Jeep Starts Then Dies Right Away: What Are the Main Causes?

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Having trouble getting your Jeep to run? If your engine starts, then suddenly dies, you might have a complex mechanical issue that’s expensive to fix — or you might be able to fix your issue in a few minutes without any tools. Here’s a quick rundown of the most common causes of Jeeps stalling within a few seconds of starting and what you can do to fix them.

Main causes of why your Jeep might start then cut out

Battery Connection is poor

Your engine relies on a steady connection with the battery in order to run. If the circuit between the engine and the battery is obstructed, the engine may still crank but then fail a few seconds later.

The first step to diagnosing this problem is to inspect your battery. Are the terminals dirty? Do the cables look worn or damaged? A bit of WD-40 or another degreaser on a rag can work wonders to clean your battery terminals. I’ve fixed more engine problems than I’d like to admit by cleaning off the gunk from my battery.

If your Jeep still has problems, consider trying a different battery or even testing your battery in another vehicle. Battery replacements tend to be a lot less pricey than fixing other components, so making sure your battery isn’t the source of your issue is a good place to start.

Fuel Pump Malfunction or Leak

The fuel pump is responsible for taking gas from your gas tank and feeding it to your engine. If there’s an issue with this critical component, your engine won’t get the fuel it needs to run. Working on your fuel pump is something that’s best left to a mechanic for most Jeeps. You’ll need to remove the fuel tank, which is not the sort of thing I’m comfortable suggesting people do in their garages. Spilled gasoline is dangerous

If you suspect that your fuel pump has a leak or issue, take your car to a mechanic as soon as possible. You don’t want to be spraying fuel around when you drive, even if it’s in very small quantities.

As your Jeep gets older, be sure to periodically replace the fuel filter to avoid issues with fuel flow. These filters should be replaced every 40,000 to 80,000 miles. Unlike the fuel pump, replacing this is fairly sane to do yourself.

Again, however, you should take spilled fuel seriously and make sure that you’re equipped to deal with the inevitable flow of gas from unhooked tubes and cables during the process. If you’ve got any doubts about this process talk to a mechanic for assistance. I’d much rather spend a few extra bucks for professional help than burn down my garage.

Fuel Injection Sensor issue

Fuel injection sensors tell your car’s computer how much fuel is in the engine. If these sensors are malfunctioning, the ECU (or engine control unit) will send too much or too little fuel, flooding or starving the engine. These are complex parts that are best tested by trained mechanics, so you’ll have to trust the professionals for this issue.

An OBDII scanner can help figure out that you’ve got issues with electronic parts like this. Scanning your car for error codes will be one of the first steps a mechanic takes in diagnosing your issues, but you can pick up a cheap scanner at your local auto parts store or online if you’d like to take a look for yourself.

Problem with the ignition

Your car relies on sparks from the spark plugs to ignite gas in the cylinders. Issues with spark plugs are common in vehicles that die shortly after starting up. If you can, try removing your spark plugs, visually inspecting them, and cleaning them off. This is definitely a thing you can do yourself, but you’ll need a bit of patience to get to the point where you can access your plugs. While you’re removing your plugs, be sure to inspect the cables that connect them to the car’s electrical system as well.

If cleaning your spark plugs doesn’t fix your issue (or if your spark plugs are visibly damaged), you may need to replace your spark plugs. A full set for a Jeep is usually between $30 and $60, depending on model and year. If you noticed damage to the spark plug cables, you may need to replace these critical wires to supply electricity to your new plugs.

Engine Control Unit (ECU) problem

Even if your engine’s sensors are all working fine, it’s ultimately up to your Jeep’s ECU to determine what to do with that information. A faulty ECU might misinterpret the data your sensors are giving it, fail to correctly adjust the flow of fuel to your engine, or fail to send critical signals that tell various engine components what to do to keep running.

Just like with a faulty sensor, an OBDII reader can help diagnose this sort of issue. If you have a scanner, stick it in and investigate any error codes your vehicle is throwing. If you don’t, consider taking your car to a local auto shop or mechanic and asking if they can perform a scan. While it might not be typical everywhere, many of the auto parts stores in my area perform this service for free.

Alarm System is malfunctioning

Some Jeeps are too smart for their own good. It’s not uncommon for Jeeps with electronic anti-theft measures to cut fuel flow to the engine if they think they’re being stolen. One common culprit for this issue is a faulty key. Modern car keys have chips inside of them that tell your car’s computer that you’re a legitimate owner and that you should start the car. If your key’s chip is bad (possibly due to a bad battery inside your key, although these chips are supposed to not require power), your car won’t run.

Similarly, if your car’s chip reader is malfunctioning, it won’t detect that your key is valid and it’ll kill the engine. Some cars have alarm systems more complex than these, but you’ll probably want to talk to a dealer or mechanic about diagnosing or fixing those issues.

If you suspect this is your issue, the easiest thing to try is to use a different key and replace the battery on the keys you have. Both of these fixes are very inexpensive, potentially allowing you to solve your issue in just a few dollars.