Car left idle for two hours


My husband got out of the car, he noticed that the car was running, went to open it and it was locked. Don’t know how that happened. Long story short the car sat for two hours idle. When I arrived with the other key, the car was not running. I started it up, gave him the key and left. About an hour later he called said it would not start. We took about three gallons of gas, thinking maybe it ran out, it still did not start. It did turn over, so figured it was not the battery. What could it be?


Idling for hours should not cause any problem. You started it OK, apparently. then an hour later it wouldn’t start. What happened in that interval?

Kind of car, engine, year, mileage?


I just turned it on to see if it would start it did, turned it off and left the keys. When I pushed the gas it did kind of sounded muttled. 2001 Mazda 626 - 82,000 - just had oil changed checked last week


Your guess about the lack of gasoline may be correct; but, it’s not lack of gasoline in the tank. It could be lack of gasoline to, or into, the engine. At 80,000 miles, the fuel filter may never have been changed. That would keep the gas from getting to the engine.


So we will have to get it towed then? Or what would you suggest? Is that expensive to get the fuel filter replaced?


I would not be so quick to pinpoint the fuel filter as the cause of the no-start condition. There could be 100 different reasons.

Let the car rest overnight and try to start in the morning. If it starts, which it very well may do, test it with a short drive, preferably to a mechanic. Then turn off and try to restart once more. If it does not start at all you will have to get a tow to the shop. Let the mechanic find the cause.


Thanks, I feel a little better! I’ll keep my fingers crossed that it will start in the morning.


Idling for two (or more) hours can’t hurt your car. Cop cars do it day after day, night after night.


Your plugs may have been fouled. A 15 minute trip out and 15 minutes back on the highway will clean them enough to make a big difference.


Some cars cool better at idle than others. The police models have an oil-to-coolant oil cooler to help out in this very situation.


I’m going suggest a possible cause for this. Perhaps the car did run out of gas. It ran out just about the time you started it and it sounded funny. This put air into the fuel lines. The fuel injection system may need to have the air bled out of it. On cars where the fuel system can get airlocked there is usually a schrader valve that allows you to bleed it. A schrader valve is the type of valve you see on a tire.

This is a common problem for diesels that run out of fuel. I know some Mazda/Ford models have a bleeder on the front end of the fuel rail. I am not sure about your model, but it would not surprise me. Good luck.


Hi everyone! In case you might be interested, they have told us it was the Fuel pump! Parts are about $200, Labor about $200.


I hope the repair shop checked the fuel pressure AFTER putting in a clean, new, fuel filter. 80,000 miles is a mileage when unchanged, dirty, fuel filters have stopped more than one car. There’s no way to know “after the fact”.


Jordytay, thanks for the update. And as you have seen, many of us suspected the fuel system rather than any other aspect of your car’s problem. Also, it’s clear you needed a tow to the shop. Nothing else would have gotten you going again.

Stop in again any time for other car advice. We value our customers.


You are welcome! My husband and I enjoy Car Talk so much on NPR, and we truly are not too car literate as you probably have guessed, so I’m glad I thought to check in on the web site, I felt better after doing so.

The care is up and running!

Not that I am in a position to get a new car, but my dream car is a new Jeep Rubicon 4 door hard top, my husband is complaining about the low gas mileage, is this true? Cindy


Top will probably leak badly. See a recent thread on that topic.