Engine Stalling Causes and Prevention | Common Reasons Why Car Engine Stalls?

The proper working of the vehicle engine is vital to enjoy a comfortable driving. Car engine stalling is one of the worst problems that should be addressed quickly. When a car stalls, it means that the engine is not operating. There are multiple reasons for a stalling engine. This could be due to a mechanical problem or an issue with the air or fuel the vehicle is getting. In such a condition, the car’s engine can even shut down while driving on the road. This article mainly explains the causes of car engine stalling and how to fix it.

What Does it Mean When a Car Stalls?

A stall is the stopping or slowing of a process. The engine stalling means that the engine has suddenly stopped working. If you are driving on highways, the car stalling may cause your vehicle to have an accident.

This term is most usually used for the phenomenon where the engine suddenly stops running and does not rotate.

Car Stalls

Your car engine may stall due to different causes such as insufficient air supply, power, bad timing belt, insufficient spark, bad fuel pump, insufficient fuel, bad fuel injector, or bad engine sensor. This increase in engine load is common on manual transmission vehicles when the clutch is released abruptly.

When your car engine stalls, you should immediately fix the main issue. First of all, you need to find out why your engine is stalling. The stalling may occur at different times, e.g., when idling, stopping, or starting the vehicle. In rare cases, your car may stall while driving, which is a particular problem.

Causes of Car Engine Stalling

The following are the major causes of car engine stalling:

  1. Insufficient fuel
  2. Inadequate air-fuel mixture
  3. Dead battery
  4. Dirty fuel
  5. Bad air filter
  6. Bad timing belt
  7. Bad fuel pump
  8. Bad spark plug
  9. Faulty torque converter
  10. Bad ignition coil
  11. Faulty alternator
  12. Clutch release problems
  13. Bad engine sensors
  14. Vacuum leaks
  15. Faulty coolant sensor

1) Insufficient Fuel

Insufficient fuel supply to the engine is one of the major causes of the vehicle to stall. Your vehicle engine always needs sufficient fuel to operate efficiently.

If the low fuel warning light comes on and stays on for a while, you should immediately inspect your fuel. If the fuel tank has low fuel than a specific limit, you should add more fuel.

2) Inadequate air-fuel Mixture

The insufficient supply of the air-fuel mixture may also cause the car engine to stall. The car engine usually stalls when the fuel-air mixture is not rich enough.

Air Fuel Mixture which causes engine stalling


Your engine requires a proper mixture of air and fuel in the cylinder to work efficiently. Too little fuel leads to poor combustion and poor performance. The engine also requires a sufficient supply of air to properly fuel. An insufficient supply of air can contaminate the engine.

3) Dead Battery

A bad or dead battery of your car is one of the main causes of the car engine stalling.

car Battery

If your battery charge is very low and the spark plug is unable to generate the spark effectively, then the air-fuel mixture in your combustion chamber will not ignite properly.

If the air-fuel mixture in the combustion chamber doesn’t burn properly, the engine can stall. This problem can also occur when driving on the highway. This issue can also happen even if your battery is fully charged. Dirty or corroded contacts may also lead to engine stalling issues.

The car batteries are easy to diagnose. Just perform a visual inspection to check the corrosion and dirt on your vehicle battery. You may also use a multimeter to test the battery charge.

4) Dirty Fuel

The dirty fuel may cause the engine to stall. If your fuel is dirty, your engine will not work efficiently or will not work at all.

5) Bad Air Filter

Air filters are used to keep the solid contamination out of the engine. But like anything on the road, it eventually gets dirty.

Air Filter which causes car stalling

Extreme environmental conditions may cause air filters to clog prematurely. This is a common problem in areas where wildfires are common. Smoke particles can quickly clog air filters which cause the engine to stall.

6) Bad Timing Belt

The IC engines usually have a timing belt or timing chain to synchronize the operation of electric motors. With the passage of time, the timing belts wear out, and they need to be replaced.

bad timing belt

A faulty timing belt may skip various teeth during turning, which can lead to engine stalling. This causes various parts of the engine to be out of synchronization, resulting in erratic operation and often vehicle stalling.

