What happens if you turn off the car while driving?

There are a lot of questions that drivers are asking themselves related to their cars. For example, one of the questions a client asked me these days is what will happen to your car if you switch off the engine while driving? It depends on the car.

Vehicles manufactured in the 50s and 60s operate in simple techniques where you can remove the key without affecting the car. This is because they have fewer features, unlike modern cars. Modern cars, on the other hand, have complex features, making it impossible to turn off the ignition while the car is running.

Even if you do manage to turn off the car while you are driving, due to manufacturer defects, the first thing you will see is that controlling the car will become harder, it can even lock the steering wheel, which makes the vehicle lose control. If this happens, you will likely be involved in an accident. 

First of all, remember that the power steering, on some cars and the electric power steering, will turn off and the steering wheel will become tighter. Together with the power steering, the brakes will also suffer, because braking will be much harder, and very sluggish. For an untrained driver, this is fraught with bad consequences.

Why you should avoid switching off the engine while the car is running?

Taking the key out of the car’s ignition while running seems like a suicidal move because it will lock the steering wheel. This means that there will be no control over the car. In this mode, it’s impossible to drive the car since the engine, and the steering will not work.

It’s highly recommended you avoid this because if it occurs when you are driving on roads with heavy traffic, then you have higher chances of being involved in an accident. 

In simple terms, you won’t adjust some controls and are therefore in no position to react to events. Besides, if you’re involved in an accident, and the insurance company realizes your actions, you won’t be compensated. You will also be blamed for the accident, which is even obvious. 

Some older cars allow you to remove the key, but the steering wheel will still be locked. And if your steering wheel is in glider mode, then the wheels will be stuck. Besides the steering wheel, other features such as airbags, Bluetooth, GPs, and radio might not work. 

Also, what happens varies depending on if you are on an automatic or manual transmission. If you have a manual transmission car, then the car’s engine will run for a short time with the steering and brakes remaining power-assisted. In a minute, the car will stop.

But if you are on an automatic transmission, then the engine will stop, and you will lose power once you turn off the car. The brake assist also follows soon.

Can you turn off newer cars while driving?

Most modern cars today don’t have ignition keys. Rather, they run through an RFID fob, an abbreviation for Radio-frequency identification, and for the vehicle to operate well, you should keep the RFID closer. And if the fob is far away, then the car might run in Parking Mode. 

But if the car is running and you throw away this fob, then the engine won’t stop. Instead, the car will assume that the fob is malfunctioning and therefore continue running the engine.

These are designed for safety reasons, and other models like modern SUVs have a start/stop button. If you press the STOP button, these vehicles will stop but only when running at a 20mph or less speed. Anything higher than 20 mph and the cars won’t stop. 

What to do if your car stops while driving?

Since stopping the car while driving is a dangerous move, there are also cases where your car can stall while driving. You can do some things before pressing it to ensure your safety. They are:

  1. Shift the car to Neutral. After you put the car in the “N” position, the wheels and engine won’t be connected. This will help you avoid unnecessary damage to the vehicle.
  1. Apply the Brakes. When the car is in neutral mode, it’s time to brake. You may need to press the brake harder since the brake booster will with off and you’ll feel the brake much harder to press than before. If you have strong legs, you will cope with it. Help your braking to be faster by using the handbrake or the emergency brake
  1. Press the warning Lights. Since your car is experiencing problems, it’s wiser for other drivers to understand your situation. Flash the hazard lights or honk and never assume that other road users know about your situation. 


If you accidentally turn off the car while driving, then you might be left with emergency braking. Use it to stop the car and turn the ignition on before driving. Therefore, it’s wiser to adhere to the steps above before you attempt to stop the vehicle to ensure your safety and that of other road users.

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