93 civic loss of power

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My trusty car (210,000) miles, and has never been in the shop, died while I was driving on the freeway the other day. I had it towed, I told the mechanic I thought it was the distbutor. It turns out it was.

He turned out to be a real crappy mechanic. He left one bolt off of my distrbutor, and the other 2 were so loose I could giggle the distrbutor in my hand. I fixed this by tightining the bolts, and adding one that was missing.
Ever since this awefule mechanic did this my car has lost tons of power!! It used to be a zippy fun to drive car, now it just sucks, I press the gas and literaly nothing happens for a second or two. If I have the air conditioner on, the symptoms are even worse.
my questions are
1) What are some possiable normal causes of such a drastic loss of power? 2) Could this be realted to the crappy mechanic's install of my distrbutor? 3) any ideas on fixes?
I thought it might be a clogged fuel filter, I am in the process of changing that out now, as soon as I figure out how to get the bolt holding the filter to the firewall off without loosing my knuckles. :) Any ideas would be great, I love this little car, I would hate to get rid of it. I have had it since it was new, even through several new cars I always hung on to this car.
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Sorry I forgot to add, this is a 93 civic, 2 door, EX.
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Sorry I forgot to add, this is a 93 civic, 2 door, EX.
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Brandon Scarbrough wrote:

My guess is that the mechanic used cheap aftermarket parts instead of OEM parts when replacing the distributor.
But in all probability, the entire distributor did not have to be replaced. If anything, it sounds to me like only the igniter needed to be replaced.
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well, not an expert, but i wonder if the spark plug wires are running to the right cylinders . . . if mucked up, would definitely cause power loss. - fj
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well, not an expert, but i wonder if the spark plug wires are running to the right cylinders . . . if mucked up, would definitely cause power loss. - fj
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frank wrote:

Thanks Frank, that was my first thought. Any idea on the distrbutor the wires go? Like spark plug number #1 goes into the the distrbutor at . . . . I have looked around the internet for a diagram, but I haven't had any luck yet.
It also seems to idle like crap, maybe the pcv valve?? I doubt it though I have changed the oil on this car when it was due since it was new.
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Brandon Scarbrough wrote:

The firing order is 1-3-4-2. #1 should be marked on the cap - it may be an actual "1", or just another unique mark by the appropriate post - looking at the end of the distributor, it will probably be either bottom-left or top-right.

Check for a vacuum leak. Listen for a hissing or sucking sound. To track a leak, if there is one, one at a time, pinch off (carefully) the vacuum hoses coming off the throttle body and intake manifold, until the hissing stops and/or the idle smooths out.
Also, either get a timing light, or have a competent mechanic check the ignition timing - if the distributor was flopping around loose, it's entirely likely you bolted it back in the wrong position.
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Thanks to everyone for input!!
I oreder the sparkplug wires from http://www.hondapartsdeals.com I will have them today. I purchaced platnum plugs, but I read on here those might not be the best idea. Unfortunatly, in my excitment, I put the plugs in all ready, so it looks like I will go buy the recomended plugs now.
I bought the timming light, I looked around in the car, and frankly timming it properly seems a little daunting. It was getting late last night so I put the car away, iiwll mess with it when I get home from work this evening.
I checked for hissing sounds, I don't hear any on my vacume tube. I replaced the PCV valve anyway. The car does seem to be doing better, not good, but better. I assume after I get the timming properly done the car will be in great shape again.
When I replaced the fuel filter, that supid bolt that hold the fuel filter clam on, that is right next to the fire wall, I replaced that with a zip tie so next time I can get it off in under an hour. It didn't seem to be a bolt that held any substantial force, it was just placed in a very ackward position. Do you all think the zip tie will be ok?? I still have the bolt if I need to put it back in, but wow what a needless pain to get that thing off.
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What brand are they? If they're one of the recommended brands in your owner's manual (e.g. NGKs), then platinums should not hurt anything, and they should last longer.

