There are several reasons your car shut off while in motion. In recent car models, several sensors, functions, and mechanisms are involved and must work together so that your car can run smoothly. Some vehicle parts are more infamous than others for causing problems like stalling while driving.
Listed below are some of the common reasons why a car may shut off while driving. They are ranked from the most common to the least common. The article also includes steps to take when it happens, and how much it may cost and how to rectify the problem. Let’s being!
1. Faulty Crankshaft Position Sensor
This is a common problem that causes a car to shut off while in motion. This operation is needed so that the engine of the vehicle can run properly and efficiently. If a car’s crankshaft position sensor is not functioning well, it can trigger the check engine light to turn on.
The computer of the engine is what controls the crankshaft position sensor. Therefore, if it identifies an issue with the sensor, the check engine light will automatically come on.
Another indication of a faulty crankshaft position sensor is a faulty tachometer. If the tachometer is not working effectively, then it means that there is a problem with the crankshaft position sensor.
The computer typically gets info regarding the speed of the engine from the position sensor before relaying it to the tachometer. If the sensor is faulty, then the tachometer may function erratically, indicating that there is a fault with the crankshaft position sensor.
The third sign of a faulty crankshaft position sensor is that your gas economy will be subpar compared to your particular car brand and model. The fuel mileage will be a lot lower than usual, indicating that the crankshaft position sensor is faulty and that your car can shut off while you’re driving.
The final sign of a faulty crankshaft position sensor is that your car engine may not start at all. The computer will be unable to give the car engine a spark, which will result in a cranking engine that does not ignite. Another thing is that while driving, the engine may run roughly and or stall. A malfunctioning sensor can cause the engine to misfire or stall completely.
In these instances, you may need to replace your crankshaft position sensor at an average cost of about $195 and $250. The parts are estimated to cost between $90 and $117 while the cost for labor is between $105 and $133.
2. Faulty Fuel Pump or Fuel System
The fuel pump performs the role of supplying the engine with sufficient fuel for it to run effectively. If your car’s fuel pump does not provide the appropriate amount of gas, then the engine will be unable to run and eventually stop running.
Unfortunately, there is no way to circumvent a faulty pump – you either have to repair the pump or buy a new one. The average cost for replacing a fuel pump is between $220 and $1062. This will depend on the age and type of vehicle. The parts can cost between $95 and $854 while the labor costs may be between $124 and $260.
It is also crucial to regularly check your fuel filter because it could cause problems as well. The job of the fuel filter is to purify the fuel that goes into the engine. If it gets clogged, the fuel that should flow into the engine will get impeded.
Another fuel problem is issues with the fuel supply line. This is the means through which fuel reaches the engine from the fuel supply tank. If the fuel supply lines become clogged or broken, there will be no way for fuel to flow to the engine and this will cause it to go off while in motion.
A faulty fuel pump or filter causes the car engine to shut off while driving because of the insufficient amount of fuel flowing into the engine.
3. Empty Fuel Tank
Almost everyone with a car has experienced this problem at one time or the other. You can get distracted while doing lots of run rounds that you forget to monitor the fuel gauge. This mostly happens when you lose track of your fuel meter reading and end up running out of gas while driving.
A second reason why your car may run of out gas is if your fuel gauge is faulty. A faulty fuel meter can mislead you into thinking that you have more fuel than you actually do. Consequently, you will run out of gas while driving.
Regardless of the reason for running out of fuel, it is crucial to get your car checked by a professional to ascertain exactly why it stopped while driving. This will help prevent a problem that could have been worse.
4. Problems with the Alternator
Your car alternator is the electrical part of the car that is responsible for supplying the vehicle with constant electricity. If the car suddenly shuts off while you’re driving, you may have a faulty alternator.
A faulty alternator will interrupt the power supply to your vehicle and the vital parts. This will in turn warn you by flashing the engine light or suddenly shutting off.
If you are attentive enough to the workings of your car, you may be able to quickly detect a faulty alternator. Your car will start to receive an irregular amount of electricity, which I enough reason to get it inspected by a professional to prevent it from shutting off while you are driving.
An alternator can easily be repaired by reliable mechanics or repairmen and you can expect to pay about $100 to $150. However, if the alternator cannot be replaced, you can expect to pay from $500 to $1000, covering parts and labor.
5. A Broken ECU
A car’s ECU is a computer that controls the systems, functions, and mechanisms of the vehicle to ascertain that it runs smoothly. The ECU acts on the car’s internal combustion engine to ensure that the engine runs at an optimal level of performance.
Issues with the ECU system of your car can cause it to lose power. Ideally, the car indicates this problem by flashing the check engine light on the dashboard. Although light flashes may not necessarily mean that there are issues with your car’s ECU, it is still recommendable to visit a professional as soon as possible.
Also, it is not advisable to DIY an ECU system. Once you realize that the system is faulty, take it to a professional to get it checked to avoid your car breaking down in the middle of the road. Inspection and testing for a broken ECU may cost around $150 to $300 while the repair costs may go for $300 to $750 depending on your car’s make and model.
