Died Suddenly and Unexpectedly - Water in Gas?

2002 Dodge Stratus L4 89k miles.

I do my own work and I’m big on preventive maintenance. Car is in top shape and runs perfect.

Last fall, problem with long starts…replaced a bunch of old parts…plugs/wires, starter, cam/crank position sensors, fuel filter/regulator(<culprit) and cleaned throttle body/sensors. No problems until yesterday.

Weather has switched from warm and very dry air to hot and humid literally overnight. Tank was half full yesterday, I filled it…and my problem started a short while later.

Driving along a side street at 20mph, the engine just stopped running. Would not restart, opened hood, looked around, no obvious issue, turned key, started, ran fine. A 1/2 mile later, same deal. I was close to home so when it started again, I made it home, let it idle in garage, shut it off, started it…no problems, worked perfect and starts instantly.

To me, it feels like an electrical issue and I have already ordered a new coil pack as the old one is original.

Can water in the gas do this? No rough idle, no loss of power, engine just stops. No codes either.

Been a long time since I’ve dealt with wet gas and I remember the car just running poorly, not cutting out and stopping.


I’d be checking the fuel pressure. Based on you replacing the CPS already, I’d suspect the fuel pump.

I learned through experience, with this car…

When you turn the key, the pump brings the line up to pressure, shuts off and the pressure regulator holds the pressure; when the car starts, the pump resumes. I suppose this is in case there is a leak it won’t keep pumping gas.

When the engine stops, the regulator slowly reduces the line pressure. In my mind, I see water pumped up, kills engine, water drains back over 5 mins, engine again starts until it sucks water again…repeat.

The weird part is when it runs, it runs perfect…I would think water would cause poor performance, not sudden death.

Sound like you need live data…
And maybe some tool to test with when it dies to see if it is loosing spark or fuel or?..

1 Like

That’s a good idea, will keep an old spark plug with me. If/when it dies, I’ll pull a wire, hook up the old plug, threads on engine, see if it sparks.

If it’s a part, has to be spark (coil pack), fuel pump or computer…all of those parts are 21 years old…I ordered a new coil pack this morning.

Hoping water in gas…big change in humidity, filled tank, problem started. Just wish it ran poorly, then I’d really suspect water.

In my mind I see a leaking injector or a bad regulator. Water in the tank drops to the bottom. If there was enough to stall the car, it would not restart 5 minutes later.

There is also 10% alcohol in pump fuel which tends to mix with the water much like the old Heet fuel additive.

If you have actually tested the fuel pressure when this happens, I’d say it isn’t the pump. But based on your comments, I’m guessing you haven’t tested the fuel pressure when the car stalls?

1 Like

Stalled on a public street, rail connector in an impossible spot, disassembly required of a heavy gauge metal rail protector. If it comes to it, will drive with protector removed and pressure gauge in car.

Doesn’t sound like water but throw a can of heat in just to make sure. Spark of fuel, that’s the question. I had one that would stall after about 7 miles. So I’d run it around with the fuel pressure gauge taped to the windshield. Cleaned grounds, replaced stuff, never did find the problem. Always carried a spare computer but never was the problem. Spare coil too. It’s in the happy hunting ground now but good luck.

Unlikely, as mentioned by esteemed colleagues above. Is there a simple way to check for a visible spark, given the way the engine is configured? If so, take a spare spark plug with you, and next time it cranks but won’t start, check to see if there’s a visible spark at the tip of the spark plug.

Your first objective is to determine if the cause is no spark, or no fuel. It is very likely one of those. Until you know which, or neither, nothing but a guessing game. My own guess is some sort of ignition system problem, so you’ll see no visible spark when it happens. Then it is just a matter of figuring out why there is no spark.

I wouldn’t advise replacing stuff just in case it might the problem. It might be almost anything in the engine compartment. Easy to run out of money before running out of ideas what it might be. Plus when you replace something, it adds to the number variables you are dealing with , b/c the replacement part may be faulty.

I presume you’ve already checked for diagnostic codes.

A quick way to determine if it is a no-fuel problem when it stops running and won’t restart: spray some starting fluid (“ether”) into the air intake and then try to start it up. If it fires up briefly then quits, that suggests a fuel delivery problem, not a spark problem.


Most likely loss of ignition or fuel injection. You need to test this while it won’t start.

Water in gas these days is extremely rare. Not sure if there are any of those galvanized tanks gas stations use to use anymore. They’ve all been replaced over a decade ago. They were the major culprit for water in gas.

The car is 21 years old, so “replacing stuff” that is original I just chalk up to preventive maint; made it 21 years…deserves retirement. I don’t throw it away, just mark it with a note and put it in a spare parts box.

Good ideas from you all, will note and try. Have an an extra spark plug and a can of starting fluid in the car now.

1 Like