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!
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
For more tips on buying a used Honda, see
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.
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
Or it could be a worn ignition switch.
(having a lot of stuff on your keyring can wear out a ign.switch faster
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.
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.
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.
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
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