Cars have become more complex over the years and the number of symptoms that can mean several things has increased. Fortunately, many of these symptoms can be diagnosed and corrected without specialized equipment.
If the car jerks when accelerating, this may indicate some current or potential problems. Here we will address the most common culprits and how to resolve the problem.
Related: Car shakes when braking or idling
Why does your car squeal, squeal, or stutter when you accelerate?
When the car feels like it is jumping, skipping, bumping, or stuttering after you press the accelerator pedal, it is usually due to insufficient fuel, air, or spark during the combustion process.
However, there are other things that can cause it. You want to find and fix the problem as soon as possible before it gets worse and more expensive to fix.
See also: 9 reasons why your car moans while driving
#1 – Dirty fuel injectors
This is a common and annoying problem that can be responsible for several problems. Dirty injectors can cause your car to lose power and acceleration when driving at constant speeds or when stopping due to frequent engine failures. You may also hear engine stuttering due to inconsistent fuel consumption.
Cleaning the injectors should be done regularly to avoid this problem. Fortunately, this process is quite easy with the help of a fuel injector or fuel system cleaner.
However, injectors can become so clogged with carbon deposits that even the best fuel injection cleaner cannot. In these cases, you will need to remove the injectors to try to manually clean them or replace them.
#2 – Blocked catalytic converter
A catalytic converter is responsible for reducing the amount of pollutants that come from the car’s exhaust. When your engine’s air/fuel mixture is too rich, a blockage in the catalytic converter can develop over time, affecting exhaust system airflow.
This can cause stuttering, jerking, and general sluggishness every time you press the accelerator. In addition to shaking, other symptoms may include a rotten egg (hydrogen sulfide) smell, a decrease in the car’s fuel efficiency, and a check engine light.
You may be able to clear it by first using a good catalytic converter cleaner. If it doesn’t work, you’ll need to take it to an auto repair shop to fix the problem, which will likely include replacing the catalytic converter.
#3 – Faulty mass air flow sensor
If you notice your car bouncing forward or jumping at high speeds, it could be due to a faulty mass air flow (MAF) sensor. Its job is to measure the amount of air entering the engine so it can pass this information to the car’s computer.
The computer then instructs the fuel injectors to deliver the correct amount of fuel at the correct time for the correct air/fuel mixture.
With a faulty MAF sensor, you may experience your car jumping or moving unexpectedly when driving at higher speeds, such as on the highway, where it would be noticeable.
A check engine light should be present when the mass air flow sensor is faulty, but you can easily confirm this via an OBD2 scanner.
#4 – Faulty fuel pump or filter
Often, the cause of your car shaking when accelerating is a problem with the fuel supply. When the engine is not receiving the correct amount of fuel, it is often best to start from the beginning.
In this case, it would be the car’s fuel pump. A faulty fuel pump would have a hard time keeping up with fuel demands and would cause your car to shake and drive.
Alternatively, you may have a clogged fuel filter that restricts fuel flow, which can also cause problems due to inconsistent fuel delivery. Replacing the fuel filter is a simple and inexpensive process.
#5 – Dirty air filter
As you read this article, you’ll notice that a poor air/fuel mixture is usually the culprit if your car sputters or sputters when accelerating. In front of the fuel side, there is a good air intake.
When there is not enough air in the combustion chamber, you often have the same problems as when there is not enough fuel.
Your car’s air filter is the first line of defense against dirt and other foreign particles. A dirty air filter will allow some particles to enter the engine, affecting performance and causing knocking.
Check the condition of your air filter. If dirty, replace it. It should only cost $10 to $20 and take a few minutes to replace. Alternatively, you can purchase a reusable air filter like K&N which allows for future cleaning instead of replacement.
A clean filter can greatly improve the life of your car’s engine, including reducing or eliminating harsh acceleration.
#6 – Defective flash sockets
One of the most common causes is also one of the easiest to identify and correct. During the combustion process, a good spark is needed to properly ignite the fuel in each cylinder.
A faulty or dirty spark plug can prevent proper ignition and cause the engine to fail to start. While driving, you feel as if your vehicle shakes or stops when you accelerate.
Fixing this problem is as simple as replacing the faulty plug. If you can’t remember the last time you replaced your spark plugs, it might be a good idea to change them all. It is a quick and cheap solution.
#7 – Moisture buildup
On colder days, condensation may occur under the distributor cap. This mainly happens when the car is parked outside overnight. This moisture will damage the engine, so your car will shake when you accelerate at a low speed.
Fortunately, the problem will go away once the water is gone, but repeated increases in humidity can overload the motor over time.
You can avoid this problem entirely by making sure your car is parked in a garage or other protected location. A thermal blanket can also help reduce the risk of condensation when shelter is not an option and colder weather is expected.
#8 – Worn throttle cable
Although most cars on the road use electronic throttle control for acceleration, a physical throttle cable (or accelerator cable) is still found on many vehicles. It acts as a mechanical link between the accelerator pedal and the accelerator plate.
Over time, this throttle cable can wear out. This will cause the car to react more slowly when you step on the accelerator and will lurch instead of providing smooth acceleration. You can usually see damage to the outer jacket of the cable when examined, making this problem easy to diagnose.
A damaged cable requires immediate attention because the car can stop running when the cable breaks. Be sure to take it to a trusted mechanic to ensure the replacement is done. Correct.
#9 – Faulty transmission control module
If you drive a car with an automatic transmission and notice that your car shakes or jerks as you shift the transmission, you may have a faulty transmission control module (or solenoid).
This part is responsible for changing gears when you accelerate. Gear changes can be slow or unpredictable and are often abrupt and can make the car feel sluggish.
Although it is not a common point of failure, it is worth thinking about when troubleshooting.