Car Shuts Off While Driving (2023)

The functioning of the components of a car is complicated due to so many different parts performing functions. However, if a part starts malfunctioning, the entire system can come to a halt. The worst possible scenario is your car shutting off while you are driving.

You will not get a car mechanic instantly in the middle of a road and hence, you should know about the reasons why your car has shut off. Along with those, you should know the troubleshooting steps so that you can fix the issue.

Outline

Reasons Why A Car Shuts Off While Driving

1. Running Out of Fuel

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If your vehicle does not have any fuel, it will shut off while driving. Without fuel, you will not be able to run the car. It is advisable to check the fuel rather than just assuming if there is any mechanical failure. This primarily happens when people are lazy or when they underestimate the fuel limit.

The engine will stop and it can even happen due to a stuck fuel gauge. Do note that a stuck fuel gauge does not come with any warning. You will not get the correct indication and you may run out of fuel which will shut off driving. Sometimes even a frozen fuel line can make the car stop.

2. Dead Car Battery

Other than the fuel, it is the car battery that helps to kick start the vehicle. By delivering the right power, you will be able to start the combustion process. Even though the battery does not power the car, it is responsible for starting the car. A car battery can also power other components. When the battery is not able to charge correctly, your car will shut off immediately. You will have to see if the battery is not dead. Apart from stopping your car, there can even be short circuits while driving.

When the alternator is not working, the car will use the battery. With a dead car battery, your car will die too. The battery will not last long if the alternator is dead. A multimeter will allow you to check the car battery status. When the battery is less than 12.6V, it is not fully charged. You need a battery replacement if it is below 11.7V as it has less than 25% of the charge.

3. Alternator Issues

The alternator is responsible for running the different components of the car smoothly. It is the powerhouse of your vehicle and if it does not work properly, the car will turn off. The alternator helps to manage the supply of electricity by recharging the battery. When there is a bad alternator, your car will shut off while driving. This primarily happens as it affects the power supply.

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Alternator issues will make the engine lose power. However, the alternator will rarely fail. You will have to identify the problem before you happen to face the issue while driving. When the alternator dies, the battery will supply power. This can happen only for a short period as the battery cannot provide power for the entire vehicle. The car will then shut off eventually after stalling.

4. Faulty Fuel Pump

To move the car, the engine will have to provide a steady fuel supply. Your car will shut off while driving if the fuel supply is affected. The fuel system will never make the tank reach the engine with fuel. It is just like not providing any fuel to the engine. For this, it is important to check the faulty fuel pump. It can affect the continuous power which supplies fuel to the engine.

When there is a bad fuel pump, there is a likelihood of experiencing engine shutoffs. At times, it can also be due to the fuel filter. In most cases, the car will not continue to turn off and even the fuel supply line can create the same problem. It is advisable to diagnose the fuel system with a professional.

5. Electrical Cable Failure

Another reason that can make the car shut off while driving is due to electrical cable failure. Many things such as the alternator and spark plugs can even lead to a faulty electrical cable. The cables are important components that help to generate enough power. If it is defective or loose, the vehicle will also lose power. It can lead to an unexpected shut-off of the engine. Before the car reaches this stage, it can even reflect signs like reduced engine performance and lack of acceleration. It will be better to determine if there is any electrical cable failure.

6. Ignition System Problems

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When any component of the ignition system has a problem, then your car will shut off when you drive. The ignition system is very important for supplying power to the car. When there is any faulty ignition system, it can lead to various problems including the start. It can provide weak combustion that can make the car switch off while driving. Many causes can lead to the problem like a faulty ignition relay or worn-out ignition switch.

7. Defective Engine Control Unit

The ECU or Engine Control Unit is an important component in the vehicle. It controls most of the operations and is a small computer task. ECU makes sure that the vehicle runs smoothly and helps to identify if there is any problem. The ability to control different mechanisms of the engine helps to deliver optimal engine performance.

However, when the car computer is not functioning properly, it can make the engine lose power. If the ECU fails, you will not be able to drive your car. At times, the car will shut off randomly and then bounce back. This can happen when the ECU loses spark, power, or fuel-efficiency. There are many reasons that can cause the malfunctioning of the computer. If there are any issues, you can confirm with the engine light.

To determine if the ECU is functioning properly, you will have to get an OBD scanner. Keep in mind that diagnosing or inspecting your ECU can be very difficult. Only a professional mechanic can diagnose the ECU with the right tools, understanding, and software.

