Dan Ferrell writes about do-it-yourself car maintenance and repair. He has certifications in automation and control technology.
When your car engine starts but stops afterwards, whether immediately or after a few minutes, there could be one or more specific systems or components behind the failure. For example:
- the ignition or injection system
- a low idle speed in need of adjustment
- a maladjusted carburetor
- vacuum leaks
- one or more bad sensors
To make matters worse, stalling may happen under one or more operating conditions. For example, the engine may:
- stall as soon as it starts
- stall during idle
- stall when warm
- stall intermittently under any condition
The conditions associated with your stalling problem will give you clues as to what systems or components are causing your problem.
So the best way to start your diagnostic is to identify, when possible, the conditions under which the stalling occurs, and focus your attention on those systems or components associated with the failure under that particular condition.
How to Investigate and Diagnose Your Problem
The following sections discuss different operating conditions associated with stalling, and which systems and components are most likely to cause stalling under those conditions. The last section focuses on what to do when stalling happens intermittently and seemingly randomly.
So, start by checking those components or systems in the section that best describes your particular engine problem, and then, if necessary, move on to systems or components described in other sections, especially if you suspect these systems need maintenance or have given you problems in the past. This approach will make it easier for you to diagnose the problem much faster and will work in most cases.
Check for Codes
Also, be sure to check the computer system for any diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) that might be stored in memory, whether the "check engine" light has come on or not. One or more sensors may have triggered a pending code. If you don't have a scanner tool, you may be able to take your vehicle to a local auto parts store to get the codes retrieved, or the store may lend you the scanner. Better yet, buy a relatively inexpensive but quality automotive scanner from your local auto parts store or online.
A Tip: The Anti-Theft System
If you've seen the anti-theft light blinking recently, make sure the anti-theft system is working properly. The system itself can be the source of the problem. Sometimes you need to reset the system (make the system go through a re-learning procedure) to get the engine working right again. If necessary, consult your vehicle repair manual.
I. If Your Engine Stops Immediately After It Starts
II. If the Engine Stalls at Idle
III. If the Engine Stalls at Idle Unless You Press the Accelerator
IV. If the Engine Starts When Cold but Stops When Warm
V. If the Engine Stalls Intermittently
I. If Your Engine Stops Immediately After it Starts
Your engine may stop as soon as you let the key return from the Start to the Run position. Most of the time, this condition points to a badly clogged fuel filter or an ignition switch in need of adjustment or with worn/burned contacts.
A quick test to see if you have a problem with the fuel system is by using carburetor cleaner or starting fluid:
- Carefully disconnect the air cleaner outlet tube from the throttle body.
- Ask an assistant to start the engine.
- As soon as the engine catches and the ignition key returns to the Run position, spray some carburetor cleaner into the throttle body.
- If the engine idles momentarily with the carburetor cleaner, there may be a problem with fuel delivery.
The problem can be with the fuel filter, fuel pump, ballast resistor, or fuel pressure regulator.
Start with the fuel filter. When was the last time you replaced the filter? Check the fuel filter service interval in your car owner's manual or repair manual. If the fuel system uses an in-line filter:
- Remove the filter.
- Blow through the filter in the direction of fuel flow.
- If air goes through with difficulty, or not at all, there's your problem
When necessary, use a fuel pressure gauge to check system pressure. Follow the instructions in your vehicle repair manual. If you don't have the manual, you can buy an inexpensive, aftermarket copy at your local auto parts store or online.
Other components that can cause you trouble are:
- fuel pump
- fuel injectors
- engine coolant temperature (ECT) sensor (see the next section)
- fuel pressure regulator
- crankshaft position (CKP) sensor
Usually, a bad CKP will trigger the check engine light (CEL). So scan the computer for DTCs if you haven't done so yet.
To do a quick check for potential CKP problems:
- While, cranking the engine, pay attention to the tachometer on your dashboard.
- If the RPMs remain at zero, this may point to a problem with the CKP sensor.
Check your vehicle repair manual to help you test the crankshaft sensor, if necessary. Even if the sensor itself is good, there could be an electrical open or short in the circuit.
Check the ignition switch:
If you seem to be getting good fuel supply, and the previous tests didn't yield any clues, try checking the ignition switch. Ignition switch contacts wear out over time.
Sometimes, you can detect problems with the contacts by holding the key forward in the Start position when cranking the engine. The engine may catch in the Start position, but as soon as you let the key return to the Run position, the engine dies.
- First gain access to the ignition switch. Consult your vehicle repair manual.
- Make sure the switch is properly connected to the electrical connector.
- Squeeze the switch and electrical connector together with your hand as you try to start the engine.
- If the engine starts and remains idling while holding the switch and connector together, you need to properly connect the switch.
Even if this quick test doesn't yield results, you will still want to troubleshoot the ignition switch. Your vehicle repair manual may help you here.
Check for throttle body and throttle plate buildup:
Also, check your throttle body and throttle plate for coking. Carbon buildup will prevent proper operation of the throttle valve. If the valve doesn't have free movement, it can cause a rough idle and stalling with light buildup. Coking usually causes the engine to die immediately after the engine starts.
You can use carburetor cleaner to remove carbon buildup from the throttle bore and valve, if necessary.
II. If the Engine Stalls at Idle
Various components and maintenance issues may cause an engine to stall when idling. The source of the problem may differ with the type of engine model or configuration.
Ignition System Problems
The system may have a weak spark or the spark may fail to reach the spark plugs.
- Start by checking the service schedule for the spark plugs and spark plug wires.
- Remove and check one spark plug at a time.
- Check the electrodes' gap using a wire gauge and compare to specs in your vehicle repair manual.
- A plug that burns the air-fuel mixture correctly has a brown to grayish-tan color. Other colors may indicate problems with the fuel, ignition or even mechanical problems.
- A wet plug may indicate too much fuel reaching the cylinder, or a mechanical problem that is leaking oil into the combustion chamber like worn-out rings, cylinders or valve stem seals.
- Then, check the spark plug wires and ignition coils with the help of your vehicle repair manual.
- If your engine uses a distributor, check the cap as well for cracks, carbon traces, and oil contamination.
Bad canister vent valve:
The evaporative emissions (EVAP) control system routes fuel vapors into a canister and then to the intake manifold where they are burned along with the air fuel mixture.
But a system failure, especially a failure of the canister vent valve, can cause the engine to stall at idle or during acceleration. Consult your vehicle repair manual for valve testing procedures in your particular vehicle model.
