I've been having some gradually worsening issues with the electical & power functioning of my 1998 Honda Accord. Here's a detailed rundown of the symptoms I've been experiencing since I first started noticing anything amiss...

  1. For about the past year: Digital odometer readout started displaying incorrectly (random lines missing from digits, etc.).

  2. Within the last few months: When I shut off the car after driving, then immediately try to switch the key back to the “ON” position (to roll down the windows, etc.), the electrical systems (dash, windows) don’t respond. It usually takes a few more attempts to get everything to switch on like normal when this happens. This occurs about 75% of the times that I attempt this operation. Sometimes (though not always), it helps to take the key completely out of the ignition, put it back in, and turn it again for it to work.

  3. Once, a couple months ago: When attempting the above, all the indicators on the dash blinked rapidly for a second or two, and a small trace of smoke seeped out through the holes around the steering column (where the turn signal/wiper levers come out, the only openings in the dashboard).

  4. In the last month: When attempting to start the car, the engine cranks and fires, but then immediately dies when the key is released. On the next attempt, the car starts and stays started normally. Since this began happening, it’s continued to happen around 25% of the times I try to start the car. On one or two occasions, it’s taken two or three attempts before the car will stay running.

  5. Recently: Digital odometer readout stopped lighting up for two days straight, then came back on at random, and has been lighting up normally ever since.

  6. Twice, in the last couple weeks: I will be driving along steadily, no problems, and the car suddenly loses power to the accelerator. The engine and outside lights continue to run, but there is no communication between the gas pedal and the engine, and most of the dash functions go out. This happened on the freeway at night one of the times. About 10 seconds after it started, I began to pull to the side of the road and turned the emergency flashers on, then the car came “back to life” and continued on for the rest of the drive with no further issue.

* Starter fixed two years ago.
* Battery, spark plugs, distributor cap & rotor, and ignition wires all replaced last year.
* Fuses not touched since I’ve had the car.

So what might be the root of these issues? I've seen others with similar symptoms speak of camshaft sensors and other things. Faulty computer perhaps? I don't believe it to be something purely mechanical, like a bad transmission etc., because any time that anything happens, the electrical systems always exhibit quirky behavior, so I believe it all to be related... somehow.

I've got the car at the shop right now to be diagnosed, but wanted some other experienced opinions before greenlighting any repairwork.

So what do you guys think?

(Thanks in advance.)

2 Answers 2


Without being able to test directly, I can't be sure, but I think you have two problems. One is the ignition switch - the cause of starting issues, loss of electrical in the car, smoke from steering column all seem like they probably come from that. The loss of lines and weird display on your odometer sounds like an issue with the cluster, but will probably not cause any issues besides a weird display.


Smoke coming out is nothing to do with camshaft sensors etc - it is a very bad sign!

You have a fault with your electrics, and this could be potentially very serious, or at best need fixing so you can see your instruments.

It may be as simple as a wire shorting against another wire or a metal surface (simple, but could cause a fire) to major faults in your wiring loom and computer/ECU)

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