Car Jerks When Accelerating: Causes and Fixes

Do you feel like your car jerks when accelerating? A few things could cause this annoying condition, and it would help if you seek a quick solution. Such acceleration problems would often result from insufficient fuel/air mixture in the combustion chamber.

Again, a bad spark plug and bad plug cable can easily make your vehicle stutter. In essence, your car jerking is a big sign that something is wrong. Thus, you would need to find out what is wrong and get it fixed soon to prevent further damages.

One thing car owners desire is for their vehicle to run smoothly, without any hassles. Nevertheless, there are often issues that result from frequent use, and you can diagnose these problems with some common symptoms. Well, this article reveals common reasons your car jerks while accelerating.

What Causes Cars to Jerk When Accelerating?

Suppose you’ve been driving down the street, and suddenly your vehicle starts jerking. How scary it seems when you notice the car jerks when accelerating at high speed. Such a sudden occurrence could lead some drivers to lose control, causing them and others to be in danger.

What could possibly be the cause?

car jerks when accelerating at high speeds

There are reasons why the car starts stuttering during acceleration. Nevertheless, it would help to know what such a situation feels like to understand better. If you’ve experienced this situation in the past, it seems pretty annoying. In that case, you can tell that it feels like the vehicle lacks sufficient power to keep moving.

Most times, the car would stop despite pressing your foot against the gas and later move forward. Based on the cause of this issue, you would often find this “jerking” repeating a couple of times.

If you haven’t experienced such, it could take you off guard. But, you should be prepared to fix it whenever it arises. You may find that the car jerks when accelerating and braking.

With that in mind, you can look through these common reasons why your car stutters when accelerating

Damaged Accelerator Cable

Does this sound strange? There are still vehicles that accelerate with the help of a throttle cable (physical accelerator cable). It is persistent despite many cars using electronic drive-by-wire throttle control.

What does this mean? The car uses this cable as a mechanical link between the throttle plate and the gas pedal. With constant driving, the cable would soon start wearing out. When worn, there would be a slow-down when you press your feet against the gas pedal.

Rather than a smooth acceleration, you would notice the car lurching. Thus, when you find that your car jerks when accelerating at high speeds, you should stop and inspect the outer coating of this cable.

Dirty Fuel Injectors

One most common issue with cars that seems pretty annoying is the dirty fuel injectors. The design of fuel injectors makes them allows a steady flow of fuel into the car’s engine. A bad fuel injector can result from excessive accumulation of dirt.

With the inconsistent intake of fuel, you would find the car’s engine stuttering. Such an issue can also cause an engine to misfire while it also jerks during acceleration. Thus, you would need to clean injectors or get them replaced.

Jammed Catalytic Converter

Ever wondered what reduces the pollutant levels that leave via the car exhaust? Well, it is the catalytic converter. Nevertheless, a blockage soon starts forming with a fuel/air mixture that appears too rich. Such blockage would stop a proper flow of air through the exhaust.

Once the car faces such a problem, you may notice that the car jerks when accelerating with no check engine light “o”n.” In essence, you would need to unblock with a suitable catalytic converter cleaner or seek a new replacement.

Built-up Moisture

You may have some condensation forming beneath the distributor cap on colder days, much more when you get the car parked outside all through the night. The built-up moisture can also cause the engine to misfire, resulting in the vehicle jerking.

However, you can rest assured that such a problem would go away when the moisture goes away. Still, you can ensure that this issue does not occur by parking the car in a protected area like your garage.

Another thing that can help is to buy a car thermal cover, as the built-up moisture may affect the engine over time. There are various options available in many auto stores, and you can find a suitable cover for your car.

Bad Spark Plug

A faulty spark plug seems like one of the commonest issues that car owners face. Thi issue may lead to the engine knocking while accelerating, but you can easily fix such. Cars need a good spark plug to generate the spark for fuel ignition in gas-operated engines.

This issue may be the reason your car jerks when accelerating from a stop. Nevertheless, you can easily get the plugs replaced. When doing so, consider replacing all the plugs rather than seeking out the bad spark plugs.

Dirty Air Filter

The car’s air filter works effectively in removing lots of impurities from the air that reaches the engine. Once it appears dirty, the contaminants would reach the engine and affect the vehicle’s performance.

So, when next you notice the car hesitates and jerks when accelerating, it may be due to a dirty air filter. It would be best if you replace or clean the dirty air filter to stop this problem. Interestingly, such an act can help improve the lifespan of the engine.

Faulty Transmission Control Module

Notice your car jerks when accelerating in first gear? It may be due to a transmission control module that appears spoilt. Such situations would delay gear shifts, and you would notice that “harsh feel” when the car jerks.

