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
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
2) Could this be realted to the crappy mechanic's install of my
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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?
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....
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
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.
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?
Were OEM distributor parts used?
What parts of the distributor exactly were replaced (e.g.
housing, cap, rotor, igniter, coil, all?)
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:
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
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.
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
If you look up the procedure for setting the timing at the
online manuals I cited earlier, you will see discussion of
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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. :-)
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
Motorsforum.com is a website by car enthusiasts for car enthusiasts. It is not affiliated with any of the car or spare part manufacturers or car dealers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.