Car Engine Dies While Driving – Hard To Restart

car died while driving wont startI’ve had good blessings working on Nissan’s and they are really good cars, but this one has me stumped

I recently drove to California in my Nissan Altima and everything was running fine. All of a sudden (about 3-4 weeks later after arrival), my car just shut itself off in mid transit. For a week and a half I didn’t know what was wrong. I checked the battery and the cells were bone dry. I put water back in the cells and everything seemed fine

Another 2 weeks, I have the same problem except now the car would not start up at all. After 4-6 times, it would again. I thought that my battery was completely bad, so I went to Autozone and got a new one.

When I put the new one in, the car still wouldn’t turn over. It wouldn’t stop in mid transit anymore, but still takes 4-6 times to turn over. I researched the battery and came up to the conclusion that the battery I purchased has 525 cold cranking amps and the standard for the car is 575.

Also, when I had a diagnostic ran on the car, it read that the crankshaft censor was the issue. If I take it to Nissan, that is $300 to fix. Other than that the car runs like a dream. I find it hard to believe a car would malfunction a little over two years.

I’m stymied, can you help me

Thank you

Hey there Leroy,

Thanks for your email. I am a little confused here as well, but let me say this and see if this helps you determine which direction to go in.

When the engine dies (while you have been driving) AND the there is NO battery power to turn the engine over, you most likely have a battery, alternator or bad battery cable connection type of problem.

If the engine looses battery power while it is running…it stops running and the battery will be totally dead and you will either need to jump start or boost the battery to get the engine to turn over again.

If when the engine dies as you are driving, AND there is still battery power to turn the engine over and over again to try and restart the engine, then you probably do have a crankshaft position sensor or some other type of sensor type of problem and the size of the cold cranking amps of the battery will have no bearing on this type of “no start” condition…because you have battery power you are either missing fuel pressure or spark to the spark plugs to start the engine.

So to recap, if when the engine dies…and there is NO battery power, I would suspect a bad battery, alternator or bad or loose connection at the battery cables as the problem.

If the engine dies and there is battery power to turn the engine over, then you are missing one of the other main ingredients to start the engine…fuel pressure and spark to the spark plugs.

The crankshaft sensor controls spark to the spark plug BUT I would not run out and replace that sensor until you get a qualified mechanic to diagnose this complaint for you starting from scratch. And AutoZone is not a good place to have this type of diagnosis done, I would prefer the dealership.

One last thing. A crankshaft position code will probably be stored in your computer anyway because the engine died while driving…so the sensor itself might not be at fault it was just doing its job and reporting the error. The codes need to be cleared from your computer memory and the sensors need to be retested.

Reader Update

Oddly enough, the crankshaft position sensor was the EXACT problem. I took the car to Pepboys this past weekend (was just driving by and decided “what the hell”) and explained to them what I just told you.

I had them run a diagnostic test on the car and the crankshaft sensor was malfunctioning badly. They replaced it with the new one I just brought. The part plus the service was all together was $88.0O. The old sensor was oily and sandy (probably due to the mechanics hands).

Nissan would have charged me 300$ (298.02) to replace that little part. Now the car runs like a dream.

I learned through this experience to check my battery from now on

Posted in: Won't Start Issues

51 Comments on "Car Engine Dies While Driving – Hard To Restart"

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  1. Marie says:

    I have a 2005 Altima 2.5S, left it sitting for a year while away at school.
    When I got home I started having trouble starting it, struggled to turn over or would fire up then stall. Also, would occasionally stall out while stopped at stop signs and red lights.
    I found that I would have to pump the gas to get it to start. Had a machanic friend run it through the computer and says it’s the crank sensor, he strongly recommended I go with Nissan parts to avoid future problems.
    I’ve also found I’ve been burning through has like crazy, he says it’s part of the crank sensor problem but haven’t seen anyone else mention this.

    Other then this I’ve had very minor problems with this car. My next car will absolutely be a nissan. Its been a great vehicle and would highly recommend Nissan to anyone looking. Also, have had great experiance with Nissan dealerships.