Read More: Bad Timing Belt Symptoms and Causes

7) Bad Fuel Pump

The main function of the fuel pump is to supply the fuel to the engine properly. If the fuel pump stops working, the engine will not be able to get sufficient fuel, and eventually, it will start stalling.

faulty Fuel Pump

If the fuel pump stops working, you cannot restart your vehicle. Therefore, when your fuel pump goes bad, you should replace it as soon as possible.

Read More: Bad Fuel Pump Symptoms and Causes

8) Bad Spark Plug

Gasoline engines rely on a spark plug to burn the fuel-air mixture in each cylinder. When the spark plug goes bad, it doesn’t generate a spark and doesn’t ignite the fuel-air mixture, which may lead to engine stalling.

Bad Spark Plug

When your spark plug clogs or goes bad, you should replace it immediately.

9) Faulty Torque Converter

A car with an automatic transmission system contains a torque converter to control the pressure and level of the transmission fluid at idle. If this torque converter goes bad, your car may stall.

Torque Converter which causes the engine to stall

Your vehicle torque converter may fail due to various reasons. Dirty or overheated transmission fluid is one of the major causes of a bad torque converter. It may also damage if the engine computer goes bad and attempts to run the transmission at too low or too high speeds.

Read More: Symptoms and Causes of Transmission Fluid Leaks

10) Bad Ignition Coil

A bad ignition coil is one of the major causes of car engine stalling. The ignition coil plays a major role in igniting the air-fuel mixture in the engine cylinder. A bad ignition coil is a major cause of spark loss which may lead the car engine to stall.

ignition switch, ignition coil

11) Faulty Alternator

The main function of the vehicle alternator is to properly charge the battery and perform many other basic functions of the engine.

bad Alternator which leads to engine stalling

When the alternator stops working, the car engine may also stall. However, there are many symptoms of a bad alternator, such as the car battery not charging or the warning light illuminating on the car dashboard.

12) Clutch Release Problems

This issue only appears in a vehicle with a manual transmission system. This issue only occurs if you take your foot off the clutch without depressing the accelerator while in gear. It can also happen if you attempt to shift into too high with no RPM support. In such a situation, shift to neutral, depress the clutch, and restart the engine.

Clutch issues

13) Bad Engine Sensors

Your vehicle contains multiple sensors to ensure the efficient working of the engine. These sensors help to control the different parts of the engine. An issue with a specific sensor may cause the engine to stall. This problem most commonly appears when one or more sensors send incomplete or wrong information to the powertrain control module (PCM).

MAF Sensor, mass air flow sensor

The most common engine sensors that can cause an engine to stall include the throttle position sensor (TPS), mass air flow (MAF) sensor, accelerator pedal (APP) sensor, and engine coolant temperature (ECT) sensor.

In addition, problems with your car’s throttle body or Idle Air Control (IAC) valve may also lead to engine stalling.

14) Vacuum Leaks

The vacuum leak is the entry of unmetered air into the engine.

Vacuum Leaks, causes of car stalling

A large vacuum leak can result in a lean condition within the engine cylinder. This means that the amount of fuel in each combustion chamber is not sufficient to match the air volume. This can lead to random stalling.

This type of problem can be easily observed in cold weather starts because in such weather, your engine requires a richer fuel mixture to operate efficiently.

15) Faulty Coolant Sensor

If your car contains a coolant sensor, the engine overheating may cause the car to shut down quickly to avoid engine damage. In some situations, this sensor can fail and give false readings, leading to engine stalling.

Coolant Sensor

What should I do if My Car Stalls while driving?

You need to avoid panicking and calmly restart your car. Follow the below-given steps when your car stalls while driving:

  • Turn on your Hazard Light: First of all, you should turn on the warning lights of your car to let other drivers know that something is wrong with your car. Locate the red triangle design button on your vehicle dashboard.
  • Go somewhere safe: Drive your car in a safe location because you don’t want to get stuck in traffic with a stalling engine. Put the vehicle in neutral and carefully pull the vehicle to the side of the road and away from the danger zone.
  • Shift the transmission: If your vehicle has a manual transmission, then firstly shift it to neutral first. If your car contains an automatic transmission, shift it to park.
  • Turn the Ignition Key: Now try to restart the vehicle by turning the ignition key. This process may take multiple tries before you can get started. When this is done, let the engines run for a few minutes before driving the vehicle.
  • Shift the Gear: Now shift the transmission into 1st gear and drive the vehicle.
  • If your car is still creating stalling problems, then contact a specialist to find the root cause of the problem.