Other system components to check, depending on your particular model:
- purge solenoid or valve
- relief valve
Checking the PCV Valve:
The positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) system purges blowby gases from the engine. Most PCV systems make use of a small valve to route blowby gases back into the intake manifold to be re-burned. Over time, the valve may get stuck open, causing too much air to flow into the intake manifold during idle or acceleration, which can cause the engine to stall.
You can easily remove the valve and check it by shaking the valve. If the valve doesn't rattle, probably the valve is stuck. But this common test doesn't work for all models. Consult your vehicle repair manual, if necessary.
A Bad Throttle Position Sensor (TPS)
The TPS monitors the angle opening of the throttle valve and sends this information to the electronic control module (car computer). The computer uses this information, along with signals from other sensors, to adjust air-fuel ratio, ignition timing and other outputs.
Most TPS units use a variable resistor with several contact points that can wear out and fail after miles of service. When the contacts open, it may cause the computer to lean the mixture too much and stall the engine. A bad TP sensor usually triggers a diagnostic trouble code (DTC). So you can retrieve the code from the computer using a scanner tool.
Whether or not you find a trouble code for the TPS, it's a good idea to test the sensor using a digital multimeter:
- Unplug the sensor electrical connector.
- With the engine off, measure resistance across the sensor terminals with the throttle in closed position, at half throttle, and at full throttle.
- Compare your resistance measurements to the specifications listed in your vehicle repair manual.
Checking the IAC (for Engines With Multiport Injection Systems, Most Modern Engines):
In most cases, the problem here is associated with the idle air control (IAC) valve.
The IAC valve is controlled by the computer and allows air to bypass the throttle valve under idle or cold temperature conditions to prevent a rough idle or keep the engine from stalling. You can test the IAC valve using a digital multimeter:
- First, unplug the IAC electrical connector.
- Turn the ignition key to the On (run) position but don't start the engine.
- Set your voltmeter to 20 Volts range (or above 15 Volts) on the DC (direct current) scale.
- Connect your black meter lead to ground (engine metal surface or battery negative post, for example) and with the red meter lead probe the terminals on the harness side.
- You should get around 10 to 12 volts, approximately, from one of the terminals. This is the incoming signal from the engine control module (car computer). If not, there are problems in that side of the circuit.
Now measure the condition of the valve by measuring resistance across the IAC connector terminals.
- Set your voltmeter to ohms for this measurement.
- You should get anywhere from 6 to 13 ohms of resistance.
To check for a possible internal short:
- Check for resistance from each IAC connector terminal and the IAC valve body with your voltmeter.
- You should get around 10,000 ohms of resistance.
Checking the internal physical condition of the IAC valve:
A blocked IAC may cause the engine to die as soon as it starts if the valve sticks close. IAC valves may fill with carbon deposits overtime, preventing the pintle from moving, or blocking valve passages.
On most vehicle models, the IAC valve is readily accessible and can be removed easily by unscrewing a couple of mounting bolts.
- First, turn the ignition key off and remove the key.
- Unplug the IAC valve electrical connector.
- Unscrew the valve mounting bolts and remove the valve from the vehicle.
- Check the valve's pintle and housing for carbon buildup. If necessary, clean the valve with carburetor cleaner and a soft rag to remove deposits.
- Also, check the valve O-ring. It should be soft and in good condition. Otherwise, replace it.
Consult your vehicle repair manual for the recommended testing procedures for your particular vehicle model, if necessary.
Your particular fuel injection system may have other necessary adjustments. For example, you may need to adjust
- the idle speed
- the throttle cable
- the throttle plate stop
- the idle air-fuel mixture
Consult your vehicle repair manual, if necessary.
Troubleshooting the ECT (Engine Coolant Temperature) Sensor
The ECT measures engine operating temperature and sends this information as electrical data to the computer. The car computer uses this information, and information from other sensors, to adjust ignition timing for better engine efficiency.
Thus, a bad ECT sensor can have a direct impact on engine performance. If the sensor causes a lean air-fuel mixture the engine may idle rough or stall.
Most ECT sensors use a thermistor to vary the voltage signal sent to the computer according to engine coolant temperature. The higher the coolant temperature, the lower the sensor resistance and higher the signal voltage.
To test the ECT sensor:
- Locate the sensor. It's usually close to the thermostat housing.
- With the engine turned off and cool, unplug the ECT sensor electrical connector.
- Set your digital multimeter (DMM) to the ohms scale and measure resistance across the sensor terminal. Make a note of the resistance value.
- Plug in the sensor electrical connector and start the engine. Let the engine idle for about 15 or 20 minutes so that it reaches operating temperature.
- Shut off the engine.
- Unplug the ECT electrical connector and measure resistance across the sensor terminals as you did in step 3.
- This time, sensor resistance should be considerably lower. For example, depending on your particular sensor configuration and engine model, the sensor may have 40K ohms when the engine is cold but 2K ohms when hot.
- Compare your results to the specifications listed in your vehicle repair manual.
A failing ECT sensor can trigger the check engine light. If your sensor checks Okay during your tests, but the computer says there's a problem with it, check the sensors circuit between the ECT and the computer for bad connections or damaged wire.
Also, check that the computer is sending the correct reference voltage to the sensor.
- Unplug the ECT sensor electrical connector.
- Turn the ignition key to the On position, but don't start the engine.
- Measure the voltage at the harness connector (the one leading to the computer) with your voltmeter.
- Usually, you should read about 5 volts at the connector. If not, there's a problem in the circuit.
Checking for a Stuck EGR Valve
The exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) systems reintroduces exhaust gases into the combustion chambers to reduce engine temperature and poisonous emissions.
It is common for the EGR valve passages to get blocked from carbon buildup. Carbon deposits may prevent the valve from closing, causing the engine to stall at idle. Also, an EGR valve may leak through the base, causing the engine to stall at idle, at deceleration, or during a quick stop.
If you've never checked under the valve, or it's been a few years since you last checked, it might be a good idea to take a look now. But make sure to have on hand a gasket replacement. You may need to install a new one. If you can't find one for your particular vehicle model, you still can buy gasket paper at your local auto parts store and make the gasket yourself.
- Most EGR valves are accessible and not difficult to remove. Check the EGR valve configuration for your particular model, though, to make sure you have all the tools necessary for the job. Usually, all you need is a couple of wrenches, a ratchet, the appropriate socket sizes and, sometimes, a pipe wrench to disconnect the valve from the exhaust pipe. Consult your vehicle repair manual, if necessary.
