Why Is My Car Sputtering When I Step On The Gas?

Firestone technician George checks engine under the hoodIf your car sputters when you step on the gas, it’s crying for help.

A sputtering car might mean you’re about to run out of gas, or it could point to something more serious like an issue in the fuel or exhaust system, including dirty or worn-out parts.

Follow along as we break down some possible explanations for engine sputtering and share with you why it’s so important to fix the problem ASAP.

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Explanation #1: A Problem in the Fuel System

One of the most common causes of a sputtering engine is an issue with the vehicle’s fuel system—the filter, pump, and injectors. These three critical components work together to ensure fuel flows smoothly from the fuel tank to your engine’s fuel injectors, and then pumps into the engine evenly. This process produces the perfect mixture of fuel and air, which generates the combustion that powers your vehicle.

Since the fuel filter, pump, and injectors work together as part of one interconnected system, dirt and debris need only clog one part to cause the others to fail. This can lead to poor engine performance or even complete engine failure.

To better avoid such troubles, Firestone Complete Auto Care recommends a once-a-year cleaning of your vehicle’s fuel system. Be sure to check your owner’s manual to determine whether an annual cleaning is sufficient, or whether your vehicle needs the service more frequently. One of our more than 2,200 ASE-certified technicians is ready to detect and fix any fuel system issues your vehicle may be experiencing.

Explanation #2: Worn Out Spark Plugs

Sputtering could also be a sign that your vehicle needs new spark plugs, which are among the most critical parts of your engine. The small-but-mighty spark plugs “spark” the air and fuel mixture in the engine, sending power surging through your vehicle. If they’re dirty or otherwise not working well, you might eventually wind up being unable to even start your vehicle.

As part of Firestone Complete Auto Care’s tune-up and engine service, one of our highly qualified technicians can determine whether the spark plugs are contributing to your vehicle’s sputtering engine and replace them if needed. Our Triple Promise guarantees your tune-up and engine service will be Fixed Right, Priced Right, Right on Time.

Explanation #3: A Dirty Mass Airflow Sensor

A dirty mass airflow sensor could also be to blame for a sputtering engine. This sensor keeps track of the temperature and weight of the air going to the engine as part of the fuel injection process. A dirty sensor can trigger many problems, including poor engine performance and reduced gas mileage.

Let us take a look under the hood to see whether your mass airflow sensor needs to be cleaned or replaced. Or we can perform a courtesy check and routine maintenance, if necessary, to prevent problems with the sensor or any other component of your car.

Explanation #4: A Faulty Catalytic Converter

The engine could also be sputtering because of a failing catalytic converter.

The catalytic converter reduces the amount of pollution coming from your car. This component, part of your vehicle’s exhaust system, works by converting harmful compounds like carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, and hydrocarbons into less harmful compounds such as water and carbon dioxide.

Once you bring your car to Firestone Complete Auto Care, our technicians can get to work pinpointing whether the catalytic converter is responsible for the sputtering, and fix or replace it if needed.

Regardless of what’s causing the sputtering, it’s critical to address the issue as soon as possible to prevent costly, long-term damage to your car, as many of these issues could lead to complete engine failure.

When your vehicle is sputtering, your engine’s asking for help. Head to your local Firestone Complete Auto Care for a full diagnosis so we can get your (non-sputtering) car back on the road.

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