Most motorists cause fatal accidents due to panicking while driving. One situation that is sure to elicit a degree of panic is when your car dies while driving. In this article, we look at what you should do when your car shuts off as you drive. But first, let’s look at what causes your car to shut off.
Reasons why your car may dies while driving
So, why the sudden shut off? Let’s look at some common reasons.
1. Empty fuel tank
The most common reason why your car shuts off as you drive is due to depleted fuel. A car cannot function without fuel. This might be due to an overlook thinking that you have enough gas to last your journey. Alternatively, it could be due to a faulty fuel gauge.
The fuel gauge reads incorrectly due to a broken fuel sending unit that measures the amount of fuel left in your car’s tank. So how can you detect a dead fuel gauge? The gauge sticks at full or empty and if it behaves erratically. Have your mechanic check the gauge once in a while and always ensure you have enough gas before hitting the road.
2. Broken alternator
An alternator is another component of your car that ensures a smooth ride. It supplies the car with electricity enabling smooth car control. When your car dies while driving it could be due to a broken alternator. Fortunately, alternators don’t just die abruptly, it’s a gradual process that you as a driver can identify.
If the car constantly receives less electricity than required, then it’s time to have the alternator checked. Bad diodes are the cause of a broken alternator. They prevent the rectifier from converting AC to DC. Besides, they can cause AC leakages that interrupt digital communication and battery depletion when you are not driving the car.
3. Faulty fuel system
The fuel pump supplies the engine with adequate fuel for it to drive smoothly. Should the pump get broken, then your car can abruptly shut off while driving on the highway. This is because the engine is not receiving adequate fuel to run all components. As such, you’ll need to replace it with another one or have it repaired.
In most cases, the problem lies with the fuel filter that cleans the fuel entering the engine. A clogged filter will prevent ample fuel from reaching the engine. A clogged or broken fuel line can also impede the flow of fuel to the engine, causing your car to die while driving.
4. Faulty ECU
Your car comes with an internal computer called the engine control unit (ECU). It ensures every component of the car is running smoothly by constantly carrying out an automatic diagnosis. If it is broken, it can send the wrong signals causing the abrupt power failure. Fortunately, there’s a check engine indicator on the dashboard.
When it comes on, you should visit a garage immediately. The top reasons that can cause your ECU to get broken include corrosion, bad starter, low voltage, and incorrect jump starting. You can tell if the unit is bad when the car won’t start, there are poor engine performance, and the engine stalling.
5. Faulty ignition switch
If the ignition switch is worn out, it means there’ll be insufficient combustion which causes the car to shut off while driving. You can remove the keys from the ignition switch and try to start the car again. If this does not work, then you have a broken ignition system.
Reasons that cause the system not to work include worn out contacts, broken springs, and temperature problems.
These are some of the common reasons why cars die while you are driving. Next up, let’s look at practical remedies to these problems.
What to do when your car dies while you’re driving
1. Pullover to roadside
Once you discover your car is shutting off on the highway, do not panic. Panicking can cause you to act erratically leading to fatal accidents. So, what should you do instead? First, turn on the car flashers and slowly guide your car to the roadside. With the hazard lights on, most drivers will give you the way. Find a spot a few meters away from the road where you can safely alight and check on your engine.
2. Restart your car
Once in a safe position, try to restart your car. If successful, drive to the next gas station or garage for further diagnosis or to wait on your mechanic. If it fails to restart, you should call a car towing service provider to take it to your mechanic. While doing this, ensure that the flashers are on to alert other drivers.
3. Have the car checked
Loose electric cables can cause the car to switch off due to insufficient power supply. Have them checked and tightened. In fact, this is a process you can handle individually. Check cables from the battery and also the fuse box.
If the cables are okay and still it doesn’t start, have the fuel pump system checked. As discussed above, a broken fuel system will hinder an adequate flow of fuel. If broken have it repaired or install a new one.
Also, ensure that the ignition switch and the alternator are checked. Finally, let your mechanic or a professional carry out an ECU test. This is to ensure that the car computer is running smoothly and sending the right signals.
What can you do to prevent your car from shutting off while driving?
To prevent future shutoffs, you should:
- Carry out constant maintenance. Ensure that the engine and other crucial components are checked once in a few months.
- Ensure to fill your car with adequate gas before embarking on a journey. And should the warning lights come on, drive to the nearest gas station for refueling.
- Make sure that the cables are not loose. Also, the alternator connectors and battery terminals should always be clean.
Preventing your car from dying while driving is as easy as ensuring you have enough gas and taking your car for maintenance. However, should it shutoff, follow the above guidelines to avoid accidents on the highway.
Sam is Automole’s editor-in-chief and classic car enthusiast. Sam is studying mechanical engineering at Cockrell School of Engineering, Austin. He also writes for many top automotive publications and appears on the Collecting Cars Podcast.