For about a week I'd have to hit the gas a couple times to get it started. Then was making a loud growling sound while driving. Yesterday was driving on the highway rpms went to 0 n the car just died. Won't start back up. All lights and radio turn on but all you can hear while trying to start it is the belt spinning.
My car has 160000 miles.
My car has an automatic transmission.
In my opinion your water pump was making the noise. This is one of many possible scenarios. 160K is roughly the amount of miles that a factory water pump will fail. It is driven by the timing belt. When it shows signs of failure, it will be hard to rotate, and would explain the hesitation to start. Once they are making noise, it is just a matter of time before they fail entirely. One of two things will happen, both with the same result. In one case, the water pump bearing will fail, tilting the pulley until the impeller contacts the engine block, seizing the pump and throwing the belt off. In the other case, it will seize, and the friction and heat will melt and snap the belt. The main issue with this is that your engine is an "interference" engine. This means if that belt fails, valves in the head will be damaged by contact with the piston.
The extent of the damage is only determined by removing the cylinder heads and inspecting the parts. There is a chance that no damage was done, but the fact that you were on the highway, makes this a very slim chance. Minor damage would be bent valves. They can be replaced. Major damage would be broken off valves that destroy the pistons, cylinder heads, and cylinders. In either case, it will be a labor intensive job. In my personal experience, it was cheaper to buy a used engine then to repair the old one.
Here’s what you need to do. Have the car’s stalling issue inspected by a mechanic. Check for trouble codes. Inspect the timing belt by removing one of the top covers. If it is shredded, then all of the above applies. If it looks intact, your problem could be something simple. I have seen some of the rubber teeth come off the timing belt. They fall down and get caught in the crankshaft sensor. It breaks the sensor, but it prevents the engine from running and causing major damage. The timing belt has to be removed to replace the crankshaft sensor. This is a good time to inspect all off the other pulleys and bearings. If they have not been replaced, now would be a good time.