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Old 12-13-2010, 04:09 PM
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Getting no spark when cold, cranks fine

Alright guys, I'm stumped with this one. Last Monday the car wouldn't start, and it was extremely cold outside. After about 15 minutes of trying, finally got the car to start. Tuesday, same thing. It seemed like the motor was having to work extra hard to start, so I suspected the cat was clogged (does have 180k miles on it after all). Took off the cat and gutted it (only until I can get a new one put on there). Car started fine alllllll week after that, then today I got in to go to work and it did the same thing, but I could not get it to start at ALL. Getting fuel at the rail, compression is fine, so I checked for spark and was getting none. Got it pushed into the garage, let it sit for about an hour, and once it warmed up a little bit, the car started up no problem.

Now, I know that when the car sits in the HEAT for a long time, the main relay can get tempermental, but I have never heard of it acting up from sitting in the cold. So basically I'm thinking the problem lies somewhere in the ignition system. Maybe the coil, distributor, plugs, or plug wires. The part that is really stumping me is that it only happens when it gets really cold out. Is it possible that condensation is getting into the ignition coil and freezing? Seems weird and I've never heard of that, but who knows.

After searching around for a while, I found a few other cases of the same problem, and it seemed to be the ICM (ignition control module) inside the distributor needed to be replaced. But that raises the question once again, why only in the COLD is this happening?

I think today I'm going to swap the distributor and ignition coil off my H22 onto the H23 in my DD, and wait until tomorrow morning to see if that remedies the problem.

Anyone got any ideas? I'm stumped.
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Old 12-13-2010, 09:48 PM
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Re: Getting no spark when cold, cranks fine

Cracked cap?

There are multimeter tests for ICM and coils in the manual. Have you done those tests?
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Old 12-13-2010, 10:14 PM
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Re: Getting no spark when cold, cranks fine

No I didn't feel like messing with it too much today since I have a migraine. I just swapped out my distributor for one that I know works, hoping that the ICM was the problem and that's that. I'm probably not that lucky though.

If the problem persists I'm gonna get out my electro-nerd gear and start testing ****.

I love tempermental hondas.
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Old 12-13-2010, 10:23 PM
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Re: Getting no spark when cold, cranks fine

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Originally Posted by dbd6604 View Post
Is it possible that condensation is getting into the ignition coil and freezing?
If the insulator cap on the top of the coil is cracked, it could just be moisture is shorting out the coil.
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Old 12-13-2010, 10:28 PM
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Re: Getting no spark when cold, cranks fine

I was thinking something along those lines. Condensation getting in, then freezing when it sits over night. If the problem persists I'm gonna swap coils and see what that does.

Ahh...troubleshooting.
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Old 12-14-2010, 04:27 AM
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Re: Getting no spark when cold, cranks fine

did you notice any performance difference?
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Old 12-14-2010, 10:33 AM
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Re: Getting no spark when cold, cranks fine

Bat her ree
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Old 12-14-2010, 05:07 PM
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Re: Getting no spark when cold, cranks fine

The battery is fine. Everything electrical in the car still works just fine, and the battery will crank it over strong and consistent. Although if I don't figure it out soon, I"m going to get it tested along with everything else just to be sure.

No difference in performance at all...I swapped distributors and everything is still exactly the same, so the problem doesn't lie in the distributor (more specifically, the ICM, like I was thinking).

I was thinking maybe a coolant temp sensor? Maybe it's faulty, and it's telling the ECU that the engine is warmer than it actually is, so the ECU isn't giving the motor enough fuel to start in really cold weather?

Still stumped...haha.
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Old 12-14-2010, 09:07 PM
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Re: Getting no spark when cold, cranks fine

Quote:
Originally Posted by dbd6604 View Post
I was thinking something along those lines. Condensation getting in, then freezing when it sits over night. If the problem persists I'm gonna swap coils and see what that does.
Wouldn't even have to freeze -- a little condensation on a cold morning, a cracked insulator cap, and the coil can ground out.

Quote:
No difference in performance at all...I swapped distributors and everything is still exactly the same, so the problem doesn't lie in the distributor (more specifically, the ICM, like I was thinking).
Did you swap the coil, too, or just the dizzy?

Quote:
I was thinking maybe a coolant temp sensor? Maybe it's faulty, and it's telling the ECU that the engine is warmer than it actually is, so the ECU isn't giving the motor enough fuel to start in really cold weather?
No...up above, you said you were getting fuel, but no spark. Stick with the ignition system. And I'm betting it's not so much temperature directly as it is moisture condensing out on something as a result of the cold.

Quote:
Ahh...troubleshooting.
More appropriately, #$%^&* electrical troubleshooting!
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Old 12-14-2010, 09:43 PM
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Re: Getting no spark when cold, cranks fine

Ok so, car sat in the garage for a while, started up again, like always. Before that though, I checked every fuse in the car, pulled CELs (only getting one for the secondary 02 sensor, but I already knew that), even checked the firing order on the wires/dizzy to make sure I wasn't overlooking that.

Came back inside and googled some more. Ended up finding someone on Honda-Tech who had the exact same problem with their OBD2 H23A1. Same systems, same intermittent no-start problem on really cold mornings. Turns out there was just corrosion on the rotor/cap that needed to be lightly sanded off, and he updated the thread to say 2/3 years later, has never had the problem since. That's what I did before I moved the car out into the driveway. Guess I'll wait until morning to see if that was the solution.

On another note, if that ISN'T the fix, I'm thinking there may be a problem in the FITV? I know it's a long shot and I've never heard of it keeping the car from starting (just giving idle problems), but who knows.
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Old 12-22-2010, 04:13 AM
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Re: Getting no spark when cold, cranks fine

Update: Ordered a Kats 28mm block heater (a universal unit that lots of Civic guys run I guess). We'll see how it does once I get it installed.

