Smart Motorist » 13 Common Problems Why Your Car Jerks When Accelerating

13 Common Problems Why Your Car Jerks When Accelerating

Once you notice that your car jerks when accelerating, you need to determine the reasons behind the issue before looking for the solution. Unfortunately, this particular problem is not rare in both automatic and manual cars.

Basically, as soon as any imbalance with air to fuel ratio occurs, the engine skips one of the phases of the combustions cycle, and the issue with jerking appears. Let’s see the list with the most common problems and adequate solutions for each of them.

The Most Common Problems Why Your Car Jerks When Accelerating

1. Dirty fuel injectors

Once this part that allows gas entering the engine becomes dirty, the stream of fuel won’t be continuous anymore. As a result, the engine will lose power, and the car will start jerking while driving. In some severe cases, after many fails, the engine may stop working entirely.

To solve the problem, you should clean the injectors thoroughly from time to time. Luckily, this process is not complicated at all if you use a fuel system cleaner.

However, if the injectors are too dirty with carbon deposits, you will need to take them out for manual cleaning or to replace them.

2. Worn accelerator cable

To accelerate, most modern vehicles use drive-by-wire electronic throttle control. However, many cars still use a physical accelerator cable for that purpose.

Since it wears out over time, you can expect your car to respond with jerking after you press on the gas pedal inadequately. After one glance at the cable, you will notice damage to the outer coating. Go to a mechanic right away and replace the cable to prevent the car from stopping functioning.

3. Faulty spark plugs

Faulty spark plugs

It is a common cause of jerking when accelerating, but it is quick to identify and fix. The dirty spark plug won’t make a good spark, which means that the fuel can’t ignite in cylinders on time.

Also, you should check ignitions wires and coil packs occasionally since these parts are worn out over time. Additionally, the electricity can’t reach spark plugs, and there will be no sparks to ignite the fuel in piston cylinders.

4. Condensation

It is not rare to notice condensation under the distributor cap when you park your car outside on cold winter days. Consequently, the moisture will cause the jerking of the engine at low speeds. Once the water is gone, the problem will be solved.

Unfortunately, if it happens too often, the engine will have more and more problems over time. If it is possible, prevent it by using thermal cover to reduce the risk of condensation or keeping your car safe in a garage.

5. Damaged carburetor

Since the carburetor is the part of the engine where the right amount of fuel and air mixes before going into the cylinders, every damage will make a problem with fuel combustion. The result will be jerking of the car, which requires the visit to the mechanic.

6. Blocked catalytic converter

Blocked catalytic converter

This part allows reducing pollutants that exit out of a car’s exhaust pipe. When the mixture of air and fuel passing through the engine is too rich, it may cause a blockage in the catalytic converter over time.

Consequently, it will disrupt the airflow in the exhaust system and cause jerking each time you press the gas pedal. Additionally, the check engine light will turn on, the fuel efficiency will drop, and you may smell hydrogen sulfide that reminiscent of rotten eggs.

It is not too complicated to solve the problem by unclogging blockages with a catalytic converter cleaner. If it is filthy, it is better to take the car to a car service to replace that particular auto part.

7. Blocked fuel or air intakes

The process of engine working is based on the process of mixing air and fuel. After the spark plugs create an explosion, the pistons inside start moving. This cycle continues, which allows your vehicle to drive.

Once fuel or air comes into the engine as a result of a blockage in the lines, the cycle becomes interrupted, and you will experience jerking the car when trying to accelerate.

8. Dirty air filter

When the air intake is improper, and an insufficient amount of air enters the combustion chamber, you will get similar issues like when your car hasn’t got enough fuel.

The air filter prevents dust and dirt from entering the engine. Once it becomes dirty, some particles may get into the engine and cause jerking. Therefore, changing the air filter is required. Luckily, replacing it is a quick job and cost just about 10 to 20 bucks.

9. Bad fuel pump or filter

Bad fuel pump or filter

A fuel supply issue is a common reason for jerking when accelerating. You should suspect that a fuel pump is a reason when noticing that the adequate amount of fuel fails to be delivered to the engine.

You can replace the fuel filter on your own, but if you have an issue with the fuel pump, you should ask for professional help.

10. The reduced transmission control module

You can suspect the transmission control module when your car with an automatic transmission starts jerking at the moment when the transmission changes gears. As soon as gear shifts become unpredictable and delayed, it is time to visit the mechanic.

11. Perforated fuel pipes

The fuel pipes, which transfer fuel throughout the engine, may break, and your car will start jerking when accelerating. Be careful, since this problem may lead to a fire in the vehicle. Believe it or not, the most common cause of this issue is rats chewing the pipes. The only solution is replacing them.

12. Bad engine tuning

If you can’t find the reason for jerking the car, one of the last things you should look over is the engine. You need to check if it is adjusted adequately. Once the tuning of the engine is correct, it will boost the overall performance of the vehicle and eliminate jerking.

13. Blockage in engine

In this particular case, jerking will appear when gases don’t come out of the engine when they are supposed to. The only solution is professional help. The mechanic will tune the engine and remove the blockage when necessary.


Except for the most apparent issues causing your car jerks when accelerating, you may have a problem with damaged engine cylinders and wrong alignment, as well. Also, if you have a stick-shift vehicle, sometimes you may face the improper use of the clutch. In the end, you should check MAF (mass airflow sensor). If it is faulty, it is time to visit the mechanic.