Car cutting out unpredictably?



I have a 2003 Ford Taurus, and three times recently the electrical system seems to have shut itself off. Two times, I was moving when it happened. The radio went silent, the dash lights came on. I started to think, Oh my God, what am I going to do now?, and then the car started running again, radio back on, dash lights off. It lasted only like a second. The third time, I was sitting in traffic when the car went dead. I put it in park, started it back up, and it started fine and kept running. Any ideas on the culprit here? It’s scary because it’s completely unpredictable, and I would hate for my wife and son to be stranded somewhere if it won’t start back up. Thanks!


The first step is to get the car scanned for any codes. AutoZone, O’Reillys, Checkers Auto, etc. will do this for you as a free service.

Assuming no codes are present there are still a number of things that could cause this and leave no codes at all. One of the main suspects could be the fuel pump which can be and on one minute, off the next type of thing. If the fuel filter has never been changed on a regular basis this could point even more to a failing pump.


First suspect with sudden electrical power loss is a poor electrical connection. And, the first suspect connections are those of the battery cables to the battery terminals. The connections can be tight, and yet, not be good electrical connections.
Disconnect the battery cables, and clean the the cables and battery terminals with a wire brush. Smear Vasoline on the terminals and re-attach the battery cables.
Loosen, and re-tighten the cables from the battery where they attach to the car body, or engine.


Wow, thanks! I was suspecting an electrical problem, but I don’t know anything. I’ll get the codes and the fuel filter checked out…much appreciated!


Just to clarify, the fuel filter itself would not be the direct cause of this problem but can cause fuel pump failure.

Most of the time when the pump is at fault you would get a bit of a stumble or stutter as the car dies. If it shuts off instantly without a whimper then it could point to an electrical fault. Even the ignition switch could be at fault.
I would agree that cleaning of the battery cable ends and battery posts is a good idea. As As a matter of fact, that’s a job that should be done about once a year, problems or not.