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Idle or Stalling Problems - All Vehicles

Kirstie_HKirstie_H Administrator Posts: 11,135
Hi all! We've had a lot of questions about engine stalling and no-start problems lately, and the answers don't seem make/model specific. Let's put the questions in here, where owners of all makes and models can benefit from the answers. Thanks!

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  • jimlimujimlimu Member Posts: 1
    93-Legacy has slowly showed poor gas performance, even with tuneup, fuel filter changed,air filter change. Then this Winter, it started having hard time starting. I started to use anti-freeze and fuel injector cleaners as specified by the products. Now, the weather is a little warmer, my Subaru is worst. The engine takes long time to start, and runs very rough. It stalls when sitting in traffic. It indicates fuel system problems. Does anyone knows what I should do & what the cost would be to take care of this problem? I'm wondering if it's worth it to fix or buy something else. It has 177K mi.
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    like the gas line filter, pressure regulator, or fuel pump. if the filters have been regularly replaced (usual replacement periods are 50 to 60 thousand for domestics I'm familiar with), needs a fuel rail pressure test.

    it might be injector clogging, but I don't know anybody who has clogged any. I'd go with wear-out items, and both the regulator and the pump are in the range in which they could be tired out.
  • 0patience0patience Member Posts: 1,712
    Where Do I Start??
    This article will help you have a starting place.

    Then, read this article. What Do I Tell My Mechanic?

    Reading these two articles will not only help you, but it will also help you to let us know the information we need to help you out.
  • nippononlynippononly Member Posts: 12,555
    my first guess would be electrical if the car will stall after it has been running for a while, and often idles rough. Generally speaking, if a car with a bad fuel pump has been running for a while, it will continue to run until the next time it is shut down, due to capillary pressure in the fuel line. Not only that, but a bad fuel pump wouldn't usually cause it to run rough.

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • alcanalcan Member Posts: 2,550
    What is capillary pressure in the fuel line?
  • 0patience0patience Member Posts: 1,712
    Alcan, isn't that how much pressure the heart of the engine can pump?
    So where its the heart? Need to see if it is beating properly. LOL!
  • alcanalcan Member Posts: 2,550
  • mybonniemybonnie Member Posts: 9
    I'm still stumped by this recurring problem that my shop can't diagnose. Six months ago my '99 bonneville SE 3.8 V6 (47K miles) started stalling and restarting itself after 2-3 minutes from a cold start. When it finally started missing and threw a code I took it in. Shop replaced one ignition coil, full set of wires, fuel filter, injector cleaning, other assorted stuff for about $500. This fixed the problem for a few weeks. Problem started up again a couple of months ago and continues to get worse. No check engine light though. Now it is very hard starting, dies after two to three minutes. I have to restart it. Sometimes dies again two to three minutes in. Then runs ok -- a little rough but ok. Shop tells me they can't figure it out without a code. This problem is becoming serious and it always happens at the same time which makes me think it could be temperature or sensor related. Anybody come across this before?

