If a car turns off while driving, what does it entail?
If you possess a vehicle, you are responsible for its upkeep and care of it. To ensure that the vehicle is in perfect condition, you must always examine the coolant gas, oil, etc.
Recent car models possess a lot of functions and sensors that enable them to function perfectly. Knowing the background information regarding your car will come in handy in a situation where you encounter mechanical issues.
In this guide, we will be going through the reasons why a car turns off, what to do if you are in such a situation and possible solutions to fix this issue.
Let’s get started!
Why Does my Car Turn Off
A bad crankshaft position sensor or issues with the fuel system is usually the common reasons why a car shuts off while driving. Other reasons are engine sensor issues, an empty fuel tank, an ignition switch, a damaged crankshaft position sensor, an issue with the fuel system, and a bad alternator. Even though these are very common symptoms, there are many others.
There following are common reasons why car turns off while you are driving:
1. Fuel pump is faulty
A damaged fuel pump is likely why your vehicle abruptly turns off while driving. Once the ignition is turned on, the power train control module sends a signal to ask for electrical assistance, allowing them to function. Unfortunately, whenever your ignition comes on, the fuel pump has to provide pressure to channel fuel through the fuel injectors and the rail.
If the fuel pump is damaged, enough fuel won’t get to the injectors, and this will cause the engine to go off. This is sometimes called stumble. It is best to get this stumble fixed to avoid further damage, even though you can drive the car for a little while regardless of the problem.
2. Empty fuel tank
Sometimes, your car would go off, and you will start like for the cause, not knowing that it is a result of a dry fuel tank. This happens to even very conscious car owners. The vehicle won’t function without fuel. It might be difficult to know the available amount of fuel in the vehicle with a malfunctional gas gauge.
Therefore, we could unknowingly drive till the tank is dry. You are advised to fix your faulty gas gauge to avoid this situation.
Also Read: Brake Lights Stay On (Causes & Solution)
3. Dirty fuel filter
Another reason why the vehicle may suddenly go off is a filthy fuel filter. The major function of the fuel filter is to remove the contamination in the gas. The gasoline and airflow will be restricted when there is dirt build-up in the fuel filter. This implies that the amount of mixture of fuel-air (gas) the vehicle receives won’t be enough.
This, in turn, will cause the engine to stall or not even start. The fuel pump can cause the same issue in a case where it fails. In this case, the engine won’t function as smoothly as before.
Dirty fuel injectors: when there isn’t an injection of fuel from the fuel supply line, it could cause your engine to shut down.
This would probably be due to dirt build-up in the fuel injector. The fuel injector has to deliver the required fuel at the right time for the car to function properly. This is peculiar to fuel-injected cars.
The smallest amount of dirt mixing up with the fuel during the intention can cause a clogging issue, and this week, in turn, causes the vehicle to shut down.
4. Faulty Throttle Body
This problem will also lead to the shutting down of the vehicle. This component controls the amount of power produced by the engine by providing the right quantity of air and fuel to your engine.
This component is in between the engine and the gas pedal. The throttle body is signaled once pressure is put on the gas pedal. Then, the engine receives power through the combustion process that takes place after the throttle body has given way to more air and fuel.
The TPS (throttle position sensor) can be found in the same place as the engine. This device is electrical and transmits information to the main computer system of the car. The throttle position sensor alerts the card’s computer whenever the fuel is added or removed. This will then result in shutting down to prevent damage to the engine.
5. Clogged Air Filter
Your car will also shut down due to this problem. Therefore, it is always best to ensure the cleanliness and proper functioning of the engine’s air filter. The engine’s air filter will last throughout the vehicle’s lifespan so long as it is properly maintained.
Sadly, much attention isn’t paid to the engine’s air filter until the car’s performance drops due to over-clogging. The type of car and engine determines the schedule for replacing or repairing your engine air filter or what it would cost. But this can be done at a local mechanic’s outlet for a price as low as $100.
6. Faulty Crankshaft Position Sensor
This component is not extensive but has chances of intermittent failure and probably leads to stalling. The CPS transmits a signal to the ECM( engine control unit), instructing whether the engine is rotating.
This allows it control over ignition timing, fuel injection flow, and spark. In a situation where this signal is gone, the engine control module makes a desperate attempt at compensation by trying to recycle the ignition. However, in time, it will lose control, and the vehicle engine will stall.