Have you perused the online manual discussions of this?
Break down the procedure and ask questions where you do not understand. Typical questions are: Where is the service check connector? Where are the timing marks? Which timing marks do I line up? How do I rotate the distributor housing? Will I have more luck doing this in a darkened garage or under sunlight? (darkened!)
Take a few days to figure this out.
It was getting late last

There's a very good chance of it, given the history on the distributor housing you presented.

I would need a photo or drawing to say something intelligent. Maybe it's just a matter of getting the correct angle adaptors to get to the bolt head?
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Think of what will happen if your zip tie fails while you are driving;gasoline (pumped by the in-tank electric fuel pump)will SPRAY all over your hot engine parts.
Instant FIRE,perhaps even an explosion.
Well,it's YOUR butt....
--
Jim Yanik
jyanik
  Click to see the full signature.
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Brandon Scarbrough wrote:

Don't decide until you try them... I've been running Bosch Platinum 2's in my '87 Accord for close to a year now, and they're still working great.
No point shelling out for another set of new plugs right away, if you don't need them.

Adjusting timing is easy: loosen the bolts on the distributor and rotate it until it's right. READING the timing is a little tricky the first time, but it's easy once you've done it.

A zip tie may be affected and weakened by the engine heat. A regular hose clamp can replace the stock one.
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1. The three bolts that hold the distributor housing in place also ensure the timing is "held" in place, too. You noticed the bolt holes were oddly shaped for them, right? That's because the timing is set by rotating the housing appropriately, then tightening the bolts. I would start by checking the ignition timing. Do you have a timing light?
2. Were OEM distributor parts used?
3. What parts of the distributor exactly were replaced (e.g. housing, cap, rotor, igniter, coil, all?)
4. When was your 93 Civic last tuned up (new plugs, wires, distributor cap, rotor, timing check(!), air filter, fuel filter, possibly new PCV valve)? Were OEM parts used?
Free online manuals for your car are linked at: http://home.earthlink.net/~honda.lioness/id9.html

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Elle I hate to answer a few of these questions, the car has run so well for so long a few things were never done to it.
1) 1 bolt was totaly missing, the other 2 bolts were only in by a few of thier threads, atleast 1/2 way out. I didn't know those held the timming belt in place. I do not have a timming light, however this sounds like a good ddirection to go in, I may take it to a mechanic that is decent and have that done right.
2) OEM parts were used, I just went and checked I see the word "honda" on the distrbutor.
3) the whole thing was replaced. From what some one else posted that may not have been needed and I probably just paid a few hundred dollars too much. Oh well, I love the car whats a few $$.
4) It was tuned up at 80K miles. I know I know every one in here is shaking thier head in disbeleif, the car seriously just always ran perfect. I had a timming belt put on at 180K miles but I checked the recipt and no other work was done at that time, except the usual water pump.
5) The wires are original, so is the PCV valve. Thei air filter I just changed today, along with the fuel filter. Well the fuel filter is still fighting me but I will figure out how to get that darn clamp that holds it to myfirewall off at some point tomorrow. As far as timming, I think I may break down and take the car in to have that checked because I literaly have no idea how to check it or adjust it, unless anyone knows of a site that can tell me how to do it. I have another car, I use this one to go back and forth to work, so it being out of service for awhile is ok.
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Those (distributor housing) bolts do not hold the timing belt in place. What they do is orient the distributor housing so the motion of the camshaft (passing through the housing) "triggers," if you will, firing of the distributor wires (which in turn power the spark plugs at the correct instants).
If you look up the procedure for setting the timing at the online manuals I cited earlier, you will see discussion of this.

That's a very good sign. I am a cheapskate but learned the hard way that OEM Honda ignition system parts last way longer than non-OEM.

I know it may seem that way, but from my experience with my 91 Civic and reading many reports here, a good Honda will in fact go through an entire distributor (including the expensive housing) about once every 150k miles or 12 years. I know it was expensive, but you in fact very likely made a good investment.

