8 Reasons Why a Car May Shut Off While Driving

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Edgar Moulton.

05.10.2021

Edgar Moulton. Car Expert

Table of contents

If your car shuts off while driving, it can be a terrifying situation to be in. It’s definitely a position you don’t want to put yourself in again, so learning what makes a car cut off while driving and the fixes for them should be a top priority of yours if this happens to you. Below are a few reasons why your car shuts off while driving, so if this has happened to you and you want to prevent it from happening again, read on.

8 Causes Why a Car May Stop While Driving

Reason #1 - You ran out of fuel

This is actually the most common reason your car turns off while driving, and honestly, if this is the reason it happens, you should be relieved because it’s the easiest fix. Sure, it’s embarrassing having to push your car into a gas station, but like we said, it’s a super simple fix. 

All you have to do is fill up on gasoline and off you go. Running out of gas may not always be your fault, however. Knowing how much gas you have in your car relies on two parts: the “sender,” located inside your gas tank and the gas gauge, located on your dashboard. If there is an issue with either of these, your car may tell you it has gas when it really doesn't. Whatever the reason you ran out of gas is, be calm because it’s the least expensive reason your car cuts off while driving.

Reason #2 Your battery dies

It may seem strange, but your battery can die while you’re driving and may actually be why your car turns off while driving. If your car won’t start and you need to use jumper cables from another fully charged battery, it may mean that your battery will die while driving and will eventually come to a halt. If the reason your car turns off while driving is a dead battery, it’s actually pretty easy to tell that this is the reason. 

If your car stops while driving, all you have to do is look at the electronics to see if they’re working as well. Try turning the radio or the headlights on (or just look down at your dashboard), and if they’re not working, it means a dead battery is to blame.

Reason #3 Faulty alternator

 

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If you had to jump-start your car with jumper cables and someone else's battery, then after a couple of minutes, your car suddenly stops while driving, it is likely the alternator. 

The alternator is responsible for turning the mechanical energy from your engine into electrical energy to keep your car’s battery charged and the electrical systems (radio, windshield wipers, headlights, etc.) running. When the alternator isn’t working properly, the battery won’t get charged while you’re driving, and if it gets bad enough, it will eventually be the reason your car stops driving. 

Reason #4 Damaged ignition switch

The ignition switch is a small part located on the steering column of your car, right where you insert the key to start your car. Despite it being a small part, it can mean big problems if it gets damaged. Namely, it could mean your car stops while driving. The ignition switch consists of several metal plates that can wear down or develop corrosion (especially if you live close to the sea, where salty air is common) over time. If the connection between the plates isn’t as firm as it should be, they will separate, and the connection will be lost, resulting in your engine shutting off while driving. One tell-tale sign that this is the case is if your car shuts off after hitting a big bump. 

Reason #5 Damage to your fuel system

It’s no secret that your car’s motor requires fuel to run, so it makes sense that if that supply of fuel was cut off, the motor can’t continue running. If you don’t have any issues starting your car, but your car keeps cutting off while driving, it may be time to have a mechanic check out your fuel system

Your fuel delivery system is made up of a few components, but the two most important ones are the fuel pump and the fuel filter. If your fuel pump isn’t working properly, it won’t supply gas to the cylinders, and combustion inside them won’t happen. Thus, your engine will shut off. The other potential issue with your fuel system is the fuel filter. If this is clogged, enough fuel won’t be able to reach the cylinders, and the same engine failure we just mentioned will happen as well. 

Reason #6 Malfunctioning sensors

Modern cars use sensors to supply the engine with the correct air to fuel ratio for optimal functioning. If these sensors aren’t working correctly or aren’t calibrated correctly, it could result in getting too much or too little fuel which would cause the car to stall while driving. On the other hand, faulty or damaged sensors could give the engine too much or too little air. If either of these are the case and the air to fuel ratio isn’t correct, it will result in a car that keeps turning off while driving.

Reason #7 Damaged ECU

Today, all modern cars have an ECU (electronic control unit) that controls all the systems involved with your car's proper operation. If this essential part gets damaged, you’re going to have all sorts of problems. One of these problems could be that your car shuts off while driving. Because this ECU is connected to all car systems, an issue with it will likely cause the check engine light on your dashboard to come on before the car completely shuts off while driving. It is always best to have a mechanic look at your vehicle when the check engine light comes on to avoid a situation as scary as your car shutting off while you’re driving it. 

Reason #8 Defective crankshaft position sensor

If the crankshaft position sensor (or any of the wiring involved with it) is defective, it may cause your car’s engine to stop running. This is an important part of your engine management system because it measures the rotational speed (RPM) of your engine and what position it’s in at any given time during the vehicle's operation. If this is faulty and it’s sending a message to your ECU that it’s in one position when it’s actually in another, your car’s ECU will recognize this, and it’s likely your car will stall during operation.