6. Problems With the Ignition System of the Car
Your vehicle’s ignition system is responsible for providing power to the engine to allow for smooth and efficient running. If the ignition system develops a fault, then the engine will immediately shut off, causing the car to stop while you are driving.
The first solution in resolving this problem is to try restarting the car about two times over. If that does not work, it means that the car has ignition failure. There are other reasons for this issue that do not entail a complete repair of the ignition system.
The ignition relay could have a fault: meaning that the operation responsible for controlling electricity to flow through it is no longer working. You can try to fix this problem yourself if you know what exactly to repair.
If you’re not sure how to go about it, then you may need to take the car to a mechanic to service the ignition system so that it doesn’t suddenly go off while you’re driving. This may cost you about $125 to $275 to get the ignition system fixed. On average, the parts may cost $75 to $210, and the labor costs may be around $60.
What to Do When Your Car Shuts Off
It’s always an awkward and uncomfortable situation when your car suddenly shuts off and nobody ever really expects it. So, it is best to be adequately prepared on how to handle the situation before you find yourself in it.
Here are some steps to take when your car suddenly shuts off.
1. Try to Move Your Car Safely to the Roadside
The first step to take is to find a way to get your car safely to the side of the road. Stay calm, try not to panic, and smoothly maneuver your vehicle to the side or shoulder. Your car may have lost the ability to brake or steer, and so you will need to pull over as you slow to a stop to safeguard against accidents or getting hit by other vehicles.
If slowing your car down proves to be difficult, then you can try finding a safe place to keep your car and then apply the emergency brakes – this will result in your car stopping abruptly. It’s a temporary fix, but it is a great way to keep yourself and your vehicle safe in the event of a breakdown.
2. Try Restarting the Car
After moving the car to the side of the road safely, the next thing you’ll want to do is to restart it so that you can drive it to a safer location where it can be examined by a professional. To restart the car, you may need to figure out why it stopped in the first place. If you’re unable to do that, then you can try calling roadside help to transport the car to a technician for them to fix it.
In some cases, when you restart the car, it will turn back on. If this happens, the advisable thing is to drive to the nearest technician so they can diagnose and repair the problem. Do not overlook the problem and go about your usual daily routine even if you have been able to restart your car. This signals a much deeper problem that should be addressed immediately.
3. Use of Emergency Flashers to Signal Other Drivers
If your car fails to restart, then you will need to inform other drivers that your car broke down using your emergency flashers. By turning your safety flashers on, you are alerting the other drivers that you won’t be joining the traffic and that your car shut off as you were driving.
Doing this ensures the safety of everyone in the vicinity and keeps the situation uncomplicated till you can figure out what to do next. Also, it is always advisable to have emergency flares or cones in your car. In cases of a breakdown, put them a couple of feet behind the car as well as at the side of the car to alert other drivers.
4. Call your Emergency Car Contact or Roadside Help Services
While some people are easily able to work their way around a broken car, others are not very automobile-savvy. If your car breaks down on the highway and you have no idea what to do, your best bet is to call roadside assistance to help you get your car to the nearest technician. If you don’t have a phone with you, the cops can help you reach roadside assistance.
How to Prevent Your Car From Shutting Off While Driving
Now that you know how to go about when your car suddenly shuts off, lets us now look at how to prevent this issue in the first place. After all, prevention is better than cure.
Generally, you can prevent your car from shutting off by doing general maintenance. If you want to reduce the plausibility of your automobile shutting off while you are driving, then you have to provide it with regular maintenance.
Ensure to check vital components of the car periodically, such as the engine and oil. Also, it is recommendable to obey all the warning signals that flash on the dashboard. Have a discussion with your mechanic regarding the steps that you need to take, the car parts that require regular maintenance. Also, ask for a schedule to ensure the safe and efficient running of your car.
By regularly maintaining and servicing your car, you will greatly reduce the risk of shutting off while you are driving and avert a lot of expensive repair costs.
The Cost of Repairing the Most Common Car Problems
If you own a car, then you must be ready to pay for occasionally inevitable maintenance and repairs. This list will cover the ten most common car repairs, according to IMR Inc.
Oil or Filter Change
The price for an oil change may drastically increase if your car uses synthetic oil. In that case, it will cost about $65-$125 instead. Most of the time, oil changing comes with filter replacement which may cost an additional $5-$15.
- Price for Oil Change: $35-$75
- Price for Filter Replacement: $5-$15
Replacing the Air Filter
RepairPal reports that air filters cost about $28-$43, and the remaining goes to labor costs. The great news is that replacing your air filters, which happens about once a year, is a simple DIY task. All you need to do is to pop the hood open, find and open the housing of the air filter, remove the old one, fix the new one, and put the cover housing back.
This can save you a considerable amount of money since you just need to purchase the air filter without thinking about labor costs.