- Remove carbon deposits from under the valve and intake ports using carburetor cleaner. Make sure not to allow carburetor cleaner to reach the valve diaphragm or any electrical circuits, depending on your particular model, or you may ruin the valve.
- Reinstall the valve using a new gasket, if necessary.
Checking the EGR Valve:
Depending on your particular EGR valve configuration, you probably can stick your finger through the underside of the valve and try to move the internal diaphragm. If the diaphragm doesn't move, it may be stuck.
Here are a couple of alternative methods to check for diaphragm movement:
- Operate the accelerator linkage with your hand to increase engine speed. You may be able to see the diaphragm moving using a mirror placed under the EGR valve. If you can see the diaphragm with the mirror, but you can't see it moving as you operate the accelerator linkage, the diaphragm might be stuck.
- You can also use a hand-held vacuum pump. You can do this test with the engine off and using a mirror to watch diaphragm movement. Disconnect the vacuum hose form the valve and connect the vacuum pump instead. Apply about 15 in-Hg of vacuum to the EGR valve while watching for diaphragm movement with the mirror. If the diaphragm doesn't move, it might be stuck.
Another cause for the valve diaphragm to fail is wear or damage that causes it to leak exhaust gases. A quick way to test for a leaking diaphragm is using carburetor cleaner.
- Block the wheels using wooden blocks.
- Set your transmission to Park (automatic) or Neutral (standard).
- Start the engine and pop the hood open.
- Spray a quick burst of carburetor cleaner under the valve, towards the diaphragm.
- If the engine RPMs increase when you spray, the diaphragm is leaking and you need to replace the valve.
Bad Catalytic Converter
A bad catalytic converter can also cause you problems at idle. Depending on the particular problem, it may show other symptoms as well:
- a smell of rotten eggs
- rattling sounds
- poor engine power
One of the most common problems with a catalytic converter is a plugged unit. The internal substrate becomes partially restricted or disintegrates.
Usually, problems with the catalytic converter trigger the check engine light (CEL). The computer may store a P0420 through P0423 code. If you find a catalytic-converter-related code, do troubleshoot the catalytic converter before replacing it, to confirm that the cat is in fact bad. Catalytic converters are expensive and you need to make sure that some other components is not involved in the problem. If necessary, consult your vehicle repair manual.
Checking the IAC on Vehicle Models With Throttle Body Injection (TBI) Systems:
Many vehicles equipped with TBI systems also have an IAC valve controlled by the computer.
- You can use the test described in the previous section, if your vehicle has an IAC valve.
- Besides, some of these systems may have an idle speed adjustment (consult your repair manual),
Usually, you can adjust idle speed by hooking up a tachometer (some digital multimeters have this feature) to the engine. Then, you can turn the idle speed screw on the throttle body or carburetor until the RPMs are set according to specifications.
Diagnostics on Vehicles With a Carburetor
A stalling issue usually points to a maladjusted idle mixture screw. To reset the screw:
- Locate the idle mixture screw.
- With the engine off, bottom the screw.
- Back out the screw 2 1/2 turns.
- Start and idle the engine.
- Make the final adjustments until you get a smooth idle.
On some carburetor models, you may also need to adjust curb idle speed. Consult your repair manual.
On carburetors in need of maintenance or worn parts, there can be several components that need attention. For example, you may need to check:
- throttle dashpot adjustment
- bowl fuel level
- idle system for clogging
- carburetor flooding
- vacuum leak
- float needle valve operation
- restriction in the air cleaner
Consult your vehicle repair manual.
III. If the Engine Stalls at Idle Unless You Press the Accelerator
This may indicate problems with the fuel system. The following video shows an engine with this problem.
If your engine has a throttle body injection (TBI) system:
- Pop the hood open and remove the air cleaner assembly so that you have access to the throttle body.
- Turn the ignition key to the On position but don't start the engine.
- Take a look at the injector(s) on top of the throttle body.
- If the injector(s) is leaking fuel, then you need to replace it. The injector may have a worn or inoperative return spring or valve; or dirt may have the valve stuck in the open position.
Also, check fuel system pressure using a fuel pressure gauge. Consult your vehicle repair manual.
If your engine has multiport fuel injection system:
Checking fuel injectors for leakage on this type of system can be tricky, depending on your particular vehicle and engine model. Consult your vehicle repair manual about detaching the fuel injectors from their ports for inspection, if necessary.
Another potential problem could be the fuel pressure regulator.
- Locate the pressure regulator on the fuel rail.
- Detach the vacuum hose from the pressure regulator
- Closely inspect the regulator port and inside the vacuum hose for signs of fuel
- If you notice gasoline in either component, replace the fuel pressure regulator.
Fuel delivery system leaking:
Although rare, the cause of a stall may come from a leak in the fuel delivery system, specially the fuel pump. The engine may receive fuel but not enough to keep the engine running.
The leak may be located in the fuel pump assembly, or along the way up to the fuel rail.
Check for strong fuel odors or wet spots around the fuel rail, fuel hoses and tubing, around connectors. Also, you may need to check the fuel pump assembly.
See your repair manual for more fuel system tests, if necessary.
IV. If the Engine Starts But Stops When Warm
An engine can also stall when reaching operating temperature or a few minutes after a cold start.
Sometimes, this can be a sign of problems with an:
- ignition coil
- ignition module (depending on your vehicle model)
- fuel pump
- crankshaft position (CKP) sensor
- camshaft position (CMP) sensor
It usually happens when an electrical "open" exists in the internal circuit of one of these components. After a few minutes of operation, heat may cause a coil or wire to expand and loose electrical contact. You may not be able to start the engine again until the heat in the troubled component has dissipated. Later, when heat causes the open to manifest itself again, the engine may stall again.
Trying to find the faulty component can be hard. But here are a few simple procedures to get you going.
When the engine dies, check to see if you have spark:
- Disconnect one of the spark plug wires from its spark plug.
- Place the tip of the wire about 2 inches away from the engine surface or a metal bracket using a pair of insulated pliers.
- Have an assistant crank the engine and see if there's spark.
- You should see a strong, blue spark between the tip of the wire and ground.
- If there's no spark or you need to have the wire about 1/4 inch close to ground for a spark, probably the fault is with the ignition module, ignition coil, CKP or CMP.
