02 Honda Accord 2.3L ~280K Miles, distributor failed, still won't start after replacing it.

Apr 15, 2017
Napa, CA.
Ex called me in a panic because his Accord died while he was driving. His brother looked at it and found the distributor cap was loose (because it was melted on the bottom) and attempted to replace it but they had got the wrong one from Autozone. I delivered the correct part but didn't bother trying to install it because there was a ton of oil coming out of the distributor so I figured it was bad. Towed the car to where I work, we bought a new distributor, and I installed it.

Unfortunately it still doesn't start. It'll crank and crank and crank but not even sputter or anything. It seems to be getting fuel, at least you can smell fuel under the hood after trying to crank it, although I haven't actually tested fuel pressure. I checked the spark by using a screwdriver shoved into a plug wire and the two cylinders I tested had spark.

After that I connected a scanner and found the following codes, which I then cleared and they didn't come back at least while cranking the car.

P1382 "Cylinder Position Sensor No Signal"
P1259 "VTEC System Malfunction"
P1164 "Primary HO2S (No. 1) Circuit Range/Performance"
P0336 "Crankshaft Position Sensor Range/Performance"

I immediately suspected the crank sensor however upon cranking the scanner shows about 150RPM so it seems to be working, and I believe the crank sensor is part of the distributor anyway so it should be good, it's brand new.

Some research online shows that the P1382 could be the PCM but I doubt the PCM and distributor failed at the exact same time. Any help appreciated! I'm wondering if all the oil that leaked out of the old distributor cap screwed something up. It got all over the sensor right under the distributor as well as all over that wiring harness.

Perhaps worth noting we changed the heater hose that connects right under the distributor about a week ago because the old one had a hole in it and was squirting coolant all over the bottom of the distributor and related area as well. Managed to wiggle the old one out and new one in without removing the distributor because we didn't wanna mess with the timing. For the new distributor I sorta just guessed on the timing, didn't actually check it, but I'm assuming it should still start anyway...
Fuel and spark are good, I'd think by 2002 a distributor equipped ECU could correct the timing as long as the distributor wasn't 180 degrees out. I'm more interested in how the old distributor cap melted....
The dizzy has no manual adjustment and is electronically controlled. It can be installed 180 out. They also don't melt, that is a catastrophic failure.

The injectors fire off the same cam and crank signal. If you have RPM on the scan tool and a noid light test shows injector pulse, move on with the diagnosis.

Don't assume the new dizzy is good. Do a sanity check on the coil and igniter.

I had a 1989 Civic have rodent damage on the main harness kill the distributor and ECU.
Umm no. Ohm the sensors.

It is also possible (not necessarily easy) to engage distributor 180 degrees out of time.
Not on a Honda. The tabs on the distributor shaft are offset to prevent this exact situation from being possible. If you have it 180 degrees off, it won’t even slide into the head.
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My experience is with an older Accord, but I had an ignition coil get taken out by a failed reman distributor once.
Had a 98 ... similar problem. Turned out to be a fuse ... for the cigarette lighter maybe?
Bought new distributor and all .. check fuses.
I'll try to remember exactly which fuse.
It was dead in the water tho.
The 1st question I would ask is why was distributer cap melted?

Beyond that:
Oil in distributer is from worn o-ring.
Distributer cannot be installed 180* out.
Are you using key with chip? Car will crank and not run without chipped key.
Ignition switch contacts can be worn.
Main relay solder cracked. This happened to me.
Nope. It's still gotta be pretty close. Within a few degrees.
The only thing you could do on this particular engine is install it 180 out. You can't shift it off in any direction any number of degrees. It mounts with 2 bolts, and while one of the holes is elongated, the other is not.

I had to go verify that, our 2000 is long gone and its been years since I worked on it.

I would double check that its not 180 out and double check your wires.
So I played with it more there is no way to install the distributor wrong! It is keyed in such a way it is impossible to put it in completely 180* off.

Removed valve cover and found top of timing cover to be melted. Clearly this thing got HOT. Timing belt looked OK from a casual observation.

I even went as far to swap the cap and rotor from new distributor to old one in case the new one was defective. No change.

I was thinking of trying a main relay but gave up and it's going to go to the shop and hopefully I find out in the end what the problem really was.
Hondas has badass tough engines, but everything has limits. Ignition system breakdown is a common issue, but probably not this time (some times to much worn out spark plugs are cause of distributor death). In my opinion engine not start, because have timing problem (belt jumped), or head had serious overheat (totaly blown head gasket) and lost compression. Coolant level in radiator checked?

Any more info, or car is already scraped?