If your car hesitates and jerks when accelerating and you have no idea why it does so, this guide is for you. This abnormal behavior indicates an issue with your engine system that needs to be fixed. So, why does your car behave this way?
Your car hesitates and jerks when accelerating can be caused by various issues including worn-out spark plugs, dirty fuel injectors, clogged catalytic converter, worn-out accelerator cable, faulty mass airflow sensor or blocked air intake, or presence of moisture in the distributor cap.
In the following guide, we have covered everything you need to know about this abnormality in your car, including all the potential causes, how to rectify this problem, and loads of additional helpful information.
Why your car hesitates and jerks when accelerating
If your car jerks and hesitates when accelerating, it usually means your engine combustion process has been affected due to worn spark plugs or wiring or low fuel levels.
Dirty fuel injectors, clogged catalytic converter, and worn-out accelerator cable can also cause jerking and hesitation when accelerating.
Below is the full list of all the possible reasons why your car hesitates and jerks when accelerating:
Bad spark plugs
If your spark plugs are worn, they’re unable to ignite the fuel properly and fast enough. For this reason, your car engine will misfire and you’ll feel your car jerk as you try to accelerate.
The good thing is that spark plugs are a cheap fix and will not cost you a lot of money to replace.
Dirty fuel injectors
The fuel injectors ensure your engine enjoys a steady flow of fuel. But these injectors may become dirty over time, rendering them unable to deliver the fuel to your engine quickly enough. This results in misfires, which is one of the symptoms of a dirty fuel injector.
Clogged catalytic converter
As you may already know, the work of your vehicle catalytic converter is to minimize emissions produced by your car.
However, the converter can easily get clogged when rich air and fuel mixtures keep flowing through it.
This usually makes your car hesitate and jerk, and even produces a stuttering motion when you press the gas.
Damaged acceleration cables
If you have damaged accelerator cables, they could also be the culprits behind your car hesitating and jerking when accelerating.
These cables connect the engine throttle plate and gas pedal. So, when you press the gas pedal, it forces the cable to pull the throttle and your can accelerates.
If this cable gets damaged, it may create a delay in response time for your engine accelerator, creating a hesitation experience.
You may also feel your car jerk when using the cruise control function.
Presence of moisture in the distributor cap
If you’ve left your car in parking outside in cold weather and it’s hesitating and jerking when you try to accelerate, then it is most likely due to moisture buildup in the car distributor cap.
This moisture simply results in misfires which creates a jerking experience whenever you accelerate your vehicle.
Failing MAF (mass airflow) sensor or blocked air intake
Besides fuel, your car engine also requires air to mix with the fuel and keep the pistons moving.
However, if the MAF sensor is faulty or you’ve blocked air intake, your engine will not get the air it needs to run smoothly.
This will often result in a misfire, making your car jerk when you attempt to accelerate.
Damaged fuel lines
The fuel lines are carriers of fuel and help transfer it from one part to another. If one of these pipes gets broken, then it may also cause your car hesitation and jerking.
This issue makes it hard to accelerate your car as the fuel flow is disrupted.
The internal combustion may also become susceptible to other issues once the pipe leaks. In a worst-case scenario, damaged fuel pipes may cause a fire in your car!
If you have a damaged carburetor, then it could be another likely culprit for the jerky situation you’re going through.
The work of a carburetor is to control the amount of air and fuel that get mixed before they enter the engine.
If the carburetor is damaged, it can’t carry out its job and will cause shaking and hesitation as you accelerate. Besides, it may cause an overall drop in your car performance.
Air filter issues
The air filter is responsible for dust and all manner of contaminants out of your vehicle engine.
If you haven’t changed your filter in a long while, it may have a heavy buildup. This will definitely reduce its effectiveness when it comes to doing its job.
It will also take your engine through a struggle as it runs, and probably even cause hesitation and jerking as you try to accelerate.
How to fix a car jerking when accelerating?
