What to do if a car engine dies?

This blog post will answer the question, ‘What to do if a car engine dies?’, and cover topics like what a car engine dying looks like, the causes behind a car engine dying, and how to tackle a car engine dying.

What to do if a car engine dies?

These are the steps to take in case a car engine dies all of a sudden:

  • Replace or repair any anti-theft systems
  • Plug any vacuum leaks
  • Replace or repair faulty mass airflow sensors(MAF) or exhaust gas recirculation valves(EGR)
  • Check oil and coolant levels on a regular basis
  • Clean dirty or clogged air filters
  • Replace any defective or worn-out spark plugs
  • Replace broken timing belts and chains

What does a car engine dying look like?

A car engine dying occurs when the ignition key is turned on to start the car, but it shuts down all of a sudden.

It is important to be noted that the car engine must not be started repeatedly in the event of it shutting down right after being started, as doing so will damage the car engine starter motor and other associated components.

Causes behind a car engine dying

These are the following causes that are responsible for a car engine dying.

Issues with the car’s anti-theft alarm system

Modern-day cars are equipped with anti-theft alarm systems that prevent criminals from accessing the vital components in a car. These systems are made up of a transponder and an integrated chip module.

When the system faces issues, it can block certain components of the car or cut off the fuel supply from the fuel pump to the engine, thus shutting the car off.

Vacuum leaks

The engine intake manifold regulates the air flowing through it towards the engine for mixing with the fuel in an optimum ratio by creating a vacuum.

Sometimes there can be leaks in these channels that can cause the vacuum to be open to allow air inside, creating vacuum leaks as a result. This condition results in a lean mixture and causes improper combustion of the air-fuel mixture.

Defective mass airflow sensor(MAF)

A mass airflow sensor(MAF), helps in monitoring the amount of air being sent to the engine combustion chamber for optimum mixing of the air-fuel mixture.

The mass airflow sensor often gets dirty or clogged, in some cases it might even fail to work, thus sending erroneous signals to the engine control module and hindering the production of power to move the car.

Defective idle air control valve

The idle air control valve helps to regulate the intake of air traveling towards the engine. If this valve undergoes a problem, the car can suffer from shaking motions while idling or misfires when the engine is started.

Defective engine recirculation valve(EGR)

The engine recirculation valve or the EGR valve helps the car to abide by the emission norms set by the government and reduce the hazardous pollutants present in the exhaust gases by recirculating these fumes back to the engine combustion chamber for burning again.

A defective EGR valve recirculates the gases even when the engine is cool. The faults can be identified by noticing carbon fouling traces, that cause the engine to stop all of a sudden.

Problems with the car ignition system

A problem in the car’s ignition system will prevent it from starting or generating power to move and it is usually related to faults in the battery terminals, alternator, defective spark plugs, faulty ignition switches or plugs, etc.

Problems with the car’s fuel system

Having a faulty car fuel system is one of the primary reasons behind a car engine dying. This is usually due to a faulty fuel pump, a defective fuel relay switch, faulty fuel injectors, etc. It can also be due to the presence of low fuel in the tank.

How to tackle a car engine dying?

These are the following steps to take in case a car engine dies :

  • In case of a faulty anti-theft system in the car, inspect the transponder or get the entire system replaced and reinstalled.
  • Locate the vacuum leaks and plug them, or either change the hose pipes. The leaks can be located by listening carefully for a high-pitched sound.
  • In case of a faulty mass airflow sensor(MAF), or an exhaust gas recirculation valve(EGR), consider replacing it immediately.
  • Keep the fluid levels in the car intact, so that enough fuel is present in the tank for optimum mixing ratio in the combustion chamber.
  • Make sure to replace the defective spark plugs immediately.
  • Clean the fuel filter thoroughly if it appears dirty or clogged.

Research shows how a slipped timing chain or belt can disrupt the timing of the crankshaft and the camshaft.


This blog post addressed the question, ‘What to do if a car engine dies?’

We understood what a car engine dying actually looks like and also came across the various reasons that contribute to a car engine dying. Furthermore, the steps to take in case of a car engine dying have also been discussed. Please feel free to comment on the content or ask any questions in the comments section below.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): What to do if a car engine dies?

How can you tell if your alternator is bad?

A bad alternator can be identified by dimming car lights, a dead battery, starting issues, a whining noise, and the battery warning light on the dashboard.

What is the average lifespan of a fuel pump?

The average lifespan of a fuel pump in a car is roughly 100000-200000 miles.

What are the signs that your fuel pump is going out?

The telltale signs of a defective or faulty fuel pump include a sputtering car engine, inadequate fuel pressure, a sudden drop in engine mileage, and an overheating engine.


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