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Inconsistent starting + overheating

Discussion in 'General Tech and Maintenance' started by mbra002, Apr 28, 2011.

  1. mbra002

    mbra002 New Member

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    2 days ago: Come back from out of town for 12 days. 1994 Civic EX 1.6L D16Z6 sits in parking lot of apartment complex the whole time. Try to start car & engine won't turnover... a couple times it sounds like it is about to turn over but no.

    Change spark plugs. Had put 15k miles on since buying car used - it has 175K total, previous owner was from Mongolia and new nothing about cars, so I figure this wouldn't hurt. Besides the car had been idling weird for a couple weeks, RPMs strangely kicking up to a little over 2 and back down about every second before car warmed up. And the old spark plugs looked pretty beat up anyway.

    Car still doesn't turn over. Go read big ass shop manual for 2 hours and come up with some hypotheses. Go back out to car. Figured I'd stick the key in the ignition and give it a try... and... car starts fine.

    Car is fine for next 24 hours.

    Yesterday: Wife goes to grocery store. Car starts overheating. She turns off the engine and ... the car won't turn over again. Buys coolant and fills up reservoir which was mostly, but not completely, empty. Tries to start car again... it starts fine. Doesn't overheat on 35 mph 3 mile drive home

    1 hr. later. Wife drives to pick me up from train station (another 35 mph/3 mile drive). Car starts to overheat again. She turns on fans and it goes down. I get in car and temp gauge is halfway up but radiator not kicked in. Give it more coolant so reservoir is at max line (it was below). Radiator finally kicks in while doing this. Drive home. Discover coolant is leaking. Fill it back up. Starts to rain. Call it a day.

    Today: Let car sit in driveway. Come home from work. Go to troubleshoot cooling system (reservoir still full), and... the engine won't turnover.

    Thoughts?

    Is it possible the engine turnover issue and the radiator issue are related? I mean, what are the odds of two things going bad at once when the car had been more or less fine before sitting for 12 days?

    Basically, I am a man of limited time, income and knowledge. I knew little about cars before getting this car (I was a public transit type), but since purchase have had no trouble replacing master/slave clutch cylinder, muffler, radiator hoses, and changing oil... so I guess I am a quick learner and reasonably competent. I don't have hours on end to troubleshoot this thing and am reluctant to pay a mechanic unless I have to, so I was hoping for a little advice.

    Thanks and sorry for the long story (don't know how else to explain without giving all the details if there is a relationship between the problems).
     
  2. efhondakid

    efhondakid My name is Byron. VIP

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    Overheating could be a number of things, thermostat, water pump, or in worst case head gasket. Check your oil, if it is milky white color, its the HG. I would start with a thermostat as it is the cheapest and easiest to change, then if you are still having trouble do the water pump. My bet is the thermostat is the culprit. As far as the not starting, does the starter just click and not turn over, or turn the key and you get nothing? I had a starter going bad in one of my cars and it would just click, if I cycled the key from off to start a few times it would usually fire right up, every now and then I would have to tap it with a hammer (kept on in the trunk just in case :D)
     
  3. mbra002

    mbra002 New Member

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    oil is fine so I guess it's not the head gasket. I suspected water pump, but obviously have not been able to get the car started to diagnose that. If it's the thermostat, would that have anything to do with drop in coolant in reservoir?

    As far as starting goes, the engine revs (beyond clicking - I've heard that before), i.e. "rrrrrrrr" but it doesn't actually go "vroom" and start idling, if that makes sense. I turn the key and it revs like normal but if I let of the key it stops and goes back to nothing, and if I hold the key for a long time it just keeps on reving.

    Oh, ignition coil replaced a few months back so that's not the culprit.
     
  4. mbra002

    mbra002 New Member

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    UPDATE: even more puzzled

    Had a chance to read more and test the car out yesterday.

    Testing out the car involved putting the key in the ignition, and, yep, it started just fine this time. So I figured I'd use this as an opportunity to test the cooling system (because if I'm not going to throw money at the starting issue only to find out I have a bad head gasket and it would be a better use of $ to get a new car).

    I figured I'd just let the car idle for awhile and see if it starts leaking and/or overheating. So I did and eventually the radiator kicked in no problem. I let the car idle bit longer (say 15-20 minutes) much of the time spent reving the idle control and sitting in the car with my foot on the gas trying to mimic highway driving.

    Radiator kicked on like it should. No leaking. No overheating.

    So basically the car worked just fine today. No clue what's going on here. Can't be the water pump because no leaking (and I had a bad water pump in a previous car and that started leaking quickly). Maybe I should pressure test the thing when I have time next. At a bit of a loss here.

    I also have had no common head gasket problems (chocolate milk, oil in coolant, etc), though a compression issue is something that could cause both starting and coolant leaking problems, yes?
     
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