  • valonnevalonne Member Posts: 1
    1991 Dodge Shadow with 70,000 miles and no significant problems before has begun stalling while on the road. After a few minutes, the car will usually restart, but I have had it towed once already. The mechanic mentioned it is a "California car" (purchased new from a Ca. dealership.) He has replaced the computer but that didn't solve the problem. He is out of ideas, and I am out of patience. Any suggestions? I like the car and wouldn't mind spending a little more $ to keep it.
  • mybonniemybonnie Member Posts: 9
    Finally had to take the car into the dealership. They found that the fuel pressure regulator was leaking internally. Because of that it had been running rich and fouled the plugs and the throttle body. Another $500 later it runs fine again.
  • zoozoo44zoozoo44 Member Posts: 1
    Just purchased a new 2003 Mitsubishi Galant in February 2003. The car will start, run for 3-4 seconds and then cut off. Twice it has been towed to the dealership and they can not find the problem, but think it may have something to do with security feature of the ignition system. Is anyone else having similar problems or can offer some help.
  • bobv6bobv6 Member Posts: 4
    i have a 95 chrysler cirrus 2.5 6cyl heres the problem--when the car is cold and started for the first time or if it sits for a while where the engine gets cold as the temperature guage passes a certain exact spot during warm up the car will sputter a split second and stall or sometimes it will not stall, but the engine rpms will go to about 1500 for a second and then return to normal idle about 700 and you can drive all day long and this will not reoccur until you let the car sit and cool down. it will stall only once and it seems that this point on the temperature guage where this happens is when the thermostat opens and allows the cold antifreeze into the water jacket around the engine. i dont really know it im on the right track with the thermostat theory but this point on the temp gauge is my only reference point as to when this happens. but to stall you must be sitting in drive at this point, if your on the go and it passes this temp point nothing happens and it runs fine. please any advice it is driving me crazy. it idles perfect always and never misses it have not checked for codes yet
  • meeeshelmeeeshel Member Posts: 4
    For about the past 3 weeks my ignition will not turn over or anything when I turn the key. All it does is click. It will start with a jump and sometimes if I just keep trying. I had the battery replaced 3 days ago and it has been fine...until yesterday at which time it clicked again. Then it started on it's own after I let it sit for about 30 minutes. It is now in the shop while they try to figure out if it has a bad spot in the starter.
    Anyway have any ideas?
  • bobv6bobv6 Member Posts: 4
    my 95 cirrus has a similar problem as u can read in message 13 above brought it to the dealer and of course could not find anything wrong but also thought it might be a malfunctioning security feature and fuel cut off feature which is built into the factory alarm systeml they suggested replacing the main computer and the alarm module that talks to the main computer to allow the car to start. they also said that replacing the map sensor might make the computer read the alarm more accurately. i had them do the work at a cost of 1591 dollars and for four days now the car has not stalled. im keeping my hopes up if ur not clear on anything ive written please message again bobv6
  • keungkeung Member Posts: 28
    I've got a 99 V6 accord. Only in warm weather after the car has been driven, then parked for 30 minutes and I go to start it up, it cranks but won't start taking several attempts or it starts but runs rough at a very low idle and then quits, then after 6 attempts starts up running smoothly. No CEL at all, cold weather starts are fine.
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    and carry a chunk long enough to reach the middle of the starter motor from kneeling down by the wheel. I'm serious. my sister had a starter intermittent in a 72 mercury for a while, and the independent mechanic said pack a 2x4 for that time way out in nowhere-land when the car just clicks. sure enough, she had to whack it twice, and you do it hard enough so you feel it in your arm and shoulder, and it turned over.

    I had to do it once on a 60s dodge, worked fine.

    no guarantees on this tool, but it's worth a shot. nobody uses a "growler" on starter windings any more, they just shotgun parts. couple of whacks.. and if it starts, that is your wake-up call, get thee parts or a shop appointment.

    do > NOT < think you can do this with a piece of metal. infinite amps of +12 volts on the exposed starter terminals. ugly results from fires to blindness may result from hinking around with metal "persuaders."
  • 2charlesc2charlesc Member Posts: 1
    I have a 1992 Jetta GL, (gas), which has a difficult time starting when the motor is cold. The idle is rough, and spikes UP and DOWN, but stalls at least 5 times before it will run.

    I replaced the Idle Stabilizer Valve (otherwise known as the Idle Control Valve.) ... at the recommendation of a local mechanic. This part is expensive, but the problem still exists. I can only start the car if I rev the motor to a high RPM while starting. Any help or advice is really appreciated.

    Volkswagen lover
  • kkollwitzkkollwitz Member Posts: 274
    may be due to a leaky intake manifold gasket. Air gets into the cylinders behind the airflow sensor in the throttle body, so there's more air in the combustion chamber than the computer thinks is there. This problem would likely affect fuel efficiency as well.
  • cutehumorcutehumor Member Posts: 137
    I have a 92 mits mirage with 112k miles. I had an irregular idle problem like the car was going to quit everytime I came to a stoplight or stop sign. No check engine light either. well here's what I did, I took an old toothbrush and a .78 cent of carburetor cleaner. total cost for me was like a buck. Scrubbed all the black carbon buildup on the top and bottom of the throttle plate for an hour. It's really easy to do all you need to do is remove the air intake hose. Result: Idle is buttery smooth again; I was told it could be the TPS, Engine computer, coolant temp sensor, need new plugs and wires, fuel filter, Idle air control valve. I decided before I sunk into a ton of money into car, I try the cheapest thing I could do and it worked. I wonder how much a mechanic would have charged for the same work besides throwing parts at it. ;)
  • Kirstie_HKirstie_H Administrator Posts: 11,135
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  • ryanfiala81ryanfiala81 Member Posts: 35
    My '97 LeSabre has trouble turning over right away, and sometimes really fights me even when it does. Furthermore, once it's warm, sitting at idle in Park will usually cause it to die within one minute. It has also died on occasion when rolling at 5-10 mph without my foot on the gas. I just replaced the alternator, but to no avail. It still charges up at 15 Volts (near the red line) and when it's about to die, the volt gauge will sink to about 13, and then it will die. Similarly, when this occurs, sometimes the engine tries to take over, spiking to around 2,000 RPM briefly before either returning to idle or dying. I find this very peculiar, and would appreciate any suggestions as to what parts might be fouled and why. Please hurry, as they might foul other parts if I don't figure it out soon. This car seems to be possessed.
  • alcanalcan Member Posts: 2,550
    See diagnosis in Electronic Gremlins forum
  • mick_kmick_k Member Posts: 1
    We have a1988 2x4, fuel injected Toyota pickup, 133k. It runs smoothly for days/weeks, then we start to experience increasing but intermittent hesitation/lurching. This mainly occurs when accelerating, and/or running at high revs/high speed, and has also happened when going down a steep hill on freeway at 70 mph. Infrequently, the engine will then die when running, losing all power. After coasting to a stop it will turn over but not start for about 10/15 minutes, then it starts normally. We have replaced the fuel pump. Had a full service (timing etc.) in July '03.

