Need *Fast* Answer re: Elec./Start in '98 Civic

I'm a soon-to-be single mom buying a used car on her own for the first time. (ulp!) Looking at a 1998 Honda Civic LX, with what owner says is "what we believe is a short in the wiring somewhere that causes the car
to not randomly start (the reason we're getting rid of it). It will start if you jump it. I'm sure it's no big deal, we just didn't have the time to get it fixed. That's why we're selling it for cheaper then blue book. The driver's side door doesn't open with the key either which will only cost about $75 to fix we just never did."
Wondering how much of a problem this might be for me if I buy this car. Any advice or info much appreciated!
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How many miles are on this car?
Do the owners have a maintenance record showing when oil changes, timing belt changes, etc. were done?
Given it's current intermittent start condition, I would definitely not only test drive it myself extensively, but I also would pay a mechanic to check it out. The problem may indeed be minor. 1990s Hondas do have a number of minor peculiarities (costing around $300 and downwards, /once/ the problem is nailed) that can be behind simple no start conditions that at first are very frustrating for the owner. If you buy this car, you should prepare for another, say, as much as $1000 worth of aggravation to fix the intermittent start condition.
For more tips on buying a used Honda, see http://home.earthlink.net/~honda.lioness/id18.html .
Lastly, do not fall in love with this car. It may have major problems. As you check this car out, keep your eyes peeled for other used cars for sale.

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Not a "short";those usually blow fuses or start fires.

The start problem might be just a main relay needing replacement or resoldering.(if that's in your skillset) see.www.tegger.com It happens more on hot days,and after ~15min.,the car cools and it starts and runs fine after that.
If it doesn't always crank,it may be a bad starter solenoid or worn solenoid contacts. Or it could be a worn ignition switch. (having a lot of stuff on your keyring can wear out a ign.switch faster than normal)
How old is the battery? About 4-5 yrs is what they last,less in hot climates.
Mileage on the car is important;"average" is 15,000 mi per year.If the mileage is much greater than the ~120K mi. it should be,then the price should be lower.
The age of the car is at the point where repairs will be more and more necessary,as seals and contacts wear out,plastic gets brittle,and so on.
--
Jim Yanik
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Jim Yanik wrote:

Yeah, it's pretty hard to give any kind of diagnosis here from the description, "sometimes won't start". Does that mean, it won't even crank over? Cranks but doesn't fire? Cranks and fires, but doesn't catch and run? Each of these could be an indicator for at least two to three particular problems, maybe more - a list of simply things that will prevent it from starting could be long indeed.
If it will always start when jumped, I would first suspect the battery, which is an easy and relatively inexpensive fix (replace it, for probably <$100). It could also be a bad connection, either at one of the battery posts, or where the battery negative wire connects to ground - corroded terminals and dirty posts are not uncommon and can be easily cleaned.
However, if the problem stems from the battery not being charged properly... now you're getting into much more complicated and potentially expensive repairs to the charging system.
Like Jim and Elle said, there may be other problems as well - it's not unheard of that they may be telling you only about the most noticeable issues and neglecting to mention others, hoping you won't ask... and who knows what else they "didn't get around to", like regular maintenance?
This one sounds like a mechanic's special - in your position, I'd give it a pass.
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I'm reminded of my 94 Integra's intermittent refusal to crank;I thought it was the battery,so I replaced that,still same problem.I thought I had to replace the whole starter,as the solenoid was not a separately replaceable unit.Some Honda/Acura starters have a replaceable solenoid,the Nippondenso's do not.Then I found a site that sold a solenoid contact & plunger replacement kit;$30 ppd.,and that solved the problem.

Yeah,ditto.
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Jim Yanik
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Guess I would be wondering just how my other items "they have never gotten around to" like proper maintenance. Have you considered going to a Honda Dealer to see what they have in their warranted used cars on the lot?
Don Whitely
TruantSpirit wrote:

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