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Alternator, Transmission, Both, or Other?

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Aug 7, 2014, 8:00 AM

Post #1 of 3 (932 views)
Alternator, Transmission, Both, or Other? Sign In

Hey everyone. Here's my problem - my 1999 Civic died on me twice in the past 48 hours and was very difficult to get into first and second gear. The car also jolted/shook on me once yesterday.

Now for the details. I have 297,000 miles on the car and just had the catalytic converter replaced this weekend. I started having these problems towards the end of my trip of about 1,000 miles from Mississippi to Minnesota. I knew the trip might be risky, but flying is expensive for 2 college students, and we hadn't seen my wife's family since our wedding last April (we have no family in MS, just there on scholarship). I had the alternator replaced last summer, but the job was a bit sketchy. When I pulled out of the mechanic's lot after paying I saw the RPMs drop to 0 as soon as I took my foot off the accelerator, so I immediately turned around and confronted them and had them put in a new (used) alternator. Also, for whatever reason my driver's window wouldn't roll down after they did the job right, and they wouldn't take responsibility for it or fix it for free.

A new set of issues started back in March when we had to get a new battery. Then the check engine light came on. Our new mechanic replaced the spark plugs and the light went away only to come back on the very next day, so then he did some more engine work only for the same thing to happen. We didn't have enough money for another repair, so we spent the rest of the rest of the semester and this summer using the car for emergency purposes only. I was gone for a month this summer working and my wife used the car 6x, 3 of the times she drove it across town (not too far) it shook, and one time it shut off while driving. When I got back last week we had enough money to take the car in (the mechanic said it was the catalytic converter) and then drive to see family. FWIW the check engine light hasn't come back on.

A man at my wife's family's church has offered to look at the car, but I don't feel comfortable driving it 20 miles to his house, since the 2x it shut off were within a mile of her family's house. The first time we had to get it jumped, the second time, which we were driving to drop it off at his place, it started back up and we just headed back home.

I understand that there is no way to fully diagnose the situation from a simple internet post, but if I can figure out what it might be and what to do next it would help a lot. I don't have enough money for another major fix, but selling the car for 2 plane tickets (if we can $1100) seems pretty extreme after all the money I've put into repairs/living in a state that doesn't believe in sidewalks. Any tips on things I could check on my own, or advice on whether I should just sell/junk it, or try to drive it or get it towed would be greatly appreciated. I have until the 18th until my on campus job starts. Thanks so much guys!

(This post was edited by mxpx4182 on Aug 7, 2014, 8:00 AM)

Tom Greenleaf
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Tom Greenleaf profile image

Aug 7, 2014, 9:36 AM

Post #2 of 3 (913 views)
Re: Alternator, Transmission, Both, or Other? Sign In

? You should be able to get codes read for free. Write down and post the #s and just maybe the issue isn't a horror show but I'd begin with that.

Places like the larger chain parts outlets frequently do the code reading just don't let just a parts outlet make the call on what it needs or shows.

Reset of codes might delay finding out later but if you only need this for another 10 days or so and are willing to sell it off at parts or a fixer upper then keep the investment low. IMO it has enough miles for endless possible issues just more apt with the miles.

Your call. A car that doesn't need a thing is still costly to own and run while at college if you can do without totally,


(on edit) if a standard shift trans hard to shift make sure the master cylinder is properly full. If a slow leak and found real low you might squeak by the 10 days?

(This post was edited by Tom Greenleaf on Aug 7, 2014, 9:46 AM)

GC profile image

Aug 7, 2014, 9:47 AM

Post #3 of 3 (907 views)
Re: Alternator, Transmission, Both, or Other? Sign In

So to sort this out -

Car stalled. Battery was dead. Needed a jump to get it started.
Car stalls again, battery not dead, starts on its own.

First thing I would look at is the battery cables and their connection to the battery. Are they clean and tight?
Next check the state of charge on the battery.
Then check output of alternator.

Any way you can get even a cheap code reader on it?
Just because the check engine light is not on, doesnt mean there are not codes stored.

Parts stores in most places can test battery/alternator.

Willing to help, willing to learn... Rob

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