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Top 7 Reasons Why A Car Shuts Off While Driving & Its Fix – A Detailed Guide

what would cause a car to shut off while driving

What would cause a car to shut off while driving is the first thing that comes to a person’s mind when they find themselves in a ride completely shut off out of nowhere. And this gets worse if you are out to go to the office, on a family road trip, or somewhere else important.

Automobiles have huge & sturdy build, but they are equally delicate on the inside and need proper care & maintenance to perform well.

As a car owner, you should ensure the healthy working of every part of your ride. But there are chances of your ride shutting off even with good maintenance. 

There is no one particular reason for such a thing to happen, but there are a few prime ones that most people find responsible for this problem.

In this blog, we will talk about the top reasons for your car’s sudden shut-off, ways to diagnose it, and various methods to stop that from happening again. So, let us get started and help you understand your automobile a little better.

What Happens When Your Car Shuts Off While Driving?

Having your vehicle stop abruptly while you are driving is a stressful scenario. And it is the worst one if you have to be somewhere important.

But you can not undo what has happened. However, to ensure you do not cause inconvenience to others on the road, there are a few things that you need to do when your car dies while driving.

Also, never try to start your car again after it has stopped abruptly without fully diagnosing the situation & problem.

A. Pullover Your Car To The Side

The first & wise thing to do is get out of the road and find a secure place to park your ride. Panicking would not do any good. Ensure you are out of the way of other cars. In some cases, it gets brutal to steer & brake. If that’s the case, use the emergency brake.

B. Try To Restart Your Ride

Once you have parked your car on the safe roadside, you can attempt to restart it. Sometimes the car gets revived & sometimes it doesn’t.

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But remember, if the place where you parked your car is watery, do not try to turn it back on. Try to make your car reach dry land.

C. Diagnose Your Ride

If your car does not restart, you should diagnose it to see what caused the situation and try to fix it. It can be as simple as an empty gas tank, flat tire, dead battery, or something difficult involving more mechanical issues.

If the issue is a flat tire & you have no spare to change, then do not think of driving as going on with bad tires can lead you to lose control & cause an accident.

So, if you can not fix the issue, leave your ride in its condition. Unnecessary poking around will do more harm than good.

D. Use emergency signals

If you can not restart or diagnose a reason for your car’s sudden stop, use the emergency flashers to seek help from passing drivers.

Using emergency light, cones, or flares come in handy if you are on the highway. It allows other drivers to give you the way, and you do not get merged into traffic.

E. Seek Roadside or Emergency Services Assistance

If your car is dead and you can not do anything, seek help from roadside assistance services available 24/7. If your phone is dead, you can ask the patrolling units to contact roadside assistance for you.

How To Diagnose A Car That Shuts Off While Driving?

Having your vehicle turn off when you are out on the road is frustrating. It gets worse for people who have their ride shut off abruptly but then turn back on.

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You sure do want to know the reason for such a messy occurrence. But to learn what is stopping your ride, you need to perform the diagnosis. And it is an easy process. Here we have mentioned easy steps to get the job done.

  1. The first thing to do is check for any trouble codes in your engine control unit with the help of an automotive diagnostic scanner.
  2. If you find any trouble code, continue with its further deep diagnostics.
  3. Ensure there is nothing wrong with the fuel level gauge, and then fill up your gas tank to an optimum level
  4. Check the battery voltage and connect it to a car battery charger to ensure its charge level is good.
  5. After charging the battery, start your car and measure the voltage with a multimeter while your engine is running.
  6. If the reading is less than 13V, there is some issue with the alternator system. A range of 13.5-14.5V is good.
  7. Check the engine for fuel pressure with a pressure gauge. If you don’t have the pressure gauge, check the fuel pump & fuel filter. Replace if faulty.
  8.  Check for the RPM meter on your dashboard while your engine is on the starter motor. If the meter does not move, it indicates an issue with the crankshaft position sensor.

Top 7 Reasons That Would Cause A Car To Shut Off While Driving

There can be numerous reasons why a vehicle in motion suddenly comes to blunt rest. Sometimes restarting brings it back, but it is not always the case. Having your vehicle become motionless can be a real problem, especially if you are on the highway or in an unknown location.

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To find what can cause such a thing, you can diagnose your ride to find the reason. If you are someone who does not know much about the working mechanism of a vehicle, we are here to help.

Below, we have listed some top reasons that may have caused your car to die. Go through each one to be on top of your game if such an incident occurs again.

1. Empty Gas Tank

Empty Gas Tank

One of the obvious reasons why your car stopped suddenly is that it might be out of fuel. Without enough gas, a vehicle can not generate the required power from the battery. However, if this is the reason, handling it is easy. As soon as you refuel your ride, you can restart it.