    The weird part: Our speedo runs all the way over. Our shop says this is caused by tranny fluid leaking, and running up the cable into the speedo head. However, after some of the stalling episodes, the speedo has worked *normally* for about 10 minutes/5 miles or so. How can this be? Everyone says we're crazy and the speedo it is *not* connected with the stalling but we *have* seen it work a number of times after stalls. Could the leaking tranny fluid be connected with both the hesitation/stalling, and the speedo problem?
  • alcanalcan Member Posts: 2,550
    Start by checking for any stored diagnostic trouble codes, especially any relating to the vehicle speed sensor. Here's how:
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    I agree, I think it's related to info the computer is getting or the computer itself.
  • tmart006tmart006 Member Posts: 1
  • franterschfrantersch Member Posts: 9
    I have a 94 Nissan Altima (137K) and so far no major problems except replacing the alternator. But lately, when I have been idling, the lights on the dash (esp ABS and O/D light) have been coming on and soon all the lights come on like it is about to stall, the radio comes in and out like it is about to short circuit, and the clock resets. Eventually the car stalls and needs to be restarted (it starts up fine). The other day, I was going about 65 on the highway and the car began to sputter or "jump" foward while I was accelerating and pushing on the gas just caused the car to jump more. I eventually slowed and pulled over, and the car completely stalled out. I don't know if this is electrical or fuel related. I tried changing the fuel filter last night but the hoses were SOO tight that I gave up. I am going to try again tonight (thanks for the earlier tips). Any ideas to the problem? Have others experienced this also?
  • franterschfrantersch Member Posts: 9
    I just posted a listing about my 94 altima stalling.

    FYI- it is the GLE/auto model and the check engine light has YET to come on.

    I would appreciate any insight
  • kbam1kbam1 Member Posts: 1
    I just picked my 1990 Stanza with 108K up from a local AAA approved garage. I took it there when the car seemed to have no low end torque. I thought I might have water in the gas tank and had already changed the fuel filter before dropping it off. The shop calls and tells me that the plugs are fouled, then calls and tells me the timing chain is shot and it will cost $800 to fix it. I tell him I'm concerned since this model tends to bend rods when driving with a bad timing chain. The shop tells me it's not even running, so I said fine I'll bring the title down and send it to the junk yard. I get there to clean it out and decide to try to start it. Not only does it start it runs great. Can a car recover from a bad timing chain or was this shop trying to scam me?
  • lynn29lynn29 Member Posts: 2
    We have 1985 Honda Prelude. Some time ago we experience some transmission (auto) slippage. Lately we start to have a problem that sound like fuel starvation. The car is idle fine but when shift in to Drive it go for 5-6 seconds and then start to chock. If we let go of the gas or let it idle for 30 seconds then we can accelerate again for 5-6 seconds and it chock again. When in neutral it can run into higher rpm for long time but not when we shift into gear. We replaced the fuel pump and the "sending unit" but it is still doing the same. The mechanics (two places) gave up. Is there any sensor / switch / connector or any other reason that can cause this? any connection to the transmission?
    Thank you
  • according2meaccording2me Member Posts: 236
    Check your distributor for oil inside of it. You'll have to remove the cap, rotor, and inside dust cover which protects the camshaft sensor. If oil is on the metal disc wipe it carefully with a paper towel and blow it out of the openings in the metal disc and sensor assy with canned air(some people use electric parts cleaner).

    I had to do this to my sons 95 Alti recently. The cause is a worn oil seal on the engine side of the distributor. It cost about $3 from the dealer if you can find a parts man willing to order it for you. I had to go to two different dealers to find one who would.

    This is a well known problem for the 1st and 2nd generation Altimas. The dealers like to sell $400 distributors for this problem.

    I haven't had to rescue my son since I did this.

