Civic Won't Start Within A Few Minutes After Turned Off

1989 Honda Civic Wagovan
Problem began about two years ago. Sometimes the car would not start if you tried to start it within a few minutes after it had been driven and
turned off. It would grind and grind. But, if you waited about 5 minutes, it started. Initially, this difficulty would occur rarely, then more often. It always started if the car had been sitting a long time, anywhere from 10 minutes to overnight, or several days.
About 6 months ago, though, it would not start at all. Luckily, this happened one morning while it was still in the garage. No intermittent problem this time - grind and grind, but no starting. So, we had a mechanic test the main relay, all the electrical connections, and all the fuel connections. He sprayed something in the fuel injector mechanism, and the car started and ran - so he knew everything past that was OK. He said we should hear the fuel pump run for a few seconds when the ignition is turned to ON. But, we heard nothing. To be sure, though, he circumvented the main relay, but still no fuel pump noise. So, we replaced the fuel pump and the fuel filter. After he removed the old fuel pump, he wired it directly to the battery, and of course it ran. He said that kind of thing can happen. Well, OK.
After the replacement was made, the car started. And I turned it off and started it several times, including after driving it for a while. And it kept starting and running fine - for two months. Then, one day after I had been driving for a while, I had to start the car after it had been parked for just a few minutes. Grind, grind, grind, but no starting. Waited a few more minutes, and it started. Same thing happened a month later. I replaced the spark plugs, which had been a bit overdue. Now we're having the same problem with the engine grinding, but not turning over, if the car has only been sitting a few minutes after being driven and turned off. I always listen first to hear the fuel pump run, and it is running - every time, whether the engine starts or not. One other thing to mention - our driving habits with this car: it is mainly used for very short trips in our neighborhood - no more than a few miles at a time, sometimes with several consecutive short trips on Saturday mornings when my wife goes to garage sales.
What do you think the problem is?
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I realize you mention the main relay below. Have you ever had it replaced or repaired?
If you haven't read the following link before, take a look at it and make sure it's truly not the main relay. 'Cause your symptoms sure sound like it.
http://tegger.com/hondafaq/startproblems.html#mainrelay
(Tegger: The "How Can I Fix It" link is broken.)
Quick and dirty check: Next time the problem occurs, hit the dashboard down near your left knee. This momentarily corrects a soldering problem in the main relay and may allow the car to start.

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Yes, we checked the relay, because that came up in other posts when I first had the permanent starting problem -- when the car never started. I'll try the kick you suggest. Why would my problem only happen within a few minutes of turning off the engine?
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From Tegger's site:
"As stated earier, the Main Relay gets fairly hot in use. When you shut the car off, it cools down again. Since the circuit board, the solder, and the pins on the components all expand and contract at different rates, it's inevitable that the weakest point will fail, and that's the solder.
When the solder cracks, it's called a "dry joint", and causes either a complete failure to conduct electricity, or intermittent conductivity. Often, a joint may be fine when cold, and become non-conductive when hot, or vice versa, leading to confusing symptoms that occur only when the car is hot, or only when cold, but not in both circumstances."

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Regarding the relay -- the "check" was testing with a meter using the instructions in the Chilton manual. I always listen carefully to hear the fuel pump motor at the ON position, before trying to start the car, and I always hear it, even the times when the car does not start. Wouldn't that indicate the relay is working? Also, the last time the problem occurred, I kept the key in the start position for 15 or 20 seconds, and the engine eventually turned over. Let me know if this helps get to the solution. Thanks.
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Sounds like a flooded motor.
Perhaps you have a leaky injector -if your fuel pressure at the rail does not hold as specified.
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Jim Yanik
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Jim, I think it's not the relay, because I always hear the fuel pump run when I turn the key to ON, even the times when the car did not start. Am I correct that the relay is not at fault because of that, and I should look at the possibility of the engine flooding? If so, does the engine clear by holding the accelerator pedal to the floor while starting the car? Thanks.
Jim Yanik wrote:

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Jim Yanik
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Not necessarily. Do you hear ALL THREE Clicks from the relay? That's the definitive test.
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TeGGeR

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Yes, I hear all three clicks, but I'll keep listening carefully to be sure. I did that listening test a while back and haven't been paying attention lately. Can you give me the directions again, as to when you hear the clicks, or give me a link? Thanks.
TeGGeR wrote:

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http://www.tegger.com/hondafaq/startproblems.html#mainrelay
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TeGGeR

The Unofficial Honda/Acura FAQ
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Neil wrote:

----------------------------------------
Vibration, or a temperature change will make the relay start working . . . That's why it will restart if you let it cool down (inside the car), or if you smack the dash / slam the door while cranking it. Once the engine restarts the vibration guarantees it will run until you next shut the key off.
Get it resoldered. Save everybody the grief.
'Curly'
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Yup, it sure was. But it's fixed now. Thanks for the heads-up.
I'd have thought Mark would have let me know when he moved his Web site around...
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??? I wonder if he "circumvented" the main relay correctly. Is that the "testing" you mentioned?

Check the pressure at the fuel rail,see if it's dropping;that would show leaky injectors.
I still believe you should remove and resolder the main relay,just to *eliminate* it as a trouble source. Since it's failure mode is an -intermittent-,"testing" it would not show anything useful.
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I took out my main relay and resoldered all of the circuit board joints, works fine now.
Bob

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