Why Does My Engine Start But Then Stop?

Updated on November 26, 2019
Dan Ferrell profile image

Dan Ferrell writes about do-it-yourself car maintenance and repair. He has certifications in automation and control technology.

An engine stall condition can be caused by many different systems or components.
An engine stall condition can be caused by many different systems or components. | Source

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
Check the fuel filter.
Check the fuel filter. | Source

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:

  1. Carefully disconnect the air cleaner outlet tube from the throttle body.
  2. Ask an assistant to start the engine.
  3. As soon as the engine catches and the ignition key returns to the Run position, spray some carburetor cleaner into the throttle body.
  4. 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.

  1. First gain access to the ignition switch. Consult your vehicle repair manual.
  2. Make sure the switch is properly connected to the electrical connector.
  3. Squeeze the switch and electrical connector together with your hand as you try to start the engine.
  4. 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.

Verify that the ignition system has a good, strong spark.
Verify that the ignition system has a good, strong spark. | Source

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 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 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
  • canister
  • relief valve
  • hoses

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:

  1. Unplug the sensor electrical connector.
  2. With the engine off, measure resistance across the sensor terminals with the throttle in closed position, at half throttle, and at full throttle.
  3. Compare your resistance measurements to the specifications listed in your vehicle repair manual.

One or more bad fuel-injection components may cause the egnine to stall.
One or more bad fuel-injection components may cause the egnine to stall. | Source

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 allow airs 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:

  1. First, unplug the IAC electrical connector.
  2. Turn the ignition key to the On (run) position but don't start the engine.
  3. Set your voltmeter to 20 Volts range (or above 15 Volts) on the DC (direct current) scale.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

  1. Set your voltmeter to ohms for this measurement.
  2. You should get anywhere from 6 to 13 ohms of resistance.

To check for a possible internal short:

  1. Check for resistance from each IAC connector terminal and the IAC valve body with your voltmeter.
  2. 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.

  1. First, turn the ignition key off and remove the key.
  2. Unplug the IAC valve electrical connector.
  3. Unscrew the valve mounting bolts and remove the valve from the vehicle.
  4. 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.
  5. 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:

  1. Locate the sensor. It's usually close to the thermostat housing.
  2. With the engine turned off and cool, unplug the ECT sensor electrical connector.
  3. Set your digital multimeter (DMM) to the ohms scale and measure resistance across the sensor terminal. Make a note of the resistance value.
  4. 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.
  5. Shut off the engine.
  6. Unplug the ECT electrical connector and measure resistance across the sensor terminals as you did in step 3.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

Carburetor worn out components can cause the engine to die.
Carburetor worn out components can cause the engine to die. | Source

Diagnostics on Vehicles With a Carburetor

A stalling issue usually points to a maladjusted idle mixture screw. To reset the screw:

  1. Locate the idle mixture screw.
  2. With the engine off, bottom the screw.
  3. Back out the screw 2 1/2 turns.
  4. Start and idle the engine.
  5. 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.

Sometimes, using the accelerator pedal can keep your engine from stalling.
Sometimes, using the accelerator pedal can keep your engine from stalling. | Source

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:

  1. Pop the hood open and remove the air cleaner assembly so that you have access to the throttle body.
  2. Turn the ignition key to the On position but don't start the engine.
  3. Take a look at the injector(s) on top of the throttle body.
  4. 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.

  1. Locate the pressure regulator on the fuel rail.
  2. Detach the vacuum hose from the pressure regulator
  3. Closely inspect the regulator port and inside the vacuum hose for signs of fuel
  4. If you notice gasoline in either component, replace the fuel pressure regulator.

See your repair manual for more fuel system tests, if necessary.

