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Ah! My car died for no reason!

Ah! My car died last night while idling at a stop light. Luckily for me (and my children!) we were only a block or so from home. I was able to start the car up again and drive to our house and park (Thankfully!).
So, I drive a 2004 Impala w 136,000 miles on it. It’s been awhile since I’ve taken it to a shop for maintenance. I just check the oil and add more when it’s low. The only gage that work in my dash board is the gas gauge. Currently I have about 1/4 tank full. All the other sensors and meters aren’t reliable as the spin up and around themselves. I can reset the car (and I do) but it just happens again. It also sounds loud when it runs but passed a Ca emissions test about 3 months ago.
After I parked back at home I decided to see what was wrong. There was no odor coming from the car and the oil was a bit low so I added another quart. I started it up and let it run and it fired up fine the first time. I decided to drive it around the parking lot and it seemed to do ok while I was accelerating but when I would idle, it dies immediately. I can restart it again if I wait a minute.
Has my gas gauge stopped working and I simply need gas? Is this a problem caused by the electrical problems I have going on with the gears? I’m not sure what to do and I’m not very rich…

It sounds like you have done no maintenance to this car…even a simple oil change with a new filter. The reason for it stalling might be a minor problem, but you might have more than one problem causing the stalling.
Clean oil is the life blood of any engine. The oil filter could be so plugged that very little flow is getting to the needed areas inside the engine. ALL the parts that the oil lubricates are critical to the engine running at all, and any damage would cost into the thousands of dollars to repair.
So change that oil soon and make sure it gets a new filter too.

The oil probably is not your imediate problem with it stalling, but get this done to save money in the future. $30 for a filter and oil 3-4 times a year is cheap insurance!!!

The stalling could be air filter plugged so bad that the engine cannot get enough air.
Fuel filter dirty and plugged , not letting enough fuel to be delivered to the engine.
Spark plugs worn and fouled with carbon that they cannot produce the spark to ignite the fuel mix properly.

There are many other things that could be causing the stalling, but I would start with those.
I know you said that you have little money, but the Fuel filter, air filter, and spark plugs should cost less than $100, and you might ask around and find a friend or neighbor or co-worker that knows how to do this work. The fuel filter would be the only thing that he may need special tools for. So any backyard mechanic should be able to do these repairs simply right where it is parked.

If you do have to get the car towed and repaired, remember that you have probably saved $300+ every year by not doing the routine maintenance.

In the future though. It is normaly more expensive if you wait until something breaks, than to do the routine maintenance like you should.

The problem with the dash guages might be just a blown fuse.
What you are resetting…I don’t know…unless it is the light that says "Maintenance required"
or something like that. I guess you didn’t get the hint!!!

If you find someone that can do this work and he does fix the stalling problem. Tip him well so he will came back, and ask if he can go over the other maintenance problems and get the car up to par. Me might be willing to do a little here and a little there and in a few months you will have all the work done and can be confident that you can trust this car to take you another 100,000 miles.
But if you fail to have these regular repairs done I wouldn’t take that car far from home and it might only last another 10-20-30,000 miles and within a year you will have no ride at all.

All evidence indicates that you do ignore this car - so it’s anybody’s guess. @Yosemite’s post was long - but short. It could take a book to spell out the guesses. You’ll just need to bite the bullet and ask a shop to check it out and do some long neglected maintenance.

Good advice from @Yosemite. Start with the simple maintenance items that are overdue for replacement. You should also think about replacing the plug wires also but if you can’t afford that at this time you could put that off for later. Just doing those things may fix the idle problem. Cleaning the MAF sensor and replacing the O2 sensors may help if the idle is still a problem.

Fixing the dash gauge problems should be a fairly easy fix for a tech good on electrical issues. I don’t think you have any serious issues going here, just a little TLC hopefully will get things right.

If you’re driving children around and you’re hoping not to break down far from home, why aren’t you maintaining this car properly?

We need more details. What maintenance is overdue and by how much? Does the oil ever get more than a quart low? How much oil are you using per thousand miles? Is the check-engine light lit up?

" It’s been awhile since I’ve taken it to a shop for maintenance. I just check the oil and add more when it’s low. "

No disrespect meant, but I found the root cause of your problem. Kudos to Yosemite for outlining the details.

I think that Yosemite covered the situation with this poor, ignored/abused car very thoroughly, but I want to add another thought:

I recall that some GM models will shut themselves down if oil pressure is dangerously low, in order to save the engine from being damaged. If this engine is suffering from low oil pressure (because of excessive engine wear that resulted from lax maintenance), that could be the reason for the engine shutting down. Do any of the forum members who are very familiar with GM engines know if this 2004 Impala has that feature?

Also…What did the OP mean when he/she referred to, “a problem caused by the electrical problems I have going on with the gears”.
Huh? Can you elaborate on that point?

As the others said, get that maintenance up to date

If it still stalls at idle after that, clean the throttle body and the idle air control valve

I doubt the OP will be back, she knows and cares nothing about cars, she just wanted a magic wand.

it’s not even been a day

Good point , my comment may have been premature, we will see.

Before everyone reads between the lines and condemns the owner, why don’t we wait for more info? At least she’s checking the oil. That’s more than a lot of people that come here do. And just because she didn’t explicitly say she’s meticulously maintained the car, doesn’t mean she isn’t changing the oil, etc. (or maybe it does) Regardless, if the car passed emissions, we know that at the time it couldn’t be in too bad of shape. A car won’t pass if it’s in really poor tune or the MIL is on, obviously. So as of a few months ago, it was probably in reasonably good shape.

What would be useful from the OP (if she ever comes back), is whether the check engine light is on, and if so, if she’s had the codes read.

My totally wild guess would be the car leaks some oil, and that oil is coating everything under the engine. The crank sensor may be saturated inside and out with oil, and may be starting to fail. This, of course, is a total guess.

I’m not the best at car maintence, which was why I was upfront about it. It’s something I’ll get better at. I was able to drive it to the mechanic today (I didn’t have time to mess with anything over the weekend). He seemed rib think @Yosemite was right on track. Thank you for the help. I’ll be doing regular maintence and taking better care of my car (promise!) and I always pay my AAA membership so I have free tows and roadside assistance and won’t be stranded.

Good move!

I know that it must seem like maintenance for a car is like throwing money down the hole, with no tangable results, but you’ve discovered the real truth. Lack of regular maintenance can indeed come back and bite you in the A%&.

Start with the basic stuff that needs to be done, then go from there. I’m guessing that this Impala has the 3.8L engine, and that does indeed have the engine cutoff when the oil gets low.

I’ve owned several of these types of cars (GM standard size with 3.8) so trust me when I tell you that at 136,000 miles, this engine is just getting broken in. Proper mainenance will reward you with many more miles.

Look at it this way. average your mainenance costs per month for a year, then compare that to what a new/used car payment will cost you. you’ll see what I mean when we here on this board say that maintenance is cheap, compared to car payments.

Good luck! :slight_smile:

Bringing the routine maintenance up to date is the first step. (Actually having the diagnostic codes would be the very first step.) My guess for this particular problem is a vacuum leak, IAC on the fritz, or dirty throttle body.