Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

Q: Why is my car stalling when I try and start it?

asked by on

A couple of days ago it got really cold where I live. I got up to go to work and my 2002 pontiac grand prix wouldn't start. I would turn my key in the ignition and my car would rev up then die. The RPM meter kept going up and down. I checked my coolant pump and it's full of this rusty brown gunk. Same with my radiator. I've always had a small coolant leak but I would just top off the fluids and be good. I keep up on oil changes and gas treatments and there is no smoke coming from my car. There is also no coolant in my oil. Any idea what's wrong with my car? I don't want to get screwed over at a shop bc I'm a girl n don't know a lot about it.

My car has 146000 miles.
My car has an automatic transmission.

While the condition of your cooling system is certainly not healthy, it may or may not be related to the stalling issue. It is possible that due to the condition of the coolant, or merely coincidence, the coolant temperature sensor may not be sending the proper signal to the engine control unit. Engines need more fuel - a richer fuel mixture - to start and run properly when cold. If the engine control unit does not receive a proper signal from the coolant sensor, it may not make the fuel mixture rich enough to start or run properly when cold. Other components such as the mass air flow sensor, or even ambient (outside) air temperature sensor can cause similar issues. Also, if there is a vacuum leak somewhere in the intake system - sucking in too much air - this can effect the fuel mixture as well, causing the vehicle to stall. A broken/cracked air intake hose or leaking intake manifold gasket can cause this.

The best way to approach this, is have a certified technician look into the stalling issue to isolate the exact cause. Also, separately but as soon as possible, have the coolant leak and condition of the coolant addressed as this can lead to more severe issues.

Was this answer helpful?

Need advice from certified mechanic? Get help now!

Over 1000 mechanics are ready to answer your question.
The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Ask a Mechanic
(100% Free)

Have a car question? Get free advice from our top-rated mechanics.

Ask A Mechanic
Over 10,000 questions answered!

Get an instant quote for your car

Our certified mechanics come to you ・Backed by 12-month, 12,000-mile guarantee・Fair and transparent pricing

Get a quote

What others are asking

Q: My car is jerking back and forth at high speeds

The first thing that needs to be done is to connect a scanner to the car and retrieve the code. This information will lead a technician down a diagnostic path. There is an important distinction that needs to be made...

Q: Oil leaks when engine is idling

The oil leak may be the oil filter or oil pressure sensor. This is if the leak is engine oil. If it is power steering oil then the rack and pinion is leaking. If the brake fluid is low then...

Q: Shaking of 2002 Hyundai Elantra

Engine shakes a lot of times because either the engine or transmission mounts are worn, or they are not running correctly. First thing you want to do is--have that motor mounts and the transmission mounts checked. It's old enough, 14...

Related articles

How Long Does a Distributor O Ring Last?
The distributor is part of the ignition system in your vehicle and its purpose is to route high voltage from the ignition coil to the spark plug. The spark plug then...
How Long Does a Heater Control Valve Last?
Keeping the right amount of coolant in a car is essential in keeping the engine at the right temperature. Failing to have the right amount of coolant or even bad elements...
P0052 OBD-II Trouble Code: HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1)
P0052 code definition HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1) What the...