DIY Home and Auto Repair and Maintenance

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Main Relay Causing Starting and Stalling Issues on a 1993 Honda Accord

January 3rd, 2009 · 31 Comments

On my way to work a few days ago my 93 Honda Accord quit running twice.  The first time I was able to pull off the freeway and get the car to start again using some starting fluid.  The second time I didn’t make it off the freeway, nor was I able to restart it so easily. 

My car has stalled while travelling only once before, about a month ago under similar conditions.  It seems to happen when I let off the accelerator to slow down for traffic ahead.  To make matters worse, my car has been having starting issues for the past few years.  If the first attempt doesn’t start the car, it will not usually start for 5 to 10 minutes.  After being temporarily stranded a few times and at the suggestion of a AAA service driver, I purchased the starting fluid.

The starting fluid came in handy the first time my car stalled that day.  I loosened the air filter and sprayed some fluid in the intake and then went around and start the car again.  It worked pretty good and I was shortly on my way.  So much for the restarting difficulties.  I stayed off of the freeway for a while in-case the stalling problem returned, eventually I got back on the freeway and not long afterwards my car stalled again under similar circumstances.  This time I did not make it off the freeway.  I pulled off into the shoulder lane partially in the grass.  I tried starting it again with the starting fluid, it would turn over and start to run, but once the fluid was burned up the engine would stop.  I tried this several times, but could not keep the car running.  

I decided I wasn’t going to make it to work that day.  Eventually a tow truck driver came and as we were about to tow my car to a shop I half-heartedly tried starting it one more the car once more, it started right up.  I agreed to go back to his shop anyways so they could look at it to see if they could find a problem.  It would be $75 for the shop to look at it, which would take about an hour.  If I had some work done, that charge would be applied to the bill.  

Unfortunately, the mechanic couldn’t connect to my car with his code reader; on this car you need to use a jumper wire to jump the service connections, then you count the flashes on the service engine light to get the code.  My service engine light wasn’t coming on anyways, so we ended up talking and speculating on some potential causes of the problem.  They only charged $30 instead of the $75 since they couldn’t do much for me and it didn’t take to long, the information I got was good information even if it didn’t solve my problem.   Starting issues are either fuel, fire (spark) or air issues.  Due to the special circumstances we assumed there may be a fuel pump problem.  I drove home without a problem.

When I came home I started doing some Internet research on the fuel pump and replacing it.  Replacing the fuel pump on a 93 Honda Accord turns out to be a little bigger job that I wanted since the gas tank has to be taken off.  While researching this, I noticed some information on problems with the Main Relay.  Having hairline fractures in the solder joints seems to cause a variety of odd starting behaviors.  Since my car has been having odd starting behavior for some time, I decided to investigate this further.  

After searching for a while in the car and on the Internet,  I eventually found the Main Relay above the cruise control box, and took it out.  After opening the relay, I saw the hairline fractures on three of the solder joints.  I got my soldering iron and a magnifying glass and started repairing them (This site has excellent information on this issue and the solution: http://techauto.awardspace.com/mainrelaydefine.html).

Cruise Control Box on a 93 Honda Accord

Cruise Control Box on a 93 Honda Accord

Main Relay on a 93 Honda Accord

Main Relay on a 93 Honda Accord

I reassembled all the parts and gave it a try.  The soldering job wasn’t pretty but it worked and the car has been starting very reliably since performing this fairly easy job.  So yes, there definitely was a fuel issue, caused by an electrical issue.   However, I am not sure if this is the cause of the stalling issue.  Nevertheless, fixing those solder joints definitely solved my starting problems.   I’ll be doing some tune up work and replacing the fuel filter just to be sure, I hope I don’t have to replace the fuel pump.  If I do, at least I can blog about it.

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Tags: 93 Honda Accord · Auto Maintenance

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31 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jeremy // Sep 6, 2009 at 8:08 pm

    I bough a 93 Honda Accord six and a half years ago. I had the same problem with starting. If it sat in the heat too long, I’d have to wait until dark to get it started and back on the road. Never had a Stall problem though. Found the same broken solder spots. Got them fixed and it has run great ever since.

