When your car is shutting off while you are driving, it can be a very dangerous situation for you. Having a headache can be caused by several different factors. Various factors may cause your car to shut off at any given time, and you should know what they are, how to fix it and prevent it in the future with proper vehicle maintenance, and what steps you should follow to keep yourself and others on the road as safe as possible when it does so while you are driving in traffic.
We will be discussing the issue of cars shutting off while driving in this article, which is one of the most common problems. There is a difference between when your car shuts off after you stop and when it does this when you are driving. When you have a very sensitive engine at low speeds, it can result in a drop in the idle speed that is not necessary. This is often caused by a faulty throttle body or a lean fuel mixture. This will cause the idle speed to drop too low due to a faulty throttle body.
I know that it can be very frustrating to have your car suddenly shut off while you are driving. Listed below are the most common causes of this problem and how you can fix it!
Table of Contents
Why Car Shuts Off While Driving?
As the owner of a vehicle, it is your responsibility to ensure that it is well taken care of. It seems that a lot of car owners are under the impression that cars run on magic dust. It is imperative to regularly check your car’s fuel, oil, coolant, etc., to ensure that it stays in good shape for as long as possible.
The sensors and functions in modern vehicles play a crucial role in making your car run as smoothly as possible. If your car suddenly shuts down while you are driving, having a basic understanding of your vehicle can help you to prevent a mechanical failure.
There are several reasons why your car turns off while you are driving. We are aiming to shed light on them so you can be prepared for the next time it happens.
In most cases, the reason a car shuts down while driving is due to a malfunctioning crankshaft position sensor or problems with the fuel system. These problems are causing it to shut down. Also, it may occur when there is a problem with the alternator, ignition switch, or empty fuel tank, or when there is a problem with the car engine sensors.
While this list gives you a hint of a few of the most common signs you may see, it is by no means comprehensive. I would like to share with you a list of the six most common reasons why your car shuts off while you are driving. The list is as follows:
1. Faulty Crankshaft Position Sensor
A defective crankshaft position sensor is one of the most common reasons for a car to shut off while driving. On most car models, the crankshaft sensor is one component that is necessary for the engine of your car to work properly.
Depending on the model of your car, you also have a camshaft position sensor. This sensor is used by the car to determine whether the camshaft sensor is faulty or not. The vehicle may not stop completely if there is a problem with the crankshaft position sensor.
As a result, if your car does not have a camshaft position sensor, but a crankshaft position sensor and you get a trouble code, you need to replace that sensor as soon as possible.
2. Faulty Fuel System
Fuel pumps are responsible for supplying the correct amount of fuel to the engine. When the fuel pump doesn’t deliver the correct amount of fuel to the engine, the motor will shut off. You will be left stranded on the side of the road.
It is bad news that there is no bypass option for a faulty fuel pump; you have to either repair the fuel pump or buy a new one. Alternatively, the fuel pump may be unable to pump fuel through the fuel filter because it has gotten clogged, which means fuel cannot flow into it.
This is a small component whose sole purpose is to clean the fuel that is pushed into the engine so that the engine can run smoothly. As a result of a clogged fuel filter, there will be insufficient fuel entering the engine, and the engine will shut down as a result. The good news is that replacing a fuel filter can be done quite easily by you.
The majority of fuel pumps are installed inside the fuel tank of the vehicle. One mechanic’s secret involves kicking the fuel tank when the car shuts off with your foot or something similar. In this case, it is most likely that your car’s fuel pump has a fault, and the car won’t start.
You still need to be careful, though, because the fuel tanks are made out of plastic. If you hit them with anything with an edge, you may end up making a hole in them, and this would be a very unpleasant experience for you.
There is a reasonable chance that the fuel pump in your car has failed if it turns off during a drive but then turns back on immediately afterward.
3. Empty Fuel Tank
If you are a car owner, you know that you need to check your fuel level regularly while driving so that you do not run out of fuel.
Fuel level is usually displayed by the fuel gauge or by the fuel level sender in your car. However, if either of these has failed and, as a result, does not show the real fuel level in your car, you could be in deep trouble.
Getting your vehicle to start can be as simple as filling up 1 gallon (4 liters) or 4 liters of gasoline to see if there is a problem with the fuel gauge or fuel level sensor.