Whoa, those wires are old and are likely going to detrimentally affect the life of your distributor's ignition coil, for one.
You can get a multimeter from Radio Shack and make sure each wire's resistance is less than 15k ohms. Or start by doing the check described at http://www.tegger.com/hondafaq/startproblems.html#leakywires . Or, shoot, spend the $50 or so and get new OEM wires. Do not go with aftermarket for the wires. You may notice a profound difference as soon as you slap those new wires in place.
As for which wire goes where, OEM wires have lengths that tend to correspond to the correct receptacles on the distributor cap. Better, see http://www.autozone.com/servlet/UiBroker?ForwardPage=/az/cds/en_us/0900823d/80/14/0e/f6/0900823d80140ef6.jsp
As for the PCV valve: There are some checks you can do on it, but for $15 or so, you can have a whole new one. I would replace it. I replaced my 91 Civic's after 12 years. Found the old one full of waxy buildup. My fuel mileage shot up after I put the new PCV valve in.
At a minimum, buy a can of carb/PCV system cleaner, remove the old PCV valve, and soak it in the cleaner. I now do this about every other oil change with my PCV valve.

I remember that was tricky the first time I did it, too. Gotta have the right sockets or combo wrench. The super-dupber penetrating oil "PB Blaster" might help, too. It's only around $4 a can at Autozone, Wal-Mart, etc.

Not sure how adventurous you are, but I bought a timing light for $15 from a pawn shop. Nothing fancy is needed. Autozone etc. sell them for I guess around $30 and up. Ebay always has several at good prices, too.
Just a few of the sites that talk about setting the timing: http://search.ebscohost.com/ Login (for free) using the username "lib" and the password "access." Click on "Auto Repair Reference Center." This seems to have repair procedures for all years but maybe the most recent. This site's procedures load faster than Autozone's below but otherwise appear to duplicate, word for word, the Autozone's sites procedures (see below).
http://www.autozone.com Has Honda manuals for 1995 and earlier. On the left, click on "Repair Info," then "Vehicle Repair Guides." Click on car year, make, and model, etc. The autozone site implies that its source for the Honda procedures is Chilton's via Delmar, a publishing company for automotive training guides.
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Elle - Thanks for all the great advice!!!
I don't mind spending money on this car. I will go out tomorrow and get new wires, a timming light, and I figure while I have the wires off I may as well replace the plugs. I will also replace the PCV valve, I know that is long over due.
I am will give the timming a try. I don't mind if the car takes a few days or whatever to get back into shape I have another car I can drive, I jsut hate to drive it because it loves gas a supra. No big deal for awhile though.
I have to say this forum has given me some great advice!! I was a little worried posting here, sometimes you get no replies. I usualy stick to the tech forums, it is great to find a forum with helpful people!!!!! I will post how the 93 civic project goes.
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Post back with any problems. There are some sites with really good photos of lining up what are called the "timing marks," for example. That's a bit tricky the first time, unless a person has Superman eyes.

This with rec.autos.makers.honda has a pretty dedicated group of regulars. Most folks get a response within a day.

Updates are most welcome. They go into the archives and help others in the future.
Plus, I don't want to get your hopes up, but your Civic may be running really well within about a week (less time had you a bit more experience) and without spending much more money at all. (It's also money that was due to be spent and will likely help the car through its next 100k miles.) So it will be fun to read your update and see if I'm right and your car just needed a good tune-up.
I must say, 180k miles/13 years without really doing anything is pretty astonishing. :-)
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Brandon Scarbrough wrote:

Brandon,
I had to replace the distributer on my 93 civic 5 years ago when the bearing went bad. I took the old one out and popped in a new one, without making carefull note of the allignment. just as you describe with yours, the car was a pig when I started it up. it also sounded rough. I loosened the bolts on the distibuter, started the car up and slowly turned the hole assmebly just slightly listening to what sounded best. when It sounded good, I tightened the bolts back up. I must have got it right cause my sister has the car now and it has well over 240,000 miles now.
my 2 cents
Dave
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Did you use the manual's directions and short out the service check connector, etc.?
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Zephyr wrote:

The only way to go on high mileage vehicles. Often, a timing light is useless in such situations. Been doing it by "feel/sound" for years...
JT
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