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6 Reasons Why Your Car Shuts Off While Driving

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Driving is often regarded as a relaxing activity, helping you unwind from the shackles of a busy schedule. However, it can often become frustrating if your car starts giving you signs of trouble, like weird noises, uneven braking, or sometimes more serious issues leading to your car shutting off while driving. Such a situation can be both dangerous and stressful and the same time, especially when you’re on long or important travels. This article will look into the major causes behind your car shutting off when driving and address some common questions.  

What causes a car to shut off while driving? 

There’s no single answer to this query, as your car can shut off while driving due to various causes. These can differ entirely from the causes that shut off your car after stopping. We’ve listed the most common causes and their fixes for you to understand the issue clearly.  

car shut off while driving

Faulty ECU 

A faulty Engine Control Module (ECU) can be a major reason that causes your car to shut off while driving. Being the most important part of a car, that ensures that the engine is working optimally, at its full efficiency. However, a faulty ECU can affect the smooth functioning of an engine. It can trigger a drop in performance, gas efficiency, and spark loss, ultimately shutting off the car while driving.

Being a complex car part, diagnosing ECU faults aren’t easy, and you may need to seek the help of a mechanic to resolve it. The best you can do is to scan for any error codes using an OBD scanner, which, again, may not give you a clear direction about what to do next.  

The crankshaft position sensor is damaged. 

The crankshaft position sensor is a car’s component that ensures that an engine’s moving components are working perfectly and monitors fuel injection and ignition timing. A faulty crankshaft position sensor will be unable to identify the exact piston position, triggering an engine misfire. This causes your car to shut off while driving.  

A drop in performance, fuel efficiency, rough engine, etc., are some important symptoms of a damaged crankshaft position sensor. Improper functioning of the tachometer is also a sign that the sensor is at fault. Furthermore, DTC codes P0335 and P0338 on an OBD scanner also indicate the crankshaft position sensors have a problem.  

Alternator damage 

An alternator sends power to a car’s essential components like headlights, wipers, power windows, etc. Your car will face a shortage of power in an event where the alternator stops functioning, leading to a shut-off while driving. However, the battery can step in for the loss of power and run the car for a while, and the complete shutdown will happen only when the battery dies. Read this article to learn more about alternators.  


Bad spark plugs 

Spark plugs are important in igniting the air-fuel mixture inside an engine combustion chamber. They are present in every engine cylinder. However, if one of these spark plugs is damaged, it can cause a sudden engine stall, and the car will shut off while driving. The best way to avoid this is by occasionally performing a visual inspection to determine if there’s a defect. Furthermore, signals like a drop in performance, engine knocking, and misfires also indicate that something is wrong with the car. Identifying and resolving them immediately is key to avoiding such mishaps.  

Faulty fuel pump 

The fuel pump is responsible for supplying the engine with the precise amount of fuel at the appropriate moment as input for combustion to generate power. Your car will shut off while driving once the fuel pump stops working as the right amount of fuel is not supplied to the engine.  

However, a clogged fuel filter can also be a major reason behind the inadequate fuel supply to the engine. Replacing the filter can help to avoid the issue.  

Empty fuel tank 

Yes. Your car’s engine needs fuel to run, and a lack of it will obviously lead your car to shut off while driving. While this can be attributed to busy schedules and forgetfulness, this mostly happens when the fuel gauge is faulty, and you don’t realize there’s no fuel left in the car. Try to fill in a gallon of gas and note if the fuel gauge is working perfectly. If not, chances are that it has a faulty sending unit that needs to be replaced.  

Diagnosing a car that shuts off while driving 

It is not easy to diagnose a car that shuts off while driving on your own. The reasons behind it can be complex and require a mechanic’s expertise to identify and solve the underlying problem. However, you can look for certain symptoms and signals mentioned above to have an idea about the same, which could help you take the next step. Furthermore, you can also use an OBD scanner to figure out any codes corresponding to the faults causing this issue.  

What to do if my car shuts off while driving? 

Pulling over to the side of the road is the first thing you should do if your car shuts off while driving. After you’ve done that, make sure to check the engine oil levels before starting the car again. Ensure that you don’t restart the car if there’s a lack of engine oil or if you hear some strange noises from the engine. Do not hesitate to tow your car or call a mechanic if you think it is beyond your control. 

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