Car Jerking When Accelerating From a Stop, or at Low Speeds? Here’s Why

Have you recently found your car jerking when accelerating, either from a stop, at low speeds

Like most innovations, cars can get a bit complicated. Sometimes you need an expert to help you out with various issues concerning it, sometimes you have to do in-depth research about your vehicle to understand what’s going with it.

Why is it acting up? What does it mean when your car jerks while driving e.g. at a constant speed, and what can you do to fix that?

Don’t worry, we got you, garagechief.com is as usual, here for all of your vehicular problems. Whether your car jerks, lurches or stutters, we’ll discuss various reasons and situations why it does so, and give you some tips on how you can remedy it.

Ready? Let’s go!


Car Jerking When Accelerating – What to Do

#1 Go find that DIRT!

Go find dirt not on somebody but on your engine. Your car goes through a lot when it’s taking us from point A to point B almost every day.

So it’s only natural that it’ll accumulate all sorts of dirt that will in time clog different parts of it, and you should especially pay attention to the heart of your vehicle, your engine.

dirty air filter car jerking when drivingThe first thing you’ll have to check is the first line of defense from all that dirt of your combustion chamber, none other than your air filter.

Your air filter works so that no debris, harmful contaminants or any unwanted material goes into your engine. It’s the hero we needed but don’t deserve.

You may vacuum or wash an air filter whenever it is necessary. You may also re-oil your air filter when applicable or just replace your filter altogether.

This is to make sure enough air is being supplied to your engine for its combustion needs.

The next thing you have to check are your fuel injectors. A fuel injector is basically an electronic or computer-controlled valve that is employed to inject fuel or air or both into your internal combustion engine.

So naturally, when your injectors are clogged, your engine will just not work. Once you ascertain that it is the fuel injectors that are causing the problem go ahead and use the best possible injector cleaner in the market to get rid of that dirt in no time. If that won’t do the job then replacements might be needed.

Also, check your fuel tank. Needless to say, what its function is, your fuel tank may also need to be cleaned once in a while, and boy that’s a lot of cleaning to do, so better get to it! The quality of gasoline used in the past also plays a role in that regard.


#2 Check for Blockage

Just like your blood vessels pumping blood to your heart, your fuel pipes and other components under your hood works to pump fuel to your engine. So check for any blockage.

car jerks when accelerating from a stop - catalytic converterAnother reason why your car jerks when accelerating from stop, or at low speeds, is when your catalytic converter is clogged.

A catalytic converter is a component responsible for your car’s emissions.

Sometimes the jerking and stuttering of your car, when you step on that gas pedal, is caused by the rich mixture of fuel and air.

Therefore, if you car has been running rich for a longer time, that might have blocked your catalytic converter.

Also, as we always remind you guys here on garagechief.com, don’t ignore your check engine light? Okay? Good.


#3 Mass Airflow Sensor

A Mass Airflow Sensor (MAF) as the name indicates is located between the air filter and the intake manifold and is a component that measures the amount of air that enters the engine.

In turn, your car’s computer signals your injectors to provide the right amount of fuel for the appropriate air/fuel mixture.

When your car jumps when accelerating sometimes even during faster speeds, it is most likely the MAF that is acting up. So it’s time to whip out that OBD2 scanner to test it out.

You can look to clean it or replace it, it’s a pretty easy job and it will cost you somewhere around $89 to $380.


#4 Failing fuel pump

A fuel pump is a component that sends fuel from gas tank to engine. Fuel pumps are usually electrically powered and are located in or on the fuel tank.

Car Jerks Lurches StuttersWe already discussed that a good mixture of air and fuel is needed for your engine to run as smoothly as possible.

So this is the fuel component of that equation. If not enough fuel is delivered into the engine because of a failing fuel pump then naturally the car would stall.

You also need to check your fuel filter in case it’s also clogged. The ease or cost of replacing a bad fuel pump depends on the car’s design and should only be taken into consideration when it is already determined, that the problem is not electrical or related to the fuel lines.


#5 Check your spark plug

Of course, one of the rather important components under your hood is your spark plug.

A spark plug, in a nutshell, is what ignites the combustion in your engine to start your car. It essentially ignites the air/fuel mixture we were talking about earlier by an electrical spark to get things going.

what does it mean when your car jerks while drivingNeedless to say, NO spark NO start.

When a spark plug is failing, it has gone bad or maybe just dirty, it will cause your car to misfire and lurch when accelerating.

So in the instance that your car fails to start, your check engine light is on, you’re filling up your gas tank rather often, your engine idles roughly, and if it has been a while since you changed them, then it is time to replace that spark plug.

