Car Shuts Off While Driving: What To Do? (Causes) 

It is stressful to drive in a car that unexpectedly stalls. When you’re traveling on a busy roadway, the situation can be even more dangerous. Knowing what caused your car to die and addressing the problem as soon as possible is essential.

In addition to providing peace of mind, check engine lights tell you about underlying issues that occur in your vehicle’s system. However, it can be concerning if the vehicle shuts down while driving without any check engine lights on. This can occur when there is a problem with the crankshaft position sensor, a malfunctioning idle air control valve, or a clogged air filter.

Car Shuts Off While Driving What to Do (Causes)

In addition to faulty fuel pumps and damaged alternators, this alarming issue can be caused by an overheating engine. To fix the problem, you should diagnose deeply and perform a physical inspection instead of driving.

Key Takeaways

  • There can be ignition system issues that lead to your car shutting off while you drive. Your car can also shut off when you are driving due to problems with fuel delivery, batteries, and charging. 
  • An internal engine failure can also cause your car to die.
  • In the event that your vehicle stalls while driving, you should steer your vehicle to the side of the road as soon as possible. Be sure to check the level of your engine oil when you open the hood.
  • In the case of an oil-less dipstick or a loud engine before stalling, do not attempt to restart the car.

What causes a car to shut off while driving?

Your car may stall for a variety of reasons, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this problem. There are a few troubleshooting steps you need to take (or your mechanic needs to do) in order to figure out what the problem is.

Usually, you’ll find the problem to be caused by one of these problems:

Bad Crankshaft Position Sensor

A damaged crank position sensor on your engine may cause your car to shut off randomly while driving, especially without any check engine light appearing. The check engine light does not illuminate because it is an intermittent problem. Calibration of the crankshaft sensor can be lost due to overheating and vibration from the engine.

In this way, the sensor could send a code to the ECM, and the engine could be shut down as a result.  Once the engine has been turned off for some time, it should turn back on again. It’s a clear sign that your crankshaft position sensor is damaged if your car shuts off while driving but restarts again.

On the engine block, the crankshaft position sensor is positioned underneath and over the oil filter. This intermittent problem is difficult to solve. You should consult with an expert mechanic if it occurs at random times.

Idle air control valve malfunction

It is possible for a vehicle to cut out and die if its idle air control valve is faulty. The mass air flow sensor and throttle body are both omitted by this small valve located within the engine’s intake system. A sensor measures intake air temperature and adjusts the air-to-fuel ratio in response.

In some cases, the idle air control valve can become clogged as a result of aging and stop functioning properly. By limiting the airflow into the engine or closing the idle air control valve completely, the car can be shut off.

Clogged Air filter

In addition to the clogged air filter, another minor problem is not covered by the check engine light. When the air filter becomes clogged, debris will get sucked into the engine, causing it to malfunction. Consequently, the combustion chamber won’t receive enough air, resulting in a sudden engine shutdown.

Ignition System Problems

It is the ignition system of your car that ignites the mixture of air and fuel in the engine. As a result of the explosions, your car is propelled down the road by the energy it generates. An ignition system without a spark cannot operate a vehicle.

Your vehicle could stall while driving if you have an ignition system problem. A malfunctioning ignition system component, such as a crankshaft position sensor, is often the cause, rather than a malfunctioning component affecting only one cylinder (e.g., a faulty spark plug).

One of the other ignition-related components that can cause an engine to stall is the ignition switch. Your car’s ignition switch routes electricity from your car’s battery to various engine components, such as fuel injectors and ignition coils, when the key is in the “run” position. A faulty switch can cause the engine to stall.

Fuel Delivery Issues

In today’s world, fuel systems come in many different designs. In contrast, port-injected fuel systems use a low-pressure pump to inject fuel from the tank into the engine’s injectors.

It is very easy for an engine to stall when it lacks fuel pressure or volume. Fuel pumps and fuel pump relays are common culprits. It is also common for return-type fuel systems to have a clogged fuel filter or a defective fuel pressure regulator.

A vehicle that is simply out of fuel is another problem that goes unnoticed. It is possible for the fuel gauge to break or to be inaccurate from time to time. Since you don’t know you’re out of fuel until the engine stops, you don’t realize you’re out of fuel until the engine stops.

Problems with batteries and charging systems

Among the many electronic components in a car, the battery and charging system fuel the engine and provide power for the components that keep the engine running (computer, fuel injectors, etc.). It is possible to stall the engine with just a loose battery cable, which can deplete the vehicle of electrical energy. It is also possible for a vehicle to stop running while driving due to overcharging or undercharging of the alternator.

If your car battery dies while you’re driving, then your alternator isn’t supplying power to the battery to recharge it.

Bad Alternator

Keeping the vehicle running requires electricity, which is supplied by an alternator. As well as ensuring sufficient power to start the vehicle, it recharges the battery.