    • By Austin Davis says:

      Hi there,

      I am assuming that you have run through a few tank fulls of gasoline since you have returned from school so there should be no old gasoline left inside the fuel tank…correct? If not, get that old fuel out and run a few tanks of clean fuel first before you do anything.

      Usually, when the crank sensor fails it will not start the engine at all and sometimes you have to wait awhile for the sensor to cool down to start the car. They usually do not fail while sitting at a stop light, then start right back up again.

      What I would try FIRST (funny….I JUST made a youtube video about this yesterday and have not posted it to my site yet) I would clean the throttle body and idle control motor and see what happens.

      This is easy to do and does not require buying any parts.

      Here is the link to my new youtube video

  2. Kay K says:

    I have been having this same problem. It’s very scary. As I research on the internet, I am finding MANY of these same complaints. My car is in the shop right now (today) getting the crankshaft sensor replaced and a new battery. About 2 weeks ago, I had the camshaft sensor replaced (was told that would solve the problem.) I am praying that today’s repairs make a difference. My car will cut off completely at stop signs and stop lights and often will just cut off while I’m driving and I lose control of the steering. I have almost gotten hit by other cars. I throw it into neutral quickly and start it while it’s still moving. Ridiculous. Nissan really needs to make this right.

  3. Tara Nichole says:

    Not always is it the crankshaft sensor. I had this same problem with my ’05 Altima, in which upon scanning the engine it gave me that same code. I replaced the sensor, & still had the same issue. Beware that it could also potentially be a timing issue.

  4. kitty says:

    I had the same problem today with my altima 2005 and I was scared to die !! I will have my car checked in a dealer later which is 10 miles away. God bless me drive safely.

  5. Jamie says:

    Anyone know of a good website with pictures describing how to change both the crankshaft and cam sensors?

  6. Ree says:

    We are going threw it too! We replace the crank sensor. Car still cut off and jerk. Nissan dealer want to charge 400 to fix. Nissan is getting over on people. Next car will be a Dodge!

  7. Jamie says:

    Hi Austin-
    I am going to try and change the parts myself as I see here that many woman have been able to do so. The parts show as “OTC Crank Sensor Gauge”, and “BWD/Intermotor Camshaft Sensor”. Should I change both? Same issues as everyone else- Won’t start and occasionally stalls. I’ve had these parts changed already a few years ago.

    Thank you for your help.

  8. Brandi says:

    I have been having the same problems. I have replaced both cam/crankshaft sensors and reset my computer only to find the service engine soon light back on when I turn my car off and restart it later on. I went to get inspected as required for Texas and it failed. We reset the comp and I had to waste 3 hours of my day and at least $20 worth of gas just to reset the comp without the light coming back on to pass my inspection. And I’ll be damned if that little light didn’t come right back on again. GRRRRR…. Starting to get seriously t’ed off. I bought my car used in 09 and had not one problem the first year. Now nothing but grief daily. Thanks for letting me vent.

    • Austin says:

      You are not alone 🙁

      To my knowledge Nissan has not issued a recall or service bulletin on this issue….but many people seem to be having one.

  9. vero says:

    i have a 2005 altima 3.5 i love my car and have never had any problems last week i was driving on a busy street approaching a stop light and it just turned off my mechanic got the same codes so he replace the camshaft & crankshaft but said he couldnt guarantee it would fix the problem ive debated trading it in but all the new cars i see are ugly even test drove some and i just love the 05 but i do so much highway driving i dont want to put my life on the line if this well happen again has anyone fixed both these parts and the car has been fine or once it starts does it just keep happening?

    • Austin says:

      Replacing the cam and crank sensors seems to solve the issue for most people who report back to me. Fingers crossed it wont happen to you again !

  10. Jamie says:

    If I were to change the cam and crank sensor myself, how do I get my “check engine” light to go off? I would like to fix it, and trade it in before it’s too late as I am having the same issues as all of the above. Nissan wants $400 to fix it and it’s already been fixed once. No thanks.

