Car Jerks When Accelerating: Causes and Fixes | Rx Mechanic (2022)

Do you feel like your car jerks when accelerating? A few things could cause this annoying condition, and it would help if you seek a quick solution. Such acceleration problems would often result from insufficient fuel/air mixture in the combustion chamber.

Again, a bad spark plug and bad plug cable can easily make your vehicle stutter. In essence, your car jerking is a big sign that something is wrong. Thus, you would need to find out what is wrong and get it fixed soon to prevent further damages.

One thing car owners desire is for their vehicle to run smoothly, without any hassles. Nevertheless, there are often issues that result from frequent use, and you can diagnose these problems with some common symptoms. Well, this article reveals common reasons your car jerks while accelerating.

What Causes Cars to Jerk When Accelerating?

Suppose you’ve been driving down the street, and suddenly your vehicle starts jerking. How scary it seems when you notice the car jerks when accelerating at high speed. Such a sudden occurrence could lead some drivers to lose control, causing them and others to be in danger.

What could possibly be the cause?

Car Jerks When Accelerating: Causes and Fixes | Rx Mechanic (1)

There are reasons why the car starts stuttering during acceleration. Nevertheless, it would help to know what such a situation feels like to understand better. If you’ve experienced this situation in the past, it seems pretty annoying. In that case, you can tell that it feels like the vehicle lacks sufficient power to keep moving.

Most times, the car would stop despite pressing your foot against the gas and later move forward. Based on the cause of this issue, you would often find this “jerking” repeating a couple of times.

If you haven’t experienced such, it could take you off guard. But, you should be prepared to fix it whenever it arises. You may find that the car jerks when accelerating and braking.

With that in mind, you can look through these common reasons why your car stutters when accelerating

Damaged Accelerator Cable

Does this sound strange? There are still vehicles that accelerate with the help of a throttle cable (physical accelerator cable). It is persistent despite many cars using electronic drive-by-wire throttle control.

What does this mean? The car uses this cable as a mechanical link between the throttle plate and the gas pedal. With constant driving, the cable would soon start wearing out. When worn, there would be a slow-down when you press your feet against the gas pedal.

(Video) Car Jerks when Accelerating | All About Auto

Rather than a smooth acceleration, you would notice the car lurching. Thus, when you find that your car jerks when accelerating at high speeds, you should stop and inspect the outer coating of this cable.

Dirty Fuel Injectors

One most common issue with cars that seems pretty annoying is the dirty fuel injectors. The design of fuel injectors makes them allows a steady flow of fuel into the car’s engine. A bad fuel injector can result from excessive accumulation of dirt.

With the inconsistent intake of fuel, you would find the car’s engine stuttering. Such an issue can also cause an engine to misfire while it also jerks during acceleration. Thus, you would need to clean injectors or get them replaced.

Jammed Catalytic Converter

Ever wondered what reduces the pollutant levels that leave via the car exhaust? Well, it is the catalytic converter. Nevertheless, a blockage soon starts forming with a fuel/air mixture that appears too rich. Such blockage would stop a proper flow of air through the exhaust.

Once the car faces such a problem, you may notice that the car jerks when accelerating with no check engine light “o”n.” In essence, you would need to unblock with a suitable catalytic converter cleaner or seek a new replacement.

Built-up Moisture

You may have some condensation forming beneath the distributor cap on colder days, much more when you get the car parked outside all through the night. The built-up moisture can also cause the engine to misfire, resulting in the vehicle jerking.

However, you can rest assured that such a problem would go away when the moisture goes away. Still, you can ensure that this issue does not occur by parking the car in a protected area like your garage.

Another thing that can help is to buy a car thermal cover, as the built-up moisture may affect the engine over time. There are various options available in many auto stores, and you can find a suitable cover for your car.

Bad Spark Plug

A faulty spark plug seems like one of the commonest issues that car owners face. Thi issue may lead to the engine knocking while accelerating, but you can easily fix such. Cars need a good spark plug to generate the spark for fuel ignition in gas-operated engines.

This issue may be the reason your car jerks when accelerating from a stop. Nevertheless, you can easily get the plugs replaced. When doing so, consider replacing all the plugs rather than seeking out the bad spark plugs.

Dirty Air Filter

The car’s air filter works effectively in removing lots of impurities from the air that reaches the engine. Once it appears dirty, the contaminants would reach the engine and affect the vehicle’s performance.