Bad Mass Airflow Sensor

The Mass Airflow Sensor (MAF) does a great job measuring the amount of air that reaches the engine and sends such details to the ca’s computer. A failed MAF seems bad for your vehicle, and you may feel the car jerks when accelerating uphill.

You can further notice that this problem persists by scanning through the engine check light on your dashboard. Alternatively, you can confirm the condition of the MAF using an OBDS scanner.

How to Fix these Problems

  • Check and replace all spark plugs to ensure they are always in the right condition for the proper functioning of the car.
  • Visit a car expert to help you fix issues with damaged accelerator cable
  • Clean the fuel injectors frequently using a suitable cleaner
  • Unclog minor blockages that affect the catalytic converter or visit an auto repair shop
  • Try to clean or change air filters when they appear dirty

Reasons Car Jerks When Slowing Down

If you notice your vehicle jerking at low revs, many issues come to mind. Aside from the common issues stated above, there are a few other problems that you should look out for and seek a quick solution.

Why does my truck jerk when slowing down? Well, there are various reasons why your car pulls back when slowing down and starts jerking. Some common cause includes:

Bad Transmission Mount

One such issue that causes the car to jerk is a faulty transmission mount or motor mount. The transmission kicks when slowing down since the engine tries to move separately from the other part of the car to some extent.

With force attached, the engine may bang against other hardware, causing the car to jerk. Nevertheless, this could also mean that the transmission fluid level seems low or needs you to replace the old fluid.

Issues with the Ignition Components

Issues with the spark plug or coil packs can cause some hesitation in the movement of your vehicle. Why is this so? There is a need for a “spark” for the gasoline ignition, which needs to occur at the right time.

There great need for adequate distribution of the spark across the various cylinders for the car to operate efficiently. So, when the car jerks when slowing down at 25 mph, it could be some issues with the ignition system.

Issues with the Throttle Cable

If you feel the car jerks when slowing down the Honda engine, it could occur due to the wear on the throttle plate’s cable. There is often some level of resistance that you would notice when the throttle cable appears frail. So, you should visit an expert car mechanic to get this issue fixed.

How to Fix these Problems

When you notice the car jerks with the engine braking at low revs, you should quickly fix the issue. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Get the faulty engine mount changed; you can seek the help of an expert
  • Ensure that the transmission fluid stays at the required level or refill when it appears short
  • Replace bad spark plugs and ensure the wires gets fixed correctly

Reasons Why Car Jerks When Accelerating At High Speeds

Drives on highways are often at high speed, and car owners desire a smooth ride at that point. You wouldn’t want a struggle with your vehicle while you’re in haste to get somewhere. What does it mean for your car to jerk while driving?

At high speed, there are various reasons why your car stutters, and they include:

Problems with the Ignition

If your car jerks when accelerating at low speeds, it could be due to a clogged catalytic converter or dirty fuel injectors. Nevertheless, when you notice that the car jerks while driving at “constant speed,” it could be problems associated with the ignition system.

Again, many irregularities can cause serious issues for the ignition system, such as the coil, spark plug and plug wire, and the coil pack. With incomplete combustion and loss of spark for proper ignition, the car would have an engine lope that seems abnormal. Thus, the vehicle starts jerking while at high speed.

Less Air Intake

In a bid to facilitate the combustion of fuel, the engine takes in enough air. However, filthy air filters can restrict that flow of air. Such interruption can cause severe issues with the vehicle’s driveability, making the car jerk. So, when you notice that the car hesitates and jerks when accelerating, you should check the air filters.

Faulty Fuel System

A bad fuel pump can keep the engine starved and reduce its efficiency. At high speed, the car needs more fuel, and when not supplied, you may notice the car jerks when accelerating from a stop. Other issues that restrict the flow of fuel include dirty injectors and clogged fuel filters.

How to Fix these Problems

When your car jerks when accelerating uphill, you can do the following to fix the possible causes of this issue.

  • Replace the dirty fuel filter to ensure the flow of sufficient fuel to the engine
  • Check the air filters and take out contaminants that blocks the air passage
  • Replace bad spark plugs and ensure you check them from time to time
  • Seek the assistance of a car expert for other issues associated with the ignition system

Why Car Jerks When Accelerating From Stop

As you try starting the engine, you may notice the car jerking just when it starts accelerating. Such a situation can be pretty disturbing, and it could be due to any of the following issues:

Vacuum Leaks

You may find that your car jerks when stopped in the driveway due to a vacuum leak. There may be some significant idle problems when unmetered air enters the engine’s air intake. These leaks may occur at the intake ducting, throttle body gasket, hoses, and intake manifold gasket. Kindly note that a dirty throttle body can cause a rough running of the car.

