Car Jerks When Accelerating: How To Fix It

If your car jerks when accelerating, that can be a problem. Sure, sometimes nothing happens except you feel a little tug. However, the jolt can be great on other occasions and cause issues.

For example, if you push the gas at an intersection and the motor stumbles, your ride could get hit in the rear end by another motorist. The same can be said for pulling onto a busy roadway, but you’ll probably get stuck in the side instead of the rear.

10 Reasons Why Your Car Jerks When You Accelerate

1.     Malfunctioning Fuel Pump Or Filter

Often, if a car jerks when accelerating, it has something to do with the fuel pump or filter. Fuel pumps and filters alike can become clogged, but, of course, pumps can also malfunction. Whatever the problem, when something goes wrong, it needs to be fixed promptly. That will ensure that the motor isn’t starving for gas, making the entire car jerk when accelerating.

Where fuel pumps and filters are located varies. On older autos, these devices were primarily found beneath the hood. They were easy enough to get to and repair or replace. However, nowadays, filters are normally found beneath vehicles.

A fuel filter in a car.

Hence, people have to crawl under to get to them, which sometimes involves jacking the car up or driving it up onto ramps. As for the fuel pumps, they can be found inside gas tanks. Thus, to fix or replace them, the tanks must be emptied and dropped.

2.     Dirty and Clogged Air Filter

Although one might not think it since it seems like an insignificant part, a dirty air filter can cause trouble. If the car jerks when accelerating, a clogged air filter could be responsible. Not only that, but even if your vehicle appears to be running and driving just fine, a dirty air filter can cause its fuel economy to dip. Then, you’ll be heading to the gas station every time you turn around to fill up.

With fuel prices what they are right now due to inflation, that’s something nobody wants to deal with. Luckily, the air filter is easy enough to get to, located in a housing under the hood. It is also straightforward to replace. Thus, you might be able to do the job yourself. However, if you don’t feel like messing with it, just take your car to a local repair shop. The technicians will get the issue resolved promptly.

3.     Dirty Fuel Injectors

Long gone are the days of the carburetor unless you have an old vehicle. Today’s cars have fuel injectors that mix fuel more effectively than carburetors. Providing that they’re functioning properly, these units keep motors running nice and smooth. However, the same cannot be said for when they get dirty.

Then, a car will jerk when accelerating on occasion, or it could even stall in the middle of an intersection or highway. A mechanic might be able to clean your fuel injectors to get your car back to tip-top shape, but they may also have to replace them.

4.     Faulty Or Fouled Spark Plugs

Did you know that spark plugs can be responsible if a car jerks when accelerating? It’s true. As the name implies, spark plugs ignite the fuel during combustion to ensure an engine runs like a well-oiled machine. When no spark occurs, that’s when issues develop, like jerking, stalling, or stuttering.

Used spark plugs with soot.

Once your spark plugs are deemed to be at fault, they’ll need to be replaced, and while you’re at it, you should probably replace the spark plug wires on your car too.

5.     A Spent Accelerator Cable

Those who buy brand-new cars often do not have accelerator cables. Instead, many modern vehicles are equipped with drive-by-wire electronic throttle controls. However, there are also still autos that have throttle cables.

If your ride just so happens to use one, and it gets spent or worn, jerking could become part of the equation when accelerating. The piece will either have to be repaired or replaced to rectify the situation.

6.     Stopped Up Catalytic Converter

In layman’s terms, a catalytic converter is an exhaust system device that transforms toxic gases into less toxic pollutants. As the years wear on, these pieces tend to stop up. One problem associated with such an issue is that a car jerks when accelerating. In addition, stopped-up converters lead to vehicles losing power.

Plus, with the exhaust system stoppage, your car will probably drink gas like it’s going out of style. Getting one of these parts replaced isn’t cheap, to say the least. According to research, this venture will run you between $945 and $2,475.

7.     A Bad Mass Flow Air Sensor

It’s no secret that cars are full of sensors these days, and the pieces relay messages to onboard computers. Then, when problems arise, the sensors send the info to the computers, which, in turn, illuminate warning lights on dashes to alert drivers. If your mass airflow sensor, or MAF for short, goes bad, jerking at high speeds can enter the picture.

This part tells the computer the amount of fuel for the fuel injectors to use for the correct air-to-fuel mixture. The MAF can be located in different spots, but it is typically between the air filter and intake engine manifold.

Mass air flow system under the open hood of a car.

To find the piece with no problem, look at your owner’s manual to see if there is a diagram of your vehicle’s air cleaner assembly. Or, if you don’t have access to the manual, pull up a picture online to determine where the MAF is.

8.     Moisture

Sometimes, particularly with older vehicles, moisture can get under the distributor cap. This is regularly a problem when cars get parked outside instead of inside a garage at night. So, if you’d like to avoid the dilemma altogether, consider parking your ride in the garage, providing that you have one, of course.

When moisture shows up, it causes backfiring to occur, which can make your car jerk when accelerating. The presence of water will also cause the engine to idle roughly. These conditions generally clear up after the moisture evaporates, which doesn’t take all that long once the motor heats up.

Thus, if this development emerges, you may not have to do anything at all. However, if moisture repeatedly occurs, that can be taxing to your engine over time, and you might have to make some repairs.

9.     Cracked Distributor Cap

Distributor caps are exposed to harsh conditions. There is no doubt about that. For example, during the wintertime, the temperature outside can drop well below freezing. But that’s not the end of it. Then, the part also has to deal with the sudden heat from the motor running. With all that going on, expansion and contraction occur, giving the plastic no choice but to crack.

Additionally, the might have come to be because whoever installed the distributor cap in the first place may have messed up. Often, when people put these parts on, they overtighten the screws or bolts. That may not sound like a huge deal, but eventually, that strain can become too much and cracks form. These blemishes cause engines to backfire. So, don’t be surprised if your car jerks when accelerating if a cracked distributor exists.

You will need to replace the piece or have someone do it for you. It is recommended that domestic cars and imports have their rotors and distributor caps replaced at 50,000 miles. Therefore, if the cracked cap shows up before that, it probably isn’t a bad idea to go ahead and replace the rotor too. That will ensure that you don’t have to worry about getting back in there to do the deed in just a short time.

10.     A Defective Transmission Control Module

The majority of today’s vehicles have transmission control modules. These pieces are vital for automatic transmissions to work and shift correctly. The TCM also works with various other components, such as the engine, transmission fluid temperature sensor, and brake pedal position sensor. In other words, it is necessary for your auto to perform as it should.

If your car jerks when accelerating, a faulty transmission control module could very well be to blame. Pay attention to when your transmission switches gears. More often than not, if the TCM is at fault, rough shifting will occur when gears switch. The vehicle may even feel like it’s bucking hard to the right or left. It is best to get this matter resolved quickly because if you don’t, it could cause you to crash or break down.

Some Last Words

As you can see, the reasons why a car can jerk when the gas pedal is pushed can go on and on. Hopefully, these items provide you with an idea of what’s happening if something goes wrong. However, keep in mind that it isn’t always easy to diagnose jerking, stuttering, or stalling.

So, don’t hesitate to contact a mechanic to schedule service if need be. They’ll get your ride fixed up in a jiffy.

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About Matthew Webb

Hi, I am Matthew! I am a dedicated car nerd! During the day, I am a journalist, at night I enjoy working on my 2 project cars. I have been a car nerd all my life, and am excited to share my knowledge with you!

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