In the event that the alternator fails on your car, the battery won’t be charged consistently, and you won’t be able to run the vehicle. Because of this, it can suddenly shut down the car while it is in motion.

An alternator that has been damaged will dim the headlights, and the vehicle will not start. The battery light should illuminate if your car shuts off while driving and the alternator fails.

If an alternator fails, the vehicle can still be driven a few miles as reserve power will allow it to function normally. The car will shut off once the reserve has been completed.

Internal Engine Failure

Defining the worst-case scenario as a car dying from an internal engine failure is impossible. Before a vehicle stalls, you may hear some unsettling noises (rattling, knocking, etc.) as the engine fails. It is common for cars that die from internal engine failure not to be able to restart.

Faulty Fuel Pump

An important component that doesn’t give any signs of failure is the fuel pump. A failing fuel pump prevents fuel from entering the engine. In this case, it is possible for the engine to shut off suddenly while driving if the fuel pump is bad. Your car will not start if it stops running while driving and the fuel pump is malfunctioning. Test the fuel system by using starter fluid to determine if there is a problem. An engine that starts properly may need to have its fuel pump serviced.

Fixing a car that randomly dies while driving

You can have your car stall while driving without it displaying a check engine light for a variety of reasons. It is therefore necessary to diagnose the car in order to determine the exact cause and fix this problem.

Fixing a car that randomly dies while driving

Erase the Code

The error code can be reset and the car restarted before you take it to the service center. You can erase codes using your scanner by selecting erase code and pressing enter. Depending on the size of the computer, the process may take a few minutes. You cannot solve the underlying problem by resetting the code.

It is possible for your car to shut off after a few miles, a few days, or even a few weeks. The problem may worsen and you may have to pay more for repairs. To make the drive safe, it’s always best to have the car inspected by a qualified mechanic.

Use a Scanner

Your car’s OBD II port needs to be plugged into an OBD II scanner tool. If you don’t know where the port is located on your vehicle, check the owner’s manual. The scanner must remain attached while the key is inserted into the ignition switch and the ignition switch is rotated to the on position. There should be a dummy light on the dashboard of the car. Running the car while scanning is not a good idea.

Read the Code

It is likely that the onboard computer will display error codes within a few minutes. P0340 should be displayed on the display if the camshaft position sensor is faulty. It is also possible to receive more than one error code. Depending on the situation, you’ll have to address each code individually.

It is recommended that you take the vehicle to the auto repair shop in this situation. A bad crankshaft position sensor, idle air control valve, or clogged air filter are easier to fix than a bad alternator, faulty fuel pump, or clogged air filter.

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What should I do when the car shuts off while driving?

If your vehicle stalls when you’re driving, you should steer it to the side of the road as soon as possible. The next step is to inspect the oil level under the hood. Restarting the car if the dipstick has no oil or if the engine was making strange noises before stalling is not recommended. You can then restart the car if everything appears to be fine. Don’t hesitate to contact roadside assistance if your vehicle won’t start.

Why does my car jerk and shut off while driving?

During driving, your car can suddenly jerk and spit off if the fuel pump shorts out. Same problems can be caused by vacuum leaks and faulty mass airflow.

Is it the alternator if the car dies while driving?

Yes, of course. In the event that the alternator fails, the car will not be able to charge the battery and will not be able to run. In the event that the alternator fails, the engine will not cut off immediately. There will be a short period of time before the car stops working. However, once the engine has been turned off, it cannot be restarted.

Is a Car That Turns Off While Driving Safe?

When a vehicle intermittently stalls, its hidden issues and the environment will determine whether or not it is safe to drive. Driving in a remote location if the vehicle’s fuel pump is malfunctioning could result in you becoming stranded.

How do I dix a car that shuts off while driving?

In addition to the issues discussed previously, there are many other factors that could cause your car to malfunction while driving. To identify the root cause of the problem, you will need to do some troubleshooting (or have your mechanic do it).

Can a Bad Catalytic Converter Cause a Car to Shut Off?

There is an increase in back pressure in exhaust when a catalytic converter is clogged. This can cause the engine to stall due to the stress it is under. You could have a clogged catalytic converter if your vehicle starts fine, but eventually sputters or stalls.

How do I diagnose a car that shuts off while driving?

When a car stalls while driving, diagnosing the problem can be challenging. In order to narrow down a list of potential causes, professionals often use their years of experience.


Start troubleshooting with a clogged air filter or low fuel level if your car shuts off while driving without a check engine light. Despite causing the check engine light to illuminate, these minor problems do not cause the engine to shut off.

A bad crankshaft position sensor or idle air valve may be the cause of a car suddenly stopping while driving. However, don’t just restart your vehicle and keep driving since you may experience severe issues. 

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