My car keeps shutting off while driving

Tiny
LORETTA LYNN POQUETTE-GERAW
  • MEMBER
  • 2001 SATURN SL2
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 124,000 MILES
My car is the car listed above and I love it! My hubby has a 1997 Saturn LS as well. Both same tan color, lol. Any how my car is having major shutting off issues even as I drive down the road and it is scaring me because I cannot steer. Last night coming home late from work it shut off so I got a tow and had a friend plug his OBD2 scanner code reader in and these are the codes it read:
P1810 P1780 PO727
Does anyone know what these codes mean or what one I would try to repair ASAP or what one is the reason why it wont run? A few weeks ago my car was shifting really hard as well and I had my transmission filter changed and it ran much better after with shifting, but now it wont stop this shutting off stuff. I have not pushed the car to keep shutting off and then re start etc. I need this car so I can get back and forth to work so I baby her, no clue if she will shut off and re start after five minutes etc. Please any help is so appreciated!
Thanks, Loretta Poquette from Norton, Vermont
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Friday, October 21st, 2016 AT 10:55 AM

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Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
First of all we have to address the "can't steer" misconception. That falsehood should have been dispelled decades ago. When the engine stalls, you will lose power steering assist and be left with manual steering like all cars had up the mid 1950's to mid 1960's. To get technical for a minute, when we started driving faster in the mid 1960's, we needed to add directional stability to cars and trucks so we did not have to be constantly correcting the steering. We did that by greatly increasing one alignment angle called "caster". Very low caster made it real easy to steer a big heavy truck that did not have power steering. Increasing caster made cars go straight down the road with just one finger on the steering wheel, but it came at a price. It made turning at low speeds extremely difficult, so we added power steering.

You will have the same loss of power steering assist if the power steering pump's drive belt breaks, and that is not an uncommon occurrence. When was the last time you heard of someone crashing because the belt broke? The fact is, you can still steer the car. At highway speeds you wont even notice the loss of power assist. As the car slows down, the steering will get harder and harder, but you will never lose steering control. We used to hear stories about people crashing because they thought they would lose steering control with a stalled engine, so they did not even try to turn the steering wheel. The politicians already have ruined the car industry. You can be sure they would be sniveling if such a serious flaw were to exist in our cars.

Now, to get un-technical, you have an engine running problem but you did not list the engine size. In this case there is just one size, but two versions of your engine. They use a crankshaft position sensor to trigger spark and fuel injector timing. That sensor very commonly fails by becoming heat-sensitive, then it works again after it cools down for up to an hour. Typically they work fine while you are driving and there is plenty of natural air flow to keep it cool, and they fail from "hot soak". That is when a hot engine is stopped, as in stopping for gas, and engine heat migrates to the sensor and makes it fail. The symptom is the engine cranks fine but wont start or run. That can happen to this and one other sensor on all car brands and models, and sometimes they also fail while driving, although that is a less-common complaint.

Fault code 1810 is related to an adjustment after the transmission has been serviced.
Code 1780 refers to the "Park / neutral" switch and isn't related to stalling.
Code 727 is for "Engine Speed Input Circuit No Signal"; in other words, the crankshaft position sensor.

There are two things to consider. First of all, yo wi'll see by these codes that they never ever say to replace parts or that one is bad. All fault codes only indicate the circuit or system that needs further diagnosis, or the unacceptable operating condition. Code 727 refers to the crankshaft position sensor which I already described, so you are welcome to think I am really smart if you want to, but given the nature of how your engine is acting, the second choice is the better one. When a sensor or other part is referenced in a fault code, that part is actually the cause of that code only about half of the time. First we have to look for wiring problems like cut, grounded, or bare wires, and stretched or corroded connector terminals. Engines that wont run after a hot soak are most likely to be caused by a failing sensor. Engines that stall while you are driving can also be caused by a failing sensor, but they have a better chance of being caused by a wiring problem. That is what I mean by that "second choice".

With the engine running, wiggle the wiring harness and connectors associated with the crankshaft position sensor. If the engine stalls when you do that, check the wires and connectors closely. If no stalling occurs, the sensor itself is the next suspect.
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Friday, October 21st, 2016 AT 5:40 PM

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