4. Faulty Spark Plugs
There is another component that is vital to the power generation process of your engine, and that is the tiny spark plugs. It is these parts that ignite the mixture of fuel and air inside the engine’s combustion chamber so that combustion can take place in the engine. It is the responsibility of each cylinder to have its spark plug.
You can still drive your car if you only have one faulty spark plug in the car, as long as you start it. A car may be able to start if more than one spark plug fails. However, it is more likely not to go far if more than one spark plug fails. Several faulty spark plugs can lead to the engine stalling and shutting off while driving, causing your car to lose power.
The most common causes of an engine shutting off and leaving you stranded are lower engine performance, lack of acceleration, engine misfires, and engine knocking. However, before you find yourself stranded, there are usually other telltale signs that you should be aware of, including reduced engine performance, low acceleration, and engine misfires.
It is quite easy to discover whether you have a faulty spark plug if you notice these symptoms: all you have to do is locate and inspect the spark plugs to find out if they are damaged. As soon as you can see your spark plugs physically, you will be able to determine whether they are in working condition. If a spark plug is damaged by running too hot, or if it is covered with a substance like oil, fuel, or carbon, then that is a sign of a faulty spark plug
5. Alternator Problems
It is the alternator in your vehicle that manages the supply of electricity to the engine. There is a possibility that your alternator has gone faulty if your car suddenly stops running. A faulty alternator will cut off the power supply to vital components in the car. You will notice that the dashboard lights will turn off or the engine will suddenly lose power due to the power being cut out.
Usually, if your alternator becomes damaged, you will see the red battery light on your dashboard from time to time if you have a problem with your alternator.
The alternator may not have died. However, if your car still has electrical power and the starter motor is working after the car shut off while you were driving, then there is probably another problem. This is not the alternator.
6. Faulty Engine Control Unit
A faulty Engine Control Unit (ECU) or an engine control module might also be a cause of the engine shutting off while driving or the Check Engine light illuminating on the dashboard. This is one of the causes of the car shutting off while driving. A computer in your car is called an engine control unit (ECU) and it is responsible for collecting and analyzing data from various parts of a combustion engine to make sure everything works in an optimal and precise manner to ensure that you get the most out of your engine.
In the event of a malfunctioning ECU, your car may suddenly drop in power, fuel efficiency, and spark loss, resulting in a sudden shutdown and re-starting of the car. In addition to this, your car will often stall and jerk when you are driving if your ECU is faulty. It is also possible that your dashboard might also display the check engine light.
Even though it is not easy to test and inspect your ECU, it is essential. There is no guarantee that a check engine light means there is a problem with the ECU. You may try troubleshooting yourself by looking for diagnostic trouble codes using an OBD scanner and see what the codes are if you want to try troubleshooting it yourself. It is still possible that the code may still not be clear cut for an ECU that is failing. The only option you have is to have it repaired by a professional mechanic. The mechanic will be able to diagnose your ECU with the right tools, software, and understanding of how it works.
7. The Engine Has Overheated
Overheating of the engine is another factor that can cause a car to suddenly die while running as a result of the engine getting too hot. In some cases, overheating is caused by a lack of engine coolant or a problem with the system used to pump the coolant around the engine. However, it can be traced back to a lack of engine coolant or a problem with the cooling system itself.
An engine that does not have enough coolant flow may be due to a broken water pump, a snapped timing belt, or a low level of pressure in the cooling system. It is common for an engine to overheat, coolant leaks to occur, and steam to appear from the engine bay when there is a faulty water pump.
The temperature of the engine can also be affected by coolant leaks. Leaks in the coolant are often caused by the radiator, the coolant hoses, a cracked coolant reservoir, or even by the radiator cap. You may not even realize that there is a problem until it is too late when a bad radiator cap has caused your radiator to overheat. The most common symptoms of a bad radiator cap are an overheating engine, a low amount of coolant in the engine, burst radiator hoses, steam coming from the engine while driving, and a leak in the radiator coolant.
8. Faulty Ignition Switch
It is sometimes possible for your car to shut off while driving due to a malfunctioning ignition switch. When you turn the key to start the car, the ignition switch is installed behind the ignition lock and it gets turned whenever you turn the key.
Tiny metal plates in the interior of this switch can become corroded and rusted over time. It is possible that in the event of this happening, one of these plates will lose contact and the entire ignition will be turned off as a result.
