6 Reasons Why a Car Shuts Off While Driving

There is nothing worse than having your car engine stop while you’re driving. If this happens, you’ll want to pull off the road as quickly as possible before the wheels stop completely.

Do not confuse this situation with one where you have a lack of power in your vehicle. This is caused by your alternator or battery failing to deliver the proper amount of power needed.

An engine that stops all of a sudden will cause you to lose control of your vehicle to some degree, especially if you’re driving fast.  You also won’t hear it running anymore. This can happen with old and new cars as well.

Top 6 Causes When a Car Turns Off While Driving

There are all sorts of reasons as to why a car engine would stop suddenly while you’re driving. To figure out what your specific cause was, below are six of the most probable causes which you can examine and see if they match your vehicle’s current situation.

1) Engine Overheating

engine overheating symptoms

The most common reason for an engine to stop is that it is overheated. As the internal combustion chamber burns air and fuel to create heat energy, it then becomes mechanical energy which causes the vehicle’s parts and components to operate.

It also allows the alternator to convert this energy into electrical energy for the electrical components of the vehicle. However, if there is not enough coolant in the engine to keep the temperatures within a normal range, then the pistons can actually begin to melt. This will result in the engine shutting down suddenly.

2) Low Engine Oil

low oil symptoms

Since oil is what keeps all moving metal components in an engine lubricated to keep them running with the least amount of resistance, a lack of oil can be catastrophic.

If you have an oil leak somewhere which causes your oil level to drop below the minimum, there may be too much friction between metal components that can actually cause your engine to seize up and simply shut off. In addition, you will likely have expensive engine damage if you let this happen.

This is why regularly checking your oil level is so important.

3) Low Transmission Fluid

check transmission fluid hot or cold

Like engine oil, a certain amount of transmission fluid is needed for your vehicle to operate. If you don’t have the right amount of transmission fluid in your transmission, then it can cause your engine to stop at any time while you’re driving since your transmission can overheat and result in damage to the gears inside.

Like engine oil, you want to regularly check to make sure you have the proper amount of transmission fluid in your vehicle.

4) Failed Motor Mount

main parts of a car engine

This is a more uncommon cause of engine failure, but it can happen if motor mounts have gone bad or the engine has been worked on and not secured properly back in place.

If the engine mounts were broken or were not used properly to secure the engine, the engine would vibrate profusely and likely shut off due to component damage from the vibration. 

5) Electrical Problems

electrical problems

If the computer system or ignition system of your vehicle has electrical problems, it will fail to send the proper electrical signal to the engine. This will cause the engine to ultimately stop. You may see the check engine warning light flash on your dashboard right before this happens.

If you do, you should immediately get your vehicle to the auto shop before the vehicle stops while you’re driving. You never want to take risks when it comes to an engine warning light.

6) Bad Catalytic Converter

symptoms of a bad catalytic converter

The exhaust system of the vehicle depends on the catalytic converter to clear out the exhaust. But if the fuel has too many impurities in it or the car is running too rich, the converter won’t be able to handle it and it will eventually malfunction.

Then, the catalytic converter can get plugged up or the tailpipe will get backed up with too much exhaust, which overworks the engine and eventually causes it to malfunction as well.

26 thoughts on “6 Reasons Why a Car Shuts Off While Driving”

  1. 01 Silverado v6 driving and it just shut off. Checked gas for water, checked oil, fuel pump working, checked spark, put new plugs in, got compression, haven’t checked timming yet.

  2. I’m driving in a highway with my nissan exalta, the performance is good, but suddenly my RPM got to low it goes down to 4hundred RPM if I remove my feet to acceleration pedal, I’m running 80kmphr, I observe that on a traffic got to low to 300rpm, and it goes up to 700 if tne aircon got on and off, I thought it was just normal, then I observe that the temperature gage got irratic is goes up an down to normal at the midle then got down to low antil it suddenly my engine stop,, and never get on.

  3. My car is nissan sentra exalta. Whe the engine is cold the engine starts and run normally but befor reaching temperature less than half of the gauge the engineshutoff and will never start again untill the engine get cool for more o.r less 30min. And will start again normally. During this situation ignition system does not produce hi voltge ark in all sparkplugs.what would be the possible problem?

  4. My car (Mazda Demio) stopped suddenly while I was accelerating and I was in a highway at a high speed what can I do. But when I stopped just by the side of the highway I switch off the engine then when I switch it on again it responded so I need your help please.

  5. My car is a new car Myvi bought 6 months ago. Suddenly one day car engine stopped can’t start all the lights came out from the display meter.Then I start back after it started. After 1 month this incident happened. This time during traffic jam and the engine stopped. Then after trying for 3 minutes. It started back. Please advice on what might be the problem. Thanks.

    • If your car is new, it is probably still under warranty. I’d take it to the dealer, have them scan it to see if it has any check engine lights, and see if there is a manufacturing defect. If you are able to file a warranty claim, it may not cost you anything.

  6. Hi I have a 91 camry I have got my car fix by the toyota dealer like to months ago and now I am have the same problem. It has been 2 months they have change the air flow sensor and heat senior and water sensor.Now the car is still have the same problem.

    • It sounds like they’re throwing parts at the problem instead of troubleshooting the root cause. I’d get a second opinion on their diagnosis.

  7. My Toyota Dyna Truck S05CA is cutting off engine while driving.What could be the quick solution to this problem?

    • Check under the hood to see if anything is obviously wrong (e.g. a disconnected connector, broken ground strap, etc). A broken connection to one of the engine sensors could cause the engine to stall. If you don’t see anything (or aren’t sure what to look for), take it to a shop for a diagnosis of the problem.

  8. My car (Hyundai Elentra 2014) sometimes stop suddenly when my car is running slow and I’ve checked it with computer and it says code P0106, Is this the region for stopping my car on running mode?

  9. First thing to check should be the fuel filter. I experienced the stopping/starting routine and the distances between both kept getting shorter. I had gotten gas with crud in it. Also check if you could have gotten water in the gas. I am experiencing this with a 21 year old vehicle now. The mechanics could find nothing but they also did not check the fuel filter like I had told them. I took it back and told them to change it first thing. It is 21 years old and has never been changed and it is cheap to do. I am normally a DIY person but I cant because of shoulder pain.

  10. I have a 2002 suburban that will start raid up and go down the road about 1⁄2 a mile and then stop And shut off for no apparent reason. I can start the car back up But It goes really really slow To get back to where I started. A new Computer brain has been installed Which hasn’t made a difference! Any help would be appreciated.

  11. My car has some issue. When I start the car, it just vibrates. All the lights light up but engine doesn’t crank up.
    Any help will be appreciated. Thank you.

    • Unfortunately that’s not enough info for us to provide any sort of helpful advice. It would be best if you could take your car to a local mechanic to have them diagnose the problem in person.

  12. My diesel engine TD25 is cutting while in motion, it also has dark smoke emmition.
    what could be the problem?

  13. 2010 Cadillac SRX was I the road to make a left turn then stop shut off suddenly
    It in park then drive wouldn’t move turn off and on started up again

    Why is this just had breaks and rotors done


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