A bad electrical circuit in a coil or ignitino moduel may cause the engine to stall when warm.
A bad electrical circuit in a coil or ignitino moduel may cause the engine to stall when warm. | Source

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:

  1. Disconnect one of the spark plug wires from its spark plug.
  2. Place the tip of the wire about 2 inches away from the engine surface or a metal bracket using a pair of insulated pliers.
  3. Have an assistant crank the engine and see if there's spark.
  4. You should see a strong, blue spark between the tip of the wire and ground.
  5. 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:

  1. If you have a fuel pressure gauge or can borrow one from your local auto parts store, connect the gauge and idle the engine.
  2. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

A bad circuit in a CMP can prevent the engine from idling.
A bad circuit in a CMP can prevent the engine from idling. | Source

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
  • stalling

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:

  1. Remove it from its housing.
  2. Place the filter against the sun or a good source of light.
  3. 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.

Vacuum Leaks

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 article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

  • 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?

    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.

  • What does it mean when the car gets started when it is cold but not when it is hot?

    Check the connections, wires and cables in the staring circuit. They should be clean and tight.

  • 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?

    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.

  • 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?

    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:


  • 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.

    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.

© 2018 Dan Ferrell


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    • Dan Ferrell profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Ferrell 

      5 days ago

      There could be a problem in the system. This other post may help:


    • profile image


      5 days ago

      My power starring wheel is difficult to turn.Power starring oil is full,what might be the problem .Golf 5

    • profile image

      LESLEY Nkombyani 

      2 weeks ago

      Have Toyota vvti 2.7 bakkie engine overall, now when I start it runs but after more than 20 minutes it stops

    • Dan Ferrell profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Ferrell 

      4 months ago

      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.

    • profile image


      4 months ago

      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 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Ferrell 

      5 months ago

      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:



    • profile image


      5 months ago

      My car cranks take gas one time and spuder out wat could be my problem

    • Dan Ferrell profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Ferrell 

      5 months ago

      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:



    • profile image

      Sam Rodriguez 

      5 months ago

      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 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Ferrell 

      8 months ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Nick Germinario 

      8 months ago

      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 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Ferrell 

      11 months ago

      Get a repair manual for your particular vehicle make and model. You'll get much useful information there. Hope this helps.

    • profile image


      11 months ago

      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 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Ferrell 

      11 months ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Collins carter 

      11 months ago

      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

    • profile image

      uncle buck77 

      12 months ago

      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 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Ferrell 

      13 months ago

      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.

    • profile image

      maggie pardon 

      13 months ago

      my truck runs gne but ac will cool then stops cooling can kill truck amd crank back will cool again

    • Dan Ferrell profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Ferrell 

      13 months ago

      Check that you have good spark, the wires should be well connected. Also check fuel pressure, if necessary.

    • profile image


      13 months ago

      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 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Ferrell 

      14 months ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Ray sholevar 

      14 months ago

      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 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Ferrell 

      14 months ago

      Check for fuel pressure. There could be a problem in the fuel system. This other post may help:


    • profile image

      John smith 

      14 months ago

      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 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Ferrell 

      15 months ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Oben Cox 

      15 months ago

      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 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Ferrell 

      16 months ago

      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 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Ferrell 

      18 months ago

      Thanks for the comment. I appreciated.

    • profile image


      18 months ago

      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 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Ferrell 

      18 months ago

      Probably the combustion chamber is burning coolant. May be a blown head gasket, cracked head or block.

    • profile image


      18 months ago

      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 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Ferrell 

      19 months ago

      Check fuel pressure before changing any other components. Make sure the fuel filter isn't clogged and the pressure regulator is still working..

    • profile image

      Luke collier 

      19 months ago

      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 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Ferrell 

      20 months ago

      Sometime it causes trouble with the transmission, but more likely you won't be able to start the car.

    • profile image

      Ozoemena Benjamin 

      21 months ago

      How do we know when gear brainbox is not working?

    • Dan Ferrell profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Ferrell 

      21 months ago

      Hi jack,

      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

      Good luck.

    • profile image


      21 months ago

      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 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Ferrell 

      21 months ago

      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.


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