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Stall Definitions and Meaning... When Your Car Stalls While Driving 

The stalling of an engine happens for a few different reasons, but it’s important to clarify what engine stalling is. It’s when the engine completely shuts off for no obvious reason. It does not include when an engine feels like it’s going to shut off but doesn’t - that’s called an engine stumble, usually due to an engine misfire. Not the same thing.

If repair costs come up too high on an engine stall situation, you might need to check your car’s value so you can sell it. Otherwise, read on for your options.

Did You Know

Engine repair and replacement are one of the biggest costs you can endure as a car owner. Most of the time it isn’t worth fixing your engine, but who will buy a non-running car?

CarBrain buys cars with major mechanical issues, even bad engines. Get an instant offer online and sell your damaged car from the comfort of your home.

My Car is Stalling... So Why Do Cars Stall?

There are three things an engine needs in order to run: fuel, air, and ignition. Ignition means spark, by the way. If one or more of these three things isn’t present or doesn’t happen at the right time, you’ll soon find your car stalling out. The problems that present themselves might be worse than a simple check engine light.

No Fuel

Obviously, if there’s no fuel, your engine won’t run. A lack of fuel can be caused by a plugged fuel filter, dirty fuel injectors, or the wrong type of fuel in the tank. The most embarrassing cause? When your car dies while driving because you ran out of fuel.Engine Stalling Causes

No Air

Your engine consumes lots of air - much more than you’d imagine. It needs to be clean air too. It sucks all the air through an air intake where a filter removes any particles in the air. If your engine doesn’t run because of an air issue, it’s usually because your air filter is clogged with dirt, debris, pollen, leaves, or what have you.

No Spark

Ignition or spark needs to occur when there’s a mixture of fuel and air in the combustion chamber and it’s compressed. It’s a very precise thing - a little early or late and it won’t ignite properly or at all.

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Engine Stalling Causes - Whether Your Car Stalls at Idle or Driving

But just because you have fuel, air, and ignition doesn’t mean your car’s going to run. It all has to happen at precisely the right time.

If your car keeps stalling, there are a handful of parts that could be at fault. It could be:

  • Dirty or clogged fuel injectors

  • Water in the fuel

  • A failing intake air temperature sensor or mass air flow sensor

  • A crankshaft or camshaft position sensor problem

  • Fouled spark plugs

  • A faulty ignition coil

  • An overheating fuel pump

  • Or a wiring problem anywhere under the hood

But how do you know which problem is causing your car stalling out? Here are a few ideas.

Car Stalling Meaning

Engine Stalling While Driving

If the engine in your car stopped while driving, it usually limits the type of concern to fuel, electrical, or ignition. Engine Stalling While Driving

  • It could be that your fuel pump has too much resistance and is shutting down. If this is the problem, the engine usually restarts after a few minutes cooling down.

  • It’s possible the ignition coil is losing an electrical signal and doesn’t know when to fire the spark plugs.

  • A faulty mass air flow sensor might detect too much or not enough air entering the engine. The air-fuel mixture gets adjusted incorrectly and your engine shuts off.

Car Stalls When Stopped

If your car stalls when stopped, it could be air-related, fuel-related, or ignition-related.

  • If the camshaft or crankshaft position sensors aren’t detected, the fuel injectors aren’t signalled to put fuel into the cylinder or the spark plugs aren’t told to fire.

  • Incorrect air readings could result in your car stalling. It will usually fire right back up though.

  • If there’s not enough fuel pressure from the fuel pump or from a blocked fuel filter, your car might stall at idle. Usually it won’t run very well at higher RPMs either.

What You Can Do About Stalling Motors

To be totally sure what the problem is with your car, there’s just one thing you can do. Get it diagnosed by a professional. But you can expect it’s going to cost you dearly. For a diagnosis from a dealership or another professional auto repair shop, it could take a few hours to reproduce the condition, scan for fault codes, and test the component. But that won’t fix anything.

Next, you’ll get an estimate for repairs. It could be a small repair or it could be large, like a cracked engine block. And sometimes, the first repair won’t totally fix your car stalling either!

If your car is stalling, it could cost from $200 to $2500 to fix. There’s no way to know until you’ve had an engine diagnosed by a professional. It takes time and money to get it fixed right. When faced with this price point you’ll have to ask if it’s better to sell your car or fix it.

Sell it to CarBrain

Sell it to CarBrainDon’t have either time or money to deal with stalling motors? You aren’t alone. Fortunately, CarBrain will buy your car from you in as-is condition, stalling engine and all. Request a guaranteed quote for your car in its less-than-perfect condition.

We’ll make you a fair offer. If you accept it, we’ll pay you for your car, and even pick it up from you for no charge. It’s the easy way to deal with a problem car, that’s for sure! Get your offer now and see how much your car is worth!

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