92 Civic Won't Fire Plugs

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I don't know a better way to describe the problem.
In 2009, I had a loud screeching noise coming from my distributor like the bearings were going bad so the local Honda dealer rebuilt the
distributor. Everything seemed to be fine.
Six months later, the car would turn the engine but it wouldn't start. It was like there was no power to the spark plugs, however, when I giggled the key in the ignition, it started with no problem.
The problem got worse over time but giggling the key in the ignition seemed to fix the problem, temporarily. It might go a week or a month but every time it wouldn't start, giggling the key in the ignition fixed it, again temporarily.
Local Honda dealer replaced the ignition switch and problem went away for about three months. But, then it returned.
Now the car won't fire the plugs and the local Honda dealer is not sure why. I think it is the rebuilt distributor. The only other item they replaced was the "oil pressure switch."
I don't think the problem was the ignition switch but neither myself or the local Honda dealer can figure it out. They have tried new relays and that didn't fix the problem.
Any ideas? Or should I just junk this 18 year old Honda and try another brand, like a Mazda CX9?
JD is at his wits end and the the local Honda dealer doesn't seem to have a clue as to how to fix the problem.
It's a 1992 Honda Civic hatch, if that's any help. It has less than 40,000 miles. I don't drive much.
Thanks for reading this far. 8-)
--
JD..

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JD wrote:

Were the spark plugs ever replaced, especially when or after the distributor was rebuilt?
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Eternal Searcher wrote:

No, the spark plugs have never been replaced. Over the life of these plugs the Miles Per Gallon have not decreased so the plugs "were" doing their job. Why do you ask about the plugs? At this point, I'm willing to replace the plugs.
The local Honda dealer did mention something about the "park inter-lock" acting up but I'm not sure what that is. And they did mention there is some type of "switch" in the distributor that fires the plugs and powers the fuel pump but I'm not sure about that either.
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JD..

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Do you have a tachometer?
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Tegger

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Tegger wrote:

The car has one next to the speedometer. I don't have my own.
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When you crank the engine, does the tachometer needle jiggle ever so slightly, or is it dead-still?
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Tegger wrote:

The car is currently at the dealer. I didn't notice the tach jiggling when I was cranking the engine but I wasn't really looking for that. Should it be dead-still when cranking? And what would it mean if it isn't? I'll certainly pass on any information to the dealer when I talk to them tomorrow.
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If the tach needle is DEAD-STILL when cranking, the igniter is dead.
This is a common failure-point in aftermarket-remanned (or aftermarket-new) distributor assemblies.
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Tegger wrote:

Thanks Tegger. I'll talk to the local Honda repair department tomorrow and mention the igniter. The parts used to rebuild the distributor were supposed to be Honda parts but it is a remanned distributor, in a sense.
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OEM Honda parts are extremely expensive. I don't know what you paid for your remanned distributor, but my guess right now is that they used aftermarket "OEM spec" parts.
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Tegger wrote:

The local Honda dealer rebuilt the distributor. They said they used new Honda parts: Rotor Head Assy-$17.95 Distributor Housing: $156.68 Cap Assy: $35.70 Labor: $143.86 Shp/Hdlg: $10.00 Labor and Parts Total: $364.19
I e-mailed them with your suggestion regarding the igniter but I haven't gotten a response.
Unless the Cap Assy, Distributor Housing or Rotor Head Assy includes the igniter then it was not replaced.
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The igniter (ICM) is about $100 by itself and has its own part number. The distributor housing does not include the coil or the ICM. They appear to have swapped over the internals to the new housing.
An additional tidbit: Usually, when the igniter fails, you'll get a Check Engine light with a Code 15.
It's critically important to watch the tach needle when cranking. If the tach needle is DEAD-STILL, then the ICM is bad (or a wire is broken). If the needle jiggles the tiniest bit, then the coil is suspect. Coil failure will NOT set a Check Engine light.
--
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On 07/06/2010 05:20 AM, Tegger wrote:

in theory, but not in practice. all the failed igniters i've seen, there is no code set because it's the igniter output that's failed, not the input which is the only bit the computer can sense.

in that case, neither of my hondas would start. but they both do. that is NOT a reliable means of seeing whether the igniter works.

nor does typical igniter failure.
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Tegger wrote:

I haven't heard from the local Honda dealer since I e-mailed them yesterday. Keep in mind this problem was intermittent. Most the time it starts but sometimes it won't and it died on me once while driving it.
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This sounds very much like a dying coil, especially if accompanied by lack of a Check-Engine-light illumination.
It is NOT possible to reliably diagnose a bad coil with a multimeter! If in doubt, pull a coil from a wreck for about $10. At least that way your experiment comes on-the-cheap.
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Tegger wrote:

I'm one of those people that doesn't work on cars. I was a advertising photographer for 20+ years. I can photograph a car and I can drive a car like a bat out of Hell but I couldn't pull a coil from a wreck unless you wanted a photograph of it. 8-)
You're giving me more options than the dealer. I'll let you know if they can figure it out with the added information I'm providing from your replies.
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On 07/05/2010 08:38 PM, JD wrote:

don't let yourself get talked into getting worried about this igniter nonsense. they're going to give you back a car that works. if the sensor failed because the bearing blew, the igniter and coil are almost certainly fine. and if so, there's absolutely no point worrying about replacing them.
if at some point in the future you have any reason to suspect igniter problems, it's easy enough to test. i submitted the following to tegger for his faq's http://www.tegger.com/hondafaq/igniter-operation/off-car-testing.html
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On 07/03/2010 08:52 PM, JD wrote:

it is an essential component! if it's not working correctly, the vehicle won't start. while the links below is not exactly the same for your car, the same principle applies for your interlock:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/38636024@N00/4581625436 / http://www.flickr.com/photos/38636024@N00/4580950961 / http://www.flickr.com/photos/38636024@N00/4580950951 /

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jim beam wrote:

Please keep in mind this was an intermittent problems. Most of the time it started but sometimes it wouldn't. Since the car is still at the local Honda dealer I can't say what the start status is. I'm at their mercy and I'm getting a little worried. The service manager said once the car wouldn't start then their tech would be able to diagnose the problem in less than an hour. They've had it for a week.

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Check the pickup or coil in the distributor

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