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Check Gauges Light Comes On, And Car Shuts Off

Vehicles seem to break down when you least expect them to. One minute you are driving along, and the next minute you are sitting on the side of the highway waiting for a tow truck.

Heck, you might be sitting there right now as you read this. Sorry about that.

I grew up pretty poor and we owned a lot of end-of-life vehicles. These older vehicles died on the side of the road more than once, so I got pretty use to the experience.

So, what do you do if the check gauges light comes on while driving and the car shuts off? While this is concerning, the good news is that it does not always equal an expensive repair at the mechanics.

I am going to discuss some easy things you can check out when the gauges light comes on, and the car shuts off, and the main reasons for this issue.

What To Do if the Check Gauge Light Comes On And Car Shuts Off

The most common causes of a car dying on the side of the road is a lack of gas, or a bad alternator. A less common but still probably cause would be a timing chain failure.

The first order of importance is to get you and your passengers to a safe place. Pull the car over, and get as far off the road as possible and turn on the hazards. Turn off the engine, and then visually examine the engine for issues. Look especially for steam or oil, which may indicate a critical leak. Check oil levels and the coolant overflow tank.

The Most Common Reasons for the Check Gauges Light

There are several reasons why the check gauges’ light comes on and the car shuts off. but not all these reasons require the intervention of an expert mechanic. Some are check engine light issues you could resolve on your own. Having said that, here are the most common reasons for the check gauges’ light;

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Low Oil Pressure

An oil pressure light light could indicate low pressure in the oil system. This often occurs when there is an issue with the oil filter or when the oil pressure level of the engine is low. An engine needs oil for two major reasons; lubrication and temperature regulation. This is why it is important to check engine oil pressure levels regularly.

Weak Alternator

The most common cause of why the check gauges’ light comes on, and the vehicle turns off is a bad alternator.

The alternator is the device that recharges the battery. Without an alternator, a car battery would be unable to power a car’s electrical system, which kills the spark going to your engine, and therefore the engine. The care loses power quickly, and you end up on the side of the road.

If the car is too weak to turn over and start again, this is a good sign that you are dealing with a weak alternator. You’ll want to buy a new battery at the same time.

Overheated Engine

A vehicle engine produces a lot of heat and needs coolants to help regulate the temperature to a safe level. There are many reasons why an engine can overheat, including low coolant levels, leaking coolants, radiator cracks, damaged water pumps, blown head gaskets, or thermostat issues.

Unfortunately, the car won’t turn itself off when it overheats. It will run until the engine is permanently damaged. If the car is overheating and then dies, there is a good chance that the engine has some serious damage. It is best to leave the car off and let it be towed.

However, you can let it sit for 30 minutes to cool off, top off the coolant, and attempt to drive it again. Just realize that driving it while overheating will destroy the engine.

Faulty Sensor

A faulty sensor could also cause the check gauges’ light to come on and the car to lose power. One sensor that often fails is the crankshaft position sensor, which leads to errors in fuel pump injection timing since the sensor sends incorrect data about engine rotations. Problems caused by crankshaft position sensors and vehicle sensors are often difficult to diagnose.

However, before suspecting a faulty sensor, it is best to ensure all vehicular fluids are at the correct levels. On finding a faulty sensor, you must replace it and access your car’s computer to clear the error code.

I’ve had quite a few family members left stranded on the side of the road by a faulty crankshaft position sensor. An early tell-tale sign of this failing is that the car gets harder and harder to start in the weeks leading up to sensor failure.

The good news is, these sensors are easy to replace. The bad news is, they are very hard to reach, and you generally pay the mechanic a pretty penny in labor costs to swap them out.

Faulty Wiring

Your car turning off while driving can be due to faulty wiring or a blown fuse. The truth is modern vehicles feature a complex wiring system, and when one of these wires gets defective, it could lead to a bad connection.

One way to confirm if the check gauge light coming on is due to faulty wiring is to check to see if any other warning light is on. If all other warning lights are off, it is probably a false alarm, and your car will keep working properly.

While the check gauge light coming on due to faulty wiring would not affect the car’s performance, it could become an annoyance. So, you should take the car to the mechanic to fix it.