So, when next you notice the car hesitates and jerks when accelerating, it may be due to a dirty air filter. It would be best if you replace or clean the dirty air filter to stop this problem. Interestingly, such an act can help improve the lifespan of the engine.

(Video) How To Fix Engine Hesitation During Acceleration - Easy Fix!

Faulty Transmission Control Module

Notice your car jerks when accelerating in first gear? It may be due to a transmission control module that appears spoilt. Such situations would delay gear shifts, and you would notice that “harsh feel” when the car jerks.

Bad Mass Airflow Sensor

The Mass Airflow Sensor (MAF) does a great job measuring the amount of air that reaches the engine and sends such details to the ca’s computer. A failed MAF seems bad for your vehicle, and you may feel the car jerks when accelerating uphill.

You can further notice that this problem persists by scanning through the engine check light on your dashboard. Alternatively, you can confirm the condition of the MAF using an OBDS scanner.

How to Fix these Problems

  • Check and replace all spark plugs to ensure they are always in the right condition for the proper functioning of the car.
  • Visit a car expert to help you fix issues with damaged accelerator cable
  • Clean the fuel injectors frequently using a suitable cleaner
  • Unclog minor blockages that affect the catalytic converter or visit an auto repair shop
  • Try to clean or change air filters when they appear dirty

Reasons Car Jerks When Slowing Down

If you notice your vehicle jerking at low revs, many issues come to mind. Aside from the common issues stated above, there are a few other problems that you should look out for and seek a quick solution.

Why does my truck jerk when slowing down? Well, there are various reasons why your car pulls back when slowing down and starts jerking. Some common cause includes:

Bad Transmission Mount

One such issue that causes the car to jerk is a faulty transmission mount or motor mount. The transmission kicks when slowing down since the engine tries to move separately from the other part of the car to some extent.

With force attached, the engine may bang against other hardware, causing the car to jerk. Nevertheless, this could also mean that the transmission fluid level seems low or needs you to replace the old fluid.

Issues with the Ignition Components

Issues with the spark plug or coil packs can cause some hesitation in the movement of your vehicle. Why is this so? There is a need for a “spark” for the gasoline ignition, which needs to occur at the right time.

There great need for adequate distribution of the spark across the various cylinders for the car to operate efficiently. So, when the car jerks when slowing down at 25 mph, it could be some issues with the ignition system.

Issues with the Throttle Cable

If you feel the car jerks when slowing down the Honda engine, it could occur due to the wear on the throttle plate’s cable. There is often some level of resistance that you would notice when the throttle cable appears frail. So, you should visit an expert car mechanic to get this issue fixed.

How to Fix these Problems

When you notice the car jerks with the engine braking at low revs, you should quickly fix the issue. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Get the faulty engine mount changed; you can seek the help of an expert
  • Ensure that the transmission fluid stays at the required level or refill when it appears short
  • Replace bad spark plugs and ensure the wires gets fixed correctly

Reasons Why Car Jerks When Accelerating At High Speeds

Drives on highways are often at high speed, and car owners desire a smooth ride at that point. You wouldn’t want a struggle with your vehicle while you’re in haste to get somewhere. What does it mean for your car to jerk while driving?

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At high speed, there are various reasons why your car stutters, and they include:

Problems with the Ignition

If your car jerks when accelerating at low speeds, it could be due to a clogged catalytic converter or dirty fuel injectors. Nevertheless, when you notice that the car jerks while driving at “constant speed,” it could be problems associated with the ignition system.

Again, many irregularities can cause serious issues for the ignition system, such as the coil, spark plug and plug wire, and the coil pack. With incomplete combustion and loss of spark for proper ignition, the car would have an engine lope that seems abnormal. Thus, the vehicle starts jerking while at high speed.

Less Air Intake

In a bid to facilitate the combustion of fuel, the engine takes in enough air. However, filthy air filters can restrict that flow of air. Such interruption can cause severe issues with the vehicle’s driveability, making the car jerk. So, when you notice that the car hesitates and jerks when accelerating, you should check the air filters.

Faulty Fuel System

A bad fuel pump can keep the engine starved and reduce its efficiency. At high speed, the car needs more fuel, and when not supplied, you may notice the car jerks when accelerating from a stop. Other issues that restrict the flow of fuel include dirty injectors and clogged fuel filters.

How to Fix these Problems

When your car jerks when accelerating uphill, you can do the following to fix the possible causes of this issue.

