Few things are scarier than stopping your car while driving, especially when you are in the middle of busy traffic. What can make everything even more daunting is that, most of the time, you don’t know what the problem is.
Today we will talk about the reasons why this can happen and the steps you need to take if you are unlucky enough that your car stopped while driving.
Causes of engine stops
There are many reasons why the engine may stop while driving. Here are the most common:
Overheating is the most common cause of why your engine stops while running. As the internal combustion chamber burns fuel to create energy, the latter becomes mechanical energy, which helps the engine components run. It also allows the alternator to convert this energy into electricity for the car’s electrical components.
However, if the cooling elements do not work properly to keep the engine temperature within normal limits, then the pistons may even melt. Because of this, the engine will overheat and stop.
Low oil level
Because the oil is the one that keeps the metal components of the engine lubricated, so that they work with a minimum level of resistance, the drop in the oil level can be catastrophic. If you have oil leaks that cause it to drop below the minimum required, the friction between the components can become so high that it can cause the engine to stall and stop.
Moreover, this problem can cause very expensive engine failures. That is why it is very important to check the oil level periodically.
Low transmission fluid level
Like engine oil, a certain amount of transmission fluid is required for the car to run. If you do not have a proper level of transmission fluid, the engine may stop at any time while driving, as the transmission may overheat and cause other malfunctions. Just like engine oil, it is important to check the transmission fluid regularly.
This is a rarer problem but can occur when the engine components are not securely fastened. If they are broken, cracked or worn, the engine will vibrate strongly and will most likely stop due to vibration damage.
If the electronic computer unit or ignition system has electrical problems, it will fail to transmit the correct electrical signals to the engine. This will eventually cause the engine to stop, which will usually be signaled with a specific dashboard light. If this happens while driving, you must take your car immediately to the nearest service center before the car stops.
Catalytic converter faults
The exhaust system depends on the catalytic converter to remove the exhaust gases. But if the fuel contains too many impurities, the catalytic converter will not be able to cope and will eventually stop. Also, the catalytic converter may jam or the exhaust pipe may clog with too much gas, which will cause engine damage.
Bad or failing fuel pump or the fuel system is faulty.
The required amount of fuel to prepare the optimum air-fuel mixture for engine operation is transmitted by the fuel pump. If it does not work properly, the engine does not receive enough fuel, which leads to a gradual loss of power to sudden shutdown.
The car’s fuel system is not just a fuel pump. Also, it is good to check the fuel lines. They are made of hard material and transport fuel from the tank to the engine. Any small crack can cause fuel loss and therefore engine failure.
The ECU does not work in the parameters.
The ECU is the engine brain. It receives and interprets the information transmitted by the other components of the car, stores them in matrix form (ECU maps) and uses them to transmit to the engine the optimal parameters for operation.
Fortunately, when the ECU computer is defective, a warning light is activated on the car. It is ideal to schedule a diagnosis in service because the failure of the ECU computer can lead to more unpleasant situations, given that this is a part that can not be repaired too easily.
Bad or failing crankshaft position sensor.
The crankshaft position sensor is found on the vast majority of modern internal combustion engines. It monitors and manages the position and rotation speed of the crankshaft and transmits the information to the engine’s ECU computer for optimal operation.
If you notice various symptoms, such as engine downtime, inconsistent acceleration, or difficulty starting the engine, the crankshaft position sensor may be defective, and this may even lead to the engine stopping while driving.
The fuel tank is empty.
Well, this can be an embarrassing situation, isn’t it? If the car’s engine stops suddenly while driving, there is a possibility that the fuel tank has emptied. Either you “forgot” to refuel, or the tank level sensor no longer indicates correctly, in which case you should go to the service to fix the problem.
The alternator is faulty.
The management of the car’s power supply is the responsibility of the alternator. When starting the motor, the alternator converts the alternating current into direct current with the help of its diodes and thus supplies the battery. Any fault in the alternator can cause the car’s engine to stop even while driving.
Fortunately, the alternator failure is predicted by some symptoms, including on-board lights and muffled engine noise.
What to do if your car stops?
It is best to be prepared for any possible scenario, although the probability of failure is still very low. But even this low probability leads to forgetting some basic knowledge that must be applied at a difficult time. And one of those difficult (and even dangerous) moments is when the car’s engine stops running. Here are seven tips that can help you if you end up in such a situation.
Get the car out of gear
It doesn’t matter if you are driving a car with a manual or automatic transmission, this step is essential to keep the vehicle inertia and to get rid of the pain of keeping your left foot on the clutch pedal (in the case of a manual gearbox). On machines with automatic transmission, the lever must be set to position N.
Keep a safe distance from the car in front
This piece of advice is, in fact, also a traffic rule that must be constantly implemented, but which is much more important when the engine under the hood breathes. In this case, the distance to the front car must be greater, because the assistance systems (power steering, brake) no longer work, which leads to increased weight in handling the steering wheel and brake pedal.
Find a place where you can stop safely
It is very important that the movements you make behind the wheel are smooth, so that other drivers can anticipate your actions and avoid you in time. So, before you suddenly turn to the side of the road, quickly look for a place to stop, then make sure you can head for that place.
Signal your intention and turn on the hazard warning lights
Once you have made sure that you can go to the safe place, signal to the right, just as you would if the engine were running. It is essential to know that you must not remove the key from the ignition after the engine has stopped and you must not move it from the starting position, otherwise the signaling may not work and, more importantly, the steering wheel may jam.
Don’t be scared if you see that the steering is hard to control
As I said above, once the engine is stopped, the power steering also stops, and this leads to a much higher weight in the movement of the steering wheel. Don’t be scared if you find it harder to move – you just have to put your muscles to work.
Do not brake suddenly and be prepared to press the brake pedal harder
If you’re on the highway, the last thing you want to do is brake suddenly. Try to keep the car inertia as long as you can and be prepared to press the brake pedal harder, because the power brake pump will not work, which will take you directly to the 1970s in terms of brake system feedback. 🙂
Try to drive the car as far away from the road as possible before stopping
If you’re in town, look for a safe place to stop. If you are not in a city, look for a place as far away as possible on the road. The reason: some drivers may not see that you stopped on the side of the road and might cause an extremely serious accident.
If you are not so lucky as to find a secluded place, stop the car as close to the side of the road as possible, press the hazard warning lights button, and go to a safe place before calling for help.
Dare to ask for help from others
If your engine stops at a traffic light, start the hazard sand ask for the help of others to push the car aside. If no one to help you, stay in the car with your seat belt on.