pretty good collection of literature, insights and hands-on experience with 1950s to 1980's Ford products (plus a developing database of information and practice with the Mercedes diesel cars), along with an engineering perspective and the ability to design and implement custom control, electrical and mechanical subsystems for vehicles. For that reason, I am happy to make my thoughts and efforts available to those who are of like mind and/or are seriously making a point of learning about their vehicles. Use the Opportunity to Learn!


A key skill in my work and hobby pursuits both is STRATEGIC TROUBLESHOOTING. I am a senior instructor in Electrical Engineering Technology at a leading Canadian polytechnic, my areas being Electrical Power and Industrial Control, electrical and electronics design and manufacturing, and AutoCAD and related CAD/CAE software - plus equipment problem-solving and new equipment design and prototyping. Hobby-wise, I have 30-plus years of experience in auto restoration, mostly in electrical and mechanical systems. Ongoing projects include a 1959 Edsel Corsair, my 1978 Ford E250 class-B motorhome conversion, and the care and upkeep of my Mercedes 300CD. My vehicles become engineering test beds for electrical and mechanical upgrades as ideas present themselves. This includes the design and production of circuit boards to restore or enhance features for which no OEM replacement parts are obtainable, or where better specifications or reliability can be had via newer concepts. Regarding the E250 RV conversion, I designed and continue to revise a custom power distribution system, managed by a Programmable Controller (PLC); this has made most revisions as easy as uploading new firmware as I develop it. The "mini" PLC is a powerful device for custom automotive control systems. One good example (there are many) would be the Moeller "Easy Relay"; these offer a wealth of control, monitoring and variable-and-status display options for such projects. A good example project which has worked well is that one for my RV noted above, which has been on the job - revised in firmware only - for a decade now. It is a load management and charging control system to avoid the sulfation-induced early failure that often befalls deep-cycle batteries used in RV power applications. The battery installed in 2003 lasted long enough to more tnan pay for the PLC that contributed to its longer life ... and the PLC will be there for the next battery as well!

IEEE - senior member ... past WCC Student Activities; SME - senior member ... past chair, greater Vancouver chapter chair 318; Edsel Owners' Club - have served in various capacities on chapter executive during seventies; have been Power and Driveline resource on the Edsel Owners' Club "E-team" for more than a decade.

Graduate of UBC

Awards and Honors
Certificates of appreciation from IEEE and SME for work in student and chapter activities

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