  • Replace the dirty fuel filter to ensure the flow of sufficient fuel to the engine
  • Check the air filters and take out contaminants that blocks the air passage
  • Replace bad spark plugs and ensure you check them from time to time
  • Seek the assistance of a car expert for other issues associated with the ignition system

Why Car Jerks When Accelerating From Stop

As you try starting the engine, you may notice the car jerking just when it starts accelerating. Such a situation can be pretty disturbing, and it could be due to any of the following issues:

Vacuum Leaks

You may find that your car jerks when stopped in the driveway due to a vacuum leak. There may be some significant idle problems when unmetered air enters the engine’s air intake. These leaks may occur at the intake ducting, throttle body gasket, hoses, and intake manifold gasket. Kindly note that a dirty throttle body can cause a rough running of the car.

Bad IAC Valve

When you stop the car, and it remains at a position (at idle), the throttle plate gets closed, causing a relegation of the distributed air to the Air Idle Control valve in the engine. Nevertheless, air can still pass through to the throttle plate in small amounts thanks to this valve.

Hence, the engine gets sustained till the car moves again. Suppose the IAC valve became clogged or fails, the car may face an erratic or harsh idle. Then, you may notice the car hesitates and jerks when accelerating.

The U-Joint getting Slacked

Ever noticed the car jerking when you suddenly hit the reverse? Well, it seems pretty normal, as many cars take up some “slack” amount with the sudden shift to reverse. Still, when the U-joints get damaged, this condition worsens, and you notice the car jerk as the vehicle moves backward.

Low Transmission Fluid

The car jerks when accelerating automatic transmissions with low fluids to aid the torque converter operation. The delayed or hard shifts may frequently occur when the car has low transmission fluid, or the car’s transmission is bad.

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These issues need swift actions for getting them fixed, as delay can result in serious damages that may have a lasting effect.

How to Fix these Problems

  • Troubleshoot and be sure of the exact problem
  • Refill transmission fluid that appears low
  • Take the care to an auto care store to fix a faulty transmission
  • Try work on unclogging the IAC valve

Car Jerks When Accelerating: Causes and Fixes | Rx Mechanic (2)

FAQs

Q: Can transmission cause the car to jerk?

When your car’s automatic transmission shifts hard during rides, you may feel the vehicle jerking or stuttering. In essence, there may be a need to change the fluid or refill the fluid if it appears low. With that in mind, you can take swift action in fixing these issues.

Nevertheless, manuals transmissions in cars could cause such “jerking” when the clutches appear worn, or the gear synchros are damaged. It could also be a more serious problem, and it would help if you take the car to an expert automobile mechanic.

Q: What does it mean when your car is jerking while you’re driving?

When your vehicle jerks while driving, it tells that there is no sufficient air/fuel mixture received by the engine. Such issues can also cause the engine to start but won’t stay running and lead to a bad fuel economy.

In essence, the cause of car stuttering could be due to the various components of the air and fuel intake system. You may look out for a dirty fuel injector or air filter when you see that the car jerks during acceleration. Again, accumulated contaminants in the fuel tank can be an issue, so clean the fuel tank.

Q: Can a bad battery cause a car to jerk?

Bad batteries or alternators are common issues in most cars. Most folks consider these problems first when their car starts jerking when accelerating. When the battery does not get sufficient charge from the alternator, it would lack enough voltage for the smooth running of the vehicle.

Thus, you would start noticing the car jerk as you accelerate. Again, the car’s computer would face some challenges shifting the transmission in the right manner if the system lacks sufficient power. Nevertheless, there are some other issues that you may look out for to help you solve this problem.

Q: What causes rough idle and hesitation?

Rough idling occurs in vehicles that often have bad plugs or faulty plug wires. Other common causes include the mass airflow sensor, IAC valve, Throttle valve, and a damaged fuel pump. You can also find a head gasket leakage and dirty fuel injectors causing that hesitation and rough idle.

In essence, when you face some difficulties in maintaining or keeping the rotation rate steady, you should check these areas mentioned above. You can quickly get the issue diagnosed and seek an excellent solution for a quick fix.

Q: Why is my engine light on and car jerking?

The engine light turns on when your car’s engine has some issues. In essence, when your car jerks when driving slow or fast, and you notice the engine check light on, then the issue is from the engine. Knowing the exact problem would help you fix the issue faster.

