The symptoms and age of your Civic suggest it may be simply
a dying battery, so I'd try to quickly eliminate it, first.
Try the five quick and dirty battery/charging system checks
If this Civic is still on its original battery, and if any
of the checks look suspect, I'd seriously consider a new
Interstate is the brand probably most often recommended for
How many miles on your Civic, by the way?
Oh yeah, five years old, I would consider replacing it
pre-emptively. You got your money's worth out of this
battery. (Mine have been lasting about 4 or 4.5 years, on
average.) Even if this does not fix the problem, you spare
the wear and tear an old battery does on an alternator.
Especially if you've done a few jump starts on this car,
replace it. Jump starts reduce battery life.
In recent years I've come around to Elle's way of thinking on this.
Replacing the battery that is already at life expectancy does two good
things: it reduces the likelihood the battery will fail when it is needed
and it reduces the heat generated within the alternator after starting. If
the battery costs $100 and still has a year of life left the OP would only
be spending about $20 (the prorated value of the battery in its sixth year)
for those valuable benefits.
The first step of troubleshooting is to make everything right; clean
connections, replace worn belts... then see what problems remain. Otherwise
I agree about a proper diagnosis. Shotgunning out an alternator is not the
way to go.
First, I think the OP should do the simply voltage checks
referred to in the previous link. They will tell a lot.
Second, "shotgunning" is a vague term , in my opinion, and
depending, wholly condemning it may in fact lead to more
owner-operator frustration and more expense. ("Proper
diagnostics" is just as loaded and so just as useless IMO.
Tell the OP what exactly he should do to diagnose and why...
With older cars in particular, precise diagnoses can be
stymied by the interplay of various aged and sometimes
failing, but not quite fully failed, parts. Replacing only
one aged part while other, related aged parts remain may in
fact be throwing good money after bad. Continuing with other
aged parts may result in a reduction in life of the new
part, or the new part may not work as well. In both cases,
the owner-operator is likely to have to repeat the bulk of
the labor of the original repair (with the concommitant
costs of this), or s/he will have inaccurate results of any
trial run because of the interplay between old and new and
so be misguided in his/her troubleshooting, or the "fix" may
not last very long.
I see condemnation of "shotgunning" here a lot, and in my
opinion it often denotes erroneous thinking about the goals
of the owner-operator. Some narrowing down is often
appropriate, but a general evaluation of systems' interplay
and the status of underlying parts, plus the time demands of
the owner-operator, may argue for "shotgunning" at least to
some extent. I believe "shotgunning" is to naturally a
fairly common practice among shop technicians. Counter to
some uneducated consumers' allegations that certain shops
replace more than is necessary, the shops are simply trying
to (1) prevent an early comeback and (2) give the owner a
car that works well, not merely "okay." People like to
complain and expect solutions, whatever they may be, to fix
the problem. I think many would rather pay somewhat more
than not have the problem fully fixed or gamble that it is
I am reminded of an adage that went something like, "Young
boys working on cars repair components. Shop technicians
replace them." The young boys' repair might work for the
short run, but does the owner really want a short run
solution? Is a shop doing its job when it fixes only for
what their judgment indicates likely is or could be the
But again, without the simple, quick checks that are the
price of an inexpensive voltmeter at one's local auto parts
store and a little expertise, I would note the battery's age
yada as a /possible/ cause of the startup problem but not
replace the battery just yet.
Not that you are condemning "shotgunning," Michael. More to
convey, for one, what is often the engineers' or highly
qualified technicians' approach and why.
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