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Common Misfiring Cylinders: Causes And Problems!

We are talking about a problem that can occur for a variety of reasons. When your car starts to misfire, you are likely to notice engine performance issues such as rough running and hesitation. The check engine light will also come on. It could be one of the common misfiring of the cylinders.

A misfire not only makes your car unpleasant (and sometimes unsafe) to drive, it can also cause additional damage to your vehicle. Therefore, you will definitely want to diagnose and repair the problem immediately.

What is a cylinder misfire?

To understand a misfire, you first need to understand how a gasoline engine creates power by compressing and igniting a mixture of air and fuel.

When the engine is running, a series of valves allow air (and fuel in the case of port injection) to enter each cylinder in sequence. Once air and fuel have entered one of the cylinders, the valves close and the piston moves up in that cylinder to pressurize (compress) the mixture.

The spark plug then fires and the fuel-air mixture ignites. The explosion (combustion) forces the piston down, turning the crankshaft. The process is repeated for each of the engine’s cylinders to create the rotational force needed to propel your vehicle down the road.

A misfire occurs when there is incomplete (or no) combustion in one of the engine’s cylinders. In a modern car, the problem will almost always trigger the check engine light. You may also notice that the engine is rough, hesitating, or lacking in power (or suffering from all three).

Common causes and misfiring of cylinders

An engine needs three main ingredients to function properly: a precise mixture of air and fuel, adequate spark, and good compression. When one or more of these factors are missing, incomplete combustion occurs, leading to a misfire.

There are many potential causes that could lead to common cylinder misfires. These are some of them:

1. Ignition system problems

Ignition system problems that result in improper or poorly timed spark cause an engine misfire. Some examples are:

  • Worn spark plugs.
  • Defective coil pack.
  • Worn spark plug wires.
  • Defective distributor, cap or rotor.

2. Problems with the mixture of air and fuel

Any problem that alters the engine’s air-fuel mixture can cause a misfire. Some examples are:

  • Vacuum leaks (allowing unmetered air into the engine).
  • Defective fuel pump.
  • Bad or dirty fuel injectors.
  • Defective fuel pressure regulator.
  • Clogged fuel filter.

3. Engine mechanical problems

A variety of engine mechanical problems can result in a loss of compression, causing a misfire. Such as:

  • Worn pistons, rings or cylinder walls.
  • Cast head gaskets.
  • Damaged valves and valve train components.
  • Worn timing belt or timing chain.

4. Problems with sensors and modules

Often referred to as the powertrain control module (PCM), your car’s engine computer receives information from a wide range of sensors. The module uses that information when deciding how to operate output devices such as ignition coils and fuel injectors.

Many of the sensors that the PCM relies on can cause a misfire when they fail . The module itself can also cause a misfire if it has an internal fault, such as a bad coil or injector driver. Some examples of sensor and module problems are:

  • A bad sensor (eg mass airflow or crankshaft position sensor).
  • A PCM hardware or software failure.
  • Circuit problems, such as damaged wires and bad connections.

5. Other system failures

But wait, that’s not all. Modern vehicles are equipped with other engine related equipment that can cause a misfire when it misfires. Some of them are:

  • Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) system problems.
  • Cylinder deactivation system problems.
  • Variable valve timing system problems.
  • Secondary Air Injection (SAI) system problems.

Questions and answers

Usually, after knowing the causes and reasons of a problem, some questions arise. Which we will answer here, in case you have had any of the ones you will find below:

1. How much does it cost to fix an engine misfire?

The exact cost to repair a misfire will depend on the cause of the failure . The problem can be something as cheap as a spark plug or as expensive as internal engine failure. Typically a shop will charge $100-$200 to diagnose the problem.

2. How long can you drive with a misfire?

A misfire can damage the catalytic converter and possibly even the engine itself. Therefore, you will want to diagnose and repair the problem immediately.

3. How is a misfire diagnosed?

Diagnosing a misfire can be difficult, especially if the problem occurs in more than one cylinder. If you’re not very confident in your troubleshooting skills, you may want to leave the job to a professional.

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