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I need help trouble shooting my honda civic. It will not start.

I was driving it earlier today and I went to drive it again when it would not start. I'm glad I was at home when it decided to quit.

Turning the key goes normally until I try to get it to start.

Upon the regular engine starting key turn area the dash lights dim and there maybe a single 'tch sound or no sound at all coming from the engine block.

Under the hood I noticed that the right battery terminal with the big red rubber cover was heavily corroded. So I attempted to remove the corrosion.

I noticed that there was a wire that goes from the terminal to the pump motor relay that was not connected.

I attempted to see if having this wire connected to the terminal would change my outcomes but I could not get it screwed onto the terminal as it once was as the screw in the terminal is heavily corroded and I'll need to get a hammer or something to bang it off.

I rested it on what was left of the screw in the terminal to see if a connection could be made and tried to start it again however there was no noticeable difference.

What should be my next trouble shooting step?

Edit

Wow, thanks for the good advice!
I borrowed a battery charger and charged the battery. It took around 15 minutes to charge, upon trying to start it again I did get a few clicks as if the starter was trying to go but the engine did not start.

I ended up push starting the car as I was out of town and I needed to get back into the city. While I was driving the engine seemed to struggle when idling with the A/C on.

I think I'll replace the battery and see if that resolves the issue.

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I'm curious to know what year your Civic is. I've driven a 2008 and 2010 Civic, and both don't alwyas start the first time in Winter. It' scary. –  ashes999 Nov 12 '11 at 23:49
    
My car is a 1997 Civic, I've never had issues starting it in winter in -40 weather. –  Biff MaGriff Nov 13 '11 at 2:50

4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Upon the regular engine starting key turn area the dash lights dim and there maybe a single 'tch sound or no sound at all coming from the engine block.

Sadly, I know this sound well. This sounds like a dead battery.

Here are the steps that I would suggest:

  1. Charge the battery with a plug-in battery charger. They aren't terribly expensive to purchase (this same problem is why I have one). You might be able to get a loaner / rental.

  2. If the battery can take a charge, drive the car for a while near your home.

  3. Stop the car in your driveway. Count to ten. Try to restart the engine.

  4. Repeat step 3 until your confidence is restored.

Here are the things that I'm trying to help you diagnose:

  1. Is the alternator dead / insufficient? On my car, a primary indicator would be the volt meter dropping steadily as the battery discharged.

  2. Is the battery dead / incapable of holding sufficient charge? Remember, batteries are a consumable part. Their lifespan is variable as well: in general, three years is still youngish but seven years is old.

  3. Are the connectors bad? You did mention corrosion on the connectors (which is more likely a chalky substance). It's not impossible that the gunk in question was so bad that it prevented a solid connection from the alternator to the battery. If so, no charge and no start.

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Hooray a new battery fixed the issue thanks a lot! –  Biff MaGriff Aug 27 '11 at 22:33
    
@BiffMaGriff, congrats! –  Bob Cross Mar 25 '13 at 11:40

If the dash lights dim and the starter doesn't turn, it's usually either the battery going bad or the starter that's at fault. I'd check the battery voltage both without any consumers and with someone trying to operate the starter motor and would expect at least 12.8V (no load) and about 10V (trying to start), otherwise the battery is dead.

If the battery checks out OK, I'd give the starter motor and the solenoid a loving whack or five with a rubber mallet to see if that frees it up and gets it to turn again. If it does you're probably still looking at a starter.

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I'd just like to add that whacking the starter, while a good trick, can cause damage to permanent magnet motors if the whack is too hard (fractures the magnets!) therefore, start with very loving whacks and only gradually decrement the degree of love. Especially if a rubber mallet is unavailable. –  mattmachine Feb 7 at 21:32

As mentioned by Bob, you should definitely charge the battery when you get a chance, but first and foremost, get those to terminals out of there. You can go to Advance auto and get a good set of corrosion resistant terminals for under 10 dollars.

Take some electrical cleaner or rubbing alcohol and clean the posts on the battery as best you can with a paper towel, then let 'em dry (shouldn't take long with any alcohol based cleaner) and then coat them with dielectric grease to help ensure you have a good connection, and to prevent corrosion going forward.

You should also take this time to make sure the top of the battery is clean, with corrosion you often end up with little metal flecks all over the top of the battery. I have lost as much as 10 volts across the top of my battery, which made an already poor connection that much worse. Once that is all taken care of, you should be able to start 'er up and give it a spin, 10 minutes in the neighborhood should be enough to get the battery holding a solid charge for a while, and if it dies again you're looking at either the battery no longer holding a charge or the alternator not producing enough charge.

While you're in the bay dealing with the battery you also would probably do well to check your grounds. Silly little things can cause very big problems in the near future.

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This same thing happened to me today . . . Battery is new (changed it in Sep/2013); I also had a full tune up (even got new sparks plugs and rad flush) in Aug/2013. The radio turned on but car did not start. After pulling my hair out for over an hour, it turns out the vehicle was not fully in Park. I pushed up on the selector (gear stick) and then it started with a strong purr . . . no hesitation or anything. I'm so glad I tried to trouble shoot it because the tow plus faulty advise about getting a new battery, alternator, etc. would cost be an arm and a leg.

My advice to other . . . check the selector ... make sure the car is fully in Park!!!

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I'm liking this because I think I may have not fully engaged my parking lever. I sure hope this is the right answer for me when I go back after work and see my car! :( –  jnroche Jul 21 at 3:47

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