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Common Reasons Why Cars Stall (And Easy Solutions)

Kevin V


Help! My car keeps stalling… what do I do?

If your car stalls, then it means the engine has stopped working for any number of reasons. This can be the result of a mechanical issue or a problem with the air or fuel the car is receiving. Your car can stall in pretty much any situation. It might stall shortly after you’ve started it up or while you’re driving.

Let’s take a look at the top 10 most common reasons why a car might stall.

Common causes of engine stalling

1. Empty fuel tank. If your low fuel warning light is on, and it has been on for a while, this is probably the most likely cause.

2. Fuel mixture isn’t adequate. If your car is stalling when it’s cold or stalling intermittently, your fuel mixture might not be adequate. This usually happens when the mixture of fuel and air isn’t rich enough.

3. Bad fuel pump. If your fuel pump quits or isn’t working properly, then your engine won’t get the fuel it needs to run, which results in the engine stalling. You won’t be able to restart your car if the fuel pump quits.

4. Bad alternator. Your alternator is responsible for charging your battery and running many essential functions in your engine. If your alternator quits, your car will quit too. However, there are usually plenty of warning signs of impending alternator failure, including dimmed lights and your battery not charging.

5. Dead battery. Most of the time, if your battery is dead, you won’t be able to start your car. However, if your battery is going bad, then you may experience stalling due to the alternator being overworked. Before replacing your battery, make sure that a failing alternator isn’t the culprit.

6. Clutch release problems. This only happens on manual transmission vehicles, and it occurs when you take your foot off the clutch while in gear without giving it any gas. It may also occur if you try to shift into too high of gear without the RPMs to support it. If this happens, just shift into neutral, put in the clutch and start the engine again.

7. Low fuel pressure. If your car only stalls on inclines, then low fuel pressure is likely the culprit. This can be the result of clogged injectors, so buy some fuel injector cleaner and add it to your fuel tank as soon as possible.

8. Dirty air filter. If your air filter is clogged or exceptionally dirty, then it will interfere with your car’s airflow and possibly cause stalling.

9. Faulty coolant sensor. If your vehicle has a coolant sensor, then overheating can cause your vehicle to immediately quit to prevent engine damage. In some cases, this sensor might be faulty and giving wrong readings that result in stalling.

10. Corroded distributor cap. This cap covers the distributor and sends voltage to the spark plugs. If your distributor cap has corrosion, it can cause your car to stumble during acceleration or even stall.

What does it mean when a car stalls when braking?

If your car stalls when braking, then it usually means you have a vacuum hose blockage in the brake booster or a leaking master cylinder. Or you could have a leak in the ABS system. In either case, this can be difficult to track down without professional help.

What causes a car to stall while driving?

There are a large number of reasons why your car might stall while driving. It could be a dead alternator, a bad coolant sensor or lack of fuel, just to name a few. Is your car stalling while accelerating? If so, then it could be a major vacuum leak, clogged fuel filter or a bad fuel pump. If your vehicle is stalling when driving, seek professional help to track down and fix the issue.

How to fix a stalling vehicle

The first step is to make sure that it isn’t a simple issue such as an empty fuel tank or improper clutch application. Once these have been ruled out, you can move onto more complicated reasons. If you know your battery is old and you don’t have any symptoms of alternator failure, then your battery could be the cause.

Other easy fixes include adding injector cleaner if your vehicle stalls on inclines or replacing your air filter if you check it and it looks dirty. Beyond these, most drivers will need professional help to track down the reason for stalling and then get it fixed.