    If this is your problem, I'll lookup the Nissan part number for you.
  • brazoratonbrazoraton Member Posts: 1
    This problem seems to come and go. The last time I had it checked and was told there was a "carbon build-up" that was cleaned, solving the problem for 7 months or so. Now it's back.

    Also my check engine light has always been on, but the mechs always tell me it is just a sensor malfunction and nothing worth repairing or getting excited about.

    Any ideas for a true fix on my stall problem?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Well I don't think you got very good advice there. If your check engine light is on, this might very well offer you the code to solve your problem. Crystal ball auto repair is very neat and tidy but often wrong. So you need to have the car's computer scanned and see what's up and see if the codes that come up relate to a stalling issue. (egr, clogged catalytic, misfire, etc)
  • stainedglassstainedglass Member Posts: 2
    have a 88 dakota it is hard to start and idles rough for a few minutes then is good after it warms up. you have to keep giving it gas to keep it running till it warms up
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    either a lazy O2 sensor or a temperature sensor are the ones that I have had issues with on previous cars to cause this kind of useless warmup. there could also be a vacuum leak someplace, maybe a bad EGR-type valve. the latter two might be found by spraying a little water around all vacuum hose connections... if you can spray the trouble away, you found a vacuum leak. that old an engine, if there's an O2 sensor on it, I'd measure voltage across it with the engine running per the diagnostics in the manual, and replace it if it's nutty as a first step.
  • mmx6mmx6 Member Posts: 18
    My mechanic completely screwed up my car (95 Nissan 200SX SE-R with the SR20DE engine) and I was hoping someone out there might know how, since he doesn't. I took it in for an oil change and he wanted to do a throttle body cleaning and fuel injector cleaning. I said what the hell, okay.

    The result? First, my car now has a high idle -- about 950 RPM at rest in Drive and 1100-1200 RPM at rest in Neutral (750 or so is normal, right?) -- so it always feels like the engine's cold. It also goes faster when I just let the idle speed push me along in the parking lot.

    I took it back to him but he couldn't figure out what's wrong. So it still has those problems, and has now developed one more: on one occasion today, it idled all the way to 1700(!) RPM on its own and took me for a ride with it. When I left it in Drive without pressing any pedal, it gradually accelerated all the way up through THIRD gear and at least 22 MPH, possibly higher if I hadn't run out of residential driveway. Scary stuff.

    WHAT'S GOING ON??? What could he have done to my car? Thanks for any reply.

    In the meantime, don't visit All Tune & Lube in Mountain View, CA (Middlefield Road). Please.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Well one thing comes to mind. If he didn't use the right type of cleaner when he got into that throttle body, he could have damaged a sensor.
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    something significant, like the brake booster. but that is "gutless" rpm, the car dies when you drop it into gear with that stuff. I think shifty's right.
  • alternatoralternator Member Posts: 629
    My 1996 Chevrolet Cavalier (2.2L) engine (30,000 miles) has a mildly rough idle (like little surges), that comes and goes from hour to hour of operation.

    My dealer changed the fuel filter and then told me that my problem was a leaking valve cover gasket that had allowed oil to foul the plugs, ruin the plug wiring, and ruin the serpentine belt. He proposed to replace the valve cover gasket, replace the plugs, replace the plug wiring, replace the serpentine belt, clean the jets, all to the total of about $600 (I said no thanks).

    I had already replaced the air filter and PCV valve. Only a minute amount of oil seems to have leaked out onto the block (at one corner only). The plugs are nearly new and look normal (no oiling or white deposit, and the gap is okay). There is no oil on the wiring and the serpentine belt appears clean to me. Please give me your best guess of what my problem might actually be.
  • texasmactexasmac Member Posts: 1
    I have a 2000 Explorer XLT with a V6 motor that has 50k plus miles on it. After purchasing, I noticed during muggy days that the engine idles like it has a miss. I brought this to the attention of my Dealer service agent at my 50k mile oil change and he mentioned that this is normal on the V-6 models. Does this make sense? The engine sometimes idles as smooth as my Lexus, so I don't understand his answer.

    In addition, I have an issue with pinging when accelerating to near highway speeds. I use the mid grade gasoline (89), but this only moderately helps. Is this issue related to the engine idle issue, do I have sensor on the blink.
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    on ping for these cars. I'd say stay with 87 regular, and look for the problem. the EGR valve and spark plugs and wires are obvious places to look for issues, and don't forget to resistance-test the plug wires while you're at it. also, use a shop rag soaked in alcohol and clean the outside of the wires and boots. also check all the visible vacuum hoses for tight, non-cracked connections.

    my v8 has an occasional ragged idle like one cylinder, and last time I chased that at the 28K mark I had a plug with a little abnormal wear. it's not unusual to have one cylinder made near tolerances in an engine, and as long as I'm not soaking up the plug with oil or anything, I'm just watching it. about time I wrench 'em all out again, it's vacation time in the boonies real soon now, and I'd like to be sure of a stable chariot.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    How bad is this ping? If it is steady and loud, you want to investigate that. If it is only a brief thing, not such a worry.