When there's spark, check for the presence of fuel:
- If you have a fuel pressure gauge or can borrow one from your local auto parts store, connect the gauge and idle the engine.
- Monitor the gauge and see if the fuel system looses pressure when it stalls. If it does, you may have problems with the fuel pump or a system component.
You can also check for weak fuel pressure using this simple method:
- When the engine stalls, remove the air cleaner assembly and spray some carburetor cleaner or starting fluid at the throttle and try to start the engine or have an assistant crank the engine while you spray a burst of carburetor cleaner into the throttle body.
- If the engine catches or starts for one or two seconds when you spray the fluid, then you may have a problem with the fuel pump or another system component.
Check the fuel system with the help of your vehicle repair manual.
V. If the Engine Stalls Intermittently
If your engine stalls intermittently, under a variety of conditions, suspect these components:
A Bad Camshaft Position Sensor
A bad camshaft position (CMP) sensor can produce different types of symptoms and cause the engine to stall immediately after starting or intermittently.
A bad camshaft sensor is likely to trigger the check engine light (CEL). Even if you don't see the CEL illuminate, scan the computer memory for diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs). Common bad camshaft DTCs range from P0340 to P0344.
Consult your vehicle repair manual to locate and test the camshaft sensor, if necessary.
Engine misfires are another cause for an engine to stall. Misfires make popping sounds and can cause engine to jerk or vibrate. Other symptoms include:
- increased emissions
- increased fuel consumption
- difficulty starting
If you've noticed engine misfires, this might be the cause for the engine to stall. Check this other article to help you diagnose the source of the misfire.
Clogged air filter
You can remove the air filter and check it. Air filters trap dirt and dust from the stream of air flowing into the intake manifold. To check the filter:
- Remove it from its housing.
- Place the filter against the sun or a good source of light.
- If the light can barely get through the filter element, or not at all, the filter is clogged and preventing proper air flow into the engine, causing it to stall.
An engine stalling issue can also come from a vacuum leak problem.
A vacuum leak can upset sensors or actuators that depend on vacuum for operation: for example, the manifold absolute pressure (MAP) sensor, exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) valve or mass air flow (MAF) sensor. The leak can happen because of loose or damaged hoses or gaskets.
Testing one of these sensors requires checking the vacuum hose, electrical connection and wires, and testing the sensor itself. Consult your vehicle repair manual. On a MAF sensor, check for a dirty sensing element. You can clean the sensing element using MAF sensor cleaner or electrical contact cleaner. Follow the product instructions when using this type of cleaner.
Vacuum leaks usually make a hissing sound but you may need a mechanics stethoscope or a length of hose to listen and locate potential vacuum leaks.
- Check that all vacuum hoses are properly connected.
- Check the condition of each hose.
- Use the stethoscope or length of hose to listen for leaks along the vacuum hose and connections.
- Trace each hose with your hand to feel for potential damage: soften, harden or irregular spots.
- Check for vacuum leaks around the intake manifold gasket and throttle body as well.
It's Worth Trying to Diagnose An Engine That Shuts Off
If your engine starts but won't stay running, you want to make an accurate diagnosis as soon as possible. Making a diagnosis can be hard, especially when you don't have much experience in car repair and the source of the problem can be in one of several systems. Use the strategies outlined in this guide. They'll help you repair your car faster by having you concentrate on those systems more likely to give you trouble.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: Where is the problem when, after driving, I stop and it doesn't start until I give some time. How would you diagnose my car's problem if my car will start again after some time?
Answer: If the engine cranks but won't start, check for spark and fuel pressure. If it doesn't crank at all, check the battery condition.
Check for DTCs codes, even if you haven't seen the check engine light come on. There might be a pending code. Usually, when the engine warms up and then stops, it is an indication of a problem with an ignition coil, ignition module or even the fuel pump. Allowing time to cool, the component will function again. Try some of the tests described in section IV of the post.
Question: What does it mean when the car gets started when it is cold but not when it is hot?
Answer: Check the connections, wires and cables in the staring circuit. They should be clean and tight.
Question: What can make a car just switch off and the battery light to go on in the instrument panel? I have tested the battery and it is good.
Answer: The most common reason for this is a bad alternator. Have the charging system tested.
Question: My gear shift lights are not indicating on the gear after changing the gearbox and mechatronics. And we are failing to start the car Golf 5 1.9 TDI. What could be the problem?
Answer: If the engine is not cranking, there could be a problem in the starting circuit, perhaps at the ignition switch. That could also explain why you are not getting the indicator lights. This other post may help:
it'll be a good idea to have the diagram for your particular model. If you don't have the repair manual, you can get one at your local auto parts store or online.
Question: My engine is a Toyota 5A FE and has no problem starting at home (outdoor Street parking) even on a very cold morning. However, it cranks and instantly stalls when I try to start it at work and only when I'm at work (Covered Parking). Any reason why that might be?
Answer: It's possible the EGR or PCV valve is sticking open.
Download trouble codes, even if you don't see the check engine light on. There could be a problem with a sensor as well. Hope this helps.
Question: What would be the problem if the engine dies at intersections when reverting to first gear? I replaced the carburetor.
Answer: The carburetor may need an idle adjustment. Check the manual, if it came with it. Or look for it online.
Question: I have a 2013 Chevy Sonic. For the last 5 months, my car has stalled during driving and when in idle or when I stop at red light and stop signs. Also, it fails to turn over after putting gas. It will turn over fine, but it won't stay on. I've had my fuel injector cleaned and inspected. I've had my O2 sensor replaced as well. Do you have any ideas what this could be?
Answer: You may be dealing with a vacuum leak or a faulty sensor like a MAP or MAF sensor. You may also have a problem in the fuel system or with the fuel pump. Have the pump checked before replacing it.
Question: My car won’t turn over. I used starting fluid and it started up, then immediately cut off. What can be the reason for that?
Answer: If the engine doesn't turn over, there could be something wrong with the starter motor or the engine is seized. But, if the engine fires up with starting fluid, then check for fuel pressure. Probably not enough fuel is getting to the cylinders.
Question: My car runs fine for a few minutes, then starts sputtering and loses a lot of horsepower. It doesn’t stall but the engine sounds rough like an old 80s car. A night of rest lets the car become drivable again for a few minutes but then the issues show up again. I’ve changed the spark plugs, plug wires, distributor cap and rotor, air filter, cleaned the maf sensor and changed the throttle position sensor. What else could be the problem?
