23 Causes of Car Starts Then Shuts Off Immediately

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car starts then shuts off immediately

I’ve never had any problems starting my car. Until last week when it started fine in the morning and the next morning, it would not start, so I decided to take it to my usual mechanic.

He told me that the transmission line was leaking, so I decided to get it fixed and drive it back home. It seemed fine for about 3 days but then started acting up again.

This time, the car shut off while driving on the freeway, forcing me to merge over into another lane without power. I tried to restart it, but the car just won’t startup.

I took it in again and was told that a wire in my starter had gone bad, and they replaced it. The car seemed fine until the same thing happened in the middle of traffic on the freeway. It wasn’t showing any error codes when I took it to the mechanics, they could not find anything wrong with the car.

Has anyone else had such a problem? This article will discuss the potential causes of the car acting up like this and what you can do about it?

Reasons Your Car Starts Then Dies Right Away

If your car starts fine but dies right after that, it might be due to the following problems:

Fuel System Problems

  1. No Fuel in the Tank
  2. Bad Fuel Pump
  3. Bad Fuel Pump Relay
  4. Faulty Fuel Injectors
  5. Bad Fuel Rail Pressure Sensor
  6. Faulty Fuel Pressure Regulator
  7. Clogged Fuel Filter

Air Intake Problems

  1. Malfunctioning Mass Air Flow Sensor (MAF Sensor)
  2. Clogged Air Filter
  3. Vacuum Leak in the Intake Manifold
  4. Faulty Idle Air Control Valve
  5. Malfunctioning Manifold Absolute Pressure Sensor (MAP Sensor)

Ignition System Problems

  1. Faulty Ignition Coil
  2. Ignition Timing Issues

Sensor Issues

  1. Faulty Camshaft Position Sensor
  2. Faulty Crankshaft Position Sensor

Exhasut System Issues

  1. Something Stuck in Muffler
  2. Faulty EGR Valve

Transmission Issues

  1. Powertrain Control Module Problems
  2. No Transmission Fluids

Electrical System Defects

  1. Foul Spark Plugs
  2. Weak Car Battery
  3. Anti-Theft Alarm System

Let us see these problems that are keeping your car from starting:

1. Fuel System Problems

No Fuel in the Tank

Yeah, it might sound ridiculous, but this can be a potential reason if your engine shuts down after starting. Whenever you encounter problems related to starting of your car, make sure to give your as tank a look. And see if there is any fuel in it or not?

Bad Fuel Pump

The fuel pump is responsible for providing the fuel to start the engine. If it’s not able to do so, your car will have a tough time turning on. This could also be caused by electrical problems in certain cases; however, we’ll stick to this point and assume that this problem is due to a bad or failing fuel pump.

Bad Fuel Pump Relay

The fuel pump must be switched on and off by the vehicle’s computer system or ECU (electronic control unit) to run the car.

The way it works is that the engine computer provides a low-voltage signal through the fuel pump relay to activate the pump. Once your car starts running, this relay gets switched off. In case the fuel pump relay malfunctions, you would face a hard time starting your car, or while running, your car would suddenly stall out.

Faulty Fuel Injectors

A bad fuel injector can cause a car to run poorly and then shut off quickly. If this is the issue, ask a mechanic to diagnose and repair the fuel injector for you.

Bad Fuel Rail Pressure Sensor

You can determine whether your fuel pressure sensor is working by turning on your ignition (don’t start it) and checking if you see more than 12 psi of fuel pressure raise.

If not, don’t worry because sometimes, even though the sensor works, it doesn’t always generate enough pressure to make more than 12 psi.

This sensor is located at the fuel rail, and it is a part of your car’s warning system because when the pressure falls below a preset level, this sensor sends a signal to turn on your Check Engine Light or MIL (malfunction indicator lamp).

When this light comes on, it means that you have an engine problem. In worst-case scenarios, this means that you have a very bad car problem.

Faulty Fuel Pressure Regulator

Fuel pressure regulator failure can be caused by a defective fuel pump, causing the engine not to start or run properly. Some symptoms of a faulty fuel pressure regulator include random fluctuations in RPM while at idle, hard starting and stalling when cold, and lack of power while driving.

Clogged Fuel Filter

When a fuel filter gets clogged up, dirty or old, it can cause a car to run poorly and then shut off. Make sure your fuel filter is in good shape. Replace the Fuel Filter with an OEM Replacement.

2. Air Intake Problems

Malfunctioning Mass Air Flow Sensor (MAF Sensor)

Most people will tell you that the mass airflow sensor is used to measure airflow into your engine. While this is true, they fail to mention how vital it is for the proper operation of your car.

