91 CIVIC won't start!? No spark???

Hello all. I drive a 91 civic, Hatchback. Auto, 230K on it.
I had problems before... died on the highway, pulled off the road, turned it back on, and no problems. Felt like it was dying the other day, but it
survived. Sometimes it would just fail right after starting, and I'd start again and no problems.
I just tried to pull my car in the garage tonight, and it won't start!! It just keeps turning over! It started fine a few times today, and there's a full take of gas.
-Fuel pump is priming. I can hear it at the rear, and I can hear it under the hood... There is pressure when I remove the gas cap.
-I pulled a plug wire, stuck a screwdriver in it, and held it to a Ground (eng. bolt) - NO SPARK!
Plugs aren't THAT old, I'll have to check them in day light. (NGK) Plug Wires are new (NGK) Cap and Rotor checked, all connecters good. Distributor was bought used, a while ago.
1) Are distributors the kind of part to break intermittently? ie. Would that explain why sometimes I have troubles, as mentioned above, and sometimes not??
2)Any thoughts or diagnostics I should do??
3)Does it make sense that it's the Distributor?? ...if so, are they expensive? easy to change? - I'd rather not pay for a tow.
4) Maybe the Ignition coil ~ though I have no idea how to check that, or how to replace it.
Any ideas are a help!!!
Thanks Ryan
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Ryan wrote:

first thing to do is check the computer for codes. if you have a 16, your main relay's failing. check tegger's faq's for no-start conditions.
distributors are expensive, but there's seldom a need to replace the whole unit. check the coil & igniter if the main relay fix doesn't sort the problem. google is your friend.
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read this http://www.markl.f9.co.uk/howto/electrical/main-relay/main-relay.htm

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Note;there's a link on this page to IGNITER and ignition problems;that's where yo want to go.
--
Jim Yanik
jyanik
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If you truly have no spark, I don't think the main relay affects that. The #1 suspect is usually the igniter (inside the distributer), with the coil being a possibility.
There have been recent threads on troubleshooting these, but the gist of it is: 1) check for battery voltage on the ignitor and coil - I believe they are the same source. 2) check for battery voltage pulsating as you crank the engine on the output of the ignitor where it goes to the coil - if you have the pulsating battery voltage the coil is the prime suspect. 3) if no pulsations, look for pulsations as you crank on the input of the ignitor. If you have them there and not on the output, it looks bad for the ignitor.
A test light will do for the tests 1 and 2, but I think you need a meter or o'scope for #3.
Note- don't try for spark without *some* place for the spark to go - my son recently fried the coil in his Acura by using the starter to bump the engine around so he could get to the screw for the rotor. Live and learn.
Finally, if you suspect the coil enough to remove it, inspect it closely in good light. Some have reported cracks or burned spots. My son's had two faint starburst patterns, about the size of a pencil eraser, in the case. Any flaws that look like they came from inside are good reason to replace it anyway.
Mike
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Can someone describe where the coil and ignitor are??? I'm fairly savy with my car, but not so much with electronics!!
I don't think it's the main power relay, as I get power, and that was replace 1-2 summers ago (as it died). I just done have spark. I'm going to pull every wire and plug and try to see if I can SEE a spark when I ground the plug (eng. bolt) and crank the eng.
I don't have a code grabber - and looks like i need to buy a multimeter :s So I don't know how to check the Coil and Igniter... could someone dumb it down a shey PLEASE :s
Thanks Ryan

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So i just tried it, and it started normal! WHAT IS HAPPENING :s

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That pretty much rules out the ignition coil - they usually stay dead. The ignitor tends to be that way, too, so this knocks it down on the list of suspects pretty far.
Next thought - the ignition switch. If it fails again, look to see if the usual warning lights are on when the switch is in the "run" position. If not, the ignition switch becomes the top suspect. (That would also show up in the original test list I had for you as no voltage to the coil and ignitor - fails test #1.) There are less common things that can do it, but following the common causes works most of the time.
You don't need a code grabber for your '91... the '96s and later need them. The procedure to retrieve and clear codes in your car are in the manual you can view on line at http://www.iequus.com/assets/manuals/3173_ICCR_E_14JAN03.pdf Wherever it says to hook up a code reader it means a jumper wire - no kidding! I bought the tool set for $35 at Checker Auto and it had a printed version of this manual, two jumper plugs (one for Toyotas and one for Hondas), and a plastic screwdriver dealy for Nissans. I wuz robbed!
Mike
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