Bad IAC Valve

When you stop the car, and it remains at a position (at idle), the throttle plate gets closed, causing a relegation of the distributed air to the Air Idle Control valve in the engine. Nevertheless, air can still pass through to the throttle plate in small amounts thanks to this valve.

Hence, the engine gets sustained till the car moves again. Suppose the IAC valve became clogged or fails, the car may face an erratic or harsh idle. Then, you may notice the car hesitates and jerks when accelerating.

The U-Joint getting Slacked

Ever noticed the car jerking when you suddenly hit the reverse? Well, it seems pretty normal, as many cars take up some “slack” amount with the sudden shift to reverse. Still, when the U-joints get damaged, this condition worsens, and you notice the car jerk as the vehicle moves backward.

Low Transmission Fluid

The car jerks when accelerating automatic transmissions with low fluids to aid the torque converter operation. The delayed or hard shifts may frequently occur when the car has low transmission fluid, or the car’s transmission is bad.

These issues need swift actions for getting them fixed, as delay can result in serious damages that may have a lasting effect.

How to Fix these Problems

  • Troubleshoot and be sure of the exact problem
  • Refill transmission fluid that appears low
  • Take the care to an auto care store to fix a faulty transmission
  • Try work on unclogging the IAC valve

car jerks when accelerating from stop


Q: Can transmission cause the car to jerk?

When your car’s automatic transmission shifts hard during rides, you may feel the vehicle jerking or stuttering. In essence, there may be a need to change the fluid or refill the fluid if it appears low. With that in mind, you can take swift action in fixing these issues.

Nevertheless, manuals transmissions in cars could cause such “jerking” when the clutches appear worn, or the gear synchros are damaged. It could also be a more serious problem, and it would help if you take the car to an expert automobile mechanic.

Q: What does it mean when your car is jerking while you’re driving?

When your vehicle jerks while driving, it tells that there is no sufficient air/fuel mixture received by the engine. Such issues can also cause the engine to start but won’t stay running and lead to a bad fuel economy.  

In essence, the cause of car stuttering could be due to the various components of the air and fuel intake system. You may look out for a dirty fuel injector or air filter when you see that the car jerks during acceleration. Again, accumulated contaminants in the fuel tank can be an issue, so clean the fuel tank.

Q: Can a bad battery cause a car to jerk?

Bad batteries or alternators are common issues in most cars. Most folks consider these problems first when their car starts jerking when accelerating. When the battery does not get sufficient charge from the alternator, it would lack enough voltage for the smooth running of the vehicle.

Thus, you would start noticing the car jerk as you accelerate. Again, the car’s computer would face some challenges shifting the transmission in the right manner if the system lacks sufficient power. Nevertheless, there are some other issues that you may look out for to help you solve this problem.

Q: What causes rough idle and hesitation?

Rough idling occurs in vehicles that often have bad plugs or faulty plug wires. Other common causes include the mass airflow sensor, IAC valve, Throttle valve, and a damaged fuel pump. You can also find a head gasket leakage and dirty fuel injectors causing that hesitation and rough idle.

In essence, when you face some difficulties in maintaining or keeping the rotation rate steady, you should check these areas mentioned above. You can quickly get the issue diagnosed and seek an excellent solution for a quick fix.

Q: Why is my engine light on and car jerking?

The engine light turns on when your car’s engine has some issues. In essence, when your car jerks when driving slow or fast, and you notice the engine check light on, then the issue is from the engine. Knowing the exact problem would help you fix the issue faster.

Some common causes, in this case, may be a damaged mass air flow sensor or issues with the vehicle’s catalytic converter. Thus, it would be beneficial if you take the car to an expert for a quick fix. Much delay may result in serious issues that further damages the engine.

Final Words

Many, a smooth ride is awesome, but some issues may stem up, reducing the car’s driveability. One of such is the vehicle jerking when riding at a high or low speed. When you start feeling like the vehicle is jerking, it is often associated with the fuel/air mixture.

You may keep noticing such stuttering or surging each time you put your foot against the gas pedal. Such problems can also arise due to insufficient spark during the fuel combustion process. Nevertheless, this article reveals some common reasons why the car jerks when accelerating and some possible solutions.


Hi There, I am R. Hasan Tito, a mechanic, and owner of this website. My friend and I created this website to share our knowledge, expertise, and experience with our fellow mechanics' community and car users. I am a specialist and certified automotive mechanic (Both Heavy Commercial and Private Cars). I have been working as a mechanic for over fifteen years. I worked for a long time at Global Rebound Automotive companies (Toyota, TATA, BMW, Nissan, TVs, and Others ) as a Mechanic and Mechanics Supervisor.

Recent Posts