The CPS wears down with time, and it can also break, or metallic particles will contaminate it. This will eventually lead to failure.
The CPS can be found behind the crankshaft. Therefore, when it wears down, it would result from too much wearing off. This may be caused by too much engine revving with time or failed thrust bearing.
7. Faulty MAF sensor
This component is in charge of the quantity of air that goes into the engine. Stalling will occur in a situation where the MAF fails. When the mass air flow sensor becomes damaged, the following are other possible symptoms:
- Increased idle speed by itself.
- The MAS can result in a misfire in the cylinders
- Speed of the vehicle will be changing drastically.
- The level at which your car consumes fuel will increase.
To ensure safety, you are advised to replace your MAF sensor once you can.
Faulty MAP sensor: Always check your manifold absolute pressure sensor whenever your vehicle shuts down while driving to ensure there aren’t any issues.
The MAP sensor measures the pressure of the atmosphere inside the intake manifold. The signal calculates the fuel injection and air mass flow by various systems. The engine management system is inclusive.
The MAP sensor is a vacuum tube with a 1mm diameter hole at one end. Through this hole, gas is sprayed into the intake manifold that will then absorb oil film inside the tube. The air mass flow changes minutely as more or less air gets absorbed by the film.
8. Faulty Ending Control Unit
This problem could result in your vehicle shutting down while driving. The ECU (engine control unit) receives signals from different sensors. Therefore, the vehicle won’t adjust to the present driving condition if it gets damaged. For example, the engine control unit antifreeze sensor measures the engine’s temperature. Therefore, in a situation where it is damaged, it will shut the engine down to prevent the vehicle from overheating.
There are a whole lot of other sensors to be mindful of. They include a Manifold absolute pressure sensor, mass airflow sensor, throttle position sensor, oxygen sensor, and faulty crankshaft position sensor.
Your vehicle will experience shutting off while driving if the ECU misinterprets the readings from any faulty sensor.
9. Faulty Ignition Switch
This can also lead to abrupt shutting off of the engine. I experienced this: As soon as I got to my house and examined the vehicle, I found out the ignition wasn’t functional, and I couldn’t access the vehicle’s electrical aspects. This could lead to a lot of electrical issues.
You may also experience airbag issues, stereo issues, and headlight malfunctioning. This can leave you on the road at night without a light. Therefore, you should fix this problem once you notice it.
10. Faulty Alternator
A fault alternator can shut your vehicle down while driving. The battery of the vehicle remains charged because the alternator ensures that. The load on the alternator depends on how many electrical components are in your car. The battery will get drained and eventually shut down if many electrical devices drain power from it. This problem can also lead to the battery dying completely. Also, it won’t hold a charge if it gets very old.
Also, an electrical device may lead to the sudden shutting down of your car. For example, in a situation where an old model car is driven with an analog odometer, then the odometer control module may have failed.
Its function is to send signals to the main computer of your vehicle. And this, in turn, checks how much power is taken from the alternator. As a result, this may result in the draining of the battery and the engine shutting down.
11. Faulty Spark Plug
Dirty spark plugs can shut down your engine. This is normally situated on top of the cylinder head. Unfortunately, this part has no fuse; therefore, the vehicle won’t start until the problem is fixed either by you or a mechanic.
The spark plug consisting of an electrode covered by a ceramic insulator is a part of the ignition system. Once the electrode is heated, it will create an electrical current that goes to the distributor through the wires and finally to every cylinder in the vehicle.
Fuel in each cylinder is ignited by the current, producing power that enables the car to move. Spark plugs that are clean increase how efficient your engine’s fuel is, and this is because the cylinders are properly firing.
Therefore, whenever the spark plug is dirty, the current won’t flow smoothly, and the vehicle will start stalling. It might be best to replace your fouled spark plugs if your car is high mileage and its ignition system hasn’t been serviced. A professional could do this for you, or you could do it yourself with the right tools.
12. Dead Car Battery
Examine the health of the battery if the car shuts off while driving. The excessive load might also be a cause of this problem if you confirm the fault is not from the battery. If your battery has difficulty starting up after being dormant for a while or dies frequently, you might have a parasitic drain issue. It implies something in the vehicle drains power, whether the engine is functional or not. Stereo memory settings can cause this problem. Terminating power to these components is best once you leave the vehicle.
Instead of changing the date and time, you should change the radio’s clock to always show 0000 in a situation where the radio doesn’t turn off by itself. So, numbers will constantly be spinning and putting power to waste.