    Ping is about faulty combustion, combustion that is ragged, premature, uneven. So either we have a timing issue, which on modern cars is really a sensor/computer issue, or we have extremely lousy gas, so bad that even the computer can't compensate even with its generous "fuel map".

    Put in some high octane, the highest you can find, and let us know what happens.

    Excessive pinging is dangerous for your engine.
  • 0patience0patience Member Posts: 1,712
    Have they considered looking at any service bulletins to see if any pertain to your problem?
    Ask them if they looked into the service bulletins, particularly the one below.
    And have they considered reflashing the PCM?

    Article No.
    1994-1997 THUNDERBIRD
    1995-2003 TAURUS
    1996-2003 MUSTANG
    1995-1997 AEROSTAR
    1995-2003 RANGER, WINDSTAR
    1996-2000 EXPLORER
    1997-2003 E SERIES, F-150
    1994-1997 COUGAR
    1995-2003 SABLE
    1997-2000 MOUNTAINEER
    Incorrectly installed gear driven camshaft position (CMP) sensor synchronizer assemblies may be hard to diagnose. Vehicle may exhibit poor fuel economy, driveability Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTCs) P1336, P1309, P0340 with MIL light on. Loss of power, surge, hesitation and runs rough on acceleration may also be present.
    New diagnostics have been developed for WDS to diagnose incorrectly installed gear driven camshaft position (CMP) synchronizer assemblies. Refer to the following Service Procedure to diagnose a possible mis-installed synchronizer assembly and proper installation procedure.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Member Posts: 4,600
    The car: '87 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera with the "Iron Duke" 2.5 engine.

    The Problem: The engine dies during the warm up phase. Specifically, it starts okay, but then dies repeatedly until it reaches full operating temperature. Some examples of when this behavior occurs are (1) after car has been sitting all day in my work place garage, I start it to return home and am going down the garage ramp, it dies; (2) when first accelerating from a dead stop.

    I took the car to a GM dealer, and they identified a code problem with the Ignition Module and the Electronic Control Module (either/or), but they said they couldn't repair it because they don't carry these replacement parts for the '87 model of this car.

    I'd welcome suggestions on what to do to repair this car, which has ~86,000 miles and has been carefully maintained. I'd like to keep it on the road, but at the same time not spend more than what is justified by the nominal market value of this car. Help!?
  • yleeylee Member Posts: 4
    It seems out of topic but I have a question.

    I've always wanted to drive a car with manual transmission and I finally got one.

    As I drive along, I've noticed car can roll from 0 mph to about 5 mph by only pushing clutch half way through(without pushing gas pedal)

    If I can use this method in a heavy traffic, it will be great but I am not sure it could damage my transmission.

    Can anyone tell me how you drive in a heavy traffic or is it okay to push the clutch half way?
  • alternatoralternator Member Posts: 629
    That's called "slipping the clutch" and will wear out your clutch prematurely.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Oh, I think he's talking about something else but maybe wasn't too clear. Correct me if I'm wrong.

    What I read anyway, was this...that in heavy traffic, he prefers not to step on the gas but just let the engine's idle speed push the car along by lifting and dropping the clutch pedal.

    So in other words, as long as he isn't "holding" the car on an uphill, or resting his foot on the clutch pedal while the car is going down the highway at high speeds, I don't see any harm in his method of "creeping" along. Basically you do the same thing when you work the gas pedal a little in traffic anyway.
  • alternatoralternator Member Posts: 629
    It still seems to me that if he is mushing along by repeatedly engaging and disengaging the clutch, that can't be good for the clutch.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    I don't see how else he's going to creep along in heavy traffic. Maybe we can get him to videotape his left foot and we can see what he's doing :)

    I don't see low speed engagement/disengagement of the clutch as much of a wear factor as there is no power being applied to the clutch disk. It's not the same as riding the clutch and partially disengaging it at highway speeds.
  • 0patience0patience Member Posts: 1,712
    Pull the trouble codes.
    Then let us know what trouble codes you get.
    It could be the ignition module, which, by the way, NAPA carries.
    But I would also suspect the temp sensor.
    Until we have the trouble code numbers, we can't even guess.

    Let us know what you get.
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