Answer: The problem seems to be temperature related. This usually happens with a faulty ignition coil, ignition module or fuel pump motor's coil. The coil device or temperature sensitive electronics will begin to fail from an electrical open. Have the ignition coil, ignition module and/or fuel pump checked.
Question: Why does my car start and idle for 3-5 minutes before dying? The spark plugs and fuel filter were replaced. The carburetor was taken off, checked and cleaned. The distributor was taken off and cleaned as well. It still does not want to idle entirely after starting, so it cannot drive at all. Please help as the mechanic can't seem to figure out whats wrong with my car.
Answer: There could be several causes for this, so try the following:
Have the ignition system checked to make sure it has a good spark.
Check the fuel system- fuel pressure
Check the canister vent valve, PCV valve, TPS sensor, and IAC valve.
Question: May car engine stalls while idle unless you press the accelerator. This indicates problems with the fuel system. How do you fix the fuel system?
Answer: If you know the problem is in the fuel system, first make sure you have replaced the fuel filter. Then start by testing for fuel pressure at idle. This other post can help:
This could lead to a bad pressure regulator or fuel pump or bad injector(s).
Question: My VW T4 runs completely fine, but when it’s been in hot weather, or indeed damp weather, it starts and instantly dies. This is intermittent. Sometimes after it dies, if you try again it can start straight away, or you can be waiting for half an hour before you can start it. Once started it runs fine. Do you have any ideas?
Answer: Usually, when a car struggles to run in damp weather, the problem is with the ignition system. A coil or cable in the system is probably leaking the spark to ground.
Question: My car was diagnosed as having a bad fuel pump. After a new fuel pump was put in, it got four miles down the road, idled out, and died again. The car will not crank until about 15 minutes after it happens. What do you think could be the cause of this problem?
Answer: If you mean the engine will not turn over, the problem seems to be in the starting system circuit. This other post may help:
If the engine cranks but won't start after the car has been driven about four miles (engine turns over but won't start), then possibly the ignition coil or ignition module is bad. In this case, the coil reaches operating temperature, coil breaks open and the car stops. Once the coil cools, the broken wire makes contact and you are able to start the engine, and the cycle repeats.
This other post may help you test the ignition coil:
If your car has a coil on plug configuration, check the repair manual for your particular model to test the coils. You can also check for spark right after the engine refuses to start. If there's no spark, you know the problem is in the ignition system (or crankshaft-camshaft position sensor) and you are on the right track.
Question: My truck starts and within 6 seconds it dies. I cannot provide more gas to keep it running. If I unplug the Air Flow sensor it will start and idle but again if I give it gas it dies. I also started with changing out the fuel filter. No difference. Any thoughts?
Answer: If you are able to start the engine right after it stalls with the MAF sensor disconnected, probably this sensor is dirty or faulty or another sensor is not sending the correct signal the computer expects, probably the throttle position sensor. Download trouble codes even if you don't see the check engine light on. There could be a pending code that can help you.
Question: I have a 1993 Caprice Classic. And about 4 months ago, I mistakenly put the wrong grade of gas in. Since then, I've had issues as far as when upon starting it idles very low and then too high until it does normally after about 30 or so seconds. Once I drive it, I can go so far, and once I come to a light or stop sign it eventually cuts off but starts back up immediately. I've heard that it could be a number of things including bad fuel injectors. What's your expert opinion on this?
Answer: It seems like an electrical problem. Try downloading trouble codes, even if the engine light doesn't come on. There could be a problem with a sensor.
Question: Why does my car only start in the morning?
Answer: Check for any DTCs in the computer memory first. You may need to take a look at fuel pressure or ignition spark after the car has warmed up. Maybe there's a problem with the fuel pump or an ignition coil.
Question: Two days ago my truck shut off immediately after starting it up. The truck will accelerate by itself then shut off. It fails to restart after a few tries then it will start and run. Two months ago, it shut off while driving, so I replaced the battery and alternator and no problems for two months. What could cause my truck to shut off after starting up?
Answer: It seems like a faulty sensor. Intermittent faults can be hard to diagnose, though. But you may want to check the battery cables, engine grounds, ignition switch connector, and wiring, and faulty wiring in a critical sensor the computer relies on to operate the fuel injectors, crankshaft, throttle position sensor or camshaft sensor, for example. If the engine shuts off as if turning the ignition switch off, most likely the problem is in a circuit. A voltage drop test might help:
Question: I had the fuel injectors cleaned, fuel pump checked, relay checked, new MAF sensor, new Crank and camshaft sensors, new ignition switch, and cleaned the throttle body with a carb cleaner. The alternator is good. New starter. It hard starts with starter fluid; I pushed the gas pedal a good 10 times with zero reaction from the rpms. Then the car died seconds later. I cannot figure it out. What could it be?
Answer: It seems like a bad sensor. Try downloading trouble codes and see if you get a pending code, even if the check engine light is not on. There could be a problem with the throttle position sensor (TPS). If the computer doesn't get a signal from this sensor, it may not fire up the engine.
Question: With the car on jacks on an incline, the engine was running fine. I tried to drive it to a shop the next day. It started fine, but within a minute it just shut off. No warning or sputter, just dead. I pushed it back to the inclined driveway and then it started fine. Could it be that what little oil was there pooled up towards the back of the engine and wasn't getting to the pump?
Answer: Some models will shut off the engine if there's not enough oil pressure. This is a safety measure to prevent severe engine damage. If there's not enough oil, add some and try again. If you think there's a problem with oil pressure, this other post may help:
Question: I have a 2005 Park Avenue that keeps stalling randomly. At first, it would only stall while warming up but ran fine after it was restarted. Now, it starts and will stall while driving. Sometimes I can drive across town before it stalls, and sometimes I can only make it a few blocks. After it stalls, I have to wait about an hour before I can keep it running. Should I start with the crank position sensor?
Answer: Check your camshaft position sensor. There are other items you need to check as well like misfires, vacuum leaks, and a blocked air filter.
This other post on vacuum leaks diagnosis may help.
Make sure to scan your computer memory for trouble codes, even if the check engine light is not on. There could be pending codes that may guide you here.
If the engine stalls after it reaches operating temperature (about 15 to 20 minutes), there could be a problem with the fuel pump or an ignition module.
Question: Why does my engine crank but won't stay running?
Answer: There could be a fault in the injection or ignition system, a vacuum leak or some other fault. Check for trouble codes, even if you don't see the check engine light on. A sensor might be faulty as well.