The Cost of Repairing the Most Common Problems With a Car

If you have experienced driving a car that has shut down while you’re driving it, you know it’s not a good feeling and definitely an experience you will want to prevent from happening again. This will almost always mean pouring money into a repair bill for whatever has gone wrong. As we mentioned above, if you run out of fuel and that’s the reason your car has shut off while still running, that’s likely the cheapest solution to the issue. Even then, if your car’s fuel gauge says you had enough fuel when in reality you didn’t, that means you’ll want to get that fixed, so it doesn’t become an unavoidable problem in the future. 

Beyond that, if your car continues to stall or shut down while you’re driving, it’s best to take it to your trusted mechanic to determine why this is happening. Next, we will discuss some average prices for fixing the above problems. Every car is different, and every mechanic has different prices for the labor involved in every one of these repairs, so please keep in mind that these repair costs are average. Of course, you may find some are cheaper, but then again, you may find out some repairs are more expensive where you live!

  • The average price for replacing a dead battery is between $118 and $216.
  • The average price to replace an alternator is between $500 and $1000 but can go even higher depending on if you need belts replaced as well. 
  • The average cost of replacing an ignition switch is between $172 and $211. 
  • Replacing a fuel pump will begin at $220 and will go all the way up to over $1000, depending on the make and model of the car. If you do need to replace your fuel pump, you will want to change your fuel filter at the same time (which will cost between $100 and $200) because it’s likely that a clogged fuel filter may have contributed to the fuel pump failure due to a higher strain on the fuel pump. 
  • To get the sensors replaced in your car, you’re looking at between $20 and $100 for parts, but labor will likely cost you upwards of $150! 
  • To replace your ECU, parts will begin at $400 and go all the way up to $1400, with an extra $100 to $200 for the cost of labor for installation and programming. 
  • A crankshaft position sensor replacement will cost you between $178 and $226. 

How to Prevent Your Car from Stalling 

As you can see, the costs of repairing the issues that can cause a car to shut off while driving can be pretty high! The best way to avoid this from happening is to do your regularly scheduled maintenance. Most cars built recently and even in earlier years will have a suggested timeline of the work that needs to be done on the car in order for proper functioning. It’s always best to follow these recommendations. 

If you notice anything irregular about your car (like say, dwindling electronic systems, which may be an indication that your alternator is going out), it’s always best to have it looked at before it gets any worse. And as always, if your check engine light comes on, always have it looked at because your car’s computer is better at noticing irregularities before you do. 

If Your Car has Started to Shut Off Often, Consider Selling It to Junkcarsus

If your car has shut down while driving, you surely know how scary of a situation it is and one you won’t likely want to repeat. But if your car has done this on somewhat of a regular basis for a while, it’s indicative that there’s a costly repair to be done. And, you’ll definitely want it done because the car shutting off while driving can put you in a dangerous situation! But what should you do if this has happened over and over and the cost of repair is more than the car is worth or more than you’re willing to pay?

You may want to sell your non-running car to us at JunkCarsUS!

With over 12 years in the business, we have become the leading junk car buyer in the USA thanks to our simple, three-step process. Here it is:

  1. Contact us! Give us a call at (855) 547-1550 and speak to one of our friendly customer service representatives and give us some information about your car. The make, the model, the mileage, and the condition of your car, and we can give you a cash offer on the spot.
  2. Accept our offer! With our highest price guarantee, we are sure you will be happy with the offer we make you. On top of that, once we make our offer, we’ll never go back on our word!
  3. Arrange for free towing! When you sell to us, there are absolutely no hidden fees. That means you’ll get FREE towing. All you have to do is tell us where the car is and when you want us to pick it up, and we’ll be there to safely tow your junk car away. 

If you’re wondering about paperwork, don't! We will have all of it filled out, and the tow truck driver will bring it with him when it’s time to collect your car. All you have to do is sign on the dotted line and get your cold hard cash!

So if you’re tired of driving your car and having it shut off in inopportune moments or even in dangerous situations, give JunkCarsUS a calla t (855) 547-1550 or go online and fill out an online application to see how much cash you can get for your car today! 

FAQ block

  • Why does my car die while driving but still has power?

If your car engine dies while you’re driving, but you still have electrical power, it’s likely an issue with the fuel delivery system (i.e., the fuel pump or fuel filter). Or, you simply may have run out of fuel in your gas tank. 

  • What breaks inside when a car stops while driving?

This can be a number of things or one of the numerous causes we mentioned above. If your car shuts down while driving and you’re unsure of what caused it, it’s best to take it to a trusted mechanic and have them look at it. They will be able to diagnose the problem and tell you how much it will cost to fix it. 

  • What are the most common reasons why a car shuts off while driving?

The most common causes are: running out of fuel, a dead battery (or an alternator that won’t charge a still working battery), a faulty ignition switch, fuel delivery system, sensors, or ECU. 

Edgar Moulton.

05.10.2021

Edgar Moulton. Car Expert

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