Sometimes, merely cleaning it would do the trick but it pays to replace your spark plugs regularly, say after 80000 miles. It varies per car manufacturer.

Some of the best spark plug brands are as follows:

  • Denso 3297 – SK20R11
  • Bosch 9617 – Double Iridium Spark plugs
  • Motocraft SP-515 Spark plugs
  • NGK 5464 – BKR5EIX11 Iridium IX Spark plugs
  • Acdelco 41-993 Pro Iridium Spark plugs

Lucky for us, spark plugs are inexpensive, one might cost you around $16 – $100 depending on the brand or car manufacturer.

Labor might cost you around $40 – $50 but remember that you always have the option to change it yourself, there are tons of DIY videos online.


#6 Moisture

When your car is often parked outside or maybe the weather is a bit chilly, moisture can accumulate into different parts of your car. One common place where it does so is your car’s distributor cap.

A distributor cap is a cover that holds the internal rotor and the spark plug wires. Together with the rotor, it is responsible for passing voltage from the ignition coils to the cylinders of the engine in order to ignite your air/fuel mixture thus powering the engine.

Parking your car inside a garage is always ideal but if those conditions can’t be met then purchasing a thermal cover for your ride might do the trick.


#7 Accelerator cable

car lurches when accelerating - pedalThe accelerator cable or sometimes called the throttle cable is the braided metal wire that connects your gas pedal to your engine throttle plate.

An engine throttle plate, in turn, is integrated with your throttle body which is a part of the air intake system of your engine’s combustion chamber.

Having said that, accelerator cables can wear out in time.

We’ve listed a few signs that you may pair up with your car jerking when accelerating to tell whether it is the accelerator cable or not.

  • You’re having cruise control issues
    • You may notice that slight changes in tension when you step on the gas pedal
  • There is a delayed engine response
    • You’ve noticed that stepping on the gas pedal yields a delayed response time or you may have to step on it all the way down to accelerate
  • Check for physical signs of damage

Depending on how often you use your car, the accelerator cable is expected to last for 5 years.


#8 Transmission (manual or automatic)

For automatic cars, the transmission control module is responsible for switching the gears when you drive, so when the car jumps when accelerating then it may be time to check the module.

New to driving? When driving a stick shift car it’s not uncommon for new drivers to experience car jerking or lurching when accelerating. This mostly happens when you are trying to shift from neutral to first gear, especially when you continue after a pause in the middle of a slope.

Some tips for beginner drivers:

  • Step on the gas pedal
  • Move stick into first gear then ease onto the gas pedal while slowly releasing the clutch pedal. Practice smoothing this process as you learn to prevent the car from jerking from stop.
  • Ease on the clutch to gas when shifting gears.

#9 Alignment

Had some collisions lately? Maybe your car is not jerking, instead, it may be running slow, as in really slow.

If the motor isn’t the problem, then maybe you should get your tires checked. Maybe a simple wheel alignment and balancing is in order.


#10 The rest of your ignition system

The rest of your ignition system is what’s responsible for getting your spark plug going which in turn gets your engine and car going, so it’s of utmost importance that you regularly check them as well.

As we already know, a regular checkup and clean up might do the trick but for some advanced cases, a replacement might be necessary.

If you already checked your spark plugs and they are working fine or they are brand new then you might want to check your coil packs and ignition wires.

Your ignition coil is essentially what transforms your battery’s low voltage (12V) to the thousands that are needed for it to run.

A faulty ignition coil is definitely going to stall your car. Some signs are as follows:

  • Low power
    • Not enough power is supplied to your spark plugs
    • A car backfiring emissions of black smoke
  • High mileage
    • More than 120000 miles of usage
  • Dirt and animal interference
    • Rats may chew on your coils and other engine parts
  • Check engine light on

Depending on the car model, ignition coils can cost from a range of $70 to $300 with about $200 more on labor costs.


#11 Engine winding

You need to check your motor’s winding as this could also cause car jerking when driving at low speeds. You will need to use an OHM meter or contact a service person for this process. A broken engine winding will definitely exhibit such symptoms.


TIP: You may check on this related article “Top reasons for car not accelerating when pressing gas” for other relevant readings.


Car Jerks When Accelerating – The Bottom line

Here on garagechief.com, we can’t stress enough the value of having a well-maintained car. If your vehicle is always in tip-top shape, you can go on that trip will very little worry.

That peace of mind when driving whether you are en route to your office or going out on a trip with your family is priceless.

We hope you found this article helpful and prevent your car from jerking when accelerating, and enjoy your ride.

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