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What Should I Do If My Engine Stalls?


You pull up to a stoplight and when the light turns green, your vehicle won’t move and stalls out. More than a nuisance, having your engine stall can leave you stranded in a dangerous, high-traffic situation without any means to move your vehicle to safety. What makes it particularly dangerous is that when your engine stalls, you may lose the power assist on your brakes and steering, severely limiting your ability to maneuver your vehicle.



Causes of engine stalling may be lurking in your vehicle’s electrical, vacuum, air intake and/or fuel systems. Some of the more prevalent causes:

Worn or Fouled Spark Plugs

Ignition misfire can make your engine stall at idle.

Intake/Fuel System Leak

A leak or obstruction in the intake or fuel system that affects your engine’s ability to take in air or fuel.

Decreased Compression

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

Failing Temperature Sensors

Faulty coolant and/or air temperature sensors gives your engine computer incorrect information resulting in improper air/fuel mixture.

Bad Airflow Sensor

A dirty or defective airflow sensor can also upset the air/fuel mixture.

Vacuum System Leak

A leak in your engine’s vacuum system, including intake manifold gasket, throttle body leakage and PCV and EGR valve leaks can have a negative effect on the air/fuel mixture.

Failing Idle Speed Control

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

Plugged Catalytic Converter

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

Dirty Diesel Engine Filter

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.


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 your mechanic before your engine stalls and leaves you stranded.



With a problem that has so many potential causes, the best course of action is to take your vehicle to your trusted mechanic who has the experience and the equipment necessary to properly diagnose the issue. Be sure to document the symptoms your engine is displaying and under what circumstances they occur. This information will help your mechanic pinpoint and resolve the problem. 

Learn more about vehicle maintenance products, find your part, or find where to buy your part today.

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 or mechanic. We encourage you to consult with a certified technician or mechanic if you have specific questions or concerns relating to any of the topics covered herein. Under no circumstances will we be liable for any loss or damage caused by your reliance on any content.

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