Car stalling: why it happens and how to avoid it
Car stalling got you at the wrong time? Most of us think car stalling is only a classic problem for learner drivers. But people can stall their car at any point in their driving lifetime and there are reasons why.
If your car stalls, it can be a tad scary for you and your passengers, especially if you’re in motion. If your car is stalling; it may be that you just need a little more practice behind the wheel. But if it’s happening regularly, there may be an issue with your car. Don’t worry, it doesn’t always mean it’s your fault, but it’s good to know why it might stall and what you can do about it.
Why do cars stall?
So here’s the thing. Car engines need a certain number of revs to keep going, and at a standstill, your engine is fine. The problem is when you let the clutch go up too fast, because it slows the revs and it cuts out, also known as car stalling.
We get it. Most people go through a car stalling phase when they start learning to drive, you’re not alone. It’s not because you can’t drive, it’s just the nerves and distractions.
How to not stall a car
If your car stalls, deal with it quickly, safely and confidently:
- If the car judders, you can press the clutch down and that might actually stop the car stalling altogether
- If your car stalls, secure your car with the handbrake first, press your clutch down and turn the engine back on
- Find the ‘bite’, where you’ve got enough revs to get going. You might need more for when you’re on a hill.
- Make sure you do all your usual checks before heading off
- Release the handbrake and let the clutch up slowly – too fast, and you’ll stall again
Common places you’ll stall
- When you’re slowing down: When the car’s barely rolling forward, you might need to keep the clutch pressed a bit to stop it from stalling.
- When you’re pulling the car out: Your mirrors are clear and you’re ready to go. But as soon as you pull out, you stall. Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us.
- When you’re doing a hill start: Hills are tricky, and we’ve got an article on hill starts to help you out.
- When you’re reversing: You’re usually driving very slow when you’re reversing, so it’s likely to stall if you’re not careful.
- When you’re trying to park: Looking at all your mirrors, trying to get that perfect grocery shop spot and so many cars, people and trollies around – lots of pressure there.
Can you fail your driving test for stalling?
The test is going so well and then you stall? Don’t worry, examiners see it all the time and it’s not the road to failure. Just stay calm, remember your Mirror-Signal-Manoeuvre moves and the steps above and it won’t be counted as a driving test fault. Panicking will make it worse, so keep the confidence in yourself. Check out our article on how to prepare and what to expect on your driving test day for more handy hints.
When you use the clutch pedal to control the manual movement of the car, that’s clutch control. Most of us don’t get it the first few times we start learning to drive, but as you keep practicing, you’ll have clutch control like a pro.
What’s the biting point?
The biting point is when you release the clutch so that the clutch and engine plates move close together. It means that the engine’s at the right point to move the car, and you can usually feel a bit of pressure or a ‘tug’ when you find it.
Don’t worry, the biting point’s different for every car so it might take you a while to get used to finding it if you move to another car. You’re doing great.
How to avoid car stalling when parking
You’re driving slowly when you’re parking, so it’s easier to stall. Remember if you’re going forward, you want to keep the car in first gear because too high a gear will make your car stall. If you feel like your car is about to stall, just press the clutch down and start again. You’ll get the hang of it, and we’ve also got an article on reverse parking into a bay for some extra tips.
Can you stall an automatic car?
If you have an automatic car, it shouldn’t stall because it has something call a torque converter. That’s a fancy word for something that makes sure your engine keeps running. If your automatic car is stalling, you’ll need to get it checked.
Can a weak battery cause a car to stall?
There are lots of other reasons that a car might stall that has nothing to do with your driving skills, and we’ve got a few reasons here:
1. There’s something wrong with your car battery
Your battery might be too weak, worn out or corroded and things need replacing. Check your battery cables, and you can use a voltmeter or find a mechanic to check if your battery is dead.
2. There something wrong with the car electrical system
Technology. A saviour or a hassle? If communication fails, your car will fail too… in other words, stall. You’ll need a professional to check those wires for you.
3. There’s something wrong with your fuel system
Your engine needs fuel, but not too much and too little won’t work either. Cracks, clogs or even water getting into the fuel can be a problem, and cause major car stalling. Yikes.
4. No proper airflow
If you’re living in a dusty area, your car has more of a risk of stalling if you don’t maintain and regularly change your air filter. The filter can get dirty and clogged with pollutants like smoke and cause the car to stall. Check out our article on the essential car maintenance checklist
5. The timing belt’s damaged
The timing belt holds different parts to work in sync together, and if this is worn, then you’re in for trouble. It makes your car stall but can also damage the inside of the engine, so best not to leave this till later.
If it’s one of these problems when your car stalls, make sure you move out of danger, put your hazard lights on and call for help.
Car stalls at idle
If this happens, it’s probably one of the problems above or something similar. You won’t be able to move it to the side if you’re in the middle of the road, so you’ll need to call the police and your breakdown cover.
You’ll also need to get it checked out and don’t drive it until you do, or it could put you and others in danger, especially on busy roads. Better to be safe than sorry folks.
Is stalling bad for your car?
It can put some stress on the components in the car if you keep stalling over and over, but it probably won’t be the reason for killing your car completely. There’s probably a bigger reason if that happens.
If you’re still trying to perfect the driving and reduce the car stalling, we might be able to help you out with some learner driver insurance if you’re borrowing a friend or family member’s car. If you just need a little, we can cover you for as little as 2 hours, and if you need a bit more, you can have it up to 180 days. You’ve got this.