Question: 90 Chevy. I replaced the fuel pump, fuel filter, fuel pump relay and throttle control position sensor. Truck dies at random. If watching the throttle body when running, fuel just stops. I cycle the key and it works again. If I don't cycle the key, no fuel comes out. Any ideas?
Answer: If the engine dies as if turning off the ignition key, most likely the problem is a loose wire or bad connection either on the fuel pump circuit or throttle position sensor circuit. Double-check those circuits, including wiring harness and connectors. Cycling the key may point to corroded or loose wire(s) that have too much resistance and are getting hot. Visually check for corrosion and tug at the wires on the connectors to make sure they are not loose or dirty.
Question: I have a 2012 Ford Focus. After getting gas and about 10 miles (16.09 km) down the road, the car started to lose power and then stalled. Got it started, drove a little and it did the same thing. Finally, I made it home. It stalled again and now won’t start at all. I never had a problem until I put gas in it. My Ford mechanic said I need a new computer system. Could my Ford Focus' loss of power be something other than the computer system?
Answer: First, make sure you got fuel pressure (bad fuel pump or fuel pressure regulator, clogged fuel filter). Download trouble codes, even if the engine light is not on. There could be a pending code on the computer's memory. A bad sensor can prevent the engine from starting, like a faulty crankshaft, camshaft or throttle position sensor.
Question: When I stop the car and then come back to it after only a brief period of time, it will only stay on if I recall the engine. But once I can get it going for a little bit, it stays on and runs great and idles better than it has in years, but no one touched anything on the engine. Is it the fuel delivery or something more sinister?
Answer: Doesn't seem like a fuel system issue. Probably an issue with the idle air control (valve or solenoid) or a sensor, possibly the throttle position sensor, that is not sending the correct signal to the computer. Try downloading trouble codes, even if the check engine is not on. There could be a pending code. You may also be dealing with a bad wire or connector.
Question: My engine starts, then after a few seconds engine is off by itself. And then the dashboard displays an auto protection alarm. What could be the cause of this remark?
Answer: The message comes from the car's computer. It's trying to protect the engine because of a serious fault it has detected. Download the trouble codes from the computer memory. They should give you an indication of the problem.
Question: When, after driving, I stop, it doesn't start and the engine light comes on until I give some time. How would you diagnose my car's problem if my car will start again after some time?
Answer: Start by downloading trouble codes. If the check engine light is coming on, there could be a faulty sensor triggering the light. Make sure to test the system or sensor indicated by the code before replacing any components. Hope this helps.
Question: Would a speed sensor cause stalling?
Answer: Usually, you'll notice issues with the transmission, brakes, speedometer, and check engine light. Try downloading trouble codes from the computer, even if you don't see the check engine light on. If there are no codes, this other post may help:
Question: My car starts and the check engine light disappears. As the engine temperature rises, the check engine light appears and my car dies. What’s the answer?
Answer: Check the computer for trouble codes. If a sensor is faulty, most likely it's triggered a code. With temperature-related issues, an ignition coil, fuel pump motor or sensors like camshaft and crankshaft are common.
Question: My engine starts and runs at high idle, BUT will not idle once warmed up. The only way I can keep it running is to up the rpm to around 1200 or more. I have checked plugs, wires, vacuum lines, replaced coil. I removed the gas line from carburetor and I can fill a bottle slowly as I turn the engine over - mechanical pump. Should I replace the carburetor? It is a 4 barrel Rochester Quadrajet.
Answer: If the engine starts at high idle and then dies while it gets warmed, it's possible there is a vacuum leak. If you notice a drop in RPM before it dies, the choke may need adjustment (too tight), the carburetor may be flooding, or the float level is very high.
Question: My BMW 1 series cuts off while driving, the engine will start and cut off after few minutes, what could be the problem?
Answer: This other post may help:
Question: When I try to start my Mazda, it takes several times of it trying to turn over then it starts. But sometimes it shakes and makes loud noises and cuts off unless you press the gas a little bit. Then it's good. The fuel pressure was checked and it is good. Why would my Mazda have trouble starting?
Answer: Seems like there is a problem with a sensor or the starting circuit. Try downloading any possible trouble codes, even if the check engine light is not on. This other post may help as well:
Question: Hyundai ix35 2013 auto. The car starts and dies. I took out one of the airflow sensors and started the car. It remains on but as soon as I put the sensor back, the car dies. Please advise?
Answer: Most likely the air flow sensor is faulty. Try testing the sensor and, if necessary, the circuit, to make sure it's bad. This other post may help:
Question: My car does not stay running until it comes up to operating temperature, what could be the problem?
Answer: There could be a problem with the MAF sensor not sending the correct signal to the computer.
Usually, cleaning the sensor element solves the problem, using a MAF sensor cleaner. Other times the sensor itself has failed and needs replacement.
Other sources of trouble are the throttle position sensor,
bad fuel pressure
engine coolant temperature sensor
stuck open thermostat
Question: Why does my car shut off when I let go of the key?
Answer: There could be a problem with the ignition switch. Gain access to the ignition switch and see if the harness connector is getting loose. Push the connector and switch together and try to start the engine and see if it stays running. If so, you may want to use a large plastic tie to secure the connection. Or you may need to replace the switch.
© 2018 Dan Ferrell
Dan Ferrell (author) on August 31, 2020:
You may be dealing with a fuel system issue, usually a faulty pump or/and injectors (using starting fluid when this happens can give you a clue as to the problem if the engine responds). The crankshaft position sensor is another potential suspect. Try downloading trouble codes, even if you don't see the check engine light or any other warning lights come on. Sometime a pending code can give you an idea where to start. Hope this helps.
Daniel Lever on August 30, 2020:
Have a 2008 Ford Focus. Car has had an issue when I start up the car, it immediately cuts out. Before after cutting out, it would start up with no problems. Few times the car has cut out during driving and taken few attempts to start up again. I've had fuel filter and glow plugs replaced on the car but now the car keeps cutting out.
Dan Ferrell (author) on August 24, 2020:
You may have a temperature related issue. Go over section IV in the post. There could be a problem with the fuel pump, a sensor (crankshaft or camshaft) or ignition system (ignition module). Hope this helps.
Matthew Patman on August 24, 2020:
Have a 2003 mustang gt. Runs fine until gets hit. Then cut off and takes about 15 minutes before i xan crank it again. It runs, then will start to act like its loosing gas and then it will jerk and finally cut off.
