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Why Your Car Jerks When Accelerating – How to Fix?

Experiencing a jerky sensation in your car while accelerating at low speeds is a common sign that develops various other car problems. It is caused due to various possible causes, and it is crucial to address this issue promptly to ensure a smoother and safer driving experience.

If you’ve noticed your car jerking during acceleration, don’t ignore it. This problem can lead to additional issues if not properly addressed through regular maintenance or timely auto repair services. It can be frustrating to feel your car jolting forward unexpectedly, and it’s essential not to overlook these signs, as they may indicate numerous underlying problems. This especially happens when the car becomes old and doesn’t have proper maintenance. Not only does it disrupt your driving experience, but it can also be a potential safety hazard.

Whether you’re a seasoned car enthusiast or simply looking for a smoother daily commute, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll explore common causes of car jerking during acceleration and provide practical solutions to help you restore a smooth and comfortable ride.

Let’s delve into the intricacies of this problem and offer some effective solutions. So, get ready to gain valuable insights into addressing this issue effectively.

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What are the Causes of Car Jerks While Accelerating?

Your car may jerk during acceleration for various reasons, including issues with spark plugs, fuel injectors, air filters, sensors, or problems with the transmission. Issues with your car’s performance, especially jerking during acceleration, can stem from various causes. Let’s break down these potential problems and their solutions in simpler terms:

  1. Dirty Fuel Injectors:

The hose is designed to pump fuel from the gas tank to fuel lines and then into injectors. It gets clogged whenever it absorbs the unwanted moisture.  

Problem – Clogged or dirty fuel lines hinder proper fuel flow to injectors, causing jerks.

Solution – Use a fuel injector cleaner/cleaning spray to maintain fuel quality, timely filter replacement, and prevent engine misfires.

  1. Blockages:

Some blockages prevent the car from receiving the fuel required to accelerate.

Problem – Anything obstructing the fuel-air mixture creates a spray, leading to difficulty accelerating.

Solution – Identify and remove blockages to ensure a smooth fuel-air mixture for engine power.

  1. Worn-Out Spark Plugs:

The worn-out spark plugs can’t ignite the fuel properly in the piston, resulting in not quickly accelerating your car. However, spark plugs aren’t expensive to repair or replace.

Problem – Old spark plugs lead to inefficient fuel ignition, affecting acceleration.

Solution – Repair or replace worn-out spark plugs at the manufacturer’s recommended intervals to avoid misfires and jerks.

  1. Dirty Air Filters:

The air filters will keep the pollutants away from the engine. In case of any buildup of impurities (trap dirt and dust particles), the car can’t accelerate properly.

Problem – Pollutant buildup in air filters reduces engine performance.

Solution – Regularly clean or replace air filters (prefer reusable ones) for improved engine efficiency and reduced jerks.

  1. Damaged/Broken Cylinders:

The engine cylinders control the speed of compression and piston, and in any case, if the engine cylinder fails, then it will affect the engine’s ability to work properly.

Problem – Engine misfires due to faulty cylinders affecting compression and piston speed.

Solution – Consult a mechanic to repair or replace damaged cylinders promptly.

  1. Blocked Catalytic Converters:

The catalytic converter works with the air and fuel mixture to regulate combustion, clean exhaust, and improve efficiency. Too much exhaust/air might block the catalytic converter, and make it malfunction.

Problem – Exhaust blockages in the catalytic converter cause jerks while pressing the gas.

Solution – Use a catalytic converter cleaner or seek professional help to clear blockages.

  1. Damaged Gas Lines:

These lines usually allow the gas to flow to the engine. Car jerking might occur if any problem arises in this gas line.

Problem – Issues in the fuel/gas line result in pressure loss, engine misfire, and jerky acceleration.

Solution – Regularly check for fuel line problems and address them promptly.

  1. Damaged Accelerator Cables:

If you press the gas accelerator pedal, then it causes the cable to pull the throttle open and let the car accelerate. This acceleration cable links the engine throttle plate and the gas cable.

Problem – Broken accelerator cables impact throttle function and vehicle speed.

Solution – Replace damaged cables with authorized assistance to restore proper function.

  1. Defective/Faulty Carburetors:

Usually, a carburetor controls the mix of air and fuel together before it enters the engine.

Problem – Damaged (clogged or dirty) carburetors lead to poor fuel-air mixture and jerky acceleration.

Solution – Address carburetor issues for improved gas mileage and overall performance.

  1. Moisture on the Distributor Cap:

The moisture accumulates on the distributor cap and rotor covers, especially while driving snowy or rainy outside. It can interfere with the ignition signals and thereby cause jerkiness

Problem – Accumulated moisture on the cap causes issues, especially in winter or rainy days.

Solution – Park the car in a warmer spot to prevent moisture buildup.