Possible Solutions to Car Shuts Off While Driving

Many reasons can cause the car to shut off while driving. However, what matters most is how you deal with the situation. Here are some of the ways that will allow you to find the right solution depending upon the issue.

1. Check and Tighten Electric Cables

One of the easiest ways to fix the vehicle will be to loosen the electrical cables. Most importantly, you don’t have to hire a professional mechanic and you can do it on your own. However, this is only when you suspect if the problem is due to cables. When the car shuts off due to cables, you can fix them instantly. Look for the one that comes from the fuse box and battery. Try to locate the loose cable and then tighten it smoothly. In some cases, you will also find permanent damage on a cable. It is important to replace the cable to fix the problem.

2. Install a New Fuel Pump

When there is a problematic fuel pump, there can be many issues like loss of acceleration and power and the car shutting off. You will have to fix it to deal with the problem. The ideal solution will be to replace the bad fuel pump. If you happen to be an experienced motorist then you can easily replace it without any professional help.

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3. Clean or Replace the Alternator

To prevent an expected shutoff of the car, you will have to keep the alternator and battery connection clean. This will also help to provide smooth functioning of the car. When there is a faulty alternator, you can easily tell from various symptoms including flickering of the headlights, rough engine running, fast battery drainage, and dashboard warning light. You can easily clean the alternator. If you happen to damage it, you can even replace it on your own. The alternator comes at an affordable value and allows you to have quick maintenance.

4. Take Vehicle for Comprehensive ECU Inspection

It is important to inspect the ECU from time to time. The ECU is an important component of the vehicle. However, when it causes the vehicle to shut off or misbehaves, then you will not be able to fix it on your own. You will have to get an OBD2 scanner to get some idea regarding the error codes. It is advisable to take the vehicle to a professional and have a full ECU inspection.

5. Refuel the Car and Fix Fuel Gauge

Many times your car will start working when you refuel it. This is primarily when the vehicle runs out of fuel. Do keep in mind that you will have to check the fuel gauge. If it has any issues, then you need to fix them. A misbehaving fuel gauge will not give you the right indication of how much fuel is left.

What To Do If The Car Shuts Off While Driving?

If you happen to drive on the highway and your car turns off, then you will be in the middle of nowhere. It is important to maintain better safety and follow the necessary steps.

  • Pullover your car to side of the road

You need to stay calm and do not panic when your car shuts off while driving. Always take your car to the side and prevent any vehicles from behind to crash into the rear. In some cases, your car will lose the ability to steer and brake. If you feel that slowing down the vehicle is difficult, you can make use of the emergency brake. This can cause an abrupt stop but helps to prevent stalling on the road.

  • Try To Restart Your Car

Once you are done taking a car on the side of the road, you can give an attempt to restart your car. If you happen to do it, you can take the car to the nearest auto repair shop.

  • Use Emergency Flares, Lights, Or Cones

If in any case, you are unable to restart the vehicle, you can make use of the emergency flashers. This will notify the drivers that you are not able to restart your car and it even helps to prevent merging into traffic. In doing so, you can figure out what to do next and keep yourself safe.

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  • Seek Help from Roadside or Emergency Services

Finally, you can get help from roadside assistance services which are operational 24/7. Make use of the emergency number and try to seek help. When your phone is not working, the police can also help contact roadside assistance. If by any chance, your car starts again, you can get home safely. However, do use an OBD2 scanner to know if the engine control unit has any trouble codes. This will make sure there will be proper diagnostics.

Conclusion

When your car shuts off while driving, it is extremely troublesome. You can always prevent it by reading the warning signs using various car checkup devices available. If you are a car owner and you drive your own car, you should go through the article minutely and keep all the points in mind. You will come across such a worst-case scenario when the troubleshooting steps will be extremely useful.

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FAQs

What causes a car to lose power and died while driving? ›

The most likely issue is a clogged fuel filter. The purpose of the fuel filter is to ensure that dirt and debris stay out of the fuel system, so over time, it may need cleaned or replaced. When the fuel filter is clogged, the fuel pump has to work much harder, resulting in a far less efficient drive.

What does it mean when your car just dies while driving? ›

It could be a problem with the alternator or the battery itself. Check the electrical systems, connectors, and terminals. If not, then check the drive belt for damage or retighten. If the car dies while driving but restarts again, check for a clogged fuel filter.