It takes information from the upstream oxygen sensors and calculates exactly how much fuel should be injected into each cylinder to get the maximum power possible. If the sensor fails, you will definitely notice it. Starting your car will become very difficult.

Clogged Air Filter

The clogged air filter will cause starting problems for your car. When the engine is cold, the air filter is very dirty, and it does not allow enough air into your car’s engine. This means that your car will need to use more gas to make up for this lack of air.

Vacuum Leak in the Intake Manifold

A vacuum leak in the intake manifold will cause starting problems for your car. The most common vacuum leak is a cracked intake manifold. If the manifold has been repaired before with epoxy, it may be difficult to see if there are any other leaks.

You can check for this by spraying brake cleaner around the gasket surfaces and then checking for air bubbles, if there is a leak in the gasket surface, this will cause a vacuum leak and draw air bubbles.

Faulty Idle Air Control Valve

If your car dies after starting, it might be due to a faulty idle air control valve. Most cars today have electronic throttle control (ETC) and will go to a default idle if the system detects a failure in the accelerator pedal or throttle body, like when you press the gas pedal, and your car won’t move at all.

Malfunctioning Manifold Absolute Pressure Sensor (MAP Sensor)

A faulty MAP sensor can cause too much fuel (rich condition) or not enough (lean condition). Either of these conditions can lead to a hard cold-start, making turning over your engine difficult.

3. Ignition System Problems

Faulty Ignition Coil

If the car shuts off immediately after starting, it can also mean a problem with your starter, alternator, or the circuit inside your solenoid. If you’re unsure of what’s causing the problem, it is best to have a mechanic diagnose and fix the problem for you.

Ignition Timing Issues

If your car dies after starting, it might be due to faulty ignition timing issues. The ignition timing is what “tells” the engine when to fire, how long it should ignite for, and more importantly, where.

Most of us have heard of valves closing at some point during the power cycle. The ignition timing tells them how close to the top dead center they are before the spark hits them.

4. Sensor Issues

Faulty Camshaft Position Sensor

A faulty camshaft position sensor will prevent your car from starting. If you turn the ignition key and your engine simply clicks or turns over but fails to start, this is one likely cause. Simple tests will confirm if your camshaft position sensor is at fault.

Faulty Crankshaft Position Sensor

When the car fails to start, be sure to check your crankshaft position sensor. If it is bad, you will need to replace it. One of the main causes of a no-start condition in this vehicle is a faulty camshaft position sensor (CMP). The faulty starter can also cause similar problems.

5. Exhaust System Issues

Something Stuck in Muffler

Commonly, your car is not starting because something is stuck in its muffler. Always take a peek at your car’s exhaust pipe if it doesn’t start.

Faulty EGR Valve

If your car dies after starting, it might be due to a faulty EGR valve. The EGR or Exhaust Gas Recirculation Valve regulates air and exhaust flow into the engine.

It is usually located between the throttle body and your car’s intake manifold. When in operation, this valve allows a small amount of fuel to pass through it when in a closed position.

6. Transmission Issues

Powertrain Control Module Problems

A bad powertrain control module will prevent your car from starting. As the fuel pump will not turn on. The powertrain control module monitors the crankshaft sensor, camshaft sensor, crank position sensor, and cam position sensor. All have to be operating correctly for your car to start. If any of these fail or are faulty, your car will not run.

Overfilled Transmission Fluid

Whenever you overfill the transmission fluid, you can get excess fluid on the clutch plate inside the car’s transmission. This can cause a loss of power to your vehicle and will require you to have your unit towed if this happens.

7. Electrical System Defects

Foul Spark Plugs

The first thing that should come to mind is to check the spark plugs because if the car will turn over but not start, you might have a faulty ignition coil or bad spark plug wires.

Weak Car Battery

If the car has a low or weak battery, it may not have enough power to crank and start the engine, so it shuts off quickly. To recharge or replace the battery, follow the instructions in your owner’s manual.

Anti-Theft Alarm System

Your car may not start if the anti-theft alarm system starts acting up. The alarm system could be a little tricky if not properly installed. It’s best to have a professional install the system.

In some cases, you may stop hearing a clicking noise when you push the start button, but the car doesn’t start. Or maybe your starter is going bad?

Car Dies After Starting; How To Fix?

How To Solve Fuel System Problems?

You have air in your fuel line. This is typically the issue with it turning off right after starting this car. You can easily drain the air from your gas tank.

If you’re uncomfortable draining the air yourself, go to a mechanic who can drain it for you. If this doesn’t fix your problem, a few other things may be the cause.

Your fuel pump is going out. Typically, if you have to put fuel in fairly often and the car is not running right, then you should take a look at getting a new or used fuel pump.