    • Austin says:

      Sometimes you have to use a hand held scanner to reset your onboard computer and sometimes just replacing the faulty part will take care of it. Either way the parts will have to be changed an you may or may not have to have a mechanic clear your computer codes afterwards.

  11. ari says:

    Dee: i am a female wanting to replace the camshaft position sensor, but
    what website did you use?

  12. Dee says:

    I have a 2005 nissan atima. had ecm recall done early. But still ended up problems. Engine check light came on on the way back from a road trip. Then car would be difficult to start would have to attempt it two or three times before it would start. Took car to autozone for electrical scan they said crankshaft and camshaft sensor. I took it to nissan dealer they confirmed it but wanted to much. I bought parts and went to pep boys had them replace crankshaft located bottom of engine near fire wall they did this from underneath the car they removed the mount and there it was easy access. Now camshaft on top of engine i as a female did it myself, i went to site that had step by step instructions and pictures, it have me the confidence to do it myself. It took me about 20 mins. If i can do it ladies and gentlemen you can do it too. Engine check light off car runs good again. And i save hundreds of dollars.

  13. Ryan R. says:

    Just an update for everyone, I forked over the $135 at Nissan for them to diagnose the problem. Come to find out, Nissan’s are very sensitive to the electronics and sensors on the engine. I bought Nissan’s parts (which were cheaper then NAPA!!) and got a refund for the crap parts. Nissan reprogrammed the computer free of charge for me. The car runs like brand new again and the power seems to be smoother after the reprogram. Story short STICK TO OEM PARTS!! Hope this helps everyone.

  14. Dewan Sachdeva says:

    I have same problem, the car wouldn’t start.Dealer has taken almost 15 days to find the problem.

    • Austin says:

      Not all dealers are the same. You might want to try another Nissan dealer and get another set of eyes/minds/experience to look into this. Any car left over 5 days just gathers dust. 🙁

  15. Ryan R says:

    Hey Austin, he did reset the light and within a half mile came back on again. He said he drove it for about 10 miles this morning without the light coming on. The shop is only a 1/4 mile away from my house and it did not die in that brief period.

    • Austin says:

      I am afraid the only thing I can suggest is continue to drive it and monitor the SES light situation and or take it to the dealer for more diagnosis. There could be a recall on this issue that I am not aware of. You can call the service department and give them your VIN number so they can check.

  16. Ryan R says:

    So, we had the mechanic change the crank sensor. It drove fine for about 10 miles and the SES light came on again. Went back to the shop and it’s showing P0340 and P0345 again. I am really stumped now and the only other thing I can think of is to have Nissan reprogram the computer. The mechanic said it was really hesitant starting this morning before he replaced the crank sensor. Ugh, I am just short of taking the SES light out and trading the car in.

    • Austin says:

      But the engine is not dying any more nor are there any other symptoms other than the SES light? I would ask the mechanic to reset the light with their scanner and drive the car as normal a few days and see what happens.

  17. Ryan R says:

    Hello, I have a 2003 Altima with the 3.5l engine. A couple weeks ago my car took about 5 seconds of cranking to finally fire up. I was driving yesterday when suddenly it died. I pulled over and got it started back up, but only ran for about 20 seconds before it died again, I had it towed to my mechanic who said it had codes P0340 and P0345 in the computer. After replacing both cmp sensors, the SES light is still on showing those codes. I have read a few places that say the crankshaft position sensor might also be to blame. A Nissan dealer is about 33 miles away and do not feel comfortable driving that far with the SES light on. I just found that there is a service bulletin for the cmp sensors. Should I have my mechanic replace the crank sensor next?? He said he checked the PCM and al the wiring harnesses and they were all fine.

