Look For These Signs If Your Car Is Choking Or Sputtering

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Does your car feel like it is choking or sputtering while running or accelerating? Although you may be the one crying for help, your vehicle is trying to tell you something if it is sputtering when you step on the gas. Cars are full of parts and sensors that need regular inspection over time. If a component is failing, it can cause problems such as an improper air-to-fuel ratio causing the car to choke or sputter. 

Things To Inspect If Your Car Is Sputtering 

One of the first places to look is your gas gauge. If you are about to run out of gas, your car will sputter. If you still have plenty of gas in the tank, you may have a more serious issue. Many things can cause an engine to choke or sputter, some of the most common issues are:

  • Faulty or dirty spark plugs 
  • Dirty or failing oxygen sensor 
  • Clogged fuel injectors 
  • Vacuum leak 
  • Exhaust system leaks 
  • Dirty mass airflow sensor (MAF) 
  • Failing or faulty catalytic converter 
  • Dirty engine air filter 

The 4 Most Common Engine Sputter Culprits 

Of all those potential issues, 4 of them occur more frequently than the others. If a car is sputtering or choking, diagnosing and solving the root of the problem is essential. These are the four places to check first:

  1. The Fuel System – One of the most common places to look when an engine is sputtering is the fuel system. There are three important components to inspect within the system: the fuel filter, fuel pump, and the fuel injectors. These three fuel system parts work together to deliver fuel from the tank to the engine. If dirt or debris is clogging one of these parts, it can cause other fuel system components to fail. This can cause sputtering engine performance or even complete failure. Having a professional service shop clean the fuel system for your specific car about once a year is a good recommendation to follow. 
  2. Spark Plugs – Your engine’s spark plugs play a vital role in your car’s heartbeat. These plugs provide the spark for the air and fuel mixture inside the engine. Over time spark plugs become worn, or they get dirty from oil or other engine sediments. Dirty or worn spark plugs are a significant cause of engine sputtering. If you ignore spark plug maintenance for too long, eventually you will not be able to start the engine at all. Most tune-up appointments inspect and replace spark plugs if necessary. 
  3. Mass Airflow Sensor – A mass airflow sensor is responsible for reading the temperature and weight of the air traveling to the engine. The engine may sputter or experience reductions in gas mileage efficiency when the mass airflow sensor is dirty. Sometimes a dirty MAF can trigger a check engine light. Mechanics can clean most mass airflow sensors when they become dirty, but it may need replacement in some cases.  
  4. Catalytic Converter – A catalytic converter reduces the amount of pollution exiting from a car’s exhaust system. The catalytic converter turns harmful emissions such as carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide into compounds such as water or carbon dioxide. Sluggish engine performance, darker than usual exhaust smoke, and slower acceleration are some of the symptoms of a bad catalytic converter. Sometimes a faulty catalytic converter can cause a sulfuric scent similar to rotten eggs to emit from the exhaust.  

When a car is not breathing correctly, something is wrong. When owners ignore symptoms that something is wrong, the risk for severe damage increases, including complete engine failure. Similar to modern life, computers play a significant role in cars. Modern cars usually give a scanner readable error code in the on-board diagnostic (OBD) system. Not all OBD scanners are equal. To get the most accurate diagnosis, you need more than just the error code. 

Car Diagnostics

Car Diagnostics

The Most Convenient and Advanced Diagnosis Process Available 

CarDr.com puts the most advanced comprehensive car inspection artificial intelligence (AI) in the hands of trained auto inspection experts. During the inspection, CarDr.com inspectors connect to the car’s OBD using state-of-the-art technology. CarDr.com’s real-time AI scans the car’s OBD while the engine is running. It collects critical vehicle diagnostic information as well as codes while the vehicle is driven and while it is parked.   

This real-time OBD access provides data on the car’s heartbeat while connecting with servers to detect 1000+ potential trouble points. CarDr.com’s code database is the largest in the world, with real-time access to every new code coming into existence. OBD diagnostics this advanced are not even available to service centers or dealers. 

CarDr.com’s auto inspectors are experts with experience performing end-to-end car inspections, from the headlights to tailpipe and everything in between. Their expertise, combined with CarDr.com’s advanced OBD AI, allows the inspection to reveal more information than ever before. 

Best of all, mobile vehicle inspections are available wherever it is most convenient for you. Whether you want to keep your car running optimally or if you are browsing through CarGurus used car selection, CarDr.com’s comprehensive report will reveal everything you need to know before driving home. 

The bottom line is the first step of successful preventive maintenance begins with knowing where to look. Playing guessing games to diagnose a problem can be expensive, but having the correct data to back up your suspicions is priceless. Discover the value of a pre-purchase used car inspection before your next vehicle purchase with CarDr.com today.  


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Zachary Tomlinson - October 12, 2020 Reply

My uncle’s truck has been making weird noises as of late, and he’s also having challenges in making it start. What you said about how this could be an indicator that it’s spark plugs fails to spark the engine totally makes sense. I should suggest that he look for a diesel repair expert that can diagnose this for him.

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