It is usually better to get a used one, though, because it will be cheaper and you can always return the used one if it doesn’t work, but getting a new one or rebuilt are both not too expensive have great prices.

Your fuel filter may need to be changed out. If this is something you feel comfortable doing yourself, then have a look at some tutorials. If you’re not comfortable changing the fuel filter, then have it done by a mechanic who can do this for you.

Now, if your car is still shutting off immediately after starting, I’ve got other solutions for you. In order of simplest to most difficult to solve.

Your car is flooding. This can happen for a variety of reasons: you overfilled the gas tank, your gas cap isn’t on properly, and it’s letting air in (yes, that means check your gas cap), or the float inside your carburetor is clogged.

If you cannot figure out why it is flooding, then replacing the carburetor is the best way to fix this. This can be done at a junkyard and may cost around $100-$200, depending on the make and model of your car.

Your engine is not getting fuel or isn’t getting enough gas. You should check your fuel pump fuse if it’s blown out (almost all cars have this fuse). Also, if your gas cap isn’t on properly, you won’t get enough fuel in the lines to run. Check your gas cap if it’s not on properly.

How To Solve Air Intake Problems?

If you have a car or a pick-up that seems to be running fine but suddenly starts to stall when going over bumps, you might have an air leak in one of your air intakes. The air intake is a vacuum hose that goes from the metal part of your vehicle to the engine.

It’s supposed to suck or breathe some air into your car’s or truck’s engine, thus providing it with oxygen that it needs to burn fuel and produce power for your car or truck.

There’s a leak in the air intake hose in some cases, and it’s letting cold air into your engine. If so, here’s how to fix your problem:

  1. Turn off the engine.
  2. Remove or disconnect the metal part of your air intake from one end to another.
  3. Take a piece of rope or string and tie it to the end that you disconnected from the metal part.
  4. Tie a weight onto the other end of your rope or string the weight should be heavy enough so that when you release your air intake, it’s going to hang straight down all the way to the ground.
  5. Now take your metal air intake and hold it high up in the air so that cold air is not touching it.
  6. Turn on your engine, let it run for about 30 seconds, and then shut off both the engine and the air intake.
  7. Inspect both ends of your air intake, and if you see that there’s an open part inside the metal part where the rope or string goes into, then that is where your leak is at.
  8. Take a strong glue or RTV-type adhesive fluid and apply it around both ends of the metal part where the rope or string went in this should seal up your leak.

How To Solve Ignition System Problems?

You can solve ignition system problems in your car without using a professional diagnostic scanner by using more than just an Ohm meter.

You might be able to solve your car’s problems without spending money that you don’t have, especially if the problem is not serious enough to warrant the cost of professional help.

You need to be aware that if your car’s battery is already drained or too low (below 9 volts), you will not be able to accurately measure anything other than the common wire. Don’t worry about it. After jump-starting your car, everything should return to normal again.

A faulty ignition switch usually won’t drain the battery suddenly, so jump-starting your car will do fine.

If you have a modern car, you don’t have to do any tests below. Simply going outside and turning your key from OFF position to ON-RUN-ACC position three times without starting your engine will tell you the status of your ignition switch.

If the first thing your car does after those three clicks is to activate some warning sound, indicator light, or chime (or all of them) on the dashboard, then you will know for sure that your switch is working perfectly fine and dandy.

If it’s not – perform any of these tests below to identify the faulty component(s) before taking your car into a shop for help.

How To Solve Sensor Issues?

You can solve sensor-related issues in your car by cleaning them with a special electronic cleaner. Read the articles online to find out how to clean sensors correctly and precisely, which sensor needs manual cleaning more often, and why it leads to serious problems in modern cars if done incorrectly.

Most people are afraid of taking their car to a mechanic since they think it will be expensive. So, they are trying to solve the problem by themselves. But if you have never cleaned sensors on your car, this may lead to serious problems with the engine.

Still, if the issue persists, you will need to replace that particular sensor. In this case, a camshaft or crankshaft position sensor.

How To Solve Exhasut System Issues?

Your car’s EGR valve may be faulty and need replacing if you start your car, but it will not run without making strange noises or stopping after a few seconds.

You can find the correct replacement part online, such as on eBay Motors. Simply search for your vehicle’s model and year to find the part you need.

To replace your car’s EGR valve, remove the screws holding down your engine cover and lift up the cover. Once it is completely free, gently slide out your defective EGR valve and discard it in a garbage-bagged container.

Take your replacement EGR valve and place it into position within the engine cover, followed by screwing it in place.

The final step is to restart your car’s ignition and make sure that the new EGR valve functions as intended.