What are the signs your transmission is going out? ›

What Are the Transmission Failure Symptoms?
  • Refusal to Switch Gears. If your vehicle refuses or struggles to change gears, you are more than likely facing a problem with your transmission system. ...
  • Burning Smell. ...
  • Noises When in Neutral. ...
  • Slipping Gears. ...
  • Dragging Clutch. ...
  • Leaking Fluid. ...
  • Check Engine Light. ...
  • Grinding or Shaking.
16 Mar 2017

What are signs of a clogged fuel filter? ›

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU'RE DRIVING WITH A CLOGGED FUEL FILTER?
  • You have a hard time starting car. If the problem is the fuel filter, and it isn't changed soon, you may find that your vehicle won't start at all.
  • Misfire or rough idle. ...
  • Vehicle stalling. ...
  • Fuel system component failure. ...
  • Loud noises from the fuel pump.

What happens when fuel pump goes out while driving? ›

The engine surges while driving.

This is caused by too much fuel being sent to the engine. When that happens, you'll notice your engine surging—the vehicle will repeatedly pick up speed and then drop speed, even though you haven't touched the gas pedal or the brake.

How do I check to see if my alternator is bad? ›

First, open the hood and start the car. While the engine is running, remove the negative cable from the battery. If the vehicle stalls or dies, the alternator is likely bad. This happens because the alternator is not generating enough electricity to keep the engine running on its own.

Can low oil cause a car to shut off? ›

Many modern vehicles are designed with several fail-safes to help protect the engine in adverse conditions. One of this is an automatic shutoff when the oil pressure drops to a certain level, or the oil level drops too low (note that this is not true for all cars). This causes the engine to stall and die.

Can you drive if transmission is going out? ›

During that time you should avoid driving your vehicle. This is due to the dangers that come with an unpredictable transmission. If there have been issues with the gears not engaging or slipping, this can cause the vehicle to unexpectedly start shaking when driving.

What are the top 5 signs of transmission problems? ›

If you're having transmission problems, you might have any of these 5 symptoms:
  • Strange Smells.
  • Slipping Transmission (Delayed Reaction or Delayed Engagement)
  • Transmission Warning Light.
  • Transmission Fluid Leak.
  • Grinding or Odd Sounds.
17 May 2019

Can a transmission fail without warning? ›

Can a transmission just fail without any signs? Yes, anything can. A ton of different things often give us warning but it doesn't mean they always will. Depending on the specific part that failed and the way it failed you might not have any warning or maybe didn't notice the difference until it was too late.

How can you quickly tell if you have a problem with the fuel system? ›

Difficult Starts

If your vehicle's fuel pump cannot get gas from the tank to the engine, you will have trouble starting your car. The car will struggle to start and run because the pump cannot push enough gas through. A worn pump loses its pressure and the engine is being starved of gasoline.

What are the symptoms of a weak fuel pump? ›

Decreased Fuel Pressure

Low fuel pressure can lead to engine misfires, low acceleration, rough idles, and engine stalls. If your check engine light is on and your car has been stalling out, you may have a fuel pump failure.

How do you unclog a car fuel filter? ›

To clean a fuel filter, start by removing the filter from your car's engine. Next, disconnect the negative terminal on your car's battery. Once the battery is disconnected, remove the filter from the fuel lines and spray it with a pressurized carbon cleaner to clean it.

What are the signs you need a new fuel pump? ›

Difficulty starting – If your pump loses power, it will have trouble getting gas to the engine in time for your starter to kick in. You might have to turn the ignition multiple times to get enough gas to the fuel injectors. Engine stuttering – The problem doesn't stop when your motor starts running.

How expensive is it to replace a fuel pump? ›

The average cost for a fuel pump replacement is between $220 and $1,062, depending on vehicle and age. Labor costs are estimated between $124 and $260, while parts are priced between $95 and $854. Estimates do not include taxes and fees.

How does a car act when the alternator is going out? ›

Signs of a Bad Alternator

Some of the things to look for are no-starting and trouble starting, dimming lights and problems with stereo system output. If your car starts but stalls when you're underway, your battery is probably not being recharged due to a faulty alternator.

How much would an alternator cost? ›

In general, expect $130 to $250 for a quality alternator. The lower end is offers professionally remanufactured alternators, while the high-end price range is generally new alternators running higher amps for modern vehicles.