    • Austin says:

      Yes, I think the crank sensor might be a good GUESS at this stage. The mechanic really needs to have the car in his possession when the engine fails to properly diagnose the problem. Got my fingers crossed for you. 🙂

  18. Susy says:

    Im 19 years old and i saved up $6,000 for a down payment and my nissan cost me $9,600 with 65,000 miles on it and i payed down the $3,600 in 5 months…And i am really upset because im having the same issues about it turning off while im driving. It started about a month ago and on the exact month that i did my final payment!! I havent been able to get it fixed because of some personal issues and i havent had the money. Im calling nissan tommorow and asking about the recall for the 05′ nissans that i hear there was and see what they have to say about it. Im pretty upset because if you pay almost $10k for a car in less then 6 months you’re expecting to get your moneys worth. All i can say is i miss miss it and also i loved my car the time it was actually working :(…Thank god i still have my mom’s 05′ grand prix that is getting me to and from work…

  19. Kevin beckworth says:

    I had the same exact problem as you did rob eaton. I replaced the alternator about a month ago and just 3 days ago ran into a problem with my vehicle NOT starting. Really thinking about taking this craptima to nissan and doing a little show and tell to all of nissans future customers. Maybe they will think twice.

  20. Stacey Pereira-Gaudette says:

    I bought my 2005 Nissan Altima brand new and have had nothing but problems with this car. I already have had my brakes and routers replaced twice and have only had the car for 5 years. Recently my car has been shutting down in the middle of the highway and worse it takes me over 3 times to start it back up. I spent over $320 already by having my crankshaft sensor replaced and the problems continue to keep happening. I am fed up. I found out there was a recall back in 2008 for this happening and the car shutting off while people were driving. I almost caused an accident myself and I could have killed someone because of this. Supposedly my vin # was not on the list for the recall but then why is everything that is going on with my car the same situation of the recall. Now i find out they may need to reprogram my car. I have spent so much money and have already gone thru three diagnostics and what was replaced still is not fixed. Now I have it at a nissan and they are looking into it. The fact of the matter is I feel I should be reimbursed for all this work and mantinence. Nissan should really do something. i could have hurt myself or someone else on the road. I feel they should be liable and this recall should be taken care of on my car. I am just fed up. i have missed work as result of my car being in and out of shops and I have already spent money that i can’t afford. I was never told about any recall and i find it to be upsetting because of what could have happened.

  21. Meghan says:

    I just had to replace my throttle body assembly, and the problems I had (losing power on the freeway, and engine light popping on) are the same as many mentioned here. I wish I would have found this site before I paid Nissan $600 for the work on this because I would have tried to replace the sensors myself.

    The Nissan shop said the whole assembly had to be replaced, not just the sensor. Funny thing is that I had this exact repair once already. In 2008, but it was covered by warranty at that time. I had 57,000 miles then and now at 91,000, according to Nissan it went bad again. I asked if I had to replace this part every 40,000 miles and they no and that it was “really odd” that the same thing happened twice on one vehicle. From all I’m reading, this actually isn’t that “odd” after all. Nissan can’t tell me why it would go bad a second time; but rather, gave some half serious answers about carbon build up. They have now accused me of not taking proper care of my engine for this and another problem I’m having. I get regular oil changes, as well as the regular schedule maintenance. Honestly, I really love this car and take good care of it. I know enough about cars that their answers, suggestions and aggressiveness don’t really add up.

    Has anyone else had to replace this part multiple times? In addition to this, Nissan says I need a whole new engine b/c the cylinders are scored. They say this happened because I didn’t get enough oil changes. A local mechanic quoted me $2000 less to replace the engine, but after getting into the work said he doesn’t think I need a new one at all. He replaced the alternator and a few small parts and it ran fine for months until this throttle body assembly went bad (according to the Nissan shop). The same independent shop said they couldn’t do the work because Nissan has to do some re-programming with this type of repair work. So I went to Nissan paid $600 and its running fine again. However, it’s hard to trust Nissan after this recent problem and I’m not sure if this car engine (3.5 SE – 2005) is just terrible or if the Nissan shop is giving me the run around? Seems to me that a 5 year old car shouldn’t have issues like this considering I get the oil changes and other maintenance done.