2. High Operating Temperature

High Operating Temperature

If your engine is functioning at too high a temperature, it can lead to the shut-off.  The high engine temperature indicates a problem with the coolant system or cooling fan.

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Thus, you should always ensure your car air conditioning is working appropriately in cooling your seating area & preventing overheating.

3. Bad Fuel Filter

Bad Fuel Filter

The work of a fuel filter is to ensure no impurities get into the gas tank of your car. It is crucial because the accumulation of dirt & grime in the fuel tanks can lead to fuel filter clogging.

And with a clogged fuel filter, the fuel pump will stop working, causing your car to shut down. During your diagnosis, if you suspect the fuel gauge is clogged, have it replaced with no delay.

4. Defective Crankshaft Position Sensor

Defective Crankshaft Position Sensor

A damaged or defective crankshaft position sensor is one of the most common reasons for a vehicle’s shut-off. A crankshaft position sensor is a necessary tool for the engine to run in most car models. CKP is programmed to send a signal to the machine’s computer, but a damaged one will send all the incorrect data.

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Your car can then sense no crankshaft turning and thus won’t start. This fault is something for which you will require professional assistance.

5. Defective Sensors

Defective Sensors

If there is an issue with the camshaft position, oil pressure, oxygen, & other basic sensors, it can prevent your car from starting. Thus, if you can not find any other reason for your diagnosis, have your sensors checked to know more.

6. Busted Spark Plug

Busted Spark Plug

When a spark plug is not working adequately, it can lead to the engine misfire. This event sometimes causes the vehicle to stall out. Thus keep a regular check on them and have them replaced if they show any signs of wear & tear.

7. Broken Timing Belt

Broken Timing Belt

Another common reason your car shuts off while driving is a broken timing belt. A timing belt is the part of your engine that helps in keeping pistons & valves in proper alignment. And if it breaks, it can cause the machine to stop running straight away.

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To prevent your timing belt from breaking, use the correct type of oil at the proper level and get it timely serviced. The broken timing belt is easy to fix but can cause significant damage if not treated timely.

How To Fix A Car That Turns Off While Driving But Turns Back On?

The most common & biggest reason for a car acting like a cuckoo is poor maintenance. Many car owners out there are unable to take care of their rides in the required manner.

Not inspecting the oil, fuel, & coolant levels, not replacing the liquids timely, and not checking on the parts like suspension for wear & tear, are a few reasons that degrade a vehicle.

An automobile is a delicate piece of machinery. It needs superior care to run for many years.

To ensure no permanent damage occurs to your car, a good maintenance routine can help you diagnose the problem before it can become damaging.

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Thus, opt for a proper maintenance schedule. Check the oil & coolant levels in your car weekly. Ensure the gas tank is always full. And have your car inspected by a professional at least once every three months.

If you go for a properly planned car maintenance schedule, your vehicle will never reach a point where it gets severely damaged.

Frequently Asked Questions

What would cause a car to shut off while driving but start back up?

Various reasons can lead a car to break down when it was running smoothly.

High operating systems, bad fuel filters, defective crankshaft position sensors, and bad fuel pumps are to name a few.

To ensure what is wrong with your ride, tow it to the nearby auto shop and have a professional take a look at it.

Is it common for my car to turn off while driving?

It is not common for a vehicle to turn off while driving. A vehicle that is well-maintained will not shut down out of the blue.

So, if your ride does it and your fuel tank is full, it is indicating that something is wrong internally.

You can either diagnose the issue yourself or have an expert take a look at your ride.

Why does my car turn off when I stop?

There are several reasons why a vehicle turns off when you merely applied breaks to stop. This mostly happens if your engine is operating at too high a temperature.

Channeling at too high a temperature can be hazardous. Thus, ensure your engine is filled with sufficient coolant or water. 

And if you find a low coolant level, do not start your car until you have refilled it.

Can bad spark plugs cause a car to shut off while driving?

YES. Bad spark plugs can lead to engine misfire and sometimes even kill the engine, shutting it down completely.

Spark plugs are a crucial part of the suspension and ensure you face no shocks while your ride glides over bumps on the road.

This is why they tend to wear out easily. You should keep a proper check on them and have them replaced with the first sign of wear & tear.


We hope our guide helps you find answers to your questions about what would cause a car to shut off while driving. With the proper first steps, diagnosis skills, and maintenance, you can get yourself out of such a situation.

Regular maintenance is the key to a healthy ride. Also, having professional visits once every two to three months will ensure there is nothing wrong with your ride.

Kevin Williams is an automotive enthusiast and expert writer with a passion for all things related to cars. With a wealth of knowledge in the world of vehicles, Kevin's mission is to provide informative articles that empower car enthusiasts to make informed decisions about their automotive interests. With extensive experience, Kevin has contributed numerous articles to Cars Cache, covering a wide spectrum of topics from vehicle reviews to maintenance tips and more.


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