    Now I’m having the stalling problems you are. The garage told me to replace the main relay. It doesn’t have the cracks, so I’m assuming the the fuel filter is shot. I’ve have the car 6 years and put 90,000 miles on it. I’m sure it’s time to replace it. I hope this will solve the stalling problem. It’s so unpredictable.

    Good luck with your car.

    Jeremy Anderson

  • 2 Christina // Sep 25, 2009 at 11:09 pm

    I have to tell you how much your blog helped me get my car fixed. Over the summer I had the same problem with my 93 accord not starting after sitting in the hot sun. In the evening it started and I left it with a mechanic to find out what happened. It started for him with no problems but he suspected it was the relay.

    Fast forward to Wednesday after I drove to the recycling center. It refused to start. I left it overnight and had a difficult time restarting it. I drove to the closest mechanic and after explaining it might be the relay, he said it didn’t sound like it to him and it would be $80 to find out, none of which would apply to the labor or parts if it was. I then drove to the place that said originally it might be the relay where they informed me they were too busy and couldn’t take care of it until the next day. Mind you, I live in the country and need my car.

    I finally went to an honest Precision Auto. The car worked perfectly for them but I showed them your blog and they agreed to replace the main relay (with no guarantee it would work). How about the the maintenance required light changed from red to green after they finished !

    Thank goodness for your blog and a company willing to work with me ! Now I can drive without the fear of being stranded.

  • 3 Melinda // Oct 6, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    I have a 91 honda accord that doesn’t want to start about once a month. I don’t understand what is wrong with my car no one can figure it out its like its possessed only starts when it wants to. Ive gotten the battery,starter,and alternator checked. I think it might be a main relay switch but Im not sure if you could give me some advice that would be very helpful. thank you

    Administrator Reply: If the symptoms in this post seem to apply to your issue and you are uncomfortable with attempting this task, show this page to someone who does your repair work and have them investigate it.

  • 4 Annette // Dec 13, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    I have a 93 Honda Accord that all of a sudden started stalling out as I am driving. Also when I slow down in traffic or come to a stop. It starts right back up with no problem though. I’m thinking it’s the fuel filter and I’ve asked a few male friends and they think it could be the fuel filter also. Since I bought the car four years ago I don’t know if it was changed before. I think it would be the cheapest fix to start with. What do you think could also be the problem?

    Reply – It could be, Ive seen stalling issues with hot fuel filters before, but this also sounds an awful lot like the main relay issue that has been known to occur on some older Hondas. Check out this post on How to Change the Fuel Filter on a 93 Honda Accord in addition to this one on the Main Relay Causing Starting and Stalling Issues on a 1993 Honda Accord for more information.

  • 5 jeremy myers // May 31, 2010 at 10:29 am

    my 93 accord wouldnt start yesterday I’ve had the car for about 6 months now and never had any problems. my first thought was the battery and or terminal, the battery has a full charge and the negative terminal was cracked so i replaced it thinking it would do the trick. the entire car has no power no lights and it will not start once it cools down. this happened yesterday it was up around 90 degrees here, and i had just come home to unload groceries and went out later to run some more errands. do you think this could possibly be the main relay?

    Webmaster Response:This does not appear to be the same as the main relay symptoms

  • 6 Michael // Jul 25, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    I have a 1993 honda accord having some starting issues. Well started out with erratc idling then worsened to not starting. It does sit in the sun alot but idk if that may be the prblem heating everything up. I bought a new fuel filter about 6 months ago. new Fuel main relay about 2 months. once i installed the MFR it worked with no issues for a couple of weeks. Now its not budging. SHot some starter fluid inside the intake still wont start…….Argh!!!!
    What could be the issue?????About the starting???

    Webmaster Response:
    There are many things that could cause the symptoms you are describing. Some Hondas in this period experience what is called idle surging, where the idle goes up speed and then drops down to normal repeatedly. The non-starting issue could be the main relay, but since you stated you’ve replaced that – there could be other causes that may be affecting fuel delivery, or spark – You may want to go through the troubleshooting section of a good repair manual to further isolate the cause.

