Fort Collins Automotive Emergency: What To Do When Your Car Stalls

So many different things can cause a car to stall, but before calling your auto technician, ask yourself a question: Is the vehicle in question a GM? On February 7, 2014 GM recalled around a million of its vehicles due to a faulty ignition switch. This faulty switches can cause the engine to turn off. If you do have a GM, and, want to investigate if your particular is one of the models under recall, visit the GM Recall Center and enter your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). According to General Motors:

If you are driving an affected vehicle, until the ignition recall repairs have been performed, it is very important that you remove all items from your key ring, leaving only the vehicle key. The key fob (if applicable) should also be removed from your key ring. Before exiting the vehicle, it is very important for you to make sure the vehicle is in “Park”. For a manual transmission, put the transmission into reverse gear. In both automatic and manual transmission cars, set the parking brake.

If this is not the problem (the fact that GM sold you a defective car) , fixing a stalled vehicle is usually not very complicated. It takes remaining calm, some patience, and an understanding of the common instigators of stalling.

Stephen Clarkson

Car Repair CC Photo by Stephen Clarkson

Start by getting your car off of the road, over to the shoulder, or as far off the center of the road as is possible. It is easier to move a stalled vehicle in neutral, as opposed to putting it in drive, or a gear. Then turn on your hazard lights. This will warn other vehicles of your stalled presence, and help avoid a potential accident. Other drivers will know that you are parked, and that it’s due to a mechanical issue, and know to avoid your car. If you can’t move the car, and feel you are in danger, you can call 911 and ask for help from the State patrol, Sheriff’s office or local police department. Also, you can call your towing service or auto technician, or car service (like AAA). Most of all, don’t panic. Virtually everyone has experienced a car stall or 3 at some point. Fort Collins automotive techs are very familiar with car stalls and how to deal with it, so we’re going to give you a few tips and things to consider to get your car back on the road.

A car can lose power for several reasons, from simply running out of gas to having a faulty fuel pump or alternator. (In the recalled GM cars, the problem was an ignition switch that was flimsy and easy to switch off inadvertently.) First, put your car into neutral, and try restarting it. If this does not help, remain in neutral and get your car off the road as much as possible. Power steering will feel tight, but it is still functional. You might only get one or two pumps from your power brakes, so go easy, and use your emergency brake if necessary to stop the car once it is out of the road.


Overheating is a common culprit when it comes to engine stall. If your temperature indicator on the dash is moving to the red, pull over immediately and turn off the vehicle. You might be low on coolant, or your car might have a radiator leak. Give the engine ample time to cool down before opening the hood and checking either the radiator, or coolant levels. Never, under any circumstances, open a radiator cap or coolant reservoir when the engine is hot. It is very important to stop driving an overheated car as soon as possible, to avoid serious engine damage. As a quick stop gap, you can turn your heater on to it’s maximum level and blow some of that hot air out of the engine and into the vehicle. It will certainly not be comfortable, but it will help cool the engine down a bit by releasing some of the overheated air.

Out Of Gas?

It really might just be this simple. If not, it could be a loose connector, a clogged fuel filter, or an idle air control valve. These are easy fixes, and your mechanic will be able to quickly get your car back on the road. You will need to call your towing service and have the car taken to your Fort Collins automotive center.

Manuel Transmission

Stalls will happen more often when you’re operating a manual vehicle. Dropping a gear, or popping into the wrong one can stall manual transmissions. The easiest fix is to put on the handbrake and put the car into neutral. The engine should start. If it doesn’t, give the car a little gas and see if it works then. If you are still stalled, and you are not out of gas, nor has your car overheated, give your car service or auto technician a call, and ask for a tow.