Mechanics: What would YOU do, if your car just shut off?...

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  #1  
Old 05-09-08, 06:42 AM
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Mechanics: What would YOU do, if your car just shut off?...

...like right in an intersection or anywhere on the road?

To be prepared in advance is a real plus. I have been hearing more and more about these computer controlled cars we have today that without warning just suddenly shut off.

If this were to happen to you...listed in order... just what would you start to check if you had say a multimeter with you and had hand tools and some supplies with you like wire, wire nuts, tape, etc.?

Obviously, not all cars are exactly alike. One car might have a standard coil and distributor with pickup coil. Another might have coil packs and cam and/or crankshaft position sensors.

Please list for each basic type of car, where you would start, and what you would do, to save the agony of the moment, including embarrassment, dealing with roadside know-it-alls, the police, having to call a wrecker and the expense of it, calling a friend or relative to come and get you,etc.

Maybe it could be something where you could get yourself at least home by wiring up something directly to the battery or asking some good samaritan to run and get you something at the auto parts store (I had someone do that very thing for me once, and I was able to get home from 25 miles away), or something?

Most people wait til they have a problem, then post about it here at DIY. But obviously, that would not be too feasible while out there on the road and this happened to you. Hence this post.

Now, if your car seemed like it was running out of gas before it stopped, I can think right off how it be good that after it shut off, to retry the key to "on" to see if you get that hum of the fuel pump. That would be the first thing I'd do. Then you have to try to find if you have power going to the fuel pump, and the connection is good, before condemning the fuel pump.

But, with the car abruptly shutting off, like someone turned off the key, there again there should be a quick series of tests one should perform, to try to quickly find what the problem is.

I was inspired for this thread by seeing some motorist along an on ramp yesterday, throw his hood open in disgust, and thought how awful that would be to feel that sense of hopelessness. Been there.

.................

I came back to add that some cars are equipped with a security system, and one must have the understanding also of what these can and cannot do in the way of perhaps causing such a problem. Or if not teh symptom my post deals with, at least in knowing perhaps where to test, to rule the security system out, if your car will not start.
 

Last edited by ecman51; 05-09-08 at 07:02 AM. Reason: added last paragraph
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Old 05-09-08, 08:14 AM
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unless you are a pretty knowledgeable mechanic, my advise is to get the number to a GOOD RELIABLE towing service and keep it in my wallet. not much you can do on the side of the road anymor. PROGRESS! i won't even attempt any repairs on the side of the road. DO NOT leave the car any longer than necessary!!
 
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Old 05-09-08, 11:20 AM
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Originally Posted by mikeTN View Post
....get the number to a GOOD RELIABLE towing service and keep it in my wallet.
Hey, that's supposed to be MY line.

ecman pm'd me about posting this question and at the time I was only thinking about Forum rules, etc. Now having read the question and given it some thought, I have to pretty much agree with mike. The days are mostly over where when your car dies going down the road, you can actually throw up the hood and have much chance of diagnosing it and getting going again. About all you can hope to do when you put the hood up is flag your car as disabled. The good news is that with 99% of the population carrying a cell phone, a tow guy isn't too far away usually. Likely all you can do on the spot is check for spark by pulling a plug wire (provided you have an assistant to crank it for you) and listen at the gas cap for the fuel pump to be running. Problem is, even if you narrow it down to spark or fuel delivery there's not a whole lot you can accomplish on the side of the road. Checking all fuses is one thing you can be familiar with, i.e. where the fuse panels are located. If it's spark, could be any one of half a dozen (at least) components with a problem. If it's fuel, you can check the pump fuse and thump on the outside the tank a few times. Beyond that, again, going to need a mechanic. There are a couple of make-specific items you can check, such as the fuel inertial cutoff/reset switch in the trunks of many Ford products.
 
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Old 05-09-08, 11:55 AM
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Just lost my post and get absolutely infuriated when that happens, as I am so busy today/off for lunch for a few minutes.