Some common causes, in this case, may be a damaged mass air flow sensor or issues with the vehicle’s catalytic converter. Thus, it would be beneficial if you take the car to an expert for a quick fix. Much delay may result in serious issues that further damages the engine.

(Video) How to Fix a Jerky Transmission

Final Words

Many, a smooth ride is awesome, but some issues may stem up, reducing the car’s driveability. One of such is the vehicle jerking when riding at a high or low speed. When you start feeling like the vehicle is jerking, it is often associated with the fuel/air mixture.

You may keep noticing such stuttering or surging each time you put your foot against the gas pedal. Such problems can also arise due to insufficient spark during the fuel combustion process. Nevertheless, this article reveals some common reasons why the car jerks when accelerating and some possible solutions.

FAQs

What would cause a car to jerk when accelerating? ›

The most likely reason that a car jerks when accelerating from stop is a problem with the clutch. It could be due to worn-out friction material or a pressure plate defect (or combination of both). It could also be caused by an oil leak contaminating the clutch plate.

How do you fix a car jerking when accelerating? ›

To fix this, you should clean the injectors on a regular basis. Using a fuel injector cleaning solution might eliminate the issue of the car jerking. If the clog is too severe, the injectors may need to be taken out and cleaned or replaced by a mechanic.

When I press the gas my car jerks? ›

If the air/fuel mixture inside the engine becomes too rich, it can disrupt the exhaust, causing car jerks or the accelerator to respond when you press the gas pedal. Other symptoms of a faulty catalytic converter include foul odors and decreased fuel economy.

What does a car jerking mean? ›

Car jerking is a common problem with many different factors that can contribute to the cause. Worn Out Spark Plugs. Dirty Fuel Injectors. Damaged Acceleration Cable. Blocked Fuel or Air Intakes.

Does a dirty air filter cause your car to jerk? ›

A dirty air filter decreases the amount of air supplied to the engine. This can lead to an increase in unburned fuel that turns into soot residue. Soot can mound up on the spark plug tips making them unable to deliver a proper spark. In return, the car can jerk, idle, and in some circumstances, the engine can misfire.

What are the signs that your transmission is going out? ›

What Are the Transmission Failure Symptoms?
  • Refusal to Switch Gears. If your vehicle refuses or struggles to change gears, you are more than likely facing a problem with your transmission system. ...
  • Burning Smell. ...
  • Noises When in Neutral. ...
  • Slipping Gears. ...
  • Dragging Clutch. ...
  • Leaking Fluid. ...
  • Check Engine Light. ...
  • Grinding or Shaking.
16 Mar 2017

How often should you change spark plugs? ›

Spark plugs are designed for long-term durability, meaning that they only need to be replaced between every 80,000 and 100,000 miles. However, they can become damaged earlier than expected and require replacements to avoid pricey engine repairs.

Can transmission cause car to jerk? ›

Rough jerking when shifting

It might feel like a jerk, clunk or thud. This is usually caused by troubles with the vacuum, transmission fluid or a faulty sensor. The vacuum modulator valve helps older vehicles determine when to shift gears. There's a hose that connects the valve with the intake through a hose.

Can exhaust leak cause jerking? ›

Exhaust System Problems that Cause Jerking and Shaking

Worn out Seals or Gaskets – These numerous seals and gaskets are all along the exhaust system. However, they wear out over time. As a result, this causes exhaust gas leaks. Leaks will cause shaking and sputtering when accelerating.

Is it safe to drive a car that jerks? ›

A car that jerks during acceleration at high speeds can be dangerous to drive, as you might lose control of your car's speed. Your car might lose its speed rapidly and you could be rear-ended by drivers behind you if they're not aware.

What are signs of a clogged fuel filter? ›

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU'RE DRIVING WITH A CLOGGED FUEL FILTER?
  • You have a hard time starting car. If the problem is the fuel filter, and it isn't changed soon, you may find that your vehicle won't start at all.
  • Misfire or rough idle. ...
  • Vehicle stalling. ...
  • Fuel system component failure. ...
  • Loud noises from the fuel pump.

Why does my car jerk at 30 mph? ›

Many different faults can cause the vehicle to jerk and have acceleration issue. The most likely cause of these are spark plugs, battery, alternator, fuel pump, low transmission fluid, MAF sensor, vacuum leak, exhaust leak or oxygen sensor. All of these would need to be ruled out before the transmission was replaced.

