Reasons Your Car Jerks When Accelerating (and How to Fix)

Technology continues to transform the capabilities and performances of different vehicles. It means that drivers deal with more mechanical problems. Diagnosing these problems requires the combined use of specialty tools and physical inspections. Sometimes the car jerks when accelerating. Such occurrences indicate a combustion problem.

Jerking when accelerating happens when there is inadequate air/fuel mixture. Drivers should be concerned and seek immediate remediation when the car begins jerking or stuttering when accelerating. Here is a look at the different issues that cause the car to jerk. 

Clogged Fuel Injectors

Dirty fuel injectors are the leading cause of jerking. They cause other problems that include low engine power, frequent misfiring and stuttering due to poor fuel injection.

Keeping the injectors clean eliminates this problem. Cleaning can be done using a fuel injector cleaner without removing the injectors. Removing the injectors and cleaning them clears all dirt, including thick carbon deposits. Where cleaning is untenable, drivers have to change the fuel injectors.

Damaged Mass Air Flow Sensor (MAF)

MAF adjusts the amount of air entering the combustion chamber depending on the acceleration. A faulty MAF sensor causes the vehicle to jerk as it cannot sufficiently control the quantity of air flowing into the combustion chamber. There could be a check engine light accompanying the MAF sensor fault. Use a scan tool to check the sensor and replace it if damaged.

Blocked Catalytic Converter

Catalytic converters control the number of pollutants in exhaust gases. The converter blocks if the air/fuel mixture is extremely rich, disrupting the flow of exhaust gases. It causes jerking and delayed responsiveness to acceleration. It also results in a foul smell. 

Minor blockages are cleared using a catalytic converter cleaner. If the blockage persists, drive to an auto repair shop to replace the converter.

Bad fuel filter or fuel pump

A consistent supply of fuel to the engine guarantees smooth acceleration. Once the car begins jerking, check the cleanliness of the fuel filter and the pump. If the pump is bad or the filter is clogged, the fuel supply to the combustion chamber is limited. 

Rectify the jerking by replacing the filter or servicing the fuel pump. 

Dirty air filter

Dirt clogs air filters. It implies that the air supply to the engine becomes inconsistent. Therefore, fuel combustion is incomplete. When accelerating, the car jerks since the air/fuel mixture is unbalanced. 

Replace the air filter to enjoy better acceleration.

Damaged Spark Plugs

For combustion to occur, the air/fuel mixture must be combusted. Spark plugs ignite the air/fuel mixture at a specific pressure to generate the required engine power. A bad spark plug causes erratic ignition, causing the engine to misfire and jerk when accelerating.

The remedy for a bad spark plug is an immediate replacement.

Other causes of jerking

  • Moisture buildup under the distributor cap. It is predominant during the cold season. 
  • Damaged or loose accelerator cable
  • The faulty transmission control module


Several issues can cause the car to jerk when accelerating. Driving a jerking car can cause costly damages in the long run. Perform a self-diagnosis or visit a specialized auto repair shop once you notice any sign of the car jerking. Combine manual diagnosis and advanced scan tools to identify what causes the jerking. 


What causes the vehicle to jerk when accelerating at high speed?

The most common causes of jerking include poor fuel supply due to clogged fuel injectors, blocked fuel filters or damaged fuel pumps. Jerking occurs if the air filter is dirty, the mass airflow sensor is damaged, driving with a loose accelerator cable or bad spark plugs.

Is it safe to travel in a car that jerks during acceleration?

Jerking causes more problems in the long run. It is advisable to diagnose the root cause of jerking and repair it as soon as possible to prevent more damage to the engine.