Mike,

You mean to tell me that if this was your own car you would not try to find out what was wrong, out of desperation?

I think there are quite a few half-way handy shade tree mechanic types that lurk or post here that would like to know at least where they might start to look. Especially if they are like me and carry say a voltmeter, flashlight, tools, strapping tape, etc. in their trunk.

I have already cut out transmission line and strapped up my engine falling out. Crawled under vehicle in cold of winter in the dark searching for where taillight wiring went bad (and found it and fixed), so the police would let me drive the many miles home. I've changed out alternator on the interstate. Change out fuel pump along major highway. Helped old lady find why her car did not start in parking lot, and found bad fusible link and made the repair for her on the spot with undersized wire splice, acting as a new fusible link, so she could drive home with her many bags of groceries.

If you are of this type and caliber, all we need is some more info pertaining to todays cars. And right from mechanics mouths. Like - what would the mechanic at the shop try to do? If he does THAT, tell US that, so we can check these areas out.

Carguy was trying to explain the wires to check to test if say the computer module or the pickup coil or the coil went bad in a car. It's specific advice like that that would be nice for everyone to know.

Ranks up there with learning certain medical conditions where you can do something about it yourself without always having to run to the emergency room.
 
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Old 05-09-08, 12:07 PM
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Originally Posted by the_tow_guy View Post
Checking all fuses is one thing you can be familiar with, i.e. where the fuse panels are located. If it's spark, could be any one of half a dozen (at least) components with a problem.
Good. This a good start, for all to follow. They may not have thought of that. Some vehicles have both fuse boxes under dash/glove box AND under the hood on fender and I have even heard of circuit breakers. That is a start. Everyone needs to familiarize, and make sure you have extras, especially before a long trip.

If there is a half dozen items, - what are they, so people may look. They could see if say a wire is bad, even at those areas. Maybe see if 12 volt electrical is going to or coming out of some of these things could be tested.

Like I said, you could have someone run you or have them run to the auto parts store to get the part so you can fix.

Depending on where the car broke down, if it was conjested you could maybe have helpful people push the car out of the way so you can work on it, so you are not as desperate and can think better.

Maybe some people just don't get as panicky as I do, getting stranded. Have no wife to call. People I could call would talk my ear off and tell me what they want me to fix for them for the entire ride, etc.
 
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Old 05-09-08, 01:27 PM
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honestly, about the only thing i really would be curious about is the area i'd be diagnosing, rather than trying to fix something on the side of the road. Call me spoiled, but making do with a shoestring and bubble gum while holding a flashlight is more trouble than it's worth.

my approach would be to try to determine if there is a mechanical issue, ie: the timing belt. that's normally a listen while cranking thing. next i'd want to know if it's a fuel or fire thing...keep in mind, this is exactly the same methods i use if your car is towed into where i work. TTG is right, if you can listen to hear if the pump runs, that's something...but it's not much. you still don't know anything about pressure AND volume of fuel. let's say you have pressure, are you getting injector drive?, you'd need a noid light for that. what if you have no noid light, check for voltage available. now...if you have no noid light flashing, what would i do? check the ignition sytem...

you can also pull a plug wire off and crank maybe...here a spark tester helps because it puts some stress on the ign coil. if it'll jump that gap, it's capable of starting the engine. does this mean that you could have no injector drive, spark and STILL have an ignition problem...YES!

the ignition system on many makes receives the crank input first...esp if it's a pulse generator type signal. it's conditioned by the ICM, sent to the PCM and then back to the ICM AND fuel injectors.

are you starting to see why i wouldn't do this on the side of the road? There's enough variation in cars that i always print a wire diagram and review the manufacturers "no-start" diagnostics before I begin. the cost of a tow is far outweighed by the aggravation of trying to "make do" when i could have the car where all my "stuff" is.

for you who carry a service manual, the diagnostics are in there...read them and familiarize yourself with them. purchase the appropriate tools to get by with...and get yourself a GOOD understanding of the theory and control strategies associated with your particular ignition and fuel system.
 