  • 7 Michael // Jul 26, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    Okay, Ive practically checked everything. I would say the only things that i havent checked is the Coil pack. Now since the coil pack is connected to the sparks plugs. if this was bad then would the engine even start????

    Now also i replaced the fuel filter about a year ago would this be suspect as well??

    thanks

    Webmaster Response: I would doubt the fuel filter would be the issue since you have recently replaced it – I’ve only changed mine once since I got the car over ten years ago and I believe it was the original. I’m not familiar with the coil pack and how it operates – I learn as I go and haven’t run into a problem there yet – However, I would assume that if you are getting spark from the plugs, then the problem lies elsewhere. Do you hear the fuel pump turn on when you put the key in the “On” position?

  • 8 Christina // Dec 19, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    Just a follow-up to my earlier post after replacing the Main Relay. My car ran great for a few months but then again it did the same thing. I also have the problem with the idle but it dips down, not up.

    Someone else suggested the fuel filters but I wonder if you had success with the car after replacing your fuel filters.

    I have already replaced the fuel pump, distributor, battery, main relay, fuel lines and yet every few months like clockwork the car will stall and restart after a few days of rest.

  • 9 david a taylor // Jan 8, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    well to update. i had the same problem.i tryed starting fluid , holding the petal to the floor and so on.. it was the main relay .after getting mad and spraying starting fluid and the put put thing i craweled under the dash and smacked the cruise control box. and then you know what it cranked. the main relay is behind the cruise control box.it has defective workmanship in it.all in all its a good car.good luck all

  • 10 Elaine // Jun 1, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    Well – I have to think that the Main Relay could be my deal as well. I have a 98 Honda Accord and have the timing belt and water pump replaced. However, that did not solve the random starting issues. It is so funny that you run to the store – run in and back out and the car wont start – but wait 10 minutes and there you go. I did have it die on my the first time in the middle of driving about a month ago. It did it twice back to back. I do have to say, it is for sure random when it comes to starting. I am always questioning – will it start. Thanks for your help.

  • 11 Misty // Jun 11, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    Two years ago i had the same problem with my car sitting in the sun or stopping to pump gas or even running into the store real quick then it wouldn’t start. I was told it was fuel related but with some
    Internet researched I learned that it was possibly the main relay. Everyone said “no way, it couldn’t possibly be the main relay!” Guess what, it was it only cost me around $50 bucks and it took me longer to locate my tools than it did to change the thing.
    1993 Honda Accord 219,000

  • 12 Elaine // Jun 30, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    It is me again – I had to have the car towed the other day – it was the main relay. I just got it back this morning. I will assume this will resolve my issues. Thanks everyone for your help.

  • 13 George // Jul 13, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    I had my main relay on a 94 Accord replaced two years ago after much frustration. It was good for a year and a half and then a pain again. I got a new one yesterday and it works slightly better but seems to be defective right out of the box. Before trying to start the engine, turn the key to the on position and wait for the check engine light to go out. Sometimes it takes two seconds, sometimes many minutes, when the light goes out you will hear a faint whir and the car will start. It is still a pain but it beats cranking the engine over and over and over.

  • 14 Barbara // Jul 27, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    We had the exact same problem and you saved us a lot of money. We were able to fix it ourselves and the car is running fine now. We can not thank you enough, for your time and effort in solving your problem also solved ours. We thank you in addition for posting it so that we could use all of your insight.

    Thank you again.
    Barb and Rick

  • 15 Don // Nov 13, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    I am having the same problem but I am wondering. When mine doesn’t start, the green light around the D4 blinks, and the check engine light stays on. When they finally go out, the engine starts, and runs fine. Do the other posters have the same light going on?

  • 16 Dan N. // May 28, 2012 at 11:39 am

    I have a 1993 honda accord with a 204,000 miles on it. I have same issues with the car won’t start or stalling when driving. I did remove the main relay and check it out and did a bench test. It passed. I put it back on and still the car will not start. I open up the distributor cap and clean it inside, pull the thingy in the middle of the cap out…may be the spring is weak thus pushing against the rotor. So, after every thing is back…the car started right up! I order a new distributor cap hope it works…2 weeks later, same problems, car won’t start unless the service engine light is off. Then I did a research on a you tube video. One of the problem could be the Ignition Module. So I went to the Auto Zone and bought a new Ignition Module, take a distributor out and replace the old I.M with the new one. My gosh , the service engine light went out and the car start right up. It started up and no stalling for me ever since. Plus the rpm gauge the needle do not fluctuate erradicly! It ran very smooth.

