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5 Lean Engine Running Symptoms (& Common Causes)

 

While diagnosing a rich engine can be fairly simple, accurately diagnosing a lean engine can be a little more difficult. But just because it’s harder to find the culprit doesn’t mean it’s any less serious.

If an engine is not treated properly, it can cause irreparable damage to the engine and cost you a fortune! But what exactly does a mechanic mean when he tells you that his engine is running poorly and what can he do about it? He reads on, and we’ll break it all down for you.

what does running mean

When a mechanic tells you that your engine is lean, it means that you are not getting enough fuel. While you may think it’s a good thing because it will save you some money at the pump, an overrunning motor is a serious condition that you should treat immediately.

If your engine is not getting enough fuel, you will notice performance problems, but the biggest problem you need to worry about is burning out your engine.

Without the correct air-fuel ratio, your engine is taxed much longer in the engine cycle, and it is only a matter of time before this additional tax becomes a major problem.

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But how do you know if your car is thin? Chances are, if something is wrong, you will notice it, but there are a few things to keep in mind so you don’t end up with a damaged engine.

#1 – Low power output and poor performance

brake noise when driving

Even if you manage to start your vehicle, if the engine is dying, you will notice a decrease in performance and power. In fact, you don’t just add a random amount of fuel to maximize your vehicle’s performance.

Fuel injection must inject the correct amount of fuel into the cylinder each cycle to ensure maximum power and efficiency. If your vehicle’s engine is lean, you will notice that you will not be able to accelerate as efficiently as before. You will probably notice some problems with its responsiveness.

The reason is quite simple. Whether you drive a diesel or gasoline vehicle, the explosion of fuel generates the force necessary to push the piston upward. The force of the explosion lifts the piston and generates the power needed to accelerate the engine.

Without enough fuel, the explosion is smaller, causing the piston to retract at a slower rate.

#2 – Problem starting your car

the car doesn't start

Your vehicle’s engine needs fuel to run. Without it, you won’t get anywhere. That’s why a common symptom of an engine that keeps “running” is that you won’t be able to get it running at all!

Related: Reasons for a Car That Starts But Won’t Start

#3 – Transparent or white spark plugs

clean the spark plug

When everything works as it should, things get complicated. If you remove one of your spark plugs and it is white or looks new, you have a problem. You usually associate dirty spark plugs with bad spark plugs, but this is not automatically the case.

Fuel must burn and this combustion must leave a residue on your spark plugs. The older the spark plug, the more debris there should be.

Related: How to Replace Spark Plugs (Step by Step)

#4 – Check Engine Light is On

check engine light on

Modern engine manufacturers load it with sensors. As soon as they detect something strange, they send a signal to the ECU, and the ECU turns on the check engine light to let you know something is wrong.

It probably won’t say you’re thin, but rather, it will give you a better indication of what’s causing the problem.

You may have a low fuel pressure check engine light or a bad O2 sensor. Either way, the check engine light will point you in the right direction!

#5 – Engine stall

strange engine noise

Even if you manage to start your vehicle, if it does not run well, you may have trouble getting it to run. It will sound terrible and sizzle until you can’t continue. This will be especially true when you are idle.

When you pour more fuel into the system by stepping on the accelerator, it’s a little easier to keep going. However, you still won’t get the power output you need.

Related: 8 Common Causes of Engine Shutdowns

Common Causes of a Lean Running Car

While recognizing that your engine is running poorly is an important step, determining the cause is just as important. While there are many problems that can arise from running a lean engine, some are much more common than others.

Below are some of the most common reasons and how you can fix them yourself!

#1 – Clogged fuel filter

Your fuel filter does all the dirty work, literally. The filter cleans dirt, grime, grime, and anything else that gets into the fuel tank. As the filter wears, this dirt begins to build up, affecting the amount of fuel that passes through.

Although the filter element allows fuel to pass through without any problem, the debris it keeps out remains there and fuel cannot pass through. This is one of the most important reasons why you need to change the fuel filter regularly.

#2 – Clogged fuel injectors

Another reason you should change your fuel filter regularly is to protect your fuel injectors. Unlike fuel filters, which can handle tons of foreign gunk, fuel injectors are finicky beasts. Even a little dirt or grime can render them useless.

When they are clogged, they will have a hard time getting enough fuel into the combustion chamber. If this happens, you will need to clean your injectors and if you are not lucky, you will need to replace them.

Although it is relatively cheap to clean the injectors, it is quite expensive to replace them.

#3 – Faulty fuel pump

If your engine is lean, this is because there is not enough fuel in the combustion chamber. The fuel pump begins to enter the combustion chamber. If it is clogged or if you cannot get enough fuel from the tank, the end result will be low fuel pressure and the engine will run lean.

Unfortunately, replacing your fuel pump is neither cheap nor easy if you don’t have the right equipment. While this is a common reason for an engine to run poorly, it’s not what you’d expect because it will typically cost you between $400 and $600 to replace.

#4 Defective oxygen sensor

Since modern vehicles have a large number of outputs controlled by sensors throughout the vehicle, one of the most common reasons an engine runs poorly is that it has a faulty fuel or oxygen sensor.

Your vehicle’s ECU uses information from the oxygen sensors to determine how much fuel to add to each cycle. If the oxygen sensor is faulty and the excessive emissions reading is incorrect, you are telling the ECU to send less fuel to the combustion chamber!

No matter how little fuel you send, it still reads excessive emissions because the sensor is faulty.

The good news is that replacing oxygen sensors is pretty easy for the average person. If your engine is running, this is the problem you expect to have.

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