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Old 05-09-08, 02:10 PM
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Now this is a very good topic disscuission here.,,


as far The Tow Guy , Carguyinva and MikeTN.,,

They pretty much hit on the nail on this subject. and i am pretty much agree with them it will be much wiser to get the vechile towed to the cerified garage or someplace very safe and able to do the trobleshooting in proper way.

i am glad i caught this topic here due this moring i got a unuseal service call something normally i don't do very often but it was pretty brand new semi truck broke down right front of my shop and the driver walked in and asked for help due my bussiness i am both electrician and diesel mechanic so ok.,, walk out and see what the sisuation was.

I told him he can concat his company to see what the option to go from there and the company told him that just tow the truck to my shop and leave it there and they gave me the athorizeation to go ahead and do the troubeshooting and the whole thing was caused a bad ECM module [ a short inside of unit ] and got the new ECM set up and got it running.

now let get back to the topic sorry for getting off track for a min.

really #1 rule for many car owner is get famuiar with the car set up like example where is the fuse box and relay box located those item is most common curpit and can able useally i say useally can be done on the spot if you have spare fuse on hand [ unforetally i did see more than fair share majotry of the owner dont useally carry spare fuses at all ]

but more than that due most modern car and truck are controlled by computer it can really do more compated troubeshooting then the old "school " engine setup which it was very simple and can able fix it on the spot and be back on the road real quick.

but really baiscially some time some loose connection on something can actally stop them in the track useally wiggle the connecton can get running again. [ not always the case.]

In case you wondering and thinking about this are we steer you wrong.,,, in fact we are not steer you wrong at all.,

and what more peoples have cell phone /text message devices and they usally get sometype of help pretty fast.

Merci,Marc
 
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Old 05-09-08, 04:24 PM
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Originally Posted by carguyinva View Post
the timing belt. ...listen to hear if the pump runs...are you getting injector drive?,... check the ignition sytem...

you can also pull a plug wire off and crank ....the ignition system on many makes receives the crank input first...esp if it's a pulse generator type signal. it's conditioned by the ICM, sent to the PCM and then back to the ICM AND fuel injectors.


for you who carry a service manual, the diagnostics are in there...read them and familiarize yourself with them. purchase the appropriate tools to get by with...and get yourself a GOOD understanding of the theory and control strategies associated with your particular ignition and fuel system.
I deleted parts of the post so that things left standing are those things one could maybe think about/look at.

I also thought of the alternator not charging and causing engine to finally quit, if driver was unaware the gauge reading dropped. If that was me and it was the alternator or belt?, no question I'd be changing it out on the road and use the $75 for IT rather than a tow.

It is all this stuff mentioned, so far, that if anyone is truly interested in cars and hates a hassle, and hates to spend money - that if you pehaps prepared in advance, studied up on your particular car and wrote down some key things to check on a piece of paper, and keep it in your glove box, you could maybe at least check certain things. I realize that aftermarket manuals have troubleshooting guides, but often these are not totally detailed. You might have to inquire more deeply on how to conduct certain key tests.
 
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Old 05-09-08, 04:30 PM
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Originally Posted by french277V View Post
... i am glad i caught this topic here due this moring i got a unuseal service call something normally i don't do very often but it was pretty brand new semi truck broke down right front of my shop ...i am both electrician and diesel mechanic
Did not know you also were a mechanic.
 
  #10  
Old 05-09-08, 05:13 PM
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Originally Posted by ecman51` View Post
Did not know you also were a mechanic.
Mais Úvidemment, mon ami!

[How'd I do, Marc?]
 
  #11  
Old 05-09-08, 06:31 PM
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Too many break down in areas where, if you have your head under the hood, some thug is going to slam it on you and lift your wallet and cell phone in the process.