Dan Ferrell (author) on August 04, 2020:
Check for any trouble codes, even if you don't see the check engine light. The computer might not be getting the correct signal from a sensor (for example, crankshaft or camshaft sensors). Check the connections.
Jim Povey on August 04, 2020:
Can anyone help please, 2005 Mazda 6 petrol, new to me bought with known missfire turned out to be burnt exhaust valve and VVT Pulley broke. Relaced both, reassembled and now starts and stops immediately. Any suggestions however insane! Thanks
Dan Ferrell (author) on July 24, 2020:
If you still need to push on the sensor to fire up the engine, you may need to erase the trouble code from the computer memory. You'll need a scan tool for this. If you don't have a scanner, probably one of your local auto parts store will do it for you. Hope this helps.
Omar wafi on July 24, 2020:
My 2006 Mitsubishi lancer starts then dies immediately ; but if an assistant press on the cam sensor i can start the engine and not die.
I've replaced the cam sensor but the problem not solved.
Dan Ferrell (author) on July 20, 2020:
There could be a fuel system or electrical issue. This other post may help.
Dhanuka on July 20, 2020:
My carburetor nissan b13 engine get started when it cold but not when it is hot. I unplug ECT sensor then engine start when it hot. i check ECT using multimeter but nothing wrong with it. What is the problem?
Dan Ferrell (author) on June 29, 2020:
It's possible you're dealing with a faulty MAP sensor. This other post may help:
Tina Zimmermann on June 28, 2020:
I have a 1998 chevy cavalier that starts but dies when shifted into gear. It also dies when running then disconecting battery. Could it be my altenator? Which was replaced 6 mos ago. Any other tests or ideas for me?
Dan Ferrell (author) on June 22, 2020:
It seems to be a temperature related failure. This happens when part of a device circuitry warms up, it opens a previously broken wire and cuts off electricity. This may happen with a sensor like a crankshaft, camshaft or main coil and fuel pump. Let the component cool and it'll operate again until it warms up. You may want to try downloading trouble codes, even if you don't see the check engine light on. The computer may have registered a pending code that can guide you here. Hope this helps.
Riroo on June 21, 2020:
hi, my car start and idle for 5 min then cut off very thing including
electric then on again after 1-2 min what could be the problem ?
Dan Ferrell (author) on June 12, 2020:
There could be a problem with the ignition system (perhaps the ignition switch) or a sensor. Download trouble codes, even if you don't see the check engine light, it might point you in the right direction. Go over the first section of the post. Hope this helps.
Scott Critchlow on June 12, 2020:
Hi i have 2004 vz 5.7lt crewman was fine in morning later that day wouldn't start fires runs for couple of seconds then stops i replaced starter motor replaced fuel pump in tank which has filter also in pump ive got fuel up to rail pulled injectors out cleaned replaced all o rings no leaks new plugs leads ive uesd both keys same thing im stuck i need for work but cant get to a mechanic i no my way around cars a faie bit could you please piont me in direction to check next.scott.
Dan Ferrell (author) on May 26, 2020:
There could be a problem in the system. This other post may help:
FRANKLIN SHANE HLABANE on May 25, 2020:
My power starring wheel is difficult to turn.Power starring oil is full,what might be the problem .Golf 5
LESLEY Nkombyani on May 12, 2020:
Have Toyota vvti 2.7 bakkie engine overall, now when I start it runs but after more than 20 minutes it stops
Dan Ferrell (author) on January 03, 2020:
There could be several reasons for this. The camshaft may be too advanced. This could be because the oil control solenoid is clogged, you may be using the wrong oil for the application or camshaft phasers (if applicable) are stuck. Hope this helps.
Nick on January 03, 2020:
Few weeks ago my 15 Altima SL 4 cyl would start, but stall within a mile or two then restart &go. CEL came for a camshaft position sensor & replaced both. Seemed to fix. Now it starts & goes, but if turn the car off for a few minutes it will crank and 3/4x, but will then start & go maybe a little rough/jerky at first. if I drive to work and it sits for a while it will crank and go fine. Its just the quick stops when the engine is off a few minutes to an hour when the problem happens. One time after doing this it gave a P011 code, but the oil in it is not leaking and it's only been about 3k miles on a full synthetic 0w20 change. Any ideas?
Dan Ferrell (author) on December 28, 2019:
There could be a vacuum leak or a problem in the fuel system (clogged fuel filter, bad fuel pressure, worn fuel pump). These other posts may help:
Mark on December 28, 2019:
My car cranks take gas one time and spuder out wat could be my problem
Dan Ferrell (author) on December 11, 2019:
There are a number of systems or components that may cause a stall at stops. These other post may help you narrow down the potential problem source:
Sam Rodriguez on December 10, 2019:
I have a Toyota MRS 2000 Turbo. It would randomly stall while stopping at a red light, or during acceleration, and it also happened while I was going down a slope at idle. After it stalls when I go to the side of the road, I try to restart it, but it just cranks but doesn't start. I discovered that when I unplug and reconnect the battery to reset ECU, it would start normally again and would drive/boost fine even at WOT. What could this be?
Dan Ferrell (author) on September 30, 2019:
A faulty throttel positon sensor and fuel pump can show this type of symptoms. Although not as common, a fuel pump relay can behave badly as well. A crankshaft position sensor, or any other sensor with a coil for that matter, may cause this problem as well. But this usually is a temperature related issue. You can drive for a few minutes until the component's temperature rises and the (broken) coil opens and the car stalls. Faulty ignition coils may behave like this as well.
This other post can give you some information on this problem:
Hope this helps.
Nick Germinario on September 29, 2019:
My 94 Corvette has developed a problem. It stales while driving. It starts up fine, sometimes it don't stall at all and other times it will shut down while I am driving at speed on or over 30 mph. I thought it was bad gas! I read some where it could be a bad fuel pump relay. Is this possible.
Dan Ferrell (author) on July 05, 2019:
Get a repair manual for your particular vehicle make and model. You'll get much useful information there. Hope this helps.
simon on July 05, 2019:
am electrician but i don't how to master the places where the engine sensors found.Kindly show me those places practical by a playing arrows
Dan Ferrell (author) on June 19, 2019:
You might want to check fuel pressure at the crank-start and see what you are getting, probably the fuel line empties when you shut off the engine. You may be dealing with a leaking fuel pressure regulator or fuel injector(s). The black smoke may come from too much fuel. Hope this helps.
