When your car’s engine fires up just fine, you expect it to get you where you need to go. It can be alarming and frustrating if instead, your engine dies. If this happens at any point — at a stop, during normal driving, acceleration or deceleration — you’re dealing with an engine stall.
As the term implies, an engine stall means that your engine abruptly stopped running. After the initial shock of finding yourself on the side of the road, you’ll need to figure out what caused this to happen — and there are many potential reasons. If you’ve eliminated obvious reasons for the stall, such as an empty gas tank or operator error when using a clutch in a car with a manual transmission, you’ll need to investigate the cause further.
COMMON CAUSES OF ENGINE STALL
It is not fun to deal with a stalled engine. Fortunately, several of the causes are simple to fix and easily preventable in the future. Let’s take a look at some common reasons for a stalled engine.
Fuel System Problems
Clogged fuel injectors or dirty fuel lines and filters can prevent your engine from getting the right amount of fuel to run properly. Dirty or old fuel can also cause problems.
Dirty Air Filter
Engines need a specific mixture of fuel and air in order to run. If the engine doesn’t get enough air, it won’t have enough oxygen for combustion. This will stop the engine from running altogether.
If your battery is totally dead, your engine won’t start at all. But sometimes when a battery is in the process of dying, you can get your car started, but it slowly loses charge, beyond what your alternator is able to provide. When the charge drops too low, you’ll run into ignition issues, which will cause your engine to fail.
Your alternator is responsible for charging your car’s battery and running many basic engine functions. If it’s faulty, your engine can’t operate. Common signs are dimming lights and malfunctioning electronics.
Engines run smoothly based on the timed movement of various parts. The distributor cap regulates the firing order of your engine. If it is corroded, cracked, or not rotating properly, your engine might stall.
Your timing belt is similar to your distributor cap in that it helps to synchronize the inner workings of your engine. Timing belts can get worn out, which causes issues during rotation. If the timing is off, your engine will quit, and you’ll be stalled.
STOP THE STALL
The best way to avoid an engine stall is to perform routine engine maintenance. Fortunately, there are a couple of basic things you can do on your own that don’t require a mechanic.
Do a quick visual inspection of your engine. First, take a look at your battery. You can easily diagnose battery issues if you see corrosion on the terminals. Next, check and replace the air filter regularly — about every 12,000 to 15,000 miles. This is especially important if you live somewhere that is affected by air quality issues.
Pay attention to when your car acts odd. Don’t ignore dimmed lights or difficulty starting. Notice when your vehicle has a rough idle, shaking, or backfire from the exhaust pipe. Listen for ticking noises coming from the engine. Any of these signs can indicate timing issues that can lead to major, expensive, problems if not addressed right away.
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