I still have a sneaking suspicion that I have a bad ECT sensor that is causing this problem. Battery was tested just to be sure, and it checked out like I thought it would. Really there isn't that much stuff left to check. I was thinking maybe the ECU is bad...but that is a reaaaaal long shot. *sigh* I can't wait for Spring. Haha.
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Old 12-22-2010, 09:51 AM
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Re: Getting no spark when cold, cranks fine

I am from the old school of V8's and muscle cars. WIth that being said, we NEVER just replaced the rotor, or the cap. We did everything - a "Driveway Tuneup" if you will. When replacing ANY Part of the ignition system do it all!
Cap
Rotor
Plugs
Wires,
and if your car/engine has over 100K miles on it, the coil itself and distributor.

If you think about how fast things are turning in there and the extremely tight tolerances that are endured mile after mile.... I think you can see what I am saying.

Your car will love you for it and it will show its love by NOT leaving you stranded on some on ramp to the freeway 150 miles from home. Just ONE of those towing bills will convince you it is cheaper to bite the bullet and do the preventative maintenance now.

Just my opinion :shrugs:
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Old 12-22-2010, 11:22 AM
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Re: Getting no spark when cold, cranks fine

I don't see the need to replace the distributor after 100k miles, so long as it isn't clearly worn or broken. Mine has like 185k on it, and it's fine. Mind you, I think the coil is definitely a good idea to change at the 100k mark... mine also has 185k on it lol.
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Old 12-22-2010, 04:23 PM
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Re: Getting no spark when cold, cranks fine

All that has already been changed Renee. That's why this is so confusing haha.
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Old 12-22-2010, 05:03 PM
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Re: Getting no spark when cold, cranks fine

Try to get a jump. See if that makes it better. It could be bad battery connectors.
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Old 12-22-2010, 07:39 PM
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Re: Getting no spark when cold, cranks fine

It's nothing to do with the battery/bad terminals/connections, or anything of that sort. That all checks out. I'm going to order a new ECT sensor when I get a chance and see if that is the problem.
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Old 01-09-2011, 03:02 AM
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Re: Getting no spark when cold, cranks fine

Bump to the top.

Taking the battery to get tested tomorrow just to rule that out. Installed the block heater that I got, but that didn't help, so that rules out the "Fault ECT sensor" theory I had...on the brightside, now I have a Block Heater!

I really need to get this figured out before my fiancee goes back to school and takes her car with her. So far:

Changed distributor
Changed ignition coil
Changed plugs/wires
Ruled out ECT sensor
Ruled out blown fuses/bad relays
Getting fuel at the rail
Compression is good
NO SPARK WHEN COLD. Put the car in the garage for an hour or 2, and it'll start up fine.

Was thinking maybe a bad crank sensor, but why would temperature have any bearing on how the crank sensor operates? Maybe someone can enlighten me. I'm getting pretty close to taking the car to my Honda mechanic.
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Old 01-09-2011, 03:53 AM
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Re: Getting no spark when cold, cranks fine

Is there voltage at the coil? There probably is but if not it opens up the possibility of the ignition switch circuit.

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Old 01-09-2011, 04:00 AM
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Re: Getting no spark when cold, cranks fine

Well if the battery checks out, I will test the starter, and if that checks out as well, I guess I'll have to get out the helms and start testing a bunch of ****. There shouldn't be any problems with the coil or distributor since I swapped them from my H22 (and I KNOW they were both good, they were fairly new).
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Old 01-09-2011, 04:09 AM
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Re: Getting no spark when cold, cranks fine

I'm thinking a loose connection in some wire for a circuit. Just make sure that juice is getting to the parts.

I had a car that wouldn't start when it rained and it was wire that was loose.
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Old 01-09-2011, 04:15 AM
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Re: Getting no spark when cold, cranks fine

Ugh. ****in' cars. Haha. My last car got tempermental when it rained too. It was really annoying. I have a feeling either A) My battery has a dead cell or some ****, or B) there's something wrong in the starter that is keeping juice from getting to the coil. Hoping it's one of those 2....Grr @ cars.
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Old 01-13-2011, 12:18 AM
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Re: Getting no spark when cold, cranks fine

Took the battery to get tested today, it checked out like I thought. Gonna check the starter tomorrow maybe? If the starter is good, I don't really know what to look for after that.
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Old 01-15-2011, 11:51 PM
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Re: Getting no spark when cold, cranks fine

Thinking maybe a crankshaft position sensor is the culprit. I know on OBD1 H22's, the CKP Sensor is in the distributor, and on OBD2 H22's, it's behind the lower timing cover. HOWEVER, I have an OBD2 H23, so I'm assuming that the CKP Sensor location is the same between OBD1/OBD2 H23's as it is between OBD1/OBD2 H22's.

So basically: OBD2 H23 CKP Sensor: Located behind lower timing cover, Correct?
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Old 01-16-2014, 05:35 PM
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Re: Getting no spark when cold, cranks fine

Did you ever find out what was wrong? I am having the same problem
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Old 01-16-2014, 05:36 PM
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Re: Getting no spark when cold, cranks fine

Did you ever figure it out?
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Old 03-01-2014, 03:16 AM
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Re: Getting no spark when cold, cranks fine

Nope. The last thing I can think of is a faulty main relay. I noticed on days when the car won't start (~15* or below), if the sun comes out a little bit, the cabin of the car will warm up a bit and then it will fire right up. Eventually I'll get around to swapping out relays and if that doesn't fix it....I give up.
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