9 Reasons Why a Car Shuts Off While Driving

There is nothing worse than having your car engine suddenly stop while you’re driving. If this ever happens, you’ll want to immediately pull off to the side of the road before the wheels stop completely.

It’s important not to confuse this situation with one where you experience a loss of electrical power in your vehicle due to a failing alternator or battery.


When an engine stops abruptly, you may lose some control of your vehicle, especially at high speeds. You’ll also notice the absence of the engine’s running sound. This problem can occur in both old and new cars.

Top 9 Causes When a Car Turns Off While Driving

There are a few reasons why a car engine would stop suddenly while you’re driving. To help you troubleshoot, below are nine of the most probable causes of this problem.

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.

7) Timing Belt/Chain Failure

broken timing belt

Vehicles have either a timing belt or timing chain, and a failure of this component can cause the engine to stop suddenly and can be catastrophic.

A timing belt or chain is responsible for synchronizing the rotation of the crankshaft and camshaft(s). If it breaks or slips, the engine valves may contact the pistons, causing severe damage and engine failure.

8) Blown Head Gasket

A blown head gasket can cause coolant to leak into the combustion chambers, leading to engine overheating and potential failure. In some cases, a severely damaged head gasket can cause the engine to stop abruptly while driving.

9) Fuel System Issue

Problems with the fuel system, such as a clogged fuel filter, failing fuel pump, or damaged fuel lines, can cause the engine to stall or shut off while driving. If the engine is not receiving a steady supply of fuel, it will not be able to maintain proper operation.

Warning Signs of Potential Engine Failure

strange noise

Before an engine actually stops while driving, it may provide some clues that indicate a potential problem. While these signs may end up being a completely different issue (or maybe a non-issue), paying attention to how your vehicle is running is a great habit to have.

By being aware of these early indicators, you may be able to address issues before they lead to a complete engine shutdown and very possibly, a dangerous situation on the road.

Unusual Noises

Pay attention to any strange noises coming from your engine, such as knocking, tapping, or rattling. These sounds could indicate problems with the pistons, valves, or other internal components.

A squealing noise may suggest issues with the serpentine belt or a failing water pump, which could lead to engine overheating.


If you feel unusual shaking or vibrations while driving, particularly in the steering wheel, floorboard, or seat, it could signify a problem with the engine mounts, transmission, or other drivetrain components. These vibrations may become more pronounced as the engine is under load, such as when accelerating or climbing hills.

Decreased Performance

If you notice a significant reduction in your vehicle’s power or acceleration, it could indicate a variety of issues, such as a clogged fuel filter, failing fuel pump, or malfunctioning sensors. A decrease in fuel efficiency may also suggest a problem that could lead to engine failure (such as no fuel flow).

Warning Lights

Pay close attention to any warning lights that appear on your dashboard, particularly the check engine light, oil pressure light, and temperature gauge. These are all designed to alert you to potential problems before they cause more severe damage.

If any of these lights illuminate, have your vehicle inspected by a professional mechanic as soon as possible or if you have access to one, use an OBD2 scanner to scan for any stored trouble codes.

Burning Smell

If you notice a burning smell while driving, it could indicate an overheating engine, damaged electrical components, or a fluid leak. A burning oil smell may suggest a leak or an overheating engine, while a burning rubber smell could indicate a problem with the drive belts or hoses.

Rough idle

If your engine runs roughly or stalls frequently while idling, it could be a sign of a failing sensor, clogged fuel injectors, or a vacuum leak. These issues can cause your engine to lose power or shut off unexpectedly while driving.


60 thoughts on “9 Reasons Why a Car Shuts Off While Driving”

  1. My car engine shuts down whilst driving..I assumed to be a computer box but I replaced..

    Actually the problem is still there
    What next

    • I have the same problem after i replace the computer box, My mechanic said he checked everything but he doesn’t know the problem.
      Have you fix the problem, I am scared to drive, Please share your experiences, I will very much appreciate your input.
      Thanks a million.


  2. I see u really gave a typical example of what I am facing with my 16 yrs Hyundai Tucson on point number 5 my car goes off when driving n I realised the Check Engine sign on the board what can be the problem and how can I solve it?

    • Could be any number of things. You’ll have to do some diagnostics to narrow it down. Start with simple stuff like checking fuses and visually inspecting the parts of the wiring harness you can see.

  3. Hi All,

    I have the same problem where my engine works perfect for certain period of time when i start in morning, after a period of time when i slow down the vehicle will stop like when idling the vehicle at signals or while taking the turns.

    What could be the problem here, please suggest me.

    Thank you in advance.
    S Kirangi

  4. My car is a Daewoo Matiz
    When driving, the engines shuts and the brake, oil and battery lights come on. However, when I on the ignition, it responds, but after driving for a while, it happens again, and I repeat the process, and it happens over and over again.
    What might be causing this.

  5. I have a 2009 saturn vue and it shut off while driving. When i pulled to a parking stall and parked the car all the transmission fluid came out of the car. No prior leaks and the car did not over heat.

    car will not start, lights and radio comes on.

    • That’s very strange. I wonder if the engine or transmission suffered a catastrophic failure. Unfortunately I don’t know what to say but to have the vehicle towed and repaired at a nearby shop. If you would like to return to the site and update us on what the issue was, I am really interested to know what went wrong.

  6. While Driving the engine goes off suddenly, I park at the road side immediately switch off then restart again and moves . After an hour of driving and stopping in different places. When I parked again the engine refused to start.

    • I don’t know. You might be able to narrow down the problem to a sensor or wiring issue if there is a check engine light code stored. Otherwise I think you’re going to have to take it to a shop to have the problem diagnosed.

  7. My car is opel zefira while movin it suddenly stop if i restart it, it will not start but after like 15minute it start and continue movin, when it move for like 45minute it repeat samething

  8. Good day my car is KIA CARES 2014 My problem of my car is when I’m driving speedometer is not working and the shifting gear is not changing. And sometimes when I’m driving engine off on the road specially when slow speed.

  9. Another reason could be due to a defective fuel pump. Just experienced this problem. The engine just shut off without giving any hints of impending glitches

    • Hello Mike I have the same 2013 dodge van, also the same problem, did you find the answer and what was the problem, I am sacred to drive, I just replace the electrical computer box, my private mechanic said he checked anything but he cannot fix the problem.
      Please share your experience, I am very much appreciates your input. Thanks a million.

  10. my car Toyota camry 2004 v4 moves well with no sound in the gearbox after servicing and changing the fluid but after driving for some miles,i notice a humming sound in the gearbox and when i stop in a traffic for awhile,it doesn’t move until i off the engine for a minutes then it moves for a little mile again and stop while the engine is still on, and on & on,what could be the fault?

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

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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?

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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?

    • My car suddenly shut off while I’m driving and after sometimes it’s shut on again and at that moments the power of the car less in terms of speed.

      • That’s not quite enough information to really pinpoint the problem. You’ll probably want to take it to a mechanic to have the car inspected. They can help you fix it or narrow down the problem a bit more if you want to perform the repair yourself.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

    • 4.3 are bad for the brass gear on bottom. If distributor to go bad replace distributor that should fix it I use to rebuild those trucks from wrecks and that was extent common I. Those motors after we replaced the distribitors no more troubles

      Most v6 chevy. The 4.3 has a brassgear on the bottom of the distributor the gear weats out and makes it go out of time this is most likely your troubles I worked strictly on those trucks tahoe suburban for 4 years and almost every time it was the brass gear in on the the distributor that was bad


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