Top Reasons Why Car Engines Shut Off While Driving

Not only is it frustrating, but it can prove extremely dangerous when a vehicle’s engine develops a tendency to shut off while the car is in motion. While the problem ends with the engine, it likely didn’t start there. Engines rely on a number of different sensors and components to operate optimally, and when one of these isn’t working or is delivering false information, this may cause the engine to shut off mid-drive. 

If you’re hoping to become an auto mechanic, you’ll be responsible for identifying and repairing all kinds of issues with your clients’ vehicles, and chronic engine failure will likely be a problem you’ll encounter. An issue separate from a car shutting off while stopped, when a car engine shuts off while in motion, there are a number of common causes. In the infographic below, get a head start on your auto mechanic school curriculum by discovering the most common culprits.

Top Reasons Why Car Engines Shut Off While Driving

[Infographic] Top Reasons Why Car Engines Shut Off While Driving

1. Fuel Filter Issues

A fuel filter keeps contaminants away from the gas tank. When it’s not working:

  • Dirt can enter the fuel tank and clog the filter
  • The fuel pump will stop working
  • The engine won’t get the fuel it needs

… causing the engine to shut off mid trip!

2. Faulty Crankshaft Position Sensor

The CPS determines engine efficiency by controlling the crankshaft, engine valve, and pistons. When it fails:

  • It will send faulty data to the Engine Control Unit
  • The pistons won’t position correctly
  • Engine cylinders will misfire

… causing the engine to shut off!

3. Problems with the Engine Control Unit

The ECU gathers information from engine components to ensure optimal performance. When it’s not working it:

  • Drops in engine power
  • Reduces fuel efficiency
  • Loses spark

…this can all cause the engine to randomly shut off and turn back on.

4. Ignition Switch Issues

The ignition switch turns on when the key is turned. When it’s not working properly:

  • The metal plates within the ignition can lose connection
  • The ignition relay may fail
  • The ignition system won’t get activated

…resulting in a lack of combustion, leading to sudden engine failure.

5. Empty Fuel Tank

It may seem obvious, but when the fuel gauge isn’t working…

  • A unit failure will cause an incorrect reading on the fuel gauge
  • Drivers won’t know that they’re out of gas

…and their vehicle will die while in motion.

Interested in the causes of engine failure?

Learn more with an automotive training program at CATI!

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