How to die while driving

Car goes out while driving? Possible causes simply explained!

The most important things at a glance
  • If the vehicle suddenly switches off while driving, it is annoying and dangerous at the same time: because from one moment to the next, the steering and braking assistance are lost.
  • So a To be able to function properly, the engine requires fuel, electricity and air. If the car dies while driving, there is almost always a problem with one of these three points.
  • It is important to distinguish whether the problem occurs once and the engine can no longer be started afterwards, or whether the problem occurs only occasionally / sporadically and the engine can then be started again.
  • More about the typical causes, necessary repairs and all costs incurred you can find out in the following guide!
So you can narrow down the cause yourself
Since the cause of an engine stall is often an inadequate fuel supply, you should first check that there is enough fuel and that you have filled up correctly. You should also check whether the fuel pump can be heard when the ignition is switched on (usually a short hum from the rear of the vehicle).

Possible causes if the car goes out while driving

In the first step of the diagnosis, the error memory is read out. This gives the mechanic an initial clue as to where the cause could be.

A must for anyone who wants to understand their car

Did you know that all modern cars (built around 2003 or later) have a very comprehensive fault memory that you can read out yourself? You can find suitable devices at Amazon *, for example.

Last updated on May 21, 2021 at 8:53 pm. We point out that the prices displayed here may have changed in the meantime. All statements without guarantee.

Fuel supply problems

If there is not enough fuel left or if the tank has been refueled incorrectly, the engine may not function properly. A Refueling can lead to high costs and consequential damage. Especially when gasoline has been filled into a diesel tank.

In addition, a defective fuel pump (or a defective fuse / defective fuel pump relay), a clogged fuel filter or a defect in the fuel lines can also prevent the engine from being supplied with fuel correctly.

Ignition coil defective

"Otto engines" (= petrol engines) have ignition coils. A defect ensures that the engine runs irregularly and that it misfires.

Depending on how the engine is controlled, a failure can cause the engine to stop and can no longer be started. You can find more information about the exchange and the costs involved in this guide.

Sensor error / electronic problem

Modern cars have a variety of sensors. Is a Defective sensor, this can lead to incorrect instructions from the engine control unit and incorrect mixture formation. As a result, the vehicle may go out.

If it is a sensor error, there is usually a corresponding error memory entry which ensures that the exact cause can be quickly localized.

A defective coolant temperature sensor or a defective camshaft or crankshaft sensor, for example, can be responsible for this. Also a Defective air mass meter can cause the car to shut down while driving.

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High-pressure pump defective

In addition to the fuel pump, direct injection engines also have a high-pressure pump installed in the tank. If this is defective, the engine can die while driving.

Switching is comparatively expensive. The material costs for a new high-pressure pump are between around 300 and 800 euros. In addition, there is the workload of around two to four hours. At an hourly rate of 80 euros, this ensures Total costs of around 500 to 1,150 euros.

Even if the exchange seems expensive, it is the greatest risk of the pump seizing up and having tiny chips scattered throughout the system. Then every part that comes into contact with fuel must be replaced. This often means the economic total loss of a car.

TIP: Do not drive to a workshop before you have determined the current value of your vehicle. So you always know in advance exactly the cost up to which a repair is still worthwhile!

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Injectors / injectors defective

Injection nozzles (also called injection valves) are components of gasoline and diesel engines with direct injection. In modern diesel engines with common rail technology, they are known as injectors.

Is one or more nozzles defective, this can also result in increased fuel consumption and uneven engine running cause the engine to stall. You can find more information about repairs and the costs involved here.

Alternator / charging system defective

If the alternator is defective, it can no longer supply all consumers in the car (e.g. control units) with power while driving. Then the battery can be used for a while.

However, if this is also discharged after a certain distance, the vehicle switches off because it cannot function without power for the engine control unit etc. You can find out everything about repairs and the costs incurred in this guide.

Often this scenario even ensures that the battery is also defective, since it is then "deeply discharged". You can find more information about the cost of a new car battery here.

Problems with timing chain or timing belt

If a timing chain is built into the engine, it can stretch and skip. The engine control lamp then usually lights up first and a message such as "Camshaft position to crankshaft position has been stored implausibly" in the fault memory.

If no action is then taken and the elongation becomes stronger and stronger, the engine can also go out as a result. You can find out more about defects in the timing chain and the associated costs here.

If a toothed belt is installed, a tensioning pulley, for example, can break, which causes a similar error message and the motor to stop.

Full / clogged diesel particulate filter

Diesel soot particle filters are located in the exhaust tract and filter out environmentally harmful soot particles from the exhaust gases. Despite regular (automatic) regenerations by burning the filter free, the filter can be full after a mileage of around 120,000 to 150,000 kilometers.

If manual regeneration is no longer possible, it must either be removed and manually burned free or replaced. You can find more information on this in this guide.

Control unit faulty

Control units are comparatively seldom broken and should only be changed after a very thorough diagnosis and other causes have been ruled out.

If your workshop suspects the cause directly in the control unit, it can be worthwhile to ask another workshop for their opinion ;-). This can often save a lot of money.

If it is actually due to the control unit, this can often be compared can be repaired cheaply and does not have to be replaced with a new part. The costs are then around 350 euros.

Known engines which tend to the problems mentioned above

  • ignition coil: Problems in general with all FSi, TSi and TFSi
  • high pressure pump: BMW N47D20 and VW / Audi CBZA, CBZB, CAXA
  • Timing chain: VW / Audi CAXA, CBZB, CDHB and BMW N46B20

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Still unanswered questions?

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Categories General, Engine, Problem Diagnosis, Advice