If you notice your car hesitating and jerking when accelerating, you’ll need to pay attention to the various areas of your car we have discussed above and see if they’ve any problems that need to be fixed.
For instance, you can start by checking if your car needs a tune-up. Remember, worn-out spark plugs are one of the main culprits behind this problem.
Also, check if the fuel filter is clogged and needs replacement.
If the cause of the jerking is due to fuel system problems, then this is an easy fix as you just need to clean and clear the clogged or blocked parts such as injectors. This will help prevent the misfires responsible for the jerking problem.
Cleaning will also help ensure even amount of fuel gets distributed for the combustion process to run as expected.
If the cleaning doesn’t resolve the jerky driving experience, then you may need to replace some components.
For instance, spark plugs, air filters, coils in cylinders, etc. may need to be changed. Switching up these parts is a pretty easy DIY if you’ve good knowledge of your vehicle engine. The fixes are also inexpensive.
In the case of a blocked catalytic converter, the first step involves getting a good catalytic converter cleaner to help you clear the blockage.
If the cleaning kit doesn’t help (and you’re sure the cat converter is the problem), then you may want to take your car to an auto shop to have the converter replaced.
However, note that replacing the catalytic converter is a bit pricey and will cost you around $1000 to $2500.
As always, we advise you to take your car to a professional mechanic for a thorough analysis to help find the root of the problem and advise you on what needs to be fixed to end the issue.
Why your car jerks and the check engine light comes on
Your car jerking when accelerating and the check engine light coming on at the same time usually means you have a problem with your car’s fuel injector, ignition system, spark plugs, or catalytic converter.
Scanning your car computer for trouble codes that triggered the CEL to illuminate is a good starting point. This will give you clues on what parts are problematic and help narrow down your list of probable causes.
It would be even more helpful if you take your car to an expert mechanic for a quick fix. Ignoring this issue may result in further damage to your vehicle engine.
The auto shops have advanced code scanners and other tools that help them quickly diagnose this problem and pinpoint the root cause, and then recommend the necessary repairs to fix the problem.
Why your car jerks when accelerating with no check engine light
If your car jerks when accelerating but the dreaded CEL doesn’t come on, you may think that you’re in the clear and the issue isn’t that bad.
But that’s not true. Some issues may occur and not trigger the check engine light.
For instance, worn spark plugs don’t always activate the CEL. But that doesn’t mean that your spark plugs are alight and shouldn’t be checked or replaced.
Another simple explanation for why the light may not illuminate is that the issue affecting your car may not be bad enough to trigger a check engine light yet.
In any case, if your car jerks when accelerating but has no check engine light, DON’T ignore the issue. Take it to your mechanic for diagnosis and fixing.
The hesitation and jerking issue is enough proof that something isn’t right with your car and you should take it to an auto shop for diagnosis and repair.
What it means if your car jerks when accelerating at high speeds
If your case involves your car getting jerky when accelerating at high speeds, this is your part.
The most likely culprits, in this case, are dirty fuel injectors, buildup in the fuel filter, and using inferior fuel.
To solve this jerking problem, you’ll need to diagnose your car engine and find the culprit.
If the pump is the culprit, you may have to replace some of its parts, but you shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that your entire pump has broken.
Since the fuel filter stops buildup of dirt from getting to your fuel injectors, you should replace it if becomes faulty.
If your fuel injectors are mainly dirty, clean them using a fuel injector cleaning solution. But if the buildup is too much, you may want to get a fuel injector cleaning kit.
It could also be caused by your engine not receding the amount of air it needs. Check for a blocked air intake or faulty mass airflow sensor and replace it.
Above all, avoid feeding your substandard gasoline to your car. Get gas from sellers you know and trust. And watch out for gas stations with less patronage as they don’t fill their tanks more often and may end up selling you staler fuel, which is sure to affect your car’s performance.
Driving excessively with low fuel levels can cause your fuel pump to wear down, affecting its normal functioning.
