There are several reasons why a vehicle loses power while driving. We know how stressful it is when this happens, especially when you do not know why it happened. No worries. We have prepared a simple guide to ease your mind and help you get familiar with the common problems so you can prevent and fix them as soon as possible.
In order for a vehicle to run efficiently, it has to regulate the right flow of fuel, air and compression. Even the smallest defect or malfunction can compromise the entire process and could result in a notable loss of horsepower. Although there is a wide range of issues that could affect your power, there are a number of common culprits that could be slowing down your travels.
What causes a car to die while driving?
We have written down the most common causes why cars die while driving. Keep in mind that these issues should be addressed as soon as possible to prevent accidents and further damage to your vehicle.
Chain or Timing Belt Problems
Although chain or timing belt problems are relatively rare, if the chain or belt is not correctly maintained, installed incorrectly or does not have the ideal tension, it can result in the engine valves opening and closing at incorrect intervals. This can lead to loss of power, and most of the time it comes with a rattling noise from the engine.
Diesel Particulate Filter
The diesel particulate filter or DPF could also get clogged or blocked, for diesel vehicles. This filter is especially designed to remove diesel particulate matter or exhaust pollutant particles, but like all other filters, they have limited capacity. If your diesel particulate filter gets clogged or blocked, you will find your vehicle switching to limp mode, it gets activated once the car’s computer system detects a problem that could endanger the engine or the transmission. Limp mode decreases the power to lessen the load on these important parts, however, it will still allow you to drive the vehicle home or to the nearest repair facility.
Clogged Catalytic Converter
One of the signs of an obstructed catalytic converter is when a vehicle accelerates more slowly than usual. By using catalysts to convert harmful pollutants into water and less harmful gases before letting them go through the exhaust, your vehicle’s catalytic converter cuts down on harmful emissions. A clogged or obstructed catalytic converter blocks gases, which means that the engine cannot rev up to its optimum capacity. In cases like this, experts recommend that you let your trusted mechanic diagnose the problem.
They now come with most engines as standard. Turbochargers operate by increasing air pressure in the combustion chamber, letting more fuel to be added to the mix so that more power is produced from explosions in the cylinder. Turbos cause engines to become more efficient. But they can also drag it down with them since the engine loses power when something goes wrong with the turbochargers.
Turbochargers require oil to operate effectively so make sure that oil and the oil filter are well maintained. Issues could be as simple as debris or dirt entering the turbo causing problems with the mechanism. In the same sense, loose connection or even a simple hole in the tubing will really affect the performance.
Exhaust is Backfiring
Incorrect fuel to air ratio is the cause of backfires. Backfires are small explosions that lead to loss of power when accelerating, which sounds like a loud bang or pop. In some instances, it goes with a burst of flames. There are various reasons for a backfiring exhaust, including leaks in the fuel tank or issues with the carburetor, and problems with the fuel pump. Like what we have mentioned earlier, when you experience any of these issues, the best thing to do is to have it checked by a certified mechanic.
Clogged or Obstructed Fuel Filter
When you hit the accelerator and do not get the desired result, there is a high probability that there is a problem with the fuel system. The most probable issue is an obstructed or blocked fuel filter. The work of the fuel filter is to make sure that debris or dirt stay out of the fuel system. It will require cleaning and even replacement in the long run. Once the filter is clogged or obstructed, the fuel pump has to exert more effort, which can result in a far less efficient drive. This means that you cannot get the power you need every time you accelerate when going uphill or overtaking. Although the fuel filter is the cause of the most common problem with the fuel system and is the easiest one to fix, a lack of power could also be due to issues with the fuel pump or fuel line.
Air Conditioning Draining Power
If your vehicle loses power in hot temperatures, it is vital to be aware that the air conditioning uses a portion of the engine’s power. So it is important to know that when going on a trip on a hot day, it is normal when your vehicle does not have the power you would normally expect.
Problems with Fuel Injectors
The vehicle may struggle when trying to reach high revolutions if the fuel injectors are either leaking or clogged. If there is a problem with the fuel injector, it is most likely to be accompanied by other issues, including problems with ignition, an increased smell of fuel around the car and even misfiring.
Engine Warning Light is On
Having an engine warning light on means your vehicle has a significant problem which needs the attention of your trusted mechanic. Plenty of modern vehicles have engine control units that automatically puts the vehicle into limp mode when it detects a problem, reduces power in order to make sure that driving is safe and accidents are avoided. The warning light can be triggered with a false positive, which could also cause limp mode to get activated, though there is no underlying cause. In any event, it is ideal to still get the vehicle checked as this false positive could mean there’s an issue with the electronics.