  1. Defective Mass Airflow Sensor:

A defective mass airflow sensor might cause the car to jerk during acceleration. This sensor measures the air intake of the car engine and thereby adjusts the injectors to supply an ample amount of fuel for proper maintenance of the air and fuel mixture.

Problem – A malfunctioning sensor disrupts air intake and fuel supply, causing jerks, while accelerating or driving at higher speed. Also, check the oxygen sensor or throttle position sensor causing erratic acceleration.

Solution – Diagnose and replace the defective mass airflow sensor (and other sensors) to ensure smooth acceleration.

  1. Malfunctioning Transmission Control Module (TCM):

A Transmission Control Module (whether automatic or manual) monitors the acceleration and detects a need to shift gears at a certain point while driving. If TCM malfunctions (due to low transmission fluid levels, worn-out clutch components, or any TCM problems), then it causes the car to jerk, even during low-speed acceleration.

Problem – TCM issues lead to delays in shifting, worn-out clutch, faulty torque converter, and jerky movements during acceleration, especially when you accelerate suddenly or quickly. However,  might cause the car to jerk. 

Solution – Have a qualified mechanic diagnose, maintain proper fluid levels, and address TCM problems regularly.

  1. Ignition System Issues:

Apart from spark plug problems, other ignition system components also contribute to jerking during acceleration, including a faulty ignition coil, ignition timing off, or distributor cap that might disrupt the combustion process.

Problem – Faulty ignition systems or components (coil or distributor) result in uneven power delivery, engine misfires, and jerking.

Solution – Regularly inspect and maintain the ignition system to prevent acceleration issues. Replace malfunctioning ignition components as required to enhance its performance.

  1. Throttle Position Sensor (TPS) Malfunction:

TPS ensures optimal engine performance, fuel efficiency, and smooth vehicle operation by allowing the right quantity of air for combustion

Problem – TPS malfunctions or incorrect signals can lead to rough idling, reduced fuel efficiency, and erratic acceleration.

Solution – Resolve the issue by replacing the faulty TPS or addressing wiring problems affecting the sensor.

Note:  Also, check other small issues like vacuum leaks in the engine’s intake system, engine misfires from certain issues (worn-out ignition components, poor-quality fuel, or malfunctioning fuel injector), and exhaust system problems that might cause the jerking. You need to conduct a thorough inspection and make necessary repairs to address these issues.

It would be quite annoying and frustrating if the car jerks when you speed up slowly. Whether it’s because of spark plugs, clogged fuel injectors, a dirty air filter, sensor problems, or issues with the transmission, it’s best to ask a professional mechanic for help. Taking care of these issues promptly is important for your car’s safety and durability. So, regular check-ups and maintenance can prevent these problems, making sure you enjoy a smooth and comfortable ride on the road.

Best Way To Diagnose Your Car Jerks While Accelerating:

Diagnosing the cause of your car’s jerking while accelerating may require some detective work, but a systematic approach can help pinpoint and address the underlying issue. Follow this step-by-step guide for an effective diagnosis:

  • Observe Jerking Patterns: Pay close attention to when and how the jerking occurs. Note if it happens during acceleration from a stop, at specific speeds, or under certain conditions like uphill/downhill driving or when the engine is cold.
  • Check Warning Lights: If your car’s check engine light (CEL) is on, then there is a problem detected on the onboard diagnostics system. Use an OBD-II scanner to retrieve trouble codes, in which these codes provide valuable insights into the detected issue.
  • Inspect Spark Plugs: Worn or fouled spark plugs are a common cause of jerking. Inspect and replace them if needed, following your car’s manual for the recommended replacement interval.
  • Examine the Fuel System: Ensure the fuel system is in good condition. Check the fuel filter, and fuel lines for clogs or leaks. If you suspect any fuel injector problems, consider using a fuel injector cleaner or professional cleaning/replacement.
  • Inspect the Air Intake System: Check the air filter for dirt, and clogs, as the clogged air filter can disrupt the air-fuel mixture. Additionally, inspect the mass airflow sensor (MAF) and throttle body for any dirt or malfunctions.
  • Verify Transmission Health: Usually, low or contaminated transmission fluid can cause jerking in the car. For automatic transmissions, check fluid levels and condition. For manual transmissions, inspect the clutch system for wear and proper engagement.
  • Test Throttle Position Sensor (TPS): Use a multimeter to test the TPS for proper voltage output while gradually pressing the accelerator pedal. Malfunctioning TPS can send incorrect signals to the engine control module (ECM).
  • Check for Vacuum Leaks: Inspect vacuum hoses and connections for leaks or damage. Use carburetor cleaner and spray to identify leaks while running the engine; changes in engine RPM indicate potential leak areas.
  • Diagnose Engine Misfires: Use a scan tool to identify misfiring cylinders. Address its root causes, such as ignition system issues, fuel problems, or compression issues to prevent these engine misfires.
  • Examine Exhaust System: Inspect the catalytic converter and exhaust system for clogs or damage, as a blocked converter can restrict exhaust flow and lead to jerking during acceleration.
  • Test Sensors: If issues persist, consider testing critical sensors like the oxygen sensor (O2 sensor) or the crankshaft position sensor (CKP) to ensure optimal engine performance.
  • Seek Professional Help: If the problem is complex or involves transmission or internal engine issues, consult a professional mechanic or technician for advanced diagnostics and repairs with their expertise and tools.