In addition to the engine shutting down immediately, the whole system will also be shut down. Fortunately, there is an easy way to find out if this is the case.
As soon as your car shuts down, check to see if there are still any lights on your dashboard/ignition lights still on. When the dashboard instrument on your car is dead – there is a reasonable chance that the ignition switch is faulty as well.
9. The Timing Belt Has Broken Or Slipped
In addition to a broken timing belt, a damaged timing belt can also be one of the most common causes of a car cutting out while driving. Symptoms of a damaged timing belt can be observed in your vehicle even before the belt breaks.
It is also likely that a faulty or failed timing belt will result in the engine not starting, or if it does start, it will run extremely poorly. This is if it runs at all. There are times when a timing belt can become badly worn out and can stretch a little bit. As a result, there will be a change in the timing of the engine, which can cause the timing belt to slip.
When a timing belt is stretched, the power output will be reduced, especially under heavy loads. In addition, it can also cause poor fuel economy and frequent engine misfires, which can result in the engine being unable to start during a driving journey.
An engine will stop running and won’t be able to restart if the timing belt completely breaks. When a timing belt breaks on an engine that is an ‘interference engine’, the damage that the engine can sustain can be quite severe. This is especially true if the timing belt snaps while the engine is in motion.
10. Faulty Alternator
In your car, the alternator is responsible for producing a constant stream of electricity as a result of the mechanical energy produced by the car. During a journey, it is used to charge its battery as well as run various electrical components of the vehicle such as dash lights, dome lights, climate control unit, stereo, and so on. The problem of your car shutting off during driving might occur if for some reason the alternator is not performing its job properly. This is because your car won’t get the electricity it needs, and as a result, your car won’t get the electricity it needs. There will be a flashing dash light on your dashboard when this happens.
When your battery is working properly and can supply power to your car even after your alternator is dead, you might not realize immediately what’s going on when your alternator fails, but on the other hand, if your battery is working properly and can step in to supply power to the car, your car can still run for some time without an alternator.
In addition, the battery on the car cannot be used to power the whole car for a long period, which means that it can only be used for short durations while the car runs on the battery. Eventually, your car will stall if your battery dies, and eventually it will stop working altogether if the battery dies.
A person that pays enough attention to how their car runs will be able to notice when the alternator is not functioning properly. This is when their car begins to receive intermittent amounts of power when their alternator is not working properly. No matter how you choose to maintain your car, a reliableableable way to do it yourself would be to use a multimeter or a voltmeter at regular intervals. This is to test your battery and alternator for damage at regular intervals, such as every four to six months.
To test an alternator, turn the engine on, leave all lights, including the dash, off, and turn off all electrical accessories, such as the stereo, that are using electricity. With the help of the multimeter, perform a battery test on the battery. When an alternator is working properly, it should be producing between 13.1V and 14.6V at a regular idle speed. Then you should have it further examined by a professional if it does not seem to be in proper condition.
The alternator should then be tested to ensure that it will function properly under heavy loads. Ensure that your assistant maintains the engine speed at 2000 RPM for as long as possible. All accessories should be turned on, including the headlights, interior lights, radios, wipers, etc., and the voltmeter should be connected. There is a good chance that the alternator is strong if it reads 13.0 volts and above. The reading of anything lower than 13.0 is indicative of a faulty alternator, which should be replaced as soon as possible.
11. Malfunctioning Sensors
Modern cars are equipped with a wide range of sensors to optimize the air-fuel mixture to maximize fuel efficiency. You may be on the verge of a total engine failure if one of your car’s sensors fails and stops working.
Fortunately, a majority of these sensors are not able to completely shut down the engine, however. The air-fuel mixture could be messed up so much by a sensor such as the MAF sensor, the coolant temperature sensor, and the oxygen sensor that the engine might die as a result.
How to diagnose a car that shuts off while driving
When your car suddenly shuts off while driving, it can be difficult to diagnose the cause of this problem, especially if it occurs frequently. There is, however, a better chance of finding the problem when a vehicle just died after being driven for a short period.
- With an OBD2 scanner, you can check the engine control unit for any trouble codes that may exist within it. If you receive any trouble codes, continue performing the diagnostics on the vehicle.
