5 Causes of a Car Starts then Dies Immediately

When you attempt to start your car, you normally assume it is going to start without any problems. You’ll hear the engine turning and everything will seem fine. However, there may come a point in time when your car will start but then die almost immediately afterward.

This will aggravate you a lot because it will seem like your car should be working since you got it to start first. So naturally, you’ll repeatedly keep attempting to start your vehicle until it doesn’t die.

Unfortunately, you won’t have any success at doing this once it dies the first time. The only thing you can do is figure out what happened and then fix the problem.

5 Common Causes of a Car Starts then Dies

There are lots of reasons as to why your car would start and then stop immediately. After you’ve tried to start your vehicle a couple of times with this problem occurring, you should avoid trying again.

You don’t want to risk making the cause of the problem any worse. Speaking of which, below are the top 5 causes of a car dying immediately after you start it up.

Read also: 5 Symptoms of a Slipping Clutch in Your Car (Manual Transmission)

1) Fuel Pump Leak

If there is any kind of leak in your fuel pump or fuel injection system for that matter, it will create problems for the internal combustion process. The engine requires the right amount of air and fuel to mix together for ignition.

But if there is a fuel leak somewhere, then the proper amount of fuel won’t be able to make it to the combustion chamber. This might cause the engine to still start, but it won’t be able to keep it running. That is why it will die almost immediately after it starts.

2) Fuel Injection Sensor Issue

The fuel injector requires a certain amount of pressure so that it can inject the right amount of fuel into the internal combustion chamber. The engine control unit communicates with the fuel injector through the sensor that is attached to it.

The sensor keeps track of the amount of pressure in the fuel injector and then transmits this information to the engine control unit. From there, this computer modifies the pressure accordingly.

However, if there is a problem or issue with the fuel injector sensor, the engine will not receive the right amount of fuel for a proper combustion. This could lead to a starting car that dies right away.

3) Ignition Issue

The ignition system is responsible for generating the spark that ignites the mixture of air and fuel in the internal combustion chamber.

If you were to have any issues in your ignition system, like with the spark plugs or even the car battery, then the spark might not be sufficient enough to create a full ignition in the chamber. This could cause the car to die if it does start up at all.

4) Bad Carburetor

The carburetor is a very important component of the internal combustion process. In fact, it is responsible for properly adjusting the ratio of air and fuel so that the combustion can be successful in the engine.

So, if you have a bad carburetor that is malfunctioning for some reason, it will likely throw off the ratio of air and fuel. Then your engine’s combustion will be ruined.

5) Engine Control Unit Issue

The engine control unit is a computer that is susceptible to glitches and errors like any other piece of electronic equipment. But it is even worse for the engine control unit to have this issue because it manages virtually all the electronic components and sensors of your vehicle.

One potential problem that could arise is the inability to control the fuel injection system correctly. This might cause problems keeping the car running after you start it up.

17 thoughts on “5 Causes of a Car Starts then Dies Immediately”

  1. I have a 1997 Mercury Cougar with a V8 and it’s had electrical problems such as the wipers not starting immediately or the trunk light not working. I just dealt with the starting and then stalling immediately. I tried to start it twice and on the third try I kept my foot on the gas at 800 RPM to no avail. I’ll let you know what I find out tomorrow.

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  2. i have a ford type product aswell 1997 recently started acting up when it was low on fuel after a long drive 4.6l dohc lincoln tried to start the car it ran then stalled out hit the key again it fired stalled right out after 3 times of this i decided to press the gas while starting kept the engine reving around 2500 rpm let off press the petal down repeated a few times seemed like it ran after that. Hard not to run the tank low on these old fords they eat gas in town and over 60

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  3. I have a 2008 Ford ranger 4×4 that will starts when you jump it then it dies a few minutes later. Could it be the alternator or what could it be? The alternator is 4 yrs.old.

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    • The alternator is almost always the cause in this scenario but check to make sure all connections on the battery are good and free of corrosion. A voltage test should be done to confirm the issue.