    Has anyone been told their whole engine needs replaced? If so, what did you do? One mechanic says it will run for a long time, and Nissan says it could blow up at any second. What I’m wondering now is, do I get rid of the car now before I have to re-replace the throttle body assemble and other problems come up, or do I pray this is the last time something like this happens…

  22. Sharyn says:

    Could this problem also affect a 2006 Nissan Altima? Driving today with my son, about 45 mph and car just loses power, have lights, but stops running on busy 2 lane hwy. stopped the car, put it in park, restarted fine. 5 hours later, same problem but now the check engine light has come on and stayed on. Would replacing the two sensors possible fix this problem, or should I have a computer check done first? Female with few mechanical skills other than changing the oil or a flat. 🙂
    Any help would be appreciated.

    • Austin says:

      I think I would pay for a dealership computer check out before I start replacing costly sensors as a guess. It can be anything and these intermittent problems can be hard to diagnose. Would be best if the check engine light was on when you visit the dealer, don’t turn the engine off or the
      Light could reset making diagnosing harder

  23. Shayla says:

    Bought a 2005 Nissan Altima, 4 cy. 2.5L on June 18th 2010 I started having problems with the crankshaft sensor.I did replaced the crankshaft position sensor,but the service engine soon light kept coming on.. It reads the same error every time, crankshaft sensor. Recently (07/10/10) my car just stalled on highway made a loud knocking noise blew a big smoke –the fire men and police that showed up believe it threw a rod because it leaks oil everywhere..and is not drivable.Nissan states they reset the (ECM) but my Vin# isn’t in the recall for the crankshaft position sensor so I would have had to pay for that.I then was able to get online and see that alot of Nissan Owners were told the same exact information the (ECM) would be reset for free but you would have to come out of pocket for the Crankshaft Sensor to be fixed,if this amount of complaints are identical..then really it boils down to Nissan Corp is ignoring and doesn’t care that their Crankshaft Sensor is failing along with the (ECM) and because of this some lives are gonna be lost me and my 2 kids faced a stall on highway I75 with many people going well over 70mph..we could have been KILLED!

  24. Takeshia says:

    I have a ’05 Altima also, and my car is doing the same thing. My husband replaced the crankshaft position sensor, but the car is still doing the same thing.

    Is there a camshaft on this car, if so where is it located? I googled it, and went to to find the part but always come up with crankshaft position sensor.

    I’m getting very frustrated!! HELP PLEASE!!

  25. Deb Cardiff says:

    I have a Nissan Altima ’05 that has begun with these same issues. Doesn’t have a problem until it gets hot. Either it will take four or five times of cranking and pumping the gas or it’ll stall while driving. Haven’t gotten it to the dealer yet for the recall because the check engine light keeps going on and takes a few days to go back off. They won’t do the recall reprogram with the check engine light on.

    • admin says:

      You might want to have your local lube place clean the throttle body for you and see if that helps. Its just a guess, but the throttle body should be cleaned periodically for maintenance anyway and it should improve idle speed and starting.

  26. E Eggleton says:


    Can you share the web site info that you used to replace the sensors?

    Thanks much.

  27. Shannon Moore says:

    i actually just today went and also bought the crankshaft sensor for $30 and am replacing it to just so i dont have to deal with this again when it actually does go out too but i am a female that knows nothing bout cars and i did and am doing them by myself it tells u step by step instructions on the web i hope that i have helped good luck

  28. Shannon Moore says:

    i have a 2005 altima i had the same problem shutting off at redlights and hard to crank i went to auto zone paid $24 for a camshaft sensor looked up on the web where it was located replaced it and its fine now but on the same web page it also showed me where the crankshaft is located and its just as easy to replace

  29. Rob Eaton says:

    Not sure this is connected or not, but sure hope it is. Four days ago brake light and battery light began to come on intermittently, and then increasingly over the days. The lights would spike brighter, and at the same time there would be a drop in RPM. Finally today driving home the car would not drive more than 5MPH no matter the position of the accelerator. Let the car sit at home for about 2 hours, then tried to start it, and it turned over a couple of times and then got the usual dead battery clicking. All lights available, though. A little later after checking for similar complaints online, went out and cleaned off terminals which did show corrosion. Still acted as if dead or alternator out. Jumped it and it started. Idling, there was some further spike or electronic whatever, the RPM dropped and it died. It will need another jump. Strangely, while it was idling, the backlight to the speedometer and gauges would go out, then come back on. Brake lights would come on, but when I touched the brakes it seemed it made things worse for a moment.
    These last phenomena are similar to a lengthy online thread elsewhere, with no consistent solution. Any thoughts this might be the same trouble? 2005 Altima 2.5.