Either stay in the car or a safe spot and call the Tow Guy.

As we say, Trip** A if you've got all day.
 
  #12  
Old 05-09-08, 06:56 PM
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Originally Posted by ecman51` View Post
Just lost my post and get absolutely infuriated when that happens, as I am so busy today/off for lunch for a few minutes.

Mike,

You mean to tell me that if this was your own car you would not try to find out what was wrong, out of desperation?

I think there are quite a few half-way handy shade tree mechanic types that lurk or post here that would like to know at least where they might start to look. Especially if they are like me and carry say a voltmeter, flashlight, tools, strapping tape, etc. in their trunk.

I have already cut out transmission line and strapped up my engine falling out. Crawled under vehicle in cold of winter in the dark searching for where taillight wiring went bad (and found it and fixed), so the police would let me drive the many miles home. I've changed out alternator on the interstate. Change out fuel pump along major highway. Helped old lady find why her car did not start in parking lot, and found bad fusible link and made the repair for her on the spot with undersized wire splice, acting as a new fusible link, so she could drive home with her many bags of groceries.

If you are of this type and caliber, all we need is some more info pertaining to todays cars. And right from mechanics mouths. Like - what would the mechanic at the shop try to do? If he does THAT, tell US that, so we can check these areas out.

Carguy was trying to explain the wires to check to test if say the computer module or the pickup coil or the coil went bad in a car. It's specific advice like that that would be nice for everyone to know.

Ranks up there with learning certain medical conditions where you can do something about it yourself without always having to run to the emergency room.
i have changed a 2 piece driveshaft in 8 inches of snow. changed out a fuel pump on the side of the interstate in rush hour traffic. drove home without a clutch in rush hour traffic. re installed an axle that the clip fell out of(chevy) on the side of the road. crossed 4 lanes of busy interstate to help my son who had my el-camino. changed a flat on the interstate. held a flare for traffic on the interstate after my son wrecked his Karman-Ghia on the way to college with traffic all around at 70MPH and gas flowing from the tank. stopped in heavy traffic to help/give ride to people. i can't even remember the rest. YEAH! i have diagnosed and fixed a lot of things on the road and would still do a prelim check to find what the problem might be. HOWEVER! i can't carry enough tools to repair everything that may go wrong and SURELY don't want to do it where some IDIOT might run me over, wreck my car/truck and kill my passengers. the$
50.00/$100.00 it may cost to put my vehicle on a roolback is well worth the money. i will try to repair it at home if possible, but that is where all my tools are. yes, i have a wrecker company number in my wallet. money is NOT the end it all!
 
  #13  
Old 05-09-08, 09:45 PM
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towing riders on your car insurance are cheap, shure there are somethings we can check on the side of the road but with todays cars it usually will be something you need specialized tools for.
sorry emcan51
life begins when the kids leave home and the dog dies
 
  #14  
Old 05-09-08, 10:41 PM
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Originally Posted by ecman51` View Post
Did not know you also were a mechanic.
Yep., Ecman51 the reason why i am mechanic also due i have to work on alot of generators that the reason why i have to work on both side of the trade to order get the job done.
Some of them are pretty simple job like do the routine check the fluids, battries [ most useally have 2 or more on it ] check the belts, check charger performace, check engine block heater [ non crictail units are optional on this part but crictail it mantory to be on all the time with thermosat controlled to keep the coolant tempture about 120~140░F {48~60░C} range ]

Most of the generators i useally deal are pretty large in size typically 250KW or larger the largest one to date this year is 3.2 MW [ 3200KW ] but history wise i done much larger than that.

And yes i can rebuilt the engine as need to but if the damage is way too bad useally swap the whole engine.

Merci,Marc

{side note here i do have serveral engine manufacter athorizeation due i repair quite few common small and large engines type}
 
  #15  
Old 05-09-08, 10:45 PM
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Originally Posted by the_tow_guy View Post
Mais Úvidemment, mon ami!