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  4. I have a 08 Chrysler 200. When I start it, it dies rite away, it does this about 4 out of 10 starts. When it doesn’t die it runs great and has no check engine light on or anything. It seems like it looses connection or something because it just shuts clean off, no sputtering or noises at all, just stalls. Does anyone have any suggestions?

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    • I just bought a 1996 VW Golf Cabrio with 224K km, 5 speed manual 1.6L. Just noticed yesterday after the car was sitting for a few days that when I went to start it, it would crank and start and then immediately shut off. It has an engine immobilized installed by one of the previous owners, so I tried it again and made sure to wait for the second set of flashing lights indicating it’s ok to start and that worked once. I also once tried as another user here did, stepping on the gas as i was starting the engine and that prevented the shutdown. Finally, after all was said and done, I drove around the parking garage for 3 minutes to make sure it was going to drive ok, parked it, turned it off and then turned it back on again to make sure it would still start. I noticed thick white smoke coming from the exhaust. Searches I just did on YouTube and Google say it’s a blown head gasket. Smoke was very white and very thick. Could it have blown as a result of this issue? THe car drives fine otherwise, no issues at all. It’s currently still parked in the parking garage, and of course now with the coronavirus issue I can’t have anyone come to look at it for a while. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Thanks. I have a sinking feeling that it’s bad news.

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      • Since you were starting and stopping it several times, I wouldn’t necessarily blame the head gasket just yet. My 1994 Mazda Miata, which has a perfectly fine head gasket, will smoke white on startup occasionally, especially when it’s been sitting for a while or when it’s cold outside.

        Just make sure the smoke goes away as the car warms up. It shouldn’t be there at normal operating temperature. If your car still blows thick white clouds at operating temperature, that’s when I’d start digging a little deeper to diagnose a possible head gasket failure.

    • Same here, except for the thick white exhaust smoke I have now too (that’s new, only started since yesterday; I’ve only had the car for a week).

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  5. My 2014 Suburban either starts correctly but then almost immediately dies (rpm drops to 0 and everything locks) or everything turns on but the car itself won’t start. After 4-5 tries, I am able to get it on and running. Any ideas?

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    • I always start my troubleshooting at the battery in cases like this. Go to a local parts store to have the battery and alternator tested to make sure they are good. I would have them check for codes while you’re there, since many places will do all of this for free.

      Combustion engines need fuel, spark, and air to run. It sounds to me like it’s either not getting enough fuel or spark at the right time, but unfortunately I can only make a guess without knowing more information.

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  6. I replaced the distributor on a 350 SMB Chevy. Turn the key, car starts. Release key, car stops. What could cause that? Thank you! If you know, please let me know. The car ran fine before.

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  7. When I try to start my car in the morning I have to press the gas for some seconds to keep it running. Otherwise it dies within one second. Rest of the day things work just as they should. What could be the cause of morning stalling?

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    • There are many reasons why a car might be hard to start. In the morning it is colder, so the battery may be struggling if it’s getting old. You may have an issue with the idle air control (IAC) valve, the mass airflow (MAF) sensor may need to be cleaned, or you may be due for a new fuel filter, to name a few things.

      Start with the simple stuff: I would have the battery tested at a local parts store. Typically they do this test for free and if your battery is bad, simply replacing it may resolve the issue. Good luck.

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  8. I have a honda civic 2005, 150i. The timing belt broke, den it affected de valve and grank sensor, I replace all of that, but now it start den immediate wend off, what could be de course? De engine only runs for a couple of seconds and goes off.

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    • Your engine is likely an interference engine (most Hondas are), which means it is possible for the piston to contact the valves if the timing belt were to break.

      I would do a compression test to ensure you’re still making good compression on all cylinders. If one or more cylinders come back low, do a leak down test to determine where the leak is coming from. You could have bent valves or scored pistons from the failure. Bent valves will not seat properly and would cause low compression in the cylinder(s) where the piston smashed into the valves.

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