'89 Civic Won't Start After Sitting

After nearly 9 months of laboring on this restoration, the time finally came to see if the engine would still start. The car still isn't driveable
yet - it's still sitting on blocks and the suspension isn't all together yet, but I thought hearing the engine roar to life again would give me a bit of much-needed inspiration to finish the remaining work. Wishful thinking. I turned the key and the engine cranked, but nothing else. I thought I heard it the engine kick over once but I'm not sure. The ECU was blinking an error code, so I consulted the service manual and it's troubleshooting flowcharts, which soon led me to the fuel injectors. The error code indicated an injector problem (code 16), so I checked both with an ohmeter and sure enough, one appears to be bad (measuring 8.3 instead of 1.5-2.5 as specified). But before I head to the local junkyard in search of a replacement, there are a couple things I'm curious to know. First of all, shouldn't the engine still start if at least one injector is working (especially with a 2-injector TBI system)? And second, is it possible for the injector to fail after sitting for a long period of time? I should note that before I began restoring this vehicle it was very hard to start, but I assumed that was caused by fuel pressure being lost via holes rusted through the lines. The lines are now repaired and fuel pressure is normal. I didn't try swapping the two injectors, I think I'll just replace the bad one first and see what happens. But I'd still like to have some answers to those other questions. Thanks for any advice.
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That's a classic Main Relay problem. Check that out before doing anything with the injectors.
Your Main Relay is immediately above the interior hood release pull handle.
You should hear/feel 3 clicks from the Main Relay, plus this EXACT behavior: 1) Key is first turned to "II", Check Engine light comes on, Main Relay clicks. 2) Two seconds later, Check Engine light goes off, Main Relay clicks again. 3) Turn key to "III". As starter engages, the Main Relay clicks a third time.
It's easiest to put your hand on the Main Relay while turning the key, as the third click is difficult to hear over the starter.
Are ANY of the clicks missing?
--
Tegger


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I didn't check for the third click, but I did hear the first two. But what about the injector? The Honda manual says it should measure 1.5 to 2.5 ohms, and the (presumed) bad one measures 8.3. According to the manual, the injector is bad.
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Does the fuel pump operate when the Check Engine light is on for those two seconds when you first turn the key to "II"? Listen for a whine or hum under the rear seat bottom.
The injector(s) may indeed be bad (see Toyota MTD's post for more on that), but I've seen the Main Relay cause too many starting problems to recommend you do anything with the injectors until you are CERTAIN the Main Relay is operating as it should.
--
Tegger


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Yes the main relay does click three times. The next step, after measuring the fuel injector resistances, is to check for wiring problems so that's what I'm going to do next. According to the flowchart, I'm looking at one of four things; wiring, ECU, injector resistor, or of course a bad injector. I can't seem to locate the injector resistor block for some reason - does this vehicle not use one? Something else worth noting - after cranking the engine a few times, wisps of smoke can be seen exiting the exhaust port (the exhaust system is disconnected at the cat. converter), so at least some amount of combustion must be occuring. Which brings to mind another theory: the engine appears to have a leaky oil gasket (the entire engine is covered in oil), and I'm wondering if oil may have leaked into the cylinders over the 9 months it sat unused, preventing adequate combustion. I have to get a spark plug remover before I can check that theory, it seems unlikely but I have to consider just about anything.


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Good...

But does the fuel pump run during the two seconds the Check Engine light is on? This is critically important.
Do you even have fuel pressure? Did you check? There's an easy way to check this.
I can't seem to locate the

No resistor on this model.

All you need to do is pull the spark plug wires and peer into the tubes in the valve cover. If there's oil, it will be obvious.
--
Tegger



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The fuel pump does run for a couple of seconds (with the check engine light on) and then shuts off, as it should. Fuel pressure is ample - when the banjo bolt on the fuel filter is loosened (to purposely relieve the pressure) a considerable amount of fuel is discharged.

There is some oil around some of the spark plugs, just a bit at the bottom of the tubes. And the bit of smoke produced when the engine did kick had a very oily smell - problem found? I know that with some older lawn mowers, particularly those with Briggs & Stratton engines, the cylinders easily flood with oil when the mower is tipped up for cleaning. When you try and start them in this condition, the same thing happens - you crank and crank, the engine might kick a bit, but all you get is some oily smoke. After enough cranking those engines will eventually (and slowly) start - but is the same true for a car engine? If this is the problem and cranking the engine fails to discharge the oil, what's the next step? Please tell me I don't have to strip the engine down.
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Chris F. wrote:

Did you replace the spark plugs prior to trying to refire the engine? Or are they the same ones that have been in there for the last 50K miles?
nate
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Same old plugs.... I figured if they worked the last time the engine ran, they should still be good enough to get it started. Or is this something else I don't know?

