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What do I do
if my engine stalls?

Engine Stalling

Vehicle engine problems run the gamut from those that are merely a nuisance to those that can leave you and your family in danger. Engine stalling falls into the latter category, as it can leave you stranded in a dangerous, high-traffic situation without any means to move your vehicle to safety. Causes may be lurking in your vehicle’s electrical, vacuum, air intake and/or fuel systems. Regardless of the cause, when your engine stops you lose the power assist on your brakes and steering, severely limiting your ability to maneuver your vehicle.

What to Look For

Engine stalling issues aren’t hard to find—in fact, they usually find you. They may or may not give you any warning and sometimes the warning signals are so faint that they are overlooked in the stress of everyday driving. Some of the signs that may be a preview of engine stalling are hard starting when your engine is hot or cold, a noticeable drop in fuel mileage, and lack of power when you try to accelerate. Should you notice any of these issues, it may be wise to have your vehicle looked over by a trained mechanic, before your engine stalls and leaves you stranded.

Causes

A complete list of car ailments that can cause engine stalling would take more space than we have available, but the following are some of the more prevalent causes:

  • Worn or fouled spark plugs – ignition misfire can make your engine stall at idle

  • Leak or obstruction in the intake or fuel system that affects your engine’s ability to take in air or fuel

  • Low engine compression caused by worn piston rings, cylinders and leaking valves

  • Faulty coolant and/or air temperature sensors that give your engine computer incorrect information resulting in improper air/fuel mixture

  • Dirty or defective airflow sensor can also upset the air/fuel mixture

  • Leak in your engine’s vacuum system, including intake manifold gasket, throttle body leakage, and PCV and EGR valve leaks

  • A defective idle speed control system may prevent your engine from getting enough air to idle properly

  • A clogged catalytic converter may also cause stalling or lack of power when accelerating

If your vehicle is diesel powered, a dirty diesel engine filter may cause it to stall. A drop in fuel mileage is a sign of a clogging engine filter.

What to Do

With a problem that has this many potential causes, the best course of action is to have your vehicle transported to your favorite professional mechanic who has the experience and the equipment necessary to properly diagnose the cause.

If your engine needs parts such as spark plugs, filters or other over the counter parts, insist on reputable brand-name parts from well-known manufacturers such as Champion. Champion makes different types of spark plugs specifically tailored to your type of driving and they make filters, too. Also take steps to insure that the parts you buy are genuine, not a low-budget counterfeit. 

Results

Once your vehicle is running smoothly in all conditions, and knowing that it won’t leave you stranded in the middle of a busy highway, will give you peace of mind and probably a big smile. Your vehicle will have the pep and vigor of a new vehicle, allowing you to enjoy driving again.

The content contained in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be used in lieu of seeking professional advice from a certified technician. We encourage you to consult with a certified technician if you have specific questions or concerns relating to any of the topics covered herein.

 

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