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Why Your Car Jerks When You Accelerate?

All of a sudden as you accelerate you feel you car starts jerking. The car jerks when accelerating from a standstill, at low speeds or high speeds. When you're behind the wheel and the car jerks as it accelerates, you can definitely feel somethings not quite right. You may also feel you don’t have full control of your vehicle.

A car shaking or vehicle hesitating on acceleration shouldn’t be overlooked. It could indicate that anything from your spark plugs to your catalytic converter is malfunctioning. It may even suggest that your vehicle's transmission needs to be repaired. Continue reading to find out what to do if your car shakes, jerks or hesitates when you accelerate.

Car Jerks When Accelerating – What It Feels Like

Before we go into detail on why a car jerks when accelerating, it's crucial to understand how your vehicle feels when it jerks. If you've never had your car jerk on you before, it can take you off guard and leave you wondering what just happened. So let's describe what it feels like when a car jerks when accelerating from a standstill.

When your vehicle jerks, it may feel as if it is lacking the strength it requires to continue forward. Even if you have your foot firmly planted on the gas, your car will come to a halt, pause for a second, and then lunge ahead, and it will frequently repeat this sequence, depending on what's causing your car to jerk. If you're trying to accelerate from a standstill, the jerking will make it tough for you to gain any momentum. If you're already accelerating, the jerking will make it difficult to maintain your speed, regardless of how fast you're traveling.

As you might expect, driving your car while it jerks when accelerating might be dangerous because you'll struggle to maintain control. If you suddenly stop driving as rapidly as you were, a vehicle behind you may have difficulty slowing down in time. If your vehicle is always jerking while you're driving, you should have it looked at by a mechanic to determine why your vehicle jerks as you accelerate.

Car Jerks When Accelerating - Causes

If you're a new driver who's driving a car with a manual transmission for the first time and it's jerking a lot, it may be incorrect shifting of gears causing it to jerk. If the problem stems from changing gears on a manual transmission vehicle, one way to stop your car jerking is to ensure you properly engage the clutch when shifting gears.

If you drive an automatic transmission and you find yourself saying, "my car hesitates and jerks when accelerating," it may be a transmission problem. Many possibilities may cause a car to jerk when accelerating, and you'll need to figure out which one is causing yours to jerk. This is the key to preventing your car from jerking when you accelerate.

We'll discuss a few possibilities why your car jerks on acceleration. But, in general, the following might cause a vehicle to jerk when driving:

1. Bad spark plugs: As your car's spark plugs age, they'll have a harder time igniting the fuel. This can lead to an engine misfire and your car may jerk when you accelerate.

2. Fuel injectors that are dirty: The fuel injectors in your car keep a constant stream of fuel into your engine. Clogged fuel injectors will restrict fuel flow, causing your car to misfire and shake when you accelerate.

3. Blocked air intake or a defective mass airflow sensor: Your car's engine also requires air to mix with the fuel in order for the pistons to move. If your engine doesn't get enough air because of a clogged air intake or a defective mass airflow sensor, it will misfire and cause your car to jerk on acceleration.

4. Worn-out accelerator cable: A cable connecting your gas pedal to your engine's throttle plate opens up the throttle. If the cable is worn or breaks, you may experience your car jerks when you accelerate.

5. Moisture in the distributor cap: A car parked for a lengthy period can build moisture inside the distributor cap. Moisture in your engine might cause misfiring, preventing you from accelerating without jerking first.

6. Catalytic converter clogged: Your car's catalytic converter reduces emissions. However, the air and fuel combinations that pass through your catalytic converter can block it, causing your vehicle to hesitate or jerk for a few seconds.

These are just a few of the factors that cause a car to jerk when accelerating. Checking these components to see if they need replacement may stop a car jerking problem. 

By considering when the jerking occurs, you might be able to narrow down the issue. Let’s present a few instances in which a car will jerk, as well as why drivers find their vehicle jerks on acceleration.

Car Jerking on Acceleration at Low Speeds

Sometimes your car jerks when accelerating at low speeds. Perhaps just leaving your driveway slowly can cause your car to jerk, making you question whether you should be driving it at all.

