I fixed my broken car

Posted in Adventures, Lifeon Jan 21, 2009

From Car Pictures

Last Friday I was driving to work…. I was about a minute away from my home, stopped at a stop sign in the neighborhood, and when I started to accelerate again, my car stalled, and wouldn’t start again.  When I tried to start the car, it would just turn over and over but without starting.

At first I thought that I might be out of gas, since I knew that I was low and while the gas gauge hadn’t quite hit the E, I thought it was the easiest thing to try.  So I got a gas can and put an extra couple of gallons of gas in the tank, and it still didn’t work.

After a little research, I figured out that it had to be that either the fuel or a spark wasn’t making it to the engine.  I thought it might be the gas pump, but after talking to my friend Steve, he suggested that it was less likely to be the fuel pump and more likely to be the ignition coil.  I read a bunch of other storeis on the Internet about similar problems with Honda Civics, and I decided that I would replace the coil and see what happened.

On my 1994 Honda Civic, the coil is located inside the distributor.  Three screws attach the distributor cap which were removed.  Then I was confused because the rotor part of the distributor wouldn’t move at all, and I knew it had to come off so a cover part could come off so I could get at the coil.  After more Internet searching, I found that there was a screw holding the rotor on, and that it was only accessible when the screw was at the 10 to 11 o’clock position.  After a couple of tries of cranking the engine a bit, I found the screw, removed the rotor and the cover to the coil.

The biggest problem with removing the cold coil were the wires that were screwed into the coil.  The screws weren’t moving, and I broke one of the wires.  I eventually had to put a new spade lug back on the wires and get new screws (that had to be just about exactly the same size, and metric) but by that time, the wires were maybe a little too short.  But after tugging and pulling on the wires, I was able to connect them to the new coil. 

I screwed everything back together, said a little prayer, and my car started right back up.  

Before this, the most I had ever done to my car was re-install the radio and change the battery.  Certainly taking apart stuff under the hood was beyond prior experience, so I was quite happy when it actually worked. 

All in all, it took about 4 hours of getting my hands dirty (an expert with all the tools could have done in maybe an hour) a couple of hours for buying parts and tools, a few hours of Internet research, and about $90 for the new coil.   If I had to tow it to a mechanic, I would have expected that it would have cost me 3 or 4 times as much, and still had a lot of the hassle. 

Special props out to Sandy, my amazing girlfriend.  She helped drive me around to stores, took me to work for a couple of days, and helped me with my Internet research.



January 21st, 2009 at 1:47 pm

As a former girlfriend (not of you, but of other fine gentlemen) I can definitely agree, girlfriends do rock (so do husbands, Jim would like me to say). Also, I do not know how I missed the “learn about the giant hunk of metal that gets you around” memo, but I feel left out. When are we supposed to learn this stuff? I think they should teach it about the same time as they teach geometry, but that is just me. Congrats on the cheap fix for the car! that rocks socks.


January 21st, 2009 at 2:04 pm

@Britt – Actually, many high schools used to offer an automotive class, similar to shop class. However, as the complexity of cars increased, and the school budget decreased, auto shop classes were some of the first to get the cut.

Record heat | Square Galaxy

January 21st, 2009 at 3:39 pm

[…] Fort Collins this week is having a nice little January heat wave.  Record high temperatures are reported and predicted this week, according to a Coloradoan.com article. Yesterday we hit 70 degrees, which was a new record.  Today is also suppose to be the same, also breaking a record.  This sort of heat is bound to quite global warming critics.  I’ve very much enjoyed the weather, mostly because it allowed me to more easily fix my car. […]


January 21st, 2009 at 4:36 pm

Thanks for the shout out. But again, it was my pleasure. And I am impressed with your car repairing ability.


January 22nd, 2009 at 10:19 am

I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s been having car trouble lately. I can fix some minor things myself, but most of the time my auto repairs are beyond my capabilities. Good job getting you car fixed.

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