Can You Drive a Car with a Dead Cylinder

Can You Drive a Car with a Dead Cylinder? (The Causes and Fixes in 2023)

The engine is a vital part of the car. And the size of the engine determines the number of cylinders it contains. There are plenty of reasons why a car cylinder may go dead. 

However, the question is, can you drive a car with a dead cylinder? You may drive the car when only one cylinder goes dead. But that is not recommended since it is always dangerous. Your car may not go far if any of the cylinders is dead due to low power. The power will drain quickly if another cylinder dies. 

In this context, you need to know the symptoms and causes of a misfired cylinder so that you take precautions. Keep reading to learn how to fix a dead cylinder and the relevant costs.

Can You Drive A Car With A Dead Cylinder? 

Though you can drive, driving a car with a dead cylinder is not advisable. If one of the cylinders dies or misfires, the power will start to drain quickly. At this point, your car won’t go much farther. 

If you are still driving with a dead cylinder and another one dies, chances are high that the engine will stop. Therefore, instead of driving your car with a dead cylinder, you should unplug the corresponding fuel injector. Thus, it can’t further damage its catalytic converter. 

Can You Drive a Car with a Dead Cylinder

Although modern cars tend to detect misfires in cylinders automatically, a manual inspection is not bad. 

Let us think of a 4-cylinder engine as an example. If one of the cylinders misfires, the engine will lose a quarter of the total power. If two of them die, half of the total power will be lost. The car won’t go far if it continues. Hence, you should take it to a nearby mechanic to repair the broken or dead cylinders.      

How to Recognize a Dead Cylinder? [The 6 Signs]

There are various symptoms that might indicate that a cylinder is not performing correctly or is dead. Let’s take a look at them. 

How to Recognize a Dead Cylinder
  1. If the engine cylinder fails to fire correctly, both the fuel efficiency and power will start to lose. Ultimately, the engine won’t get much power.
  2. Due to a loss in fuel efficiency, the engine will try to consume more fuel to function properly. Hence, this may create an adverse effect. The engine will get hot sooner than normal.
  3. Another sign of an engine cylinder that is misfiring is a loss of spark. Spark plugs that are defective, harmed, or worn out will harm the ignition coil. This will result in a cylinder misfiring.
  4. You will start to feel vibrations coming from the engine due to power and fuel loss. Since one of the cylinders is dead, the other one will struggle more, causing a shaking sensation. 
  5. Another indication of a cylinder issue is a rough idle. While the engine is idling, it may shake more than usual. Also, the check engine light may turn on if a cylinder misfires.
  6. Smoke may come out of the exhaust pipes unevenly. Meaning more smoke may produce when your car is running.
Can You Drive A Car With A Dead Cylinder

6 Common Causes Of A Dead Cylinder (+ Their Solutions)

An engine cylinder may misfire or become dead for plenty of reasons. While there are many, the following ones are worth mentioning:

Common Causes Of A Dead Cylinder

1. A fault in the ignition

The cylinder may not get enough spark to ignite the fuel if there is something wrong with the ignition system. Faulty wires, spark plugs, or other parts may cause problems in the ignition system.

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Solution

The ignition coil or module is related to ignition. So, fixing them will likely solve this issue. Ignition coils are attached to spark plugs, and they are responsible for creating sparks.

After removing the caps, check if the spark plugs can create a spark properly. If they can’t, you may need to change the ignition coils along with the spark plugs.

Here’s a video to guide you on how to change the ignition coil

2. Corroded spark plugs

Spark plug wear can occur over time. It could thus fail to generate the spark required to light the gasoline in the cylinder. Aging or corrosion both have the potential to wear out spark plugs.  

Corroded spark plugs

Solution

Damaged or clogged spark plugs are the culprits for a cylinder misfire. They are unable to compress fuel perfectly. You need to inspect both the inner and outer insulators of the spark plugs after unscrewing them.   

In any case, you need to repair or replace the spark plugs. 

