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As of yesterday, my 2002 Honda Civic no longer starts or even cranks, even with a boost from another vehicle. Check engine light isn't on, and the car is currently too unstable for me to get a reading from my Bluetooth OBD reader.

Here's what we currently know:

With the key in the on position (II), sometimes (but not always), the car goes totally bonkers, with random dash lights blinking and a variety of different clicks coming from the dash, the gear shift, and the glove box.

Both battery connectors are less than a year old and have zero corrosion. Just to be sure, we tightened up both, but this had no effect. It doesn't seem to be the connectors or a loose connection.

We don't have the equipment to test battery levels, but the battery is a premium brand, is less than a year old, and because I only go out about once a month, is always disconnected when I'm not using it to avoid vampire drain prematurely killing it. I've dealt with many a dead battery in the past (thanks, vampire drain!), and I've found that:

  1. They always accept a jump start, although they require one each and every time you start the car. Currently, my car doesn't accept a jump start, as stated above.

  2. Though the battery may have enough juice to turn on the dash lights, dome lights, etc. when you first enter the car, when you try to start it, it chews through all remaining power and won't try to start twice. Currently, I can attempt to start my car indefinitely -- it just won't do anything but click at me.

We also believe the battery to be fine because we hooked up a trouble light to it and tried to start the car. It didn't so much as flicker, which indicates to us that the battery isn't the issue -- the car isn't even trying to pull power from it.

We tried hooking the trouble light up to the starter (specifically, the cable that looks like a speaker wire), and it's getting no power whatsoever. We also tried smacking the starter with a screwdriver while starting, as is commonly suggested, but this had no effect (as expected), so we believe the starter is fine and currently suspect this is some sort of electrical system problem.

Where do we go from here? Is it obvious what the problem is based on what I've said, or are there additional steps we could take to further narrow this down?

  • Which fuse was your issue? I checked my battery fuse and it seems fine, but I plan on replacing it anyway. – user20217 Jul 30 '16 at 19:33
  • It wasn't a fuse -- it was one of the battery terminals. Years later, I still don't understand how a piece of metal (a brand new one, at that) can just, one day, suddenly stop conducting electricity, but there you have it. $120 in diagnostics and a $1 part later, I was back on the road. – blackwind Jul 30 '16 at 23:06
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As long as the battery is good (and no indication at this point that it isn't), the issue you have is in there is a grounding issue which is keeping the power from your battery to your starter. This is most likely caused in the wire going from your battery to your starter, your battery to ground, or both. You can do some things to try and see where the problem lies:

  • First, check to ensure the ground is solid and the connection at the starter is good. To do this, disconnect the ground at the battery (safety first), then disconnect each from where they are mounted at the end away from the battery. Make sure these connections are clean and both are in good shape. Once you do this, reconnect the battery ground and try your car again.

  • Next, check each of the two wires I mentioned above to ensure there aren't any "fat" spots in them. Sometimes corrosion can get inside of these wires. You'll need to check them inch-by-inch to see where it might be fat. If you find it, you'll need to replace the entire length of cable.

  • If you cannot find a problem with either of these (the problem is still in the wires somewhere), you can try to use jumper cables to provide power directly to the starter and ground. In essence you'd be bypassing the wires to ensure this is where the problem lies. You'd want to do each wire in turn so you can see which one is the actual problem. Here, the first thing to do is to bypass the ground. Connect your ground lead from the negative batter post to a bare piece of metal on the engine and see if this changes your situation. If it doesn't, connect the positive cable clamp at the starter solenoid first, keeping the other positive clamp disconnected and safely away from the vehicle (you don't want it touching anything and grounding out somewhere ... a second person comes in handy here). When it's attached at the starter, attach it to the battery's positive post and try the vehicle again.

If you find the problem when you bypass the wiring on the negative side of the battery, it may be that there isn't a solid enough ground from the engine to the body of the car to get good continuity. Instead of tracking this down, it may just be easier to get a new grounding strap and add this in yourself. If it shows up on the positive side, you'll need to replace the wire with a new one.

If all else fails, you may want to take your battery down and have it tested. Sometimes batteries go bad for inexplicable reasons. If it's only a year or so old, it should still be under warranty and can be replaced for little or nothing.

  • Tried a whole new battery to ground cable, and no luck. No fat spots as far as we can tell. The starter is just one of many things not receiving power (or not receiving enough power), so although we could try to jump the starter, it wouldn't be of much use in terms of making the car work. Just came back from getting the battery tested, and although it's a bit low (from not going out for 2-3 weeks), it's fine. Another customer told us that he's had a battery test fine but still be dead, so we picked up a fresh battery, and it didn't work either. What's the next step here? – blackwind Nov 22 '14 at 22:54
  • Did you try to run a ground from the engine to the body and/or battery? It's not getting continuity somewhere. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Nov 23 '14 at 10:11
  • No luck on either front, but we jumped the starter and drove around for a bit without issue. Parked the car, tried to start it with the key, and again, nothing. Any other thoughts? – blackwind Dec 3 '14 at 1:15
  • How did you jump the starter, exactly? – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Dec 3 '14 at 1:51
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    All set he listened to me and grounded wire to chassis and now it's 100%mint – Bruno Aug 18 '17 at 12:49
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I just had issues with my Honda as well. Maybe you should try replacing all the engine management, ignition, starter switch fuses. I thought my issue was more serious and ended up being a fuse.

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I will thank you now! guess over the years neutral safety switches and brake interlock switches have been so reliable we forget they are even there!

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Had the same issue with my 02’ Civic Si. Stopped by a gas station, went inside, came out and it wouldn’t start. All lights are on but no sound when trying to start it. I had to push start it to get it running and drove it home. Tore the whole car apart and had, battery, starter and alternator test. All test good. All fuses are good. Checked all power cable and all ground. All good. Put it back together and still won’t start. So I dugged into more. Came to find out that it came from my clutch pedal. The plastic tab on the end of the clutch pedal broke off, so when I was pressing on the clutch, it wasn’t activating the starter clutch switch. SMH. All that work for nothing. So I took the clutch pedal out and installed a nut and bolt in its place. It works! I tried posting pictures but my file was to large. Sorry. So for all of you who’s having the same or silmilar issue, please check that first because you can save yourself a lot of time. You can thank me later. Good luck guys.

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