Engine sputtering

Engine sputtering