    • admin says:

      Im hoping this is a defective alternator problem causing strange voltage and dashboard readings….I have seen similar issues in the past in similar situations. I would make sure your battery is good…if its older than 4 years old, replace it anyway, then get a mechanic to check your alternator output. the voltage regulator is inside the alternator and I think you probably have a problem with it which would require a new alternator or rebuilding this alternator at an alternator/starter repair shop.

  30. Snejana says:

    Same here, same car-Altima 05 and same problem. Lost power few times while driving last few days. Every time I was able to start the car again after 10-15-20 min. Check engine light came on, also saw some oil splash coming from engine or around, battery was fine and everything else. Found out to be the crank sensor problem, never got a letter about the recall. Love this car, really don’t want get rid of it and hope not to have more bad surprises in future. It’s scary when your car dies while driving, no one passing by thinks you have a real problem,because Altima 05 is a good looking car. For the last 3 days full with problems on roads, only one lady stop and offered me help.

  31. Lisa G says:

    I have a 2005 Nissa Altima and it just shut off while I was driving (scary) so I pulled over thinking it was the battery or alternator and it was neither. The dealership stated it was the CAM/Crank Shaft Sensor..what my question is… are there 2 sensors??

    • admin says:

      yes, there is both a cam and a crankshaft sensor. In most cases….at least in my shop, the crankshaft position sensor fails more often.

  32. Jeff Hartman says:

    Tracey Hahn:

    “I just had this same problem in my ‘05 Altima yesterday. Was driving 45 mph and my car just literally lost all power.

    Come to find out, this was a recall issue back in Nov. 2007, which I never received notification of. The remedy was to have the ECM reprogrammed. Basically, it stated the crankshaft position sensor would overheat, causing an interruption in the signal output from the sensor.If this interruption to the crank sensor was to brief that the ECM could not diagnose, it would cause the engine to stop running.

    I am in a battle right now with our dealership because they are trying to make me replace the entire crank and CAM sensor for $400. They are saying they cannot do the reprogram of the ECM without replacing both of these sensors!”

    I was having the same issue and they told me the same thing. I bought the two sensors for about $30 each. I replaced them myself and the car has worked like a dream since! It took me about 3-4 hours. One sensor is really easy to replace (one simple screw on the side of the engine). The other one was more difficult (at the bottom firewall side of the engine). I do a lot of minor work and decided not to give them $500 for this job. If I did it again it would only take about 30-45 minutes to do. I suggest your try this if you are pretty handy.

    Hope this helps…..

    Jeff Hartman

  33. april nc says:

    i am going 2 look into that cause altima has been shutting off 2 and i took it 2 the shop at the end of summer and everything was good. i was thinking of gettin a new one later down the road but think i will go with the dodge with the life time warrany friends have had no trouble and they dont take car in for every little thing like i do i am 4 months prego and its getting hot the last thing i need is my car 2 not start one day and get over heated or even after the baby. think nissan should learn 2 get back with people on recalls they have my address and number but havent even heard of anything. thanks for the tip

  34. Tracey Hahn says:

    I just had this same problem in my ’05 Altima yesterday. Was driving 45 mph and my car just literally lost all power.

    Come to find out, this was a recall issue back in Nov. 2007, which I never received notification of. The remedy was to have the ECM reprogrammed. Basically, it stated the crankshaft position sensor would overheat, causing an interruption in the signal output from the sensor.If this interruption to the crank sensor was to brief that the ECM could not diagnose, it would cause the engine to stop running.

    I am in a battle right now with our dealership because they are trying to make me replace the entire crank and CAM sensor for $400. They are saying they cannot do the reprogram of the ECM without replacing both of these sensors!

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