91 Accord not always starting

114k miles.
It turns over fine but won't catch. Next time it works fine. It's happened a few times over the last couple of days. I had a similar problem a few years back on hot days and it was apparently the master
relay - something like that. Since that was replaced, I'm hoping for something cheaper. I realize this isn't much to go on but any ideas before I bring it into the shop?
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dgk wrote:

Reflow the solder joints on the main relay. (You'll need to do that sooner or later anyway.) Nearly free! And very possibly the problem.
If that fails, normal diagnostics apply when it won't start. Got fuel? Got spark? etc. Track it back...
--
JRE

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wrote:

You're assuming competence here. I pull the boot off the plug and let it lie near bare metal and crank it. I watch for a spark. Ok. Then check for gas - what's a good way to do that in a 91 Accord?
Which one failure indicates a problem with the relay?
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dgk wrote:

Sorry. Never know where to start.

Better to put a #3 Phillips screwdriver with an appropriate insulating plastic handle into the connector in the boot and hold or prop it within 1/4" of a ground while someone else cranks the engine. Don't just look. Listen, too. In daylight it can be hard to see the spark but you'll hear the hard "snap" clearly even if you can't see the spark. Needless to say, secondary ignition voltage is high, so be sure you don't make yourself the ground return path for the spark.

If you have fuel but no spark the plugs will be at least slightly wet with gas. Pull one and see.
You could also check for voltage across an injector (assuming the engine runs smoothly when it does start we should be able to assume good injectors). You should see the needle twitch if you use an analog meter. That will prove the ground return has been connected. (As I recall, the ground goes through the MR, but check the wiring diagram.) Next, put a folded rag over the fuel filter and loosen the banjo bolt. Fuel will come out if the system is pressurized. It will be apparent if the fuel pressure is appropriately high, even through the rag. Tighten, turn on the key (but don't start) and repeat to make sure the fuel pump is running. (Guess what else is controlled by the MR?) Among other things, gasoline is bad for you if swallowed, bad for your eyes, and inflammable. Follow appropriate safety precautions!

Without looking at the wiring diagram, I recall that there are at least a few symptoms that track back to the main relay. Because main relay problems can be very intermittent they can also take a long time to diagnose the "right way." The first one I found took nearly 2 months (it failed once or twice a week and the car usually started on the 4th or 5th try) and I tracked it back with a meter step-by-step so I *knew* what it was. If your eyes are good enough (mine no longer are without a magnifier), you can actually *see* the greyish ring around the middle of each joint that has gone cold from repeated thermal cycling.
The next time I encountered the same symptom on another Honda I just pulled the main relay, inspected it, and reflowed the solder joints. Problem solved...at least, for the past three years.
This is not to say that your problem *is* the main relay. I work with someone who also owns a '91 (as I do) and his has yet to fail while I have had the failure on two of our Hondas (the other was a '90 Civic). There are any number of other things that could go intermittent and cause failure to start. Connectors, igniter, fuel pump, etc., are all possible.
But it's quick and nearly free to reflow the MR joints if you already own or can borrow a soldering iron and know how to use it. Just be sure to flow some fresh solder into each joint so the connections are good.
Hope this helps.
--
JRE

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4ax.com:

When the engine cranks but does not want to fire, does the tach needle jiggle the tiniest amount while cranking, or is it dead-still?
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Tegger

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wrote:

I'll find out. Of course, it's worked perfectly the last two days.
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wrote:

I had to bring it to the shop - I ran out of time. My cat's sick, it's surfing season, and I needed a car that will start. Nothing like being unable to get to the emergency vet or being stuck with a longboard on the roof.
They replaced the fuel filter and master relay (of course). So far it seems to be starting with a short bit of delay but that's probably because I'm just sensitive to it. The mechanic (I do sort of trust these guys) said that it might need a fuel pump although he was unwilling to replace it until we see that the relay and filter didn't fix the problem.
If I do need a fuel pump, I see that there is the entire assembly (around $300), or just the pump itself for around $60. Apparently the dealer only sells the assembly but I'm guessing that the $60 part will do the job?
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dgk wrote:

The fuel filter will virtually always cause symptoms at high-RPM, wide-open throttle *far* before it can cause a starting problem. My money's on the main relay.
--
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And the OP never did answer my original question: "When the engine cranks but does not want to fire, does the tach needle jiggle the tiniest amount while cranking, or is it dead-still?"
That alone would give us a clue as to what might be (not) wrong.
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wrote:

I know. It only did that no-start thing one other time after I read your post and it was dark and I couldn't see it. Next day it was off to the mechanic. But, so far it does seem cured, so my money is on the relay as well.
I thought that was mostly a hot weather thing. The last time it went (at just around 100,000 miles) it was a blistering day in August. It just hasn't been that hot while this was going on. Well, I'm hopeful it's over for now.
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