  • 17 MOHAMED GEBALI // Jun 23, 2012 at 11:27 am

    I have 93 Honda Accord with exactly the same problem as above

    I owe you for having saved me a bundle

    Great and valuable blog!

    I had the MNE302 ECM in my hand to replace
    but now will look at the relay solder points better

    Many thanks

  • 18 Lisa // Jul 9, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    Well, I have a 94 Accord, and its got 200k mi on it and just this summer its been stalling out or not starting randomly. If I let it sit over night it will start right up in the morning. I have had the idle turned up a bit, cleaned out the throttle, did a tune up, but still have the problem. Is there anyway to test and know for sure if its the efi relay or the ignition module?

  • 19 Administrator // Jul 10, 2012 at 1:43 am

    In my experience, If the ignition module was out, the car won’t start at all. This other post describes how I went about identifying a failed ignition module and testing the injectors. Your problem sounds very much like the common main relay issue, the other resouces I mention in the posts can provide additional information on the problem.

  • 20 Chris // Sep 21, 2012 at 4:58 am

    93 Accord, 205K miles, similar starting problems to many of those posted. Has never quit while running and has never not started when cold. Most common circumstances for not starting has been after running at temperature and then stopping for gas, or other short time, typically 3-5 minutes. When attempting to start, most often the engine will crank, fire, then rpms drop back down thru the idle range and quit. However, sometimes, as I’m recalling, the engine will just crank and not start. The “fix” has been to let it sit for 5+ minutes (non convenient at the gas pump), turn key to “on” position for 30+ seconds and then it almost always starts right up. Else you’ll crank all day until the battery runs dead. Problem is occurring weekly or 2-3 times per month. All major services done in the last year to include fuel filter, plugs. wires, etc. Most recently, changed ignition module, but problem recurred 3 starts later. Have been thinking fuel pump since our daughter ran the car routinely on empty when she had the car for 5 years. However, I’d like to try the main relay before going the fuel pump route. Reasonable? Other suggestions?

  • 21 webmaster // Sep 21, 2012 at 9:34 am

    This sounds like a classic bad main relay problem to me, The intermittent nature of these main relay problems makes it very hard to diagnose. When my car first started doing this I had intermittent non-starts once a month or so for several years, usually after a short stop. It wasn’t until later that the stalling issues started occuring. The main relay powers the fuel pump, so it is easy to assume the problem would be due to the fuel pump. If it happens again before you get a chance to fix it, you can turn the key to the “on” position and listen if you can hear the fuel pump come on. If you are in a quiet area you will normally hear a whine coming from the back seat, that is the fuel pump. My suspicion is that when the main relay is preventing the car from starting, you will not hear the pump come on. Let us know what you find out.

  • 22 Chris // Oct 2, 2012 at 12:54 am

    New Main Relay solved the problem. I wanted to drive it a couple weeks or so under different conditions to verify the fix before putting this one to bed (and it has been hot here). Ended up getting the relay at Honda dealer, after checking two local “parts” stores. One had a “direct import” but it was still a few bucks more than Honda. Thanks for your help.

  • 23 Christina // Oct 12, 2012 at 9:26 am

    It’s me again, 2 years later. Even after replacing the main relay, the distributor, new battery, ignition, fuel pump, filters & lines, the car still had stalling and no start issues. I had a craigslist mechanic look at it and he said it was the timing belt. It ran great for 2 years. Then one rainy day, it stopped while I was driving. Started a few times, then stopped again. My husband made me tow it to Pep Boys. They say it’s the fuel pump. I suspect it’s the main relay. Is it possible for the main relay to go bad again after a few years ?