13. Faulty Ignition Coil
This can also lead to abrupt shutting down while driving. The ignition coil is a small and important part of the ignition system that fits over the top of the spark plug. Fuel in the engine cylinders is ignited by a high voltage charge created by the ignition coil.
Shutting down while driving could mean the ignition coil is faulty. Signs of a failing coil vary depending on engine size and model. If the ignition coil is not recognized by the engine computer or has a broken coil, then you should have it replaced. It is costly to test them, but it is better than the work required to change the ignition coils.
What should I do when my car shuts off while driving?
Vehicle issues can be very stressful, and this is usually worse when you are driving on the highway. Therefore, we will put you through what to do when this happens to you:
- Firstly, park the car safely so you won’t be on the road and avoid driving it without knowing the issue.
- Then locate and fix the issue. If you can’t do this, call someone that can or a tow truck.
- It is best not to ignore the issue. This is because more damage may be caused if your car loses control while driving on bad tires.
- If you are driving around water and the vehicle goes off, it is best not to turn it on again. Keep going slowly until you get to dry land, or the car can’t be turned off. Very serious damage could occur if you try to turn it on while in water.
- Driving in the rain can shut your car down, so you are advised not to keep driving if it’s raining.
- The vehicle will stop running completely or shut down if you’re out of gas. Refueling the car is quite simple, so always attend to this issue.
How to diagnose a car that shuts off while driving
This can be very difficult if the problem is not constant. So, it is very easy to locate the issue if the car is off.
- Using an OBD2 scanner, examine for trouble codes within the engine’s control unit. If you notice any, continue the diagnostics of the trouble code.
- Ensure the fuel gauge is functioning properly. Also, fill up the tank with 1-4 gallons and be sure the fuel level is good.
- To ensure the battery charge is good, check the voltage and connect a car battery charger.
- After charging the battery and turning on the ignition while it is running, measure the voltage using a multimeter.
- Using the fuel gauge, check if the engine’s fuel pressure is correct. If it is not, examine the fuel filter and the fuel pump. Replacement is advised if you notice any of them are faulty.
- Using the diagnostic tool, check live data and search for any abnormal values from the sensors in the engine. For example, while cranking the engine, check if you get RPM from the crankshaft sensor.
- While cranking the engine on the starter motor, check the RPM meter on your dashboard. If it does not move, the issue is most probably from the crankshaft position sensor.
Watch this video to know more.
Possible solutions to car shutting off while driving.
Shutting down while driving can be a result of several reasons. Still, the main thing that matters is how you handle the issue. The following are suggested methods to dispose of the problem and find the solution:
- Check and tighten electrical cables: Loosening the electrical cables is one of the easiest ways to fix the car problem, and you do not need the help of a professional. But this should be if you suspect the issue is from the cables. You can instantly fix the problem if the cables are the reason the car shuts down. You will need to find the cable from the battery and fuse box. Find the loose cable and tighten it. You are advised to replace the cable if the damage is permanent.
- Install a new fuel pump: Loss of acceleration and power can be issues that follow a problematic fuel pump. It is best to have the issue fixed, the best option being a replacement. If you are experienced enough, then you can do it yourself.
- Clean or replace the alternator: Always keep the battery connection and alternator clean to avoid unexpected shut-off while driving. This will guarantee the vehicle is in good shape. Signs like dashboard warning lights, fast battery drainage, rough engine running, and flickering headlights are indicators of a faulty alternator. However, replacement or cleaning of the alternator is quite easy. The alternator is also cheap, and this supports quick maintenance.
- Take a vehicle for comprehension ECU inspection: Try and inspect the ECU from time to time. It is a vital part of the car, and you won’t be able to fix it yourself if it gets damaged. You will need an OBD2 scanner to have an idea about the error codes. You are advised to see a professional conduct a complete ECU check-up.
- Refuel the car and fix the fuel gauge: Sometimes, the vehicle will become functional once you refuel. This is usually when you have an empty tank. Always remember to examine the fuel gauge. In a situation where it is problematic, try and fix it. A faulty gauge will give wrong readings.
It is usually troublesome for your car to shut off while driving. To prevent this, always be on the lookout for warning signs, and you can achieve this by using some check-up devices.
As a vehicle owner, keep all points in this publication in mind. This is because you might experience a horrible scenario where the troubleshooting procedures will come in handy.