How much does it cost to replace alternator? ›

It usually takes two to three hours to replace an alternator. Depending on the mechanic's hourly fee, that's about $200 in labor costs. If you use OEM parts, you can expect to pay between $200 and $350 for a new alternator. If you don't mind using aftermarket parts, you could pay between $100 to $200 for a new part.

How does a car act if it's low on oil? ›

When your engine oil is running low, it stops lubricating the engine components. When these parts are no longer well-oiled, they cause loud clunking, knocking, and grinding sounds. This can cause your rods to break, which will give off the knocking sound from underneath the hood of your vehicle.

Can I just add oil to my car? ›

Checking and topping up your engine oil is one of the most important car maintenance tasks. But it's also one of the simplest to do by yourself. In your annual car service, the mechanic will drain the old oil, replace the oil filter and re-fill with new oil. But you can check your oil and top it up yourself in minutes.

How do I know if my engine is damaged? ›

8 Signs and Symptoms of Engine Damage
  1. The Check Engine light turns on. ...
  2. Your car is making strange noises. ...
  3. The engine is running roughly or inconsistently. ...
  4. Your car produces oil patches. ...
  5. You can smell odours from inside the car. ...
  6. Your car is using more gas than normal. ...
  7. You experience a loss of engine power.

When I press the gas pedal the car doesn't accelerate Why? ›

Fuel and Air Delivery Problems

Poor acceleration can result from an engine that's running lean (not enough fuel). Similarly, a lack of airflow can also prevent the engine from accelerating as it should. Some of the most common causes of fuel and air delivery issues include: A weak fuel pump.

What would cause a car to have no power at all? ›

Possible causes of a power failure could be either bad battery connections, a bad ignition switch, or a bad alternator. What you need to do is check your vehicle's power sources.

What causes a car to lose power while accelerating? ›

A loss of power is most apparent when you're accelerating, and can be due to a number of reasons including air flow into the engine, fuel flow and even faults with the exhaust system.

Will low oil cause car to not accelerate? ›

Symptoms of low oil include your engine feeling sluggish. It may suffer from poor acceleration and you could find yourself sitting behind the wheel wondering what those knocking and ticking noises might be? The oil light could ignite or the oil pressure may run low.

How do you unclog a fuel filter? ›

How To Clean Car Fuel Filters
  1. Locate The Fuel Filter. ...
  2. Ensure No Fuel Is Exposed To The Spray. ...
  3. Prepare A Container Under The Filter. ...
  4. Start Cleaning the Fuel Filter. ...
  5. Tapping Filter Surface. ...
  6. Spray Again and Dry. ...
  7. Install the Filter Back. ...
  8. Replace the Filter If Needed.
4 May 2021

Why is my car slowing down when I press the gas? ›

When you press down the accelerator pedal and get minimal output, it could mean you have a problem with your fuel system. The most probable issue is a clogged fuel filter. Your fuel filter works to ensure that dirt and debris do not get into the fuel system.

Why did my car shut off while driving and won't start? ›

A failing fuel pump is one of the faults that can cause this. Other likely problems would be the battery, alternator, battery cable, wiring harness fault, crank or camshaft position sensor. The fuel pump may have been replaced because it was not turning on.

How do you tell if its your battery or your alternator? ›

Jumpstart your car. If you can turn the engine on, but it dies shortly thereafter, your car alternator likely isn't able to charge the battery. On the other hand, if you jumpstart the car and later on it fails to start on its own, it's likely a dead battery.

How do I test if my fuel pump is failing? ›

To confirm that your pump has failed, check the pressure in your fuel lines with a fuel pressure gauge; if it reads zero, then your pump is likely dead. You can also check your car's fuse box; a blown fuel pump fuse is another reliable symptom of a failed pump.

Why does my car suddenly stops after I accelerate? ›

When a car stops accelerating while driving, the most common causes are a bad sensor, dirty fuel or air filters, or the timing belt. Pressing the gas and not having your car respond is dangerous—and scary. This isn't the kind of thing you can ignore.

What happens when fuel filter is dirty? ›

A clogged fuel filter causes low fuel pressure that results in a lean fuel condition and engine misfire. This can result in poor fuel mileage, rough idling and possibly cause the check engine light to come on. Once that light is on, it's time for a trip to the repair shop.

Can low oil cause loss of power? ›

When engine oil pressure drops, friction between different parts increases. This results in a steep decline in engine performance. Watch out for common signs of decreased engine performance such as a reduction in fuel economy, loss of power, and engine stalling.

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