Collins carter on June 18, 2019:
I have an old modern rav 4 1999 for plug the car only start when u put starting fluids and once it have start and heat up it will be starting normally but the car emits black smoke and its consuming fuel what could be the problem i need help
uncle buck77 on May 23, 2019:
Car starts & shuts off? It happened to my vehicle. I would spray starting fluid in the carb. for 20 seconds, then try starting car. If it starts, replace fuel filter. If idle is unstable, change temp sensor near thermostat.
Dan Ferrell (author) on April 27, 2019:
The most common suspect is the AC compressor clutch, but this can be a problem with a sensor. The easiest way would be to get the trouble codes. Most systems are computer controlled (PCM, BCM, or some other module). You may want to check your repair manual for it and download the codes. Hope th8s help.
maggie pardon on April 26, 2019:
my truck runs gne but ac will cool then stops cooling can kill truck amd crank back will cool again
Dan Ferrell (author) on April 21, 2019:
Check that you have good spark, the wires should be well connected. Also check fuel pressure, if necessary.
Mpoo on April 20, 2019:
My car would start and stops just like that,I hand over to the garage they serviced it now it's giving a new problem it vibrates and make sound when moving what could be a problem
Dan Ferrell (author) on March 21, 2019:
The idle air control (IAC) valve may be faulty. You can test it by connecting battery voltage using jumper wires. The valve controls air flow by rotating the throttle valve in idle. Hope this helps.
Ray sholevar on March 21, 2019:
I have a 1991 Lexus LS400, the radiator busted put water in it and got it home. Now, I want to put water in it and drive it to radiator shop. the car starts but shuts off unless I push the gas pedal otherwise it just dies. What’s wrong with it? Thanks
Dan Ferrell (author) on March 19, 2019:
Check for fuel pressure. There could be a problem in the fuel system. This other post may help:
John smith on March 19, 2019:
Ok i have a 2003 grand am gt and they key wont crank it over but when I'm jump the starter solenoid it will start but only will stay running if i spray starting fluid in the air filter if not it will just start and die what do you think the problem is??
Dan Ferrell (author) on March 02, 2019:
Usually when this happens, it is the battery the cause. Have the battery load tested to make sure it is still good. Other possibility is a bad connection. You may wan to try a voltage drop test on the starting and charging circuits. This post can help you with the starting system:
The charging circuit is similar. Test battery positive to battery terminal on the alternator, and then alternator case to engine ground using a multimeter. Hope this helps.
Oben Cox on March 01, 2019:
I have a 1998 Ford Taurus. It will usually start if I use an external battery supply jumper thing. So everytime I drive it, I jump the car. However, about 20% of the time, I back up the car and just as I start to roll forward the whole car just dies on me. Lights go out, everything. Occasionally it dies but then starts up again immediately, especially if I already have my foot and the gas, but not always. The other day I was going down the highway and the dashboard lights kept coming on and going off, it felt like the car was turning off and then turning back on over and over again. It's not a bad alternator or battery, I just had those checked minutes ago at Auto Zone, and I had no lights, radio, fan or heat going when that happened, so it's none of those problems. Any thoughts?
Dan Ferrell (author) on January 25, 2019:
The problem seems with the fuel delivery, according to the tests. Usually, a failing crankshaft will throw a trouble code, if the computer was able to "catch" it on time. Do you know if there are any trouble codes stored in memory (check engine light on)? You need a scan tool for this. Even if the check engine light is not on, it’s a good idea to check for pending codes.
Most auto parts stores will pull the codes for you at no cost. But, you may not be able to start and drive the car to get there.
If there are no codes stored, other potential issues could be a loose fuel filler cap or a faulty fuel pump.
Unfortunately, getting to the crankshaft position sensor requires removal of the transmission on this model.
But the mechanic should be able to test the crankshaft sensor to see if it is any good. Using a capable scan tool, engine speed can be checked while cranking the engine. Usually, an engine that doesn’t reach a speed anywhere between the 100 and 500 rpm would indicate a problem with the crankshaft position sensor.
You may want to get a second and third opinion, just so you get an idea of how other shop would approach the diagnostic.
Hope this helps.
Dan Ferrell (author) on November 19, 2018:
Thanks for the comment. I appreciated.
RNRSUZY on November 18, 2018:
Thank you so much. That was the most simple, straight-forward and comprehensive thing I have ever read. All sites should be that helpful and written that well. You would make a great instructor. You just gained a new fan and rest assured, I will let people know.
Dan Ferrell (author) on November 13, 2018:
Probably the combustion chamber is burning coolant. May be a blown head gasket, cracked head or block.
damien on November 13, 2018:
i have a mazda rustler 2002 bakkie. I started the car and white smoke came from the air fliter. now my car starts but cant idle. and it sounds different (blowing sound). Anyone know what this could be?
Dan Ferrell (author) on October 30, 2018:
Check fuel pressure before changing any other components. Make sure the fuel filter isn't clogged and the pressure regulator is still working..
Luke collier on October 29, 2018:
I have a 1999 ford taurus that will start and run for about 2 minutes and then dies.
She has replaced plugs, vaccum sensor, pcv valve, mass airflow sensor has been cleaned as well as egr valve. The vehicle takes awhile to start after it dies..
I need some help if you can help me...
Dan Ferrell (author) on September 10, 2018:
Sometime it causes trouble with the transmission, but more likely you won't be able to start the car.
Ozoemena Benjamin on September 09, 2018:
How do we know when gear brainbox is not working?
Dan Ferrell (author) on August 30, 2018:
There could be a problem with the ECU setting or an idle air control solenoid/valve. If the IAC is bad, you'll need to replace it. But look under it and check for carbon buildup. This is a common problem. A shop can check if the problem is with the ECU. This is usually a quick fix.
Hope this helps
jack on August 30, 2018:
may car engine turn of after a few minutes after running it especially when i press the crunch inside as i put a gear
Dan Ferrell (author) on August 17, 2018:
If you mean the car dies after releasing the ignition key after the engine fires up, then possibly there's a bad ignition switch connection.
If the car idles for a second or two and then dies, there could be other problems.
First, whether the CEL has coming on or not, check for trouble codes that may be store in memory.
If you have an pre 2000 model, you may want to be sure the fuel system is working properly; but there could be a number of things that can prevent your vehicle idling. In no particular order: faulty coolant temperature sensor, bad crank position sensor, MAF sensor, cam sensor.