  • 24 Corey // Oct 21, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    I have an 01 Acura CL-Type S. I know my main relay is faulty because I can feeling it clicking when i try to crank it, then i give it some taps and it starts right up. Has anyone proven that the main relay can responsible for stalling also? All my lights will stay on and dash works but I lose power steering and it pretty scary doing 60 mph.

  • 25 webmaster // Nov 30, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    If your main relay stops working then the fuel pump will not be powered and your car will stall.

  • 26 Tony // Mar 15, 2013 at 11:09 am

    Yep those darn main relays. I would recommend instead of buying new ones to have a mechanic go in and do some heavy duty work on it. Mine is getting done as im typing.

  • 27 Lupe // Apr 9, 2013 at 11:21 am

    Checked fuel filter it’s good checked fuel pump it’s good checked main relay & it’s good but car cranks but won’t start can’t figure it out

  • 28 webmaster // Apr 10, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    All three of those items pertain to the fuel system in some way. You may also need to confirm there is spark making it to the plugs. Perhaps checking the ignition components such as the distributor, coil and ignitor would be in order.

  • 29 Brent // Apr 26, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    How awesome is this article?!?! Thank you sooo much for taking the time to create this page, and for including the link with more details on changing the relay!!

    I admit that the space was tight under there, and fixing it did a little number on my back/shoulder/neck – but it was worth it!! I went with the easy fix of unplugging the old one, and using zip ties to attach the mounting bracket of a new one (method 3 in your linked page). I actually have a 1990 Accord, but it was pretty similar to the pictures.

    I had similar symptoms as others here. It began with a random starting problem on hot days. Eventually, it turned into an every 3-4 week event (oddly enough, it seemed to happen most often when I ran into the grocery store for a few minutes). At that point, it was the wait 10 minutes thing, and it would start right up.

    Then, it became an almost daily thing. Ten minutes wasn’t enough time any more, either. I started carrying around a screwdriver and a can of carb and choke cleaner to spray into the air intake. I mostly used the trick of not turning the key all of the way, and waited for the dash lights to go out before starting it with the gas floored. I stopped driving it regularly, but it did eventually leave me stranded back in January. After having it towed home, I would only drive it around a little while (if it would start) before heading back home – never daring to cut it off while I was out.

    We have to get a car inspected here before we can renew our tags, and the tags were coming due. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I thought I’d start by changing the fuel filter (cheap enough — ~ $15). While searching the Internet for some good pics on finding/changing the fuel filter, I stumbled into this gem of a page. My little Honda is now fixed and inspected, and we have a nice little third car that my wife can drive.

    You deserve so much thanks and credit for creating this page! Who knows how many people you have helped!

    BTW – You may wonder why I didn’t take the car to a mechanic. Actually, I did drop it off at a muffler shop within walking distance of my office. They checked the spark and everything, and basically narrowed it down to the fuel system; they also said that it seemed like the fuel pump didn’t want to prime correctly. They were really nice to not charge me a dime, since they couldn’t isolate the problem. They’re also the ones that turned me on to carb and choke cleaner (that’s how they got it started).

    Thanks again!!

  • 30 Kat // Jun 5, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    Ok… I’ve read all of this and I thought it had answered my quandary…. 91 accord. Always had the idle search in park, would stop in drive. Then it died and wouldn’t start..stalled a couple times before that… So after discovering oil in plugs… Changed head gasket plug wires..no start…changed distributor cap and button..after exchanging out the idle air sensor on someone’s word..no start..put old one back on..changed fuel filter…distributor cap and rotor…started..ran good for couple of days..stalled..restarted at night..drove one more time..died…can’t restart.. Replaced distributor completely…no start….found this article…now… Ours came up a 7 prong relay but there were 4 prong ones available too and were the pricing everyone on here was saying…but the location was on the money… Still no stArt w the new one. However, it clicks in my hand when I try to start it…is the new one good or bad the right one or no? I’m flustered and into this repair now a lot of money….battery good. But I do smell fuel when it won’t start but can’t find a leak. Can someone please shed a light….

  • 31 Kat // Jun 5, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    Oh yeah…changed coil and spark plugs too..fuel pump kicking on….ugh

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