Overheated Cooling System
There is a need to keep the engine at a particular temperature, and that is where the cooling system comes in. In exceedingly high temperatures, an overloaded cooling system would cause the cooling fan to even work harder, taking power away from the engine and decreasing performance levels. On the other hand, if the weather is cool and the engine is still overheating, this points to a more significant problem. Be sure to keep an eye on the engine temperature, as running with a hot engine will most likely cause serious permanent damage to a vehicle. In high altitudes where the air is thin, power loss from an overheated cooling system could also be experienced.
Why does my car struggle when accelerating?
Aside from clogged fuel filter and catalytic converter, as well as an incorrect fuel to air ratio, vehicles may also experience poor acceleration due to vacuum leaks, a defective throttle position sensor, and a defective idle air control valve. To get to the bottom of this problem, it is ideal to take the vehicle to a certified mechanic or repair shop and let them perform an engine diagnostic for slow acceleration.
Can a bad battery cause a car to lose power while driving?
You can get in trouble when your vehicle loses power while you are driving no matter where it happens. If you are in traffic, even in a slow one, you might get rear-ended if your vehicle stalls or loses power. Things can become more serious if your vehicle loses power on the highway. So we have prepared a pocket guide on how to identify the problem so you can resolve it before anything bad happens.
Check out the 5 most common reasons as to why a vehicle loses power while driving.
- Bad Battery
One of the most common reasons that vehicles stall is bad battery. A lot of people think that when a battery dies, the car will not start anymore. However, according to experts, when the battery goes bad, your vehicle will run but you are at risk of stalling out. The alternator has to work even harder to keep the engine running, when your battery is not producing enough power. When the alternator is overburdened, it puts more stress on the vehicle’s engine. It is the stress on the vehicle’s engine that really causes your vehicle to stall out or lose power.
It could also be due to corroded terminals that need to be replaced or cleaned. The battery is what supplies power to your vehicle’s electrical system, so if it is not working then the system will not get sufficient voltage, or the battery may even cause a short circuit that may lead to intermittent problems.
You can easily check the charge on your battery with a digital voltmeter. Here is how:
Turn off the car engine and headlights.
Open the hood and connect the voltmeter to the terminals on the battery.
(The positive (+) clamp on the voltmeter should be connected to the positive terminals on the battery.)
Lastly, connect the negative (-) clamp to the negative terminal.
Car batteries hold 12.66 volts. And a reading of 12.66 volts on the voltmeter means that the battery is fully charged. Any reading lower than 12.45 volts means the battery requires more charging.
- Fuel Pressure problems
Low fuel pressure is the culprit if your vehicle only stalls out while going up or down hills. Without sufficient fuel pressure, your vehicle won’t run reliably.
Despite having low fuel pressure, your vehicle can run normally in level ground, however, as soon as you head uphill, your vehicle will most likely stall without sufficient pressure. Fortunately, this problem is the easiest to fix.
Try checking or replacing the screen or fuel filters since having one of them clogged could lead to low fuel pressure problems.
- Gas with too much moisture
Having too much moisture in the gas could hinder it from properly burning, which disrupts engine performance. If your vehicle was working fine until the last time you top-up your gas tank, the problem is most probably due to excessive moisture in the gas. There’s two ways to fix this problem.
- Drain the gas tank and after that, fill it back up with fresh gas.
- If you do not want to waste the gas in your tank, take chances with the bad gas and drive your vehicle until it has used up all the compromised gas. And then, fill the tank back up with fresh gas from a different gas station.
- Fuel Pump
Sadly, there is usually no warning when the fuel pump gets dull. You will start to notice any issue after the car loses power. When it loses power or stalls out because of a bad fuel pump, you won’t be able to restart the vehicle.
The fuel pump normally makes a faint buzzing noise when it is running. If you do not hear any noise coming from the fuel tank when you attempt to start the vehicle, it is most probably due to a bad fuel pump. Since you cannot start your vehicle, your only option will be to contact roadside assistance and have your vehicle towed to the nearest repair facility.
- Electrical Wiring
If you have ruled out the reasons mentioned earlier, bad wiring could be the culprit. Try checking the idle speed control system to find out if it is bad wiring. Make sure that the wires are connected properly. You also have to make sure that they aren’t starting to corrode. Replacement of wires is inevitable once you notice corrosion.
It is common to hear cars losing power while driving since there are many aspects that you have to address to prevent it from happening. However, by having regular maintenance work done, you can avoid these issues.