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Car shuts off in heavy rain. HELP!

Last May I had the distributor replaced in my 2001 Nissan Xterra. Since it was replaced my car has shut off while I am driving three different times, separated by weeks to months, and only in heavy rain storms. When the car does shutoff it takes up to 15 minutes until it will start up again. In each case, once the car restarted it did not shutoff again. I recently noticed a correlation to heavy rain because I did not have any problems all summer long ( I live in Oregon where it never rains in the summer) and then last week in a heavy rainstorm the car shutoff while I was waiting at a red light. Any ideas?

There are several possible problems. I would look for a trusted local mechanic. It should not take long to find the problem.

Can you speculate on some of the possible problems? I assume something electrical?

If you can’t remember the last time the engine air filter was replaced, that’s where I’d start.


I had a late 70’s VW Rabbit that did this. After months of experimenting, it turned out to be the ignition coil was cracked, allowing water splashed up from the road to get on the high voltage part of the circuit, shorting it out. Engine would come to a complete stop, and waiting 15-30 minutes, it would go again as if nothing happened. Water – even a small amount – can easily short out and halt the engine if there is any break in the insulation of any high voltage component, e.g. the ignition coil(s), the distributor, and the spark plug wires. The waiting works because the water evaporates and dries out the high voltage circuit, from the warmth of the engine.