How To Solve Transmission Issues?

You need to top up the transmission fluid regularly to avoid any problems with the transmission system. And it is essential to choose the right kind of transmission fluid. Check its owner manual to find out the correct type of transmission fluid for your car.

However, if this does not do the job for you, you may have to visit a car care professional who will repair the transmission control module of your car. As it is the part that prevents your car from starting properly.

How To Solve Electrical System Defects?

You can try cleaning foul spark plugs and reinstalling them. However, if the problem persists, you need to replace the spark plugs. The replacement cost of spark plugs will vary between $200 and $400 depending upon the make and model of your car.

Similarly, problems arising due to a weak battery can be resolved by charging your battery. You can also try to jump-start your car if it is not starting.


This is one of the most common problems with cars today it happens when you turn the key on to start the car, and it turns over but shuts off immediately, sometimes after a few seconds or up to 20 minutes.

The car will not stay on unless you are constantly turning the key back on every couple of seconds, this is dangerous for the car and the battery because you are draining power.

The problem is not always with the starter or something wrong with starting, it could be a fuel pump of some sort, an electrical problem, or even your automatic transmission.

The car starting fine then shutting off in winters is a common problem. In some makes and models of cars, it can be caused by a faulty ignition coil or faulty spark plug wires. Repairing this problem will depend on what’s causing it, but it should be easy for any mechanic.

Another common problem that can cause a car not to start is heat soak. This happens when the engine runs for long periods of time without rest, leading to a buildup in the cylinders, which causes poor performance, lower MPG, and trouble starting.

No matter the problem, you must consult a professional mechanic if your car shuts off immediately after starting and solve the underlying issues at the earliest.

Frequently Asked Question

What if your car starts fine but shuts off as soon as you take your foot off the gas pedal?

If that is the case, then the problem may lie with the fuel injection system of your car. If the car remains started upon pressing the gas pedal, it is an indication that the fuel supply to the combustion chamber is adequate.

However, if it shuts off once you release the gas pedal, it clearly means that the fuel supply is disrupted, preventing the car from remaining started.

Will swapping the engine control unit with another car cause starting problems for your car?

Yes, it might do the trick for you in certain cases. The engine control unit is the managing head of your car. It receives signals from various sensors and processes this information to decide critical engine parameters.

What swapping the control unit does is that it resets the electronic inputs. So in case if any sensor were occasionally malfunctioning, it would become reset. The sensor’s faulty input that kept the car from being started would no longer be an issue.

If your car engine stalls, which parts can you try to clean?

A clogged air filter, fuel filter, muffler, dirty fuel injectors, and sensors, all these things will bar your car from starting.

Hence, if your car’s engine is stalling while accelerating or otherwise, you must try cleaning the parts mentioned above. In addition to these parts, foul spark plugs can also cause engine stalls. You can try cleaning those as well.

Can cold weather affect the starting of your car?

If you live in a part of the country where the temperature drops below freezing, particularly during this time of year, there’s a chance that cold weather could affect your car’s ability to start. And if you own an older model vehicle, it probably can.

What if the engine starts via jump start, but the car dies immediately after?

Cold weather can lead to dead batteries. If the engine starts via jump start, but the car dies immediately after that, then the problem lies with your car’s batteries. Cold weather can lead to dead batteries, so you need a little more time and energy to get your vehicle started.

However, if it is raining or snowing outside and your car is not starting, the problem might be in your vehicle’s starter. Cold weather can get in the way of a good connection between different parts of your car that are important for its proper run and can lead to failure. The more you use your car, the more charge it drains.

Can a carburetor cleaner help your car in starting?

Yes, a carburetor cleaner can help your car while starting. A carburetor cleaner contains ingredients that have the ability to dissolve a bit of gasoline in it. Because of this, there is a possibility that a carburetor cleaner can help your car start.

You can use Carb Cleaner as an octane booster as well. A carb cleaner can help your car run smoothly. It also helps to clean out carbon deposits found on the engine’s valves, thus making it work more efficiently.

If the car is starting fine, but the check engine light is illuminated on the dashboard, what does it mean?

This is an extremely common problem for vehicles today. First off, you need to determine if the CEL bulb is solid or blinking.

If the CEL is solid on, you’re not getting any power out of the catalytic converter, which may be caused by an engine vacuum leak, blown fuse for the rear oxygen sensor, or even a failed front oxygen sensor.

If you are experiencing any driveability issues, I recommend having it scanned with an OBD II scanner and looking at live data to help determine the root cause.

If the CEL blinks on and off, you may have an issue with either your idle air control valve or IACV circuit, which a vacuum leak could again cause. You can check for vacuum leaks using an OBD II scanne

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