I hate chasing wiring problems down on a car. You pretty much need a OBDII scanner to read the engine codes, and then you can chase the problem down from there.

Loose Gas Cap

One factor that commonly causes the check gauges’ light to come on is a loose gas cap. The gas cap is that part of the evaporation system that ensures vapor does not escape from the fuel system by sealing it. Which then keeps the vapor within the engine where it burns along with the fuel.

A damaged or loose gas cap will cause these important vapors to escape, consequently turning on the check gauge light.

Rectifying a loose gas cap would mean tightening a loose one or replacing a damaged one. Doing this will clear the fault codes and turn off the check gauge light.

However, this rarely prevents the car from running.

Catalytic Converter/Misfires

A situation that I have seen a lot on high mileage cars is that it will start to misfire. When a newer car (newer than 2005) misfires, it causes the check engine light to flash.

Often, these misfires are due to a catalytic converter that is overheating and causing excessive pressure on one side of the engine. Engine codes will generally show which bank of the engine the misfire occurred on and then will also throw an O2 sensor code. This combination of codes is a good reason to look closely at the catalytic converter.

What Does the Check Gauge Light Do?

Depending on the vehicle, the check gauge light on most cars is the yellow, orange or cherry-red light flashing on the dashboard. It is a warning signal sent by the Powertrain Control Module (PCM) to alert a driver of potential car problems.

There are several computers connected to the check gauge light. These computer modules like the transmission control module and body control module are constantly reading the vehicle’s sensors and reporting to the PCM if there are problems.

The check gauges light coming on signifies a problem or out-of-range reading connected to one of the several sensors. These sensors include:

Fuel Sensors

These sensors measures the quantity of fuel left in a vehicle’s tank. Each fuel gauge contains two components; a sensing and an indicator unit. The sensing unit takes note of the amount of fuel in the tank and sends this information to the indicator unit, which then displays it on the instrument cluster.

There are also fuel sensors that look for leaks in the Evaporation line of the tank. Sometimes these highlight a check engine light for something as simple as a missing fuel cap.

Temperature Sensor

This coolant temperature gauge shows whether the vehicle’s engine temperature is hot or cold. It shows both high and low temperatures and the safe zone between them. If the car is running with a high heat warming you risk damaging the engine. If it is too cold, it could signal an issue with the vehicle’s radiator or coolant system.

Oil Pressure Sensor

This gauge measures the oil pressure in your vehicle. It may also alert you to a broken hose or leaking gasket. In a serious situation, it can alert you to massive engine failure. The bottom line is that your vehicle needs plenty of oil to operate. If the oil pump fails or the oil volume is too low, engine damage can occur in minutes.

Airbag Warning Light

When you turn on your car, this light often lasts about 5 seconds. It does this to check if everything is working fine. If this light stays on for more than 10 seconds, this indicates there is a problem with the airbag. There are two main reasons for this anomaly. The first is a faulty control module, usually due to exposure to water, and the second is a worn-out airbag spring.

Brake Pad Warning Light

This light often comes on when there is a shortage of brake fluid. Topping up the brake fluid usually fixes this issue. Aside from indicating brake fluid shortage, this indicator could also signal worn brake pads that require replacement.

Battery Warning Light

This warning light comes on the dashboard when the battery is malfunctioning or charging poorly. It especially comes on when the battery’s charging system does not charge the battery to voltages greater than 13.5 volts. It can indicate a fault with the battery or the alternator.

So, what do you do if the check gauge light comes on and the vehicle shuts off?


There are many potential causes of a check gauge’s light coming on. These causes could range from a simple oil level shortage to complex problems like a clogged catalytic converter. Some vehicles also have tire pressure gauges that can turn on the check gauge lights.

However, regardless of the complexity and cause of the problem, we believe that with the information provided, you would feel more secure and face the challenge with a level head.


Zachary Drumm

Hey! My name is Zachary Drumm! This site allows me to test new tools, piddle around in the garage, and share the insights I get from flipping cars and houses. When it comes to tools, home improvement, and being a “shade tree mechanic,” you’ve come to the right spot. If I’m not in the garage creating content, you’ll find me outside, running, canoeing, and traveling. My goal is to empower more people to be self-sufficient.