[How'd I do, Marc?]
Tres Bein Merci !

Merci,Marc

[ Very good , Thanks ]
 
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Old 05-09-08, 11:21 PM
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Just to add My .02

First off, Very rarely does a car shutdown in a parking space , or in a rest area. It is often in the middle of a Busy Intersection, the Left lane of a major Highway, or a deserted back road in the middle of the night. Primary priority is to "get out of harms way" as quickly as possible.

As far as carrying a few BASIC TOOLS........The tools needed to properly diagnose and Enable most of todays vehicles, would require a "Roll away" tool box in the trunk. It just isnt feasible. After you are out of oncoming traffic, and out of danger, a quick look under the hood for the OBVIOUSLY WRONG, and Call a Tow. If your insistent on fixing it yourself, tow it to your house and fix it there. After the aggravation of being stranded , or being late for an appointment, your mind is in no condition to think rationally, and further damage to the vehicle, or worse, personal Injury is likely.

Carguy mentioned a "NOID LIGHT". This is a small circuit tester that plugs into the INJ harness connector. Problem is, without this SPECIAL Tester, a common 12v Test lamp , when used in place of the NOID...can seriously and irreperably damage electronic modules, and leave you in a worse spot than you started. Even something as simple as Giving, or getting a Jumpstart, can cause enough of a spike to damage both vehicles.

Several Guys have mentioned knowing the location of your FUSEBOX.
I have a pet peeve with someone replacing a fuse to fix a problem. It may get you going , But fuses dont blow by themselves. Something overloaded it. Its like putting a Bandaid on a gun shot wound.....Sooner or later, it is going to either bleed out, or get infected....

It is safer, and in many cases less costly, to have it towed.
The tow bill seems of little consequence when you finally sitting on YOUR couch, In your home, after the ordeal you have just been thru. There is something about getting "HOME" that calms even the worst situations.
 
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Old 05-10-08, 06:48 PM
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adding towing to your car insurance is pretty cheap...
 
  #18  
Old 05-10-08, 07:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Speedwrench View Post
towing riders on your car insurance are cheap, shure there are somethings we can check on the side of the road but with todays cars it usually will be something you need specialized tools for.
sorry emcan51
life begins when the kids leave home and the dog dies

I will never get one of those turned sideways 6 cylinders from all the awful things I read. I love my 4-banger with 258,000 miles and no oil changes (in years). Already was able to repop a rocker arm back in without special tools. Only took minutes to undo 2 covers. Changing the radiator was a breeze. Alternator, belts, and distributor out front and/or unobstructed. No trick to get out plugs. Easy to pop timing cover to inspect. Light bulbs all change out with a twist, and turn from inside without any lense covers to remove.

Carguy gave me helpful hints on neighbors identical car on specific wires to check when his car shut off abruptly. Maybe it's rare to be the self-sufficient type that I am.
 
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Old 05-10-08, 07:11 PM
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Originally Posted by carguyinva View Post
adding towing to your car insurance is pretty cheap...
Something I've never thought of. Parents have AAA, but did not think about the actual insurance company also having this feature.
 
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Old 05-10-08, 08:33 PM
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my tow rider is about "$12.00 a year. i have used it maybe twice in about 5 years.

life begins when the kids leave home and the dog dies
 
  #21  
Old 05-11-08, 06:50 AM
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I have a suspicion a LOT of people have towing on their car insurance and don't even know it. I even have it on mine, just in case we're on the road. Mostly they have a limit (often $50, which won't get you far these days), but on the plus side, you can call any towing company you want and not have to wait a couple of hours for your motor club dispatched one to show up. You DO have to pay for the tow up front and then submit the invoice for reimbursement in most cases. I often mention it to customers who call me when they get tired of waiting for the motor club.
 
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Old 05-11-08, 02:11 PM
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I'm going to ask my local insurance agent about this, Tow.
 
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