Car Starts Then Dies Immediately? (Here’s How to Fix it)

The starting moment of a car engine is the most critical. If there is a small issue, it may cause the car to start and then stop immediately. Here's what could be the reasons

car starts then stops

What could be more irritating than a car that starts for a couple of seconds then shuts off completely, and this happens every time you try?

Not a lot of things if you ask me! You should know that it is a quite common problem, so you are definitely not alone, and there are some easy fixes to this.

In this article, we will go through the 10 most common reasons why your car starts then dies immediately. So let’s begin with a quick look at the most common reasons why this problem would occur.

The most common reason a car starts then dies immediately is a lack of fuel injected into the engine. It can also be a faulty immobilizer not recognizing the car key. The lack of fuel issue is most often caused by a clogged fuel filter or a bad fuel pump.

However, these are just some of the most common causes and there are actually many more. Here is a more detailed list of the most common reasons why your car starts then dies:

10 Causes of Car Starts Then Stops Immediately

1. Lack of Fuel

fuel injector spray

The most common reason why your car starts then dies is because of a lack of fuel in the engine. This does often happen because there is a small amount of fuel in the fuel rail, which helps the engine start, but there is no fuel pressure to keep the engine alive.

Lack of fuel is pretty easy to locate, though. Either you can connect a fuel pressure gauge on the fuel rail or lose a bolt there carefully when you crank the engine to see if you have any fuel pressure. Be careful, so you do not set anything on fire, though.

If you realize your car has low fuel pressure, you can check out our other article about Low Fuel pressure.

2. Anti-Theft Alarm System

unlock car

The second most common thing is any problem with the immobilizer or anti-theft alarm system. When the anti-theft system is activated, the car will not send any power to the fuel pump, which builds fuel pressure in the fuel rail. This will cause the car to start for some seconds, as we talked about before.

If the anti-theft alarm system is from the factory, you should have a key symbol on your dashboard that should turn off a couple of seconds after turning the ignition. If it is not – try to lock and unlock your car and try again. If it’s still lightened up, there might be a problem with your car key.

If you have an aftermarket anti-theft alarm, there might actually be a problem with the alarm itself or a bad remote.

3. Dirty Fuel Filter

fuel filter

If the car stops after turning on the ignition, the problem could lack fuel, as we talked about before. A fuel filter is a widespread thing that causes low fuel pressure.

The fuel filter is a filter that you should replace after a schedule, which depends on your car model. If you haven’t replaced it for a long time, it might actually be clogged.

Fuel filters are often quite easy to replace and not very costly. If you have low fuel pressure, it can be worth trying to replace it.

4. Bad Idle Control Valve

idle control valve

The idle control valve‘s function is to keep the idle steady of your car. Newer cars control the idle with the throttle body, but if you have an older car with a steel wire to the throttle body – you have an idle control valve.

Often this idle control valve can become dirt, and this will cause the idle not to work properly. You can try to clean this valve to see if it gets better. Otherwise, you have to replace it or repair the wirings to it.

5. Vacuum Leak

car vacuum hoses

The throttle body or idle control valve controls the idle by regulating the amount of air entering the intake manifold. If you have a major vacuum leak, this can actually cause the car’s air-fuel mixture to become too lean and dies after a couple of seconds every time you try to start your car.

Vacuum leaks are often quite easy to locate, either using an EVAP smoke machine or just listening for the leak, as it will often cause a high pitching sound.

6. Faulty Spark Plugs

wet spark plug

The combustion engine works by igniting an air-fuel mixture. The spark plugs provide the spark for this ignition. The pistons move up and down, which leads to movements in the crankshaft and the wheel axles.

If the spark plugs are faulty, the ignition will fail, and the car will stop moving. This can cause the car to start for some second but misfire too much with a weak spark so that the engine will die very soon.

7. Fuel Injector

fuel injectors e1609793590952

The fuel is injected under high pressure into the combustion chamber with the help of the fuel injectors. The fuel injectors’ job is to regulate, so the exact needed amount of fuel will enter the combustion chamber.

If a fuel injector fails, it can cause the engine to run on fewer cylinders and also cause the fuel pressure to become low if one is stuck open.

You can try to feel on the fuel injectors with your hand while cranking to see if they click. If they are not making any clicking sound, one of them might be faulty.

8. Faulty Ignition Switch

ignition switch wiring

If your ignition switch is damaged, you may start the car normally, and after a few seconds, the car will come to a complete stop. If your ignition switch is defective, you must check the switch contacts for wear.

The ignition switch is located behind the car’s ignition lock. In newer cars, it is most often impossible to replace the ignition switch itself; you have to replace the whole ignition lock.

9. Faulty EGR Valve

egr valve engine

The EGR valve controls the exhausts that should be recirculated into the engine. If the EGR valve is stuck open, it may enter too much air into the intake manifold.

This can cause the mixture to get too lean, which will also, therefore, cause the car to start and then die after a couple of seconds.

10. Engine Control Unit (ECU)

engine control unit

The ECU is a computer system that controls various engine functions, including the fuel injection system. Since a vehicle needs fuel to move, any ECU malfunction will cause the vehicle to come to a halt after starting.

The ECU controls the engine components via a series of sensors. Over time, the sensors become faulty and pass on erroneous information to the ECU. In this case, you must take your car to a car repair shop.

Written by:

Magnus is the owner and main author of MechanicBase. He has been working as a mechanic for over 10 years, and the majority of them specialized in advanced diagnostics and troubleshooting. He has also been a motorsport (drifting) driver for over 5 years.