WARNING: Your car jerking and hesitating at high speeds is a more serious problem since you may lose control of it when driving on the freeway and cause accidents. For this reason, we advise you to address this problem as soon as possible.
What it means if your car jerks when accelerating at low speeds
In most cases, your car jerks when accelerating at low speeds due to an issue with the spark plugs.
However, don’t completely rule out the possibility of issues related to the catalytic converter or air intake system being the culprits.
A real-life scenario involves this motorist whose car hesitates and jerks at low speeds, usually around speeds of under 10mph.
In such a case, you’d want to check if your car requires some tune-up. The issue could be resulting from worn-out spark plugs or dirty air filter, both of which are easy to replace on your own. It is also possible that the problem springs from a dirty throttle body.
A dirty air flow meter is another likely culprit. Checking the fuel ratios and air flow sensor will also help in diagnosing your car.
Why your car jerks when accelerating uphill
Your car jerking when accelerating uphill is mainly caused by dirty fuel injectors. When the injectors are dirty, they deter the engine from getting an adequate power supply, and intermittent jerking may occur as a result.
The jerking problem can also be caused by various other issues such as dirty fuel filter, bad spark plugs, or clogged catalytic converter.
The best solution for this problem is to use the elimination method. Start by inspecting the fuel pump and filter and replacing them if they’re faulty. Next, clean or replace the dirty fuel injectors.
You may also want to try cat converter cleaners to eliminate clogs that may be causing the jerking. Or if the clogging is severe, replace the concert with a new one.
An engine misfire will make your car jerk as you try accelerating uphill. If the check engine light also comes on in blinking mode, it further confirms that your engine is experiencing a misfire.
You should consider having your vehicle ignition system inspected by a qualified technician. This should cover the spark plugs, ignition coils, and the related wiring for the ignition system.
They should also inspect the fuel system and do the cleaning/replacement of the faulty parts for you.“Car hesitating and jerking when accelerating can be a frustrating and potentially dangerous problem. At MotorAdvices, we have articles that address a range of issues related to car hesitations, including what to do when your car hesitates when turning and when your car vibrates when the radiator fan turns on. Our article on car hesitates when turning explains the possible reasons for this issue and provides solutions to help you keep your car running smoothly. Similarly, our article on car vibrating when radiator fan turns on discusses the causes of this issue and offers tips on how to diagnose and fix the problem. Visit MotorAdvices to learn more about how to keep your car running smoothly and address any hesitations or issues you may be experiencing.
If your car jerks when accelerating in first gear, it is mostly due to a malfunctioning transmission control module (TCM) for automatic cars.
When the TCM goes bad, it causes the gearbox to shift slowly, causing delayed response, or creating rough and harsh gear changes.
However, in the case of a manual car, the issue might be caused by a worn-out clutch, a bad pressure plate, or even a rear main seal leak that leaks oil onto your clutch.
Under normal circumstances, your car shouldn’t jerk when you accelerate. If this occurs, it indicates a problem with your car engine that you need to get fixed as soon as possible before it turns into something worse that affects your safety and that of other road users.
It’s dangerous to drive a car that hesitates and jerks while accelerating, especially when you’re driving at high speeds. Your risk causing accidents and endangering your life as well as that of your loved ones and other road users.
If your car jerks and hesitates when accelerating, then it’s a sign that your car is undergoing a bigger problem that needs to be fixed as soon as possible. The most likely causes for this issue include failing spark plugs, clogged catalytic converter, damaged acceleration cable, dirty fuel injectors, bad MAF sensor, blocked air inlet, or moisture accumulation in the distributor cap.
Having discussed all the possible causes for your car jerking ad hesitating when you give it gas, we now hope that you’re in a better position to diagnose your car and find out the exact culprit. We advise you to get an experienced mechanic to help you fix this problem before it gets into something bigger that forces you to take your car off the road.