Is it worth fixing a transmission? ›

Rebuilding a transmission can save you a lot of money over the short-term, while keeping car payments out of your monthly budget. For many, rebuilding their transmission is worth the initial cost. Rebuilding a transmission may cost you twenty-five hundred dollars or more, which is a significant chunk of change.

How do I know if my transmission fluid is low? ›

Symptoms of Low Transmission Fluid
  1. Drips or puddles underneath the car.
  2. Difficulty shifting through gears and/or slipping.
  3. Shuddering or shaking.
  4. Lurching or sudden jerks.
  5. Transmission won't engage.
  6. Humming or clunking noises.
  7. A burning smell.
26 Jul 2021

How much is it to repair a transmission? ›

Average transmission repair costs range from $300 to $1,400. For example, if your manual transmission needs a new clutch, you can reasonably expect to pay around $800 to $1,500. On the other hand, transmission replacement is one of the most expensive repairs you can get. Replacements can range from $1,800 to $3,400.

How do you check spark plugs without removing them? ›

Attach a spark plug tester to the ignition wire. At the other end, the tester connects to the spark plug as it sits in your engine. Turn the ignition ON. Start the engine, or simply turn it over if it won't start, and watch the transparent sides of the tester.

What are the signs your transmission is going out? ›

What Are the Transmission Failure Symptoms?
  • Refusal to Switch Gears. If your vehicle refuses or struggles to change gears, you are more than likely facing a problem with your transmission system. ...
  • Burning Smell. ...
  • Noises When in Neutral. ...
  • Slipping Gears. ...
  • Dragging Clutch. ...
  • Leaking Fluid. ...
  • Check Engine Light. ...
  • Grinding or Shaking.
16 Mar 2017

What causes a car to surge while driving? ›

Usually, there are three leading causes behind car surging when accelerating. First, it can be that your fuel is making its way to your engine correctly. Second, it can be due to faulty torque converters. Lastly, engine misfires can come from a loss of vacuum coming from the intake system.

Why do my car feel like it's dragging? ›

Your pull(drag) may be a sign of a worn tire, bad alignment, or fault in your braking system. A fault In the braking system is likely responsible for a pull to the left or right or a type of feeling as if the vehicle's weighted down.

Is it worth fixing a transmission? ›

Rebuilding a transmission can save you a lot of money over the short-term, while keeping car payments out of your monthly budget. For many, rebuilding their transmission is worth the initial cost. Rebuilding a transmission may cost you twenty-five hundred dollars or more, which is a significant chunk of change.

How do I check my transmission? ›

Park the vehicle, set the parking brake, then step on the clutch pedal, and put the transmission into first gear. Listen and feel for any grinding, or other noises when putting the shifter into gear, as that could indicate a potential problem with that particular gears' synchronizer.

Do transmissions go out suddenly? ›

Luckily, transmission failure doesn't usually happen without warning. There are several warning signs that your transmission's going out.

What are signs fuel pump is going bad? ›

A bad fuel pump may overheat and inadequately deliver gas to the engine, causing it to run hot and turn off while on the road. In this scenario, your vehicle may start back up after overheating and shutting down, only to do the same thing a half-hour later. This scenario is a common sign of a bad fuel pump.

Can a clogged air filter cause surging? ›

A dirty air filter will reduce the flow of air into the carburetor. This will alter the fuel-air mixture the same as the fuel filter and potentially result in surging.

How do I know if my fuel filter needs to be changed? ›

Here are five of the bad fuel filter symptoms to watch for:
  1. You have a hard time starting car. If the problem is the fuel filter, and it isn't changed soon, you may find that your vehicle won't start at all.
  2. Misfire or rough idle. ...
  3. Vehicle stalling. ...
  4. Fuel system component failure. ...
  5. Loud noises from the fuel pump.

Can timing belt affect acceleration? ›

The timing belt synchronises the movement of the pistons and engine valves. Wear and tear of the timing belt can affect this process, also affecting engine performance. In this case, you're likely to notice that your car struggles to switch gears or accelerate.

Does needing an oil change affect acceleration? ›

A well-lubricated engine is a smooth operator, so when the oil inside becomes old and dirty, it can't lubricate the moving parts as well and as a result, it will not be able to perform as smoothly as normal. This means acceleration can be sluggish and the engine will feel down on power.

How often should you change spark plugs? ›

Spark plugs are designed for long-term durability, meaning that they only need to be replaced between every 80,000 and 100,000 miles. However, they can become damaged earlier than expected and require replacements to avoid pricey engine repairs.

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