Lost power steering / dash lights on 99 accord

Good afternoon all. I did a search of the archives, and read through Teggers FAQ, but wasn't able to find any details for this specific issue. Thanks for your time.
My wife has a '99 Honda Accord sedan, 4-cylinder 5 speed with 115K miles. About once every few months for a year or more, she has complained that it "loses power." This has now escalated to three times in a week, and is a pretty significant issue for us - if we can't figure it out we're going to have to sell the car for safety reasons. Unfortunately I haven't experienced this yet as it's not my daily driver, so some of the details that she offers aren't exactly complete and I recognize that. Nonetheless, here are the symptoms, and I'm hoping these ring a bell with someone.
Yesterday when making a left turn into a parking lot at about 20MPH, she states the steering wheel "locked up" while making the turn, and she nearly ran into a telephone pole. Sounds to me based on her explanation that she lost power steering as she said it was incredibly difficult to turn. She said that when it happened, all the lights on the dash came on, but the radio was still on and the engine was still running. She stopped/restarted the car, problem resolved. I'm not 100% sure why the power steering would be affected if the engine was still running, but my job is in IT not fixing Hondas unfortunately. :-)
When this has happened in the past it was just the dash-lights turning on and a loss of power briefly so this wasn't an urgent of a problem. It's only happened before while sitting at an intersection stopped (dash lights turn on/car may or may not stop running) or driving straight (loss of power, dash lights on), so in the past she just restarted the car and off she went. I didn't know about the loss of power steering until recently. Besides this little hiccup, the car is flawless (and paid for), so we'd love to resolve it if possible. If it's relevant, we live in NC and the weather has been VERY hot as of late, but previous problems have been throughout the year.
I had the alternator checked this morning at an Advance Auto for grins, it tested out fine. Any other ideas regarding things to check/repairs/tests?
Much appreciated.
- Mike
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Thats a weird one, have not run across this before.
First things first, have you had the steering system inspected? Leaks, components worn out, damage, etc?
Also, is the P/S fluid at the right level? Have you ever had it changed?
Does the P/S pump make any funny noises?
What kind of shape is the drive belt in? Is there a squeal or noise that occurs when the problem happens?
Start there. Let us know what you find.
Terry in Winnipeg
Mike wrote:

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Thanks for the reply.
No, I haven't had it inspected yet, but my garage floor is clean as a whistle in regards to any obvious/heavy leaks. I will check the lines tonight as best I can and the fluid level. Power steering fluid has probably been changed once in the life of the car - I know that sucks - and we are the original owners. To be honest (please educate me), I'm not sure why low fluid would cause all the dash lights to come on, though I understand why it's a problem overall with the system and might cause issues while turning.
No noises from the pump that I'm aware of, but I just started driving the car regularly today. I'll be paying close attention over the weekend.
I also had the timing belt / drive belts / waterpump / etc. changed at 90 or 95K, but I will take a better look today. They definitely don't squeal, and during my uneducated cursory review of the belts while the hood was up this morning - well, they looked OK to me. No cracks/bad seams/etc.
I have an appointment next week with my independent mechanic (lots of folks here at my office use them for Hondas, generally very reliable), but verbally he indicated the difficulty of diagnosing the problem without a repro which is quite understandable. That's part of the reason for my post is to hit a large audience - that and the fact that I'd rather do it myself if it's not too much of a PITA.
Thanks again!
- Mike

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On 8/31/07 2:24 PM, in article 46d86b01$0$16517$ snipped-for-privacy@roadrunner.com,

This sounds like the old ignition switch problem (there was a recall for it), except for your assertion that the engine keeps running.
If all the dash lights came on and the power steering stopped working, I find it really hard to believe the engine was still running, especially since the fix has been to restart the engine. Maybe you ought to quiz her some more and see if "loses power" doesn't really mean the engine died.
If it is a failing ignition switch, replacing it is fairly simple and might even be free if yours was one of the ones recalled.
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wrote:

======Thank you for the reply.
Yes, I asked her the same question about a dozen times, including right before I posted the initial thread - which was part of my comment about details not being complete. It sure seemed to me like symptoms of the engine dying. I've wondered if the previous issues at stoplights were just idle issues, and if other times on the road she just popped the clutch and got it running again. Everytime it ever happened before she was sitting still or going straight, so would have never noticed the power steering gone. Still hard to say as I haven't had it happen to me yet.
I remember the ignition thing now - I just called the dealer where I bought the car, and I had that switch replaced under the recall back in 2002. They said they would test it again (somehow heat the ignition switch???) to see if there is still a problem and will replace it for free under the recall. I have that appointment now on Tuesday AM. Between that and Terry's suggestions, hopefully we can narrow it down.
Thanks!
- Mike
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the OP mentioned this is a 5spd. I suppose it is concievable that if the engine did die and lost all power, if the clutch was in when this happened, and then she released the clutch while the car is still moving, the car could restart....
very theoretical.... :)
t
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I checked the car this weekend, and found no leaks, no funny noises, correct fluid levels, and a good belt. The problem did not reproduce over the weekend (figures).
I took it into the dealer this morning, and they replaced the ignition switch under warranty. Their paperwork was...um...questionable, as they showed me coming in for the warranty work back in 2002, but never actually showed the part being replaced. According to the service guy (I didn't talk to the tech), they saw some "burn marks" on the old ignition. Having never actually held an ignition switch in my hand, I'm not sure if that is legitimate and expected for any switch with 110K miles, or if it was an actual problem that explains my issues.
If the problem resurfaces I'll be sure and update the group, and if anyone can tell me if "burn marks" are in-and-of-themselves bad, it would be much appreciated.
Thanks all.
- Mike

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The switches fail due to arcing between the contacts in the switch. Seeing burn marks is enough evidence to replace the switch.
On 9/4/07 10:57 AM, in article 46dd806f$ snipped-for-privacy@news.microsoft.com, "Mike"

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Excellent.
Thanks for the help folks, most appreciated. I raise a glass in your direction.
- Mike

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I am having the same problem in my 99 Honda Accord LX. Did you pay for the ignition switch?
Thanks,
Ray
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No I did not have to pay, and our is the same car (99 Accord LX Sedan 5speed). They had a recall or TSB (Technical Service Bulletin) for this issue quite awhile back. It should still be covered and the dealer should be aware.

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