How much does it cost to fix a stalling engine?

The fixing or repairing cost of a stalling engine depends on the nature of the repair and labor. To fix the car engine stall, you need one or more of the below-given repairs:

Spark plug replacement$180 to $270
Battery replacement $50 to $260
Alternator replacement$600 to $800
Fuel injector replacement$340 to $860 
Vacuum leak repairing$90 to $220 
Ignition switch replacement$110 to $260
Fuel pump replacement$220 to $1,090

Why Car Stalls At A Red Light?

FAQ Section

What does car stalling mean?

The engine stalling means that the engine has suddenly stopped working. If you are driving on highways, the engine stalling may cause your vehicle to have an accident.

This term is most usually used for the phenomenon where the engine suddenly stops running and does not rotate.

What would cause a car to stall while driving?

The car engine may stall due to multiple causes. The following are the major causes of car engine stalling:

  • Empty fuel tank
  • Dead battery
  • Inadequate air-fuel mixture
  • Clogged air filter
  • Bad fuel pump
  • Bad timing belt
  • Spark-related issues
  • Bad torque converter
  • Faulty alternator
  • Bad MAF sensor 
  • Clutch release issues
  • Faulty fuel regulator
  • Insufficient fuel pressure
  • Engine misfiring
  • Vacuum leaks
  • Faulty coolant sensor
  • Corroded or damaged distributor cap

What happens if an engine stalls?

If your vehicle engine stalls while driving, first the power steering will fail, and then the power braking. In such a condition, your first action must be to step on the foot brake and slowly turn your vehicle to the safe side of the road. Then switch on the vehicle hazard lights, then try to restart the vehicle.

Why my car shuts off while driving and won't start?

Your vehicle may create this problem due to a problem with the alternator or battery. To find the root cause of the problem, inspect your electrical terminals, connectors, and other electrical systems. If there is no issue with the electrical parts, inspect your timing belt or chain for damage. If your engine stalls while driving but starts again, inspect your fuel filters for damage or clog.

Does stalling damage the car?

Frequently stalling the vehicle, particularly with cargo (passengers), puts extra stress on the transmission parts of your vehicle, but stalling is less likely to ruin the vehicle engine.

How to fix a stalling Car?

  • First of all, inspect the fuel in the fuel tank. Your fuel tank must have sufficient fuel.
  • Inspect the fuel pump and fuel injector for damage. Your fuel tank and fuel injector must work efficiently.
  • If your fuel injector is clogged, properly clean it.
  • Inspect the spark plugs of your vehicle.
  • Inspect the electrical wiring and connectors for damage or corrosion.
  • Properly inspect the alternator and battery of your car. If your car battery is dead, immediately replace it. If you know your battery is old and you have no signs of an alternator failure, the battery may be to blame.
  • Inspect the fuel filters and air filters. If your car’s filters look dirty, properly clean them.

In addition, most drivers need professional help to figure out what’s causing the car stalling and fix it.

What repairs can fix the stalling engine?

  • Adding more fuel to the fuel tank if needed
  • Replacing the battery if it is dead
  • Cleaning or replacing the clogged or faulty air filter
  • Replacing the bad fuel pump
  • Replacing the faulty fuel filter
  • Repairing or replacing the damaged timing belt
  • Fixing the spark-related issues
  • Replacing the bad torque converter
  • Replacing the faulty alternator
  • Replacing the bad MAF sensor 
  • Replacing or cleaning the damaged or clogged fuel injectors
  • Replacing the bad O2 sensor
  • Replacing the bad fuel regulator
  • Repairing a vacuum leak
  • Replacing the bad coolant sensor
  • Replacing the damaged distributor cap

How do you stop stalling?

  • Press the clutch with the left foot.
  • Put your car in 1st gear.
  • Press the accelerator pedal lightly (don’t press too hard, the car will go too fast).
  • Gradually release pressure on the clutch until you find the pressure point.
  • Release the parking brake and drive off gently.
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