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They *should* - but if they managed to get damp/fouled somehow while the car was sitting... a new set couldn't hurt, anyway.
nate
Chris F. wrote:

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Excellent. So to recap, the Main Relay clicks THREE times as the key is turned first to "II", then to "III". This is accompanied by the Check Engine light illuminating for two seconds and the fuel pump running during those same two seconds. The Main Relay may therefore be judged OK.
But you have NOT established that the injectors are actually firing! You still have that Code 16, which we can now be fairly certain is NOT the Main Relay and is probably either a wiring problem or an actual bad injector. Go back and read Toyota MDT's Monday reply.
You MUST pull the plugs and have a look at them. You also need to make sure spark is actually occurring /at the plug gap/. This means having a helper to crank. You put the plug into the plug wire, and hold the plug against a good body ground. It's best to do this at night or in a dark garage. You need to see a purply-blue spark.
I'm not sure about this, but I believe the ECU will not fire the injectors unless it sees an ignition event, so if you have no spark, the injectors will not fire. After you crank, is the throttle plate wet with fuel?
Does the car start if you first give it a shot of starting fluid?

Unless you're tilting the entire car the way you do a mower, I'd think this unlikely.

Forget the oil for now. Unless the plugs are completely soaked in it, it won't make any difference and will burn off quickly once the engine fires up.
--
Tegger


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I'll have to post back after I get to town and buy some more tools... namely a spark plug socket and noid lights. I might pick up some new spark plugs too just for good measure. It's quite a pain not having the tools for this work, and having to run to town (a 25+ mile drive) every time I need something. Tried cranking the engine again today, it kicked over a bit but still didn't start, interestingly though the ECU did not give any error codes this time. So hopefully that means the injectors are OK.


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"Chris F." wrote:

I suspect that if you looked you would see that the injectors are spraying fuel while you are cranking. If the gas is old it may take a while to get gas that is good enough to run the engine coming out of the injectors. Try putting some gas in a spray bottle and spraying it into the throttle body while you crank it. After it starts you may need to keep pumping gas in until the fresh gas can work its way thru. You did put fresh gas in the tank, right?
-jim

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If you have no spark plug socket, a 5/8" deep spocket will do. You'll just need pliers to pick the plug out of its hole once it's loose.
As for the noid light, that will NOT tell you if spark is actually jumping the gap at the plugs; it will only tell you that the coil is generating sufficient voltage to make a spark somewhere, even if it's grounding in such a way as to avoid jumping the gap.
--
Tegger


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On Wed, 17 Jun 2009 12:34:27 +0000 (UTC), Tegger wrote:

Noid lights are for injectors.
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Oops! I was thinking of a spark tester.
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Well I've ruled out an ignition problem; I removed all four plugs but left them connected to the cables, and grounded against the chassis, and watched while someone cranked the engine. All four fired at steady intervals and with a full spark. So now it's down to either the FI or something in the engine itself. It seems to come closer to starting with each try - today it almost succeeded, with a lot more turnover and a lot more smoke from the exhaust. If it hasn't started by the next time I get to town, I'm going to pick up some starter fluid and see what that does. I also tried unhooking the fuel return line and allowing some fuel to drain into a dish - I noted that it was much darker than fresh gasoline (sort of a dark orange). The fuel tank was empty all winter and the stuff I just put in was fresh... maybe there's sediment or something in the line, and it just has to run through. I'll keep you posted.


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sure sounds like it. can you put the return line in an empty gas can and cycle the key a couple times to pump out all the old fuel?
nate
Chris F. wrote:

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Chris F. wrote:

BAD BAD SIGN. That orange color is RUST. Your fuel filter is probably plugged with the stuff and the lines are probably not far behind.
NEVER leave a fuel tank empty unless it is plastic OR it has never had gas in it. The rust will cause you more problems than you want.
Also if this gas is the crap with alcohol in it you can bet it will free up all the crud and plug up things. Like the injectors. Best thing to do would be to pull the lines at the engine. Flush the crap back to the tank. Drop the tank and clean it out. Then replace the filter and try again.
--
Steve W.

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I wonder what it's done to the basket filters in the injectors; they're incredibly fine. Maybe the basket filters are just plugged up? But that by itself wouldn't cause a Code 16, would it?

His tank is steel...
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