How To Troubleshoot A No Start (Honda 1.5L)

A ‘cranks but does not start’ condition, on your 1.5L Honda Civic, can leave you scratching your head and wondering what has gone wrong. You might be asking yourself: Is it the fuel pump? Or is it the ignition coil? Or is it a busted timing belt?, etc.

The good news is that diagnosing a ‘cranks but does not start’ condition is not that hard. Finding the source of the no start involves 3 basic tests. In a nutshell: One is a spark test, the other is a fuel pressure test, and the last is a compression test.

In this tutorial, I'll explain the process behind troubleshooting a no start and I'll show you where you can find the specific ‘how to’ tutorials for each test.

Here are the contents of this article at a quick glance:

  1. Difference Between A No Start And A No Crank Condition.
  2. No Start Condition Basics.
  3. Checking For Spark.
  4. Checking For A Lack Of Fuel.
  5. Checking Engine Mechanical Condition.
  6. Related Test Articles.

En Español You can find this tutorial in Spanish here: Cómo Probar Un Arranca Pero No Prende (1.5L Honda Civic) (at: autotecnico-online.com).

Difference Between A No Start And A No Crank Condition

You've probably heard the phrases; ‘my car doesn't crank’ or ‘my car cranks but doesn't start’ and may be wondering what exactly they are describing. Here's a brief description that help you make sense of this tutorial:

Cranks but Does Not Start Condition: Means that your Honda's starter motor is cranking the engine but the engine is not starting. This is usually due to a fault in the ignition system, or in the fuel system, or there's an engine mechanical problem (like a blown head gasket, etc.).

Does Not Crank Condition: Means that the engine is not cranking when you turn the key to crank the engine. In other words, the engine doesn't turn over at all. This is usually due to a bad starter motor, bad ignition switch, bad neutral safety switch, or the engine is locked up.

If your Honda Civic doesn't crank and you suspect the starter motor, here's a tutorial that'll help you test it: How To Test The Starter Motor (Honda 1.5L, 1.6L).

No Start Condition Basics

What makes troubleshooting a ‘cranks but does not start’ condition easy is knowing that your 1.5L Honda engine needs 3 specific things to be able to start. These are:

  1. Air.
  2. Fuel.
  3. Spark.

When your Honda Civic cranks but does not start...it's because one of these 3 things is missing from the mix.

So, troubleshooting the problem requires that you check for spark (with a spark tester), check fuel pressure, and if necessary, check the engine's health with a compression test.

In the next subheading I'll go into more detail as to what you have to test.

Checking For Spark

How To Troubleshoot A No Start (Honda 1.5L)

The ignition system is usually the culprit behind most ‘no start’ conditions. The basic core components of the ignition system that fail and cause a no start are:

  1. The ignition control module (ICM) -called the igniter.
  2. The ignition coil.
  3. The distributor cap.
  4. The distributor rotor.

Checking a no start condition should start with a spark test. Making sure that all 4 cylinders are getting spark. This involves attaching a spark tester to a spark plug wire and having a helper crank the engine. If the spark plug wire sparks, then the test is repeated on the next 3 spark plug wires.

The purpose of this spark check is to make sure that all 4 spark plug wires are feeding spark to their respective cylinder. If spark is present at all 4 spark plug cables, then you can eliminate the ignition system as the culprit behind the no start condition on your 1.6L Honda Civic. Your next diagnostic test step is to make sure that the fuel pump is OK (see next heading)


If you get a no spark test result on all 4 spark plug cables, then further testing is needed to find out the exact component that's causing the no spark issue. A no spark problem is usually caused by:

  1. Bad distributor cap.
  2. Bad ignition coil.
  3. Bad igniter.

The following tutorial will help you test the ignition system to see if it's behind the ‘no start’ condition on your 1.5L Honda Civic: How To Test The Igniter, Ignition Coil Accord, Civic, CRV, and Odyssey (at: easyautodiagnostics.com).