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The engine of my 2003 Honda Accord LX (4cyl) was washed two days ago during detailing. I requested low-pressure engine wash, so no power washer was [at least supposedly] used. The engine had never been washed before, and the car being almost 14 years old it was pretty dirty. The car has about 148,000 miles on it.

After the wash a constellation of electrical problems surfaced. I've now had a large barrel fan blowing into the engine space for two nights, and while the check engine no longer comes on, the car briefly loses electrical power approximately every 20 seconds while running. The A/C, fan, lights, everything goes off for like a second, and then comes back, to repeat about 20 seconds later. Battery barely charges, so I have to start it with a jump every time. The A/C remains on all the time even when it's turned off in the dash.

Since I didn't wash the engine myself, I don't know if the alternator was covered. It's the original part, so it's possible water put it over the edge if it was on its last leg anyway. Once jump-started, the car keeps running, so the alternator produces enough power to keep the engine going, but the battery just barely charges (after 10 minute drive the power locks just barely work, but the engine won't start without a jump).

What should I check next? I'm thinking of taking it to AutoZone tomorrow to have the alternator output and the battery (which is not very old) checked. But I have a feeling that while the alternator may be on its way out, it's not the only cause for these issues.

Any thoughts?

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Check all electrical connections, paying close attention to corrosion, and check all fuses. A funky alternator can cause a number of things, but this sounds like something else.

  • After one more night of fan-drying the A/C control became operational again. Electricity was still intermittent, and the positive battery terminal had gone bad, as had the battery (not sure if it was somehow triggered by the engine wash). After a free in-warranty replacement of the battery, and cleaning out the positive terminal, the car is almost back to normal. Apparently the wiring harness needs to be replaced, however, as AutoZone power diagnostics showed the connectivity wasn't as it should be even after the terminal was cleaned carefully. – Ville Sep 18 '16 at 23:58

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