- To ensure that the fuel level in the tank is appropriate and the fuel level gauge is working properly, fill the tank with 1 gallon or 4 liters of fuel and refill the tank with 1 gallon or 4 liters of fuel.
- Ensure that the battery voltage is correct and connect a car battery charger to make sure that the battery is charged correctly.
- After the car battery has been charged, you should be able to start your car after it has been charged. During running the car, you should measure the voltage with a multimeter. There is nothing wrong with the alternator system if you get 13.5-14.5 volts while the car is running, but if you get under 13 volts while the car is running, there seems to be an issue with the alternator system.
- A fuel pressure gauge can be used to check if the engine has the correct amount of fuel pressure. If this is not the case, you should check the fuel pump and the fuel filter. If the device is faulty, it should be replaced.
- With your diagnostic tool, you should be able to check live data from the engine sensors and look for any strange values that have been recorded. As you crank the engine, check if you get any RPM readings from the crankshaft sensor when you do so.
- While cranking the engine on your starter motor, make sure that the RPM meter on your dashboard is showing the correct RPM. When the crankshaft position sensor does not move, it is most likely the cause of the problem.
What To Do When Your Car Shuts Off While You’re Driving – Steps To Follow
If your car turns off during driving, you might end up stranded completely in the middle of nowhere, or you might end up creating a safety hazard if you’re driving fast or on a highway with a lot of traffic surrounding you. You can maintain the safety of your vehicle on the road as well as other vehicles on the road by following the steps below:
Put your car on the side of the road
As soon as your car shuts off while you are driving, the very first thing you need to do is to try not to panic. Encourage your car to pull over to the side of the road or the shoulder to avoid an accident. Whenever you are slowing down to a stop on the highway, pull over to prevent any vehicles behind you from crashing into you. This is because cars on the highway often travel at high speeds when approaching a stop. You need to take note that your car will no longer be able to brake or steer, but this is the only option you have at this time.
If slowing down your car is too difficult for you, then try to find an unobstructed safe spot off to the side of the road off to the right. There, you can guide your car, and then release the emergency brake. This may result in an abrupt stop, but it is much better than abruptly stalling out in the middle of the highway.
Once your car has been moved out of the way of the road, the next thing to do is to see if you can restart your car to at least get you to the nearest auto repair shop so that you can have your car repaired as soon as possible. The only thing that might be able to help you make your car restart is if you are lucky and can determine or narrow down the culprit.
Alert other drivers with emergency flashers
However, if you are unable to restart your vehicle, you may need to use your emergency flashers. This will let other drivers know that your vehicle will not be able to move forward and that you will not be merging back into traffic. While you are trying to figure out what the next steps are, this will help to keep you and your family safe.
Roadside Assistance or Your Emergency Number
If a car is stuck on the road and there is no one to help it, then you are best served by calling an emergency number or contacting a roadside assistance service like AAA, which offers 24-hour roadside assistance. The police can also help you if you are unable to reach either of them, or if your phone has died so that you can contact roadside assistance if you don’t have service, and if they cannot reach you they will ensure that your car is safe.
Additionally, if you’re lucky, your car might shut off while you’re driving but start again so that you can get home. In this case, you will be able to use an OBD2 scanner right away to check for any trouble codes in the engine control unit to resolve the issue. If you receive any trouble codes, you should continue the diagnostic process.
Frequently Asked Questions
In most cases, low engine oil levels do not cause your car to shut off because of low engine oil levels. If the level is so low that you are losing oil pressure, then your vehicle could shut off the engine for safety reasons if the level is so low. Newer cars, however, are more likely to have this problem than older ones.
In most cases, a faulty car battery will not cause the engine to shut off, as the alternator gives the engine power it needs to run. When a short circuit occurs in the car battery, it can cause it to shut off, but it will rarely happen.
As a result of the engine being very sensitive at idle, your car could shut off after you stop following a sudden stop. This is a phenomenon that can be caused by several things, but the most common cause is a lean fuel mixture, leading to a low idle speed. There is also a possibility that the throttle body is faulty.
A faulty alternator or a low fuel pressure caused by a faulty fuel pump is probably the reason for your car shutting off while it is driving. This is because it is not starting again. There are, however, many possible causes for it, which is why a diagnostic scanner must be used to diagnose it.