3. Problems in delivering fuel

The engine cylinder may not get enough fuel when the fuel injectors are not functioning properly. This often happens if the fuel injectors are blocked. Hence, a faulty fuel pump or related components may also create this problem. 

Solution

First, clean the fuel injectors, then check if they are working properly. If not, then you may need to buy new fuel injectors and replace them with the old ones.

4. Compression loss

When oil starts to leak around the engine valves, piston rings, or head gasket, the cylinder may not be able to compress the fuel adequately. Therefore, the engine won’t get enough fuel to run properly. 

Compression loss

Solution

Poor labor or high discharge may sometimes puncture the voltage wires. If the wires are punctured or damaged, the oil will start to leak. Hence, they may produce a weak spark or no spark at all. Therefore, you should replace them immediately. 

5. Cylinder gets damaged

Even if the fuel is compressed properly, the cylinder may not hold it for long when it is damaged. 

Solution

In this case, the best thing to do is to get rid of the damaged cylinder and install a new one. Wires that are connected to the spark plugs can also lead to dead cylinders. So, you should fix those wires or buy new ones. 

6. A leak in coolant

The engine will start to overheat when there is actually a leak in the coolant. It may cause issues with fuel compression or the delivery system. Eventually, it can damage the pistons and cylinders if the leak isn’t repaired soon. 

Car leak in coolant

Solution

Radiator sealant can be added to the engine to stop coolant leaks. The best time to do this is while the engine is operating and the coolant is still cold. All minor cracks should be sealed with this. 

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Radiator removal could be necessary if this doesn’t stop the coolant leak. Also, be sure to check the wires connected to the radiator for any holes or cracks.

The Cost of Fixing a Dead Cylinder

Fixing a dead cylinder is indeed expensive. Again, the price may vary depending on the car’s model and make. Let’s take a look at the following table for an overall cost breakdown,

Cost of Fixing a Dead Cylinder
Car typeCost of a new cylinder headCost of labor
For low-end cars$1,000-$1,800150$-250$
For mid-range cars$2,500-$3,000150$-250$
For luxury cars$5,000 or more150$-350$
Cost of Fixing a Dead Cylinder
If you’re interested in learning about driving a car with a dead cylinder, MotorAdvices provides valuable insights and information on automotive topics. While addressing the issue of a dead cylinder is crucial, you may also find our article on driving a car with low oil pressure helpful. This article discusses the importance of maintaining proper oil pressure for the health and performance of your engine. Additionally, our article on driving with a bad water pump explores the role of the water pump in the cooling system and the potential consequences of a malfunctioning water pump. By exploring these resources, you can gain a better understanding of various automotive scenarios and make informed decisions regarding your vehicle’s maintenance and safety.

FAQs

If you still have further askings left, have your eyes here.

Q: How long does a car cylinder last? 

There is no fixed lifespan for a car cylinder. It depends on various factors, such as the engine components, driving conditions, the frequency of oil changes, and the maintenance of the engine. In general, modern cars are designed to last longer and your cylinder can easily reach 200,000 miles or more. However, the lifespan can be extended with proper maintenance.  

Q: How far can you drive when one cylinder is misfiring?

The distance will depend on the number of cylinders your engine has. For instance, 25% of power will be lost for a four-cylinder engine, 17% for a six-cylinder engine, 12.5% for an eight-cylinder engine, and so on.

The farther you go, the more power will be lost eventually. So, you better stop your car and take it to a repair shop.

Q: Can a cylinder fix itself when it misfires?

No. A misfire in a cylinder might be detected in modern cars, but it can’t be fixed by itself. You need to address such issues immediately. Even if the severity of the problem increases, it won’t get any better for sure. It can lead to immediate threats as well as cause significant damage to the engine.

Conclusion

If you have come this far, you know better about “can you drive a car with a dead cylinder?” So, if you notice any dead cylinder, you better take action fast by taking your car to a mechanic. 

Although it is not suggested you drive your car for some distance even if one of the cylinders becomes dead. It would be wise advice to take your car to a nearby mechanic then.

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