Why won't "Ophelia" the Accord start when it's hot?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jun 01, 2011

Dear Tom and Ray:

I drive an art car named Ophelia. She is a '91 Honda Accord with 250,000 miles on her. When I bought her, 11 years ago, the man I purchased her from said, "Oh, and sometimes she won't start if it's hot out." I think "sometimes" was an understatement. When it's hot out, I have to hose down the hood for 10 minutes, and then, for the rest of the day, she is fine. Now summer is here, and it can get as high as 113 degrees sometimes where I live. I'm having my first child soon, so I'm ready to solve this problem. Can you help? What could make her not start when it's hot? -- Colleen


RAY: Well, it's clear you're going to be a wonderfully patient mother, Colleen. I can see you sitting there with a spoonful of mashed peas and carrots, waiting calmly until your baby is ready to eat it. Or until he or she goes off to college -- whichever comes first.

TOM: Anyway, in our vast (or half-vast) experience with older Accords, hot-start failures usually are caused by a bad fuel pump relay.

RAY: Something happens to these relays over time, and they tend to fail when they get hot. And my guess is that hosing down the hood is not what's correcting the problem. What's helping is opening the door and letting the passenger compartment cool down.

TOM: The fuel pump relay is located under the dashboard, so when the car is closed up and the hot sun pours through the glass and turns your car into an oven, the relay stops working. Then, when you open the door or roll down the windows while you waste 100 gallons of precious water on the hood, the relay cools down and starts working again.

RAY: But I agree with you. I think it's time to fix this.

TOM: Why? What's the rush?

RAY: The relay costs less than $50, and it should be good for another 10 or 11 years. And as attached as you are to Ophelia, Colleen, hopefully you'll be onto another heap by then. Good luck with the car and the kid.

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