Car Died While Driving and Won’t Start [Causes and How to Fix It]

Having your car dead or not starting at all is a very annoying experience. The worst of it all is to have your car die while driving it on the highway or on a very crowded street. This is a common experience for many drivers, which happens when least expected. This may be due to numerous factors ranging from easy to complicated causes. In this article, we are going to know the causes, what to do if your car dies while driving and won’t start, and how to fix it. You will also learn how to diagnose the issue before you seek help from a professional.

What Would Cause a Car to Die While Driving And Not Start?

car stopped running while driving and wont start

Running Out Of Fuel: This might sound ridiculous, but this happens to many people. Drivers often forget to refuel their cars and run out of gas in the middle of the road. Another cause of this is when the fuel gauge is not giving the right reading. For instance, it shows you that you have a half tank of fuel remaining, but the tank is empty.

Bad Fuel Pump: Another widespread cause for the engine to stall is if there is a problem with the fuel pump. The fuel pump’s job is to deliver fuel from the fuel tank to the engine to complete the combustion process. The fuel delivered, however, should have a certain pressure as well as a certain flow rate.

If the pressure or the flow rate is below the required level, the car stalls and stops working. You may also have a problem with the fuel filter. The filter is located after the fuel pump to purify the fuel before it gets to the engine. It removes any impurities and stains which may block the fuel line and make the fuel not get to the engine.

Malfunctioned Ignition Switch: The ignition switch is the main gate that connects the current coming from the battery to the car accessories and starter for the car to start. If you have a problem with the ignition switch, your car might stall because the internal contacts are worn out. This leads to voltage loss due to heat and hard vibrations. Wearing out the ignition switch is common for high mileage and aged cars. This causes low-quality contact between the two contacts.

Related Post: How to Start a Car with a Bad Ignition Switch [Symptoms and How to fix it]

Low Charge Alternator: When driving your car and the dashboard battery lamp suddenly turns on, it is an indicator that the car will work for a few minutes and stop. This vehicle will not start again until you do a replacement. This happens because no power is getting into the car. Electricity is crucial for the engine to work. For instance, the spark plugs need electricity to produce a spark to complete the combustion. The operation of the fuel pump also relies on the electricity provided by the alternator.

Car Battery Faulty: This is a common issue facing several people because they think that the car only uses the battery for the first startup. This, however, is not true. When the car battery is not working properly or is not in good shape, the alternator works harder to keep the voltage at the proper level to keep the engine running. Running an overworked alternator causes more stress on the engine, making it stall. If you have a faulty battery, the car dies while driving won’t start, and just clicks.

Related Post: How to Charge a Car Battery Without a Charger

Wrong Signals Sensors: In modern cars, there are several sensors responsible for engine management. These sensors keep reading the movements and give orders to the ECU.  The ECU then sends signals to actuators such as spark plugs and injectors at a certain time and order. In case the sensors are faulty, it sends ECU wrong readings about the engine’s status. This will then lead to wrong orders to the actuators, such as no sparkplug signal or no injectors pulse. It eventually results in bad performance and a car shut off while driving and won’t start.

car turns off while driving but turns back on

What to Do If Your Vehicle Dies When You Are Driving

When you get yourself in this situation, the top priority always should be safety. Your safety and that of the people using the road around you are paramount. Once you are safe, make a quick check to look for clues on why this is happening. These tips may help you to get out of this situation safely:

Get the car out of the road or to the very right side of it. The first thing is to turn on the hazard lights to warn the oncoming cars that there is a problem with your vehicle. The steering may be very hard, but try your best to deal with it and use the handbrakes to park the vehicle since the normal brake pedal will not work as usual.

If there is a warning light in the dashboard, you have a failure in the battery charging system. It could be a problem with the alternator or the battery itself. Check the electrical systems, connectors, and terminals. If not, then check the drive belt for damage or retighten.

If the car dies while driving but restarts again, check for a clogged fuel filter. It could also be a result of a weak fuel pump that can’t provide a standard pressure. Check the fuel pressure and do fuel lines check to track and diagnose the fault easily.

In case the car stops while driving, then starts again after a while or after it has cooled down, it is a problem related to the engine management system. In this case, you are required to check the position sensors carefully. Examine the crank position sensor since if it is faulty, it gives the wrong position for the crankshaft, which leads to a misfiring order making the engine stall.

How to Fix a Car that Won’t Start and Randomly Dies While Driving YouTube

Final Words

There are many reasons why a Car dies while driving and won’t start. Some of them will depend on the model of the car you are driving. However, the tips given in the above guidelines apply to almost all vehicles. To avoid or reduce the chance of getting into these situations, you are required to take some precautionary actions. It would help if you kept changing the fuel filter as per the manufacturer’s recommendations. You also need to have the fuel in at least a half tank. This will increase the life of the pump and prevent clogging of the fuel filter. Always remember that safety comes first. If you have any vehicle failure on the road, always warn the cars behind you and get in the low-speed lane until you get the right help.

Learn More: Car Starts But won’t Stay Running (Reasons and How to Fix It)


Hi There, I am R. Hasan Tito, a mechanic, and owner of this website. My friend and I created this website to share our knowledge, expertise, and experience with our fellow mechanics' community and car users. I am a specialist and certified automotive mechanic (Both Heavy Commercial and Private Cars). I have been working as a mechanic for over fifteen years. I worked for a long time at Global Rebound Automotive companies (Toyota, TATA, BMW, Nissan, TVs, and Others ) as a Mechanic and Mechanics Supervisor.

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