If your car jerks when accelerating at low speeds, a common problem is the spark plugs. An engine tune-up could end the jerking for good. Also common is the air intake or catalytic converter. When a car jerks when accelerating at low speeds, diagnosing these parts should be considered.

Car Jerking on Acceleration at High Speeds

A car that jerks when accelerating at high speeds is more of a concern. So what’s the main cause if a car jerks on acceleration at high speed? Controlling your vehicle in this case becomes difficult.

If you're experiencing this, have it looked at as soon as possible. Driving a car that jerks when accelerating at high speeds is a safety hazard for both you and your passengers. If your car jerks when accelerating at high speeds, airflow may be causing the hesitation. Possibly a clogged air inlet or the replacement of a malfunctioning mass airflow sensor.

Car Jerks When Accelerating From a Stop

If your concerned about stopping at an intersection because your car jerks when accelerating from a stop is a danger because other drivers are unaware that your car is jerking and not accelerating from a stand still.

A most common problem if a car jerks when accelerating from a stop is dirty fuel injectors or a clogged fuel intake. In either case, this restricts the fuel your engine requires, causing the vehicle to jerk. You may notice that your car is acting abnormally both while it is idling and when it is accelerating after being stopped.

Automatic Car Jerks When Accelerating

When a manual transmission vehicle starts jerking during acceleration, you may think it’s the gearbox. However, this is not always the case and could be another issue previously discussed.

For an automatic transmission vehicle that jerks when accelerating, it's likely a transmission problem. It's possible that your car's gearbox control module, often known as a solenoid, is malfunctioning. When this part fails, it might cause your car to jerk as it shifts gears. This problem isn't as frequent as some of the others on this list, but it's worth looking into if you think your car might have a transmission problem.

Car Jerks When Accelerating But No Check Engine Light Is On?

You could assume you're safe if your car shakes when you accelerate with no check engine light on. Although a check engine light is meant to alert you, in some situations, a car jerks on acceleration with without the check engine light appearing.

Your check engine light may illuminate with a malfunction of the mass airflow sensor or catalytic converter.

However, just because your car jerks when you accelerate without the check engine light on doesn't indicate there's no problem. Worn-out spark plugs can be the problem but won’t indicate the check engine light. Check your spark plugs to prevent your car from jerking when you accelerate without a check engine light on.

When a car jerks when accelerating if the check engine light is illuminated, it's time for an inspection. When a car jerks when accelerating without a check engine light on, it’s also time for an inspection. Diagnosing and repairing a car that jerks with or without the check engine light on should be a concern for any driver.

How Much to Fix a Car That Jerks When Accelerating?

A car that jerks when you accelerate is not recommended to drive. It should be inspected right away. Let your mechanic know, "my car jerks when I accelerate," and diagnose it. They'll be able to pinpoint the specific problem and resolve it for you.

The cost of resolving a car jerking when you accelerate will vary based on the replacement parts required. The following are some average costs of some of the parts you might need to replace if your vehicle shakes, hesitates or jerks while you accelerate:

  • Spark plug replacement costs between $75 and $300. Fuel injectors that are clean cost between $75 and $300.

  • Between $200 and $700 to replace the air intake system.

  • Between $350 and $600 to replace the mass airflow sensor.

  • Replace the accelerator cable for $175 to $575. Catalytic converter replacement costs between $1,000 and $3,000.

The cost of repairing whatever is causing your car to jerk when accelerating also varies depending on the car you drive. Your auto repair shop can give you a better estimate of how long it will take and the cost to get your car back up and running without hesitation.

Sell or Fix a Car That Jerks When Accelerating?

Have you had enough of your car jerking on acceleration? Prefer a new vehicle rather than repair a car jerking problem? It’s certainly not a comfortable feeling when you travel from A to B. You have the option to repair it or trade it in for another vehicle.

If your vehicle is jerking when accelerating, see what your mechanics advice is. Depending on the age of your vehicle, selling it may make more sense on the pocket book than a repair. Considering the cost of a catalytic converter replacement or various expense of other repairs, the best solution may be letting someone else deal with a car that jerks while driving.



Causes & fix for car jerks on acceleration

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