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You never thought it would happen to you, but it did. Your trusty sedan has started puttering when you try to accelerate. Just like that car sold by a scamming salesman from a used car shop in a comedy movie you saw.
But this is no joke. When your car jerks as you accelerate, it’s usually a sign of an impending issue.
The earlier you can know the reason behind the jerk, the more you can minimize the damage and the costs of repair.
There are several reasons why car jerks when accelerating.
Most of the time, the jerking issue would go away after you have driven it a few miles, so most people tend to ignore it.
If your car has a manual transmission or if you have driven a stick shift car before, it’s highly likely that you have experienced the car jerk followed by the engine stalling.
This type of car jerk is very common in a manual transmission, especially for those who are just starting to learn how to drive and mostly happens when you are trying to shift from the first to the second gear while you speed up.
A stick shift car gets you more involved than an automatic one. It requires the use of all your limbs and proper coordination.
You need to be able to feel when it’s time to press and let go of the clutch, and when to upshift or downshift.
If you miscalculate, you’ll experience a jerk as you accelerate or decelerate. This usually occurs if you abruptly release the clutch pedal after changing gears or you shift to another gear with a half-depressed the clutch.
It’s one of the most common reasons why a car jerks when accelerating. Your car’s engine needs both fuel and air to do its work.
The air mixes with the fine spray of fuel inside the engine and is then lit by the spark plug, causing a controlled explosion, which moves the pistons.
This goes on and on, and this cycle is what makes the engine run and your car to move.
A block in the fuel line or air intake can make the car jerk during acceleration as it loses one, or even both of the essential factors in keeping the engine running.
If you see that ‘Check Engine’ warning light turn on or blink, don’t ignore it. Take your car to the service center immediately and have a professional take a look.
Fuel lines are responsible for the flow of gas throughout the engine system.
A disruption in the flow of fuel from the tank to the engine will cause the car to hesitate during acceleration, which will then cause a jerk.
Check for leaks that may have been caused rats chewing off the fuel pipes. Older cars are also susceptible to faulty fuel line issues.
Moisture in the car’s distributor cap can cause a car to jerk when accelerating. This is a common scenario when the car is parked outdoors and the weather is cold.
Moisture can accumulate inside the distributor cap that can cause the engine to car misfires when accelerating hard, which in turn causes the jerking in the car.
You cannot skip physics on this one, so prevention is the way to go.
Unless you keep the engine running idle when you park and waste money on precious fuel but keeping the engine warm and warding off moisture, you better find a warmer, enclosed parking spot.
Dirt is another common factor why your car jerks as you try to accelerate. Any dirt buildup or gunk can cause an issue in your car’s engine.
There are several points where dirt can accumulate inside the car’s engine system.
Fuel from the filling station can become dirty due to the sediments in the fuel storage. The sediments may then settle inside your fuel tank. The fuel filter’s main job is to keep dirt from the fuel from entering the engine, so it takes all the beating.
Regular checking, maintenance, and replacement is the key.
When the filter is not doing its job, the fuel injection is the next one to get the dirt. Making sure that these three items are clean can prevent car jerks.
As previously discussed, air is needed for the internal combustion engine of your car to work. Clean air and clean fuel mean hassle-free driving. Keeping the air coming into the engine clean is the air filter’s job.
Dust, bugs, road debris, and dirt may accumulate over time, making the filter less efficient.
When the filter has become too dirty, there may not be enough air coming into the engine that can cause the car to jerk because of inefficient combustion of the fuel.
Air filters are relatively inexpensive and easy to replace, so there’s no need to cheap out on this one.
Also discussed before, the spark plug is what lights up the combined fuel and air inside the engine causing them to combust and move the pistons. Therefore, an engine requires fully functional spark plugs to work efficiently.
Spark plugs need to be replaced regularly.
You also may need to check on the spark plug wires for signs of wear and tear.
If the car’s spark plugs are new and working fine and the wires are all good, then it might be time to have your ignition system checked.
Newer cars have computer controlled ignition systems, which will need to be checked by your service center.
Any one or a combination of these factors can be the reason why your car jerks when accelerating.
Making sure that these are checked will ensure the longevity of your car and a hassle-free driving.
Simon graduated with a Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Degree. He has over 20 years of servicing experience in both Japanese and German car dealerships. He now acts as a freelance mechanic's instructor for local schools.