Remember to approach the diagnosis systematically, starting with the most common issues. Take your time, and seek professional help if needed. Addressing the underlying problem will eliminate jerking and ensure your car runs smoothly and efficiently.

How to Repair It?

Repairing the jerking issue in your car while accelerating depends on the underlying cause, which can vary from simple fixes to more complex repairs. Here are general steps to help you address and repair the problem:

  • Identify The Cause: Before attempting any repairs, diagnose the specific cause of the jerking. Follow the diagnostic steps mentioned earlier in this conversation, or consult a professional mechanic if you’re unsure.
  • Address Spark Plug Issues: If worn or fouled spark plugs are the culprits, replace them with new ones. Ensure you choose the right type and gap size according to your vehicle’s specifications.
  • Fix Fuel System Problems: Clear clogged fuel filters or replace damaged ones. If you suspect fuel injector issues, consult a mechanic for cleaning or replacement.
  • Clean or Replace Air Intake Components: Clean or replace a dirty air filter, and check for issues with the mass airflow sensor (MAF) and throttle body. Clean or replace them if necessary.
  • Transmission Maintenance: For automatic transmissions, address low fluid levels or contaminated fluid by changing it. For manual transmissions, repair or replace worn clutch components.
  • Throttle Position Sensor (TPS): If the TPS is malfunctioning, replace it. Ensure proper installation and calibration.
  • Vacuum Leak Repairs: Locate and repair vacuum leaks. Replace damaged hoses or gaskets, and ensure all connections are secure.
  • Engine Misfire Solutions: Fix engine misfires by addressing ignition system problems (e.g., replacing spark plug wires, or ignition coils) or fuel system issues (e.g., cleaning or replacing fuel injectors).
  • Exhaust System Repairs: Replace a clogged catalytic converter or repair any damaged components in the exhaust system.
  • Sensor Replacement: If sensors are malfunctioning, such as the oxygen sensor (O2 sensor) or crankshaft position sensor (CKP), replace them according to your vehicle’s specifications.
  • Electrical System Check: If the problem appears to be electrical, such as issues with the engine control module (ECM) or wiring, consult a professional mechanic or automotive electrician for proper diagnosis and repair.
  • Transmission Or Engine Overhaul: In more severe cases, where the transmission or engine itself is the root cause of the jerking, you may need to consider a transmission rebuild or an engine overhaul. These are complex and costly repairs that should be done by experienced professionals.
  • Regular Maintenance: After repairing the issue, maintain your car according to the manufacturer’s recommendations to prevent future problems.

It’s important to note that the complexity of the repair and the associated costs can vary widely depending on the specific cause of the jerking. If you’re unsure about any aspect of the diagnosis or repair, it’s advisable to consult a qualified mechanic who can provide expert guidance and ensure the issue is properly addressed. Addressing the problem promptly will not only enhance your driving experience but also extend the life of your vehicle.

Smart Practices for a Smooth and Jerk-Free Car Ride:

Maintaining a smooth and jerk-free driving experience involves avoiding certain practices that can contribute to car performance issues and result in jerking while accelerating. To keep your car running seamlessly, steer clear of the following actions:

  • Neglecting Regular Maintenance – Skipping routine maintenance tasks like oil changes, air filter replacements, and spark plug changes can result in poor engine performance and potential jerking. Adhere to your manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule.
  • Ignoring Warning Lights – If your car’s check engine light or other warning lights illuminate, diagnose and address them promptly. Ignoring these indications can lead to further issues that may affect your car’s performance.
  • Using Low-Quality Fuel – Opt for fuel from reputable stations and avoid poor-quality or contaminated fuel. Using higher-octane fuel, if recommended, can prevent engine knocking and misfires that cause jerking.
  • Overlooking Tire Maintenance – Maintain proper tire pressure and replace worn-out tires to ensure stability and ride quality. Improperly inflated or worn tires can contribute to jerking, which affects the car’s stability and ride quality.
  • Riding The Clutch – For manual transmission vehicles, avoid “riding” the clutch pedal, as it can lead to premature clutch wear and erratic acceleration.
  • Ignoring Transmission Fluid Changes – Regularly change automatic transmission fluid to prevent transmission problems, including jerking during gear shifts.
  • Harsh Driving Habits – Drive smoothly by avoiding aggressive acceleration, abrupt throttle inputs, and sudden braking. Harsh driving strains the drivetrain and can result in performance issues.
  • Overloading Your Vehicle – Stay within your car’s weight capacity to avoid extra stress on the suspension, brakes, and engine, which can lead to jerking and other problems.
  • Neglecting The Cooling System – Regularly check and replace coolant to prevent engine overheating. A well-maintained cooling system ensures optimal performance.
  • Using The Wrong Transmission Mode – Use appropriate driving modes (if the car has multiple modes like Eco, Normal, or Sport). Using a performance mode unnecessarily can strain the engine and transmission.
  • Modifying The Engine or Exhaust System Without Proper Knowledge – Seek professional advice before modifying your car’s engine or exhaust system to avoid unintended consequences that result in poor performance and jerking.
  • Ignoring Fluid Leaks – Promptly address fluid leaks, such as engine oil, transmission fluid, or coolant. Leaks can lead to low fluid levels and damage critical components.
  • Neglecting Electrical System Issues – Address electrical problems promptly, including malfunctioning sensors or wiring issues, to prevent disruptions to various aspects of your car’s performance.

To maintain a jerk-free and smooth driving experience, follow your vehicle’s recommended maintenance schedule, drive with care, and address warning signs or issues promptly. Regular inspections and preventive maintenance contribute to a smooth and trouble-free driving experience.

Is It Safe To Continue Driving Like This?

No, it is not safe to continue driving when your car jerks while accelerating. Jerking can be a sign of various mechanical or electrical issues that may compromise your vehicle’s performance and safety. Ignoring this problem could lead to further damage, potential accidents, or loss of control while driving. It’s crucial to address the underlying cause by diagnosing and repairing the issue before driving your car again to ensure your safety on the road.

How to Fix Car Jerks When Accelerating – FAQs:

1. What happens when your car jerks while driving?

Ans: A jerking car or stuttering engine is a clear indication that something went wrong with the proper power distribution. However, there are some possible problems and causes, including tires with excessive tire wear, a warped wheel due to a nicked rim or scuffed hubcap, worn transmission seals and bearings, worn-out brake pads or brakes, stuck valves and whatnot, and dirty fuel injectors.

2. How do I identify the cause of the jerking in my car while driving?

Ans: Identifying the cause involves a diagnostic process. A qualified mechanic can use tools and expertise to pinpoint issues with spark plugs, fuel injectors, air filters, sensors, or transmission problems. It is advisable to seek assistance from a mechanic to diagnose the issue and recommend the necessary repairs whenever you notice jerking.

3. Can I fix the jerking issue on my own?

Ans: Some issues, like changing spark plugs or air filters, can be DIY tasks. However, for complex problems related to fuel injectors or the transmission, seeking professional help is recommended.

4. Is it safe to keep driving when your car jerks during acceleration?

Ans: No, it is not safe to continue driving if your car jerks while accelerating. Jerking is an indication of potential mechanical or electrical issues that could compromise your vehicle’s performance and safety. Ignoring this problem may lead to further damage, increase the risk of accidents, or result in a loss of control while driving. To ensure your safety on the road, it is crucial to promptly diagnose and address the underlying cause before resuming driving.

5. Are there any preventive measures to avoid jerking while accelerating?

Ans: Regular maintenance (every few months or according to the vehicle’s manual), timely replacement of spark plugs, and air filters, and addressing issues as soon as they arise can help prevent jerking issues before they get severe and ensure a smoother driving experience.

6. Is jerking always a sign of a serious problem?

Ans: While some jerking issues may be minor and easily fixable, others can indicate more significant problems. It’s essential to have any persistent jerking concerns checked by a professional mechanic.

7. How to maintain a smooth driving experience and prevent jerking?

Ans: Regularly servicing your vehicle, addressing issues promptly, and following the recommended maintenance schedule can help maintain a smooth driving experience and prevent jerking during acceleration.


We’ve reached the end of the article about why cars jerk during acceleration. By keeping an eye out and checking your car regularly, you can make sure it runs its best.

To wrap it up, cars sometimes jerk for different reasons. Your car, like a complex puzzle of parts, just needs a little care. Whether it’s changing a simple spark plug or tweaking the transmission, understanding the reasons behind the jerks is the key to a smoother ride.

So, when those bumps happen, don’t worry! With some knowledge and patience, you can fix the issue, ensuring your favorite car is ready for more smooth drives. Drive safely, buddies, and may your trips/rides be trouble-free.

Feel free to drop your questions or share your experiences in the comments below. We’re here to help and eager to hear from you! Your queries will be met with prompt responses, and we’re ready to assist you in addressing any concerns.

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