- Cost of Replacing air filters: $57-$90
According to RepairPal, it is possible to keep the price of scheduled maintenance at 40,000 miles within $100. Nevertheless, this may increase with subsequent maintenance visits because problems tend to get more critical and numerous over time. A breakdown of the scheduled maintenance costs include:
- Cost at 40,000 miles: $53-$94
- Cost at 100,000 miles: $224-$323
While you can find low-end tires for as low as $50, quality and moderately-priced durable tires will generally cost about $100-$300. If you are looking to get high-end, high-performance, or off-road tires, they may cost even more than $300 each.
Nevertheless, there is good news – you can purchase your tires in twos and rotate them with the older but drivable tires. Make sure to fix the new tires at the back.
- Cost of getting new tires: $100-$300 each.
Changing your car battery will cost about $260 without adding the labor cost. There aren’t any particular mileage recommendations for when you should replace your battery. But you will know when the time comes – when you turn the key and hear nothing. Before it gets to this point, however, the battery warning light should begin flashing.
- Cost of replacing the battery: $75-$300+
Brake repairs are strictly unavoidable for pretty obvious reasons. Incidentally, these repairs tend to be quite complex, so there is no way to DIY this particular task. Brake repairs can also be costly and the type of car you drive largely determines how much you will pay. Bigger, luxurious, heavier, and European vehicles cost much more in comparison to smaller and domestic cars.
- Cost of replacing brake pads: $250-$300
- The cost of replacing brake shoes: $250-$300
- New brake rotor: $400-$550
If you need to fill up your vehicle’s coolant, you can get it done yourself without the help of a mechanic. However, if your car’s fluids need to be changed, then you will have to visit a professional.
- Cost of changing coolant: $120-$146
AutoServiceCosts.com reports that the prices for a simple engine tune-up may vary based on the car type and the cost of its associated parts. Several services are associated with an engine tune-up, and a good professional can aid you in deciding which services should take priority and which ones to suspend based on your budget.
Turning a blind eye is, however, not an option. Engine tune-ups are one of the best means of preventing greater and more costly repairs as time goes on.
- The cost of an engine tune-up: $150- over $1000.
Technically, it is not particularly dangerous to drive around with poorly aligned and or balanced wheels and it may not cause your car to shut off. However, it will eventually lead to early tire wear and tear. Plus, it can sometimes be pretty annoying.
- The price of alignment: $116-$145
- The price of balancing: $26-$34
Replacement of Wiper Blades
Also, windshields may not contribute to your car shutting off while driving. However, it is still important to add them to your repair checklist. RepairPal reports that Windshield wipers alone cost about $30-$55, and the labor costs $26-$34.
Replacing your car’s windshield is, in most cases, a DIY job. You will know that it is time to change them when they stop moving smoothly and the rubber edge begins to tear and leave water streaks on the windshield.
- Price of replacing wiper blades: $56-$89
How to Cater for Expenses When Your Car Shuts Off
Now, maybe you’ve read through this entire article and realized that it’s a tad expensive to be a car owner. Here are some tips on how to save in case of emergencies!
Start a Devoted Savings Account
Several experts believe that opening a savings account devoted to unexpected expenses is the best way to prepare for them. You could have an online account that links to your main account and have an automatic transfer every month. With this in place, you will have a cash cushion that allows you to have your repairs without strain.
When you open your savings account, the first thing to settle would be how much to transfer each month in preparation for the expenses. Liberty Mutual reports that an average family using two cars spends about $817 to keep their vehicles in good shape. This is about $70 each month.
Consider Personal Loan
For someone that has not had a dedicated savings account and finds themselves faced with numerous repair costs, you will need to find some cash as soon as possible. To do this, you may need to consider taking a personal loan, which has a much lower rate than credits with flexible payments.
Try Getting an Extended Warranty
This option comes with expensive deductibles as well as monthly payments that would be better being paid into a devoted savings account. It is, however, a good option for car owners to cover costly repairs.
Cars are a great investment and require a lot of care to keep them running for years. It is easier to troubleshoot problems that may cause your car to shut off. If you drive a newer car model, the engine light may pop on when there are issues with the car. This can help you to troubleshoot your car problem and help you figure out why it keeps shutting off while you’re driving.
In older car models, you may need to sort it out on your own since it doesn’t have the option to troubleshoot whatever the problem may be. If your car shuts off mid-way, remember to stay calm, try restarting it, and call for help!
My name is Codi and I have been interested in automotive mechanics for as long as I can remember. Today I am a professional mechanic as well as a certified tire technician with over 10 years of combined professional experience.
I started this website because over the years I have noticed an increasing trend of false information among customers and automotive professionals alike. So I have gone to great lengths to provide the most factual information about tools, vehicles, companies, and other automotive products so that anyone can be provided with solid information on what they might be looking for.
I was born in South Florida and am currently located in Western Pennsylvania. I have seen how vehicles and tools respond to all types of weather conditions and scenarios over the years and I am happy to share every bit of automotive and mechanical knowledge I possess to help better inform the general public. Here at Mechanic Approved, our goal is to provide the best automotive mechanic information so that both customers and professionals can make better-informed purchases.