, Salem, MA


February 5, 2011

Car shuts off while driving

Q: I have had my 1997 Honda Accord LX since 1999. It now has 160,000 miles and has been reliable until recently. On three occasions, the car has simply shut off while I'm driving. I will feel that the accelerator is not working and look at the dashboard and see that all or most of the lights are on. I have managed to coast to the side of the road. I try to restart it, and it just as quickly shuts off. I guess that probably in five to 10 minutes it will start and run OK. I have had it looked at by two mechanics, and no code registers are indicating the problem. One service center thought it could be the ignition switch and gave me an estimate of $465 to replace it but said they hated to see me spend the money when it might not be the problem. I don't feel safe in it but would like to keep it awhile longer. What is your recommendation?

A: Stop! Don't buy that ignition switch just yet. This car has a large reputation for bad distributors. The easiest way to verify the problem is to tap on the distributor base while the car is idling. In most cases if the distributor is bad, the car will stop running at that point. When you go to start the car, it will just crank and not start. When the cranking is happening, tap the distributor and the vehicle will start. You have just diagnosed the problem. This is common to the Hondas of that generation. Expect a rebuilt distributor, which will include a new distributor cap, to cost around $500 installed.

Q: I own a 2003 Taurus station wagon we bought new. The rear window defroster metal attachment has come apart from the rear tailgate window. The dealership told me I would need a complete new rear tailgate window. This doesn't make sense, as the hookup for the defroster is inside on the ceiling of the car. Is there a special glue for this, or do I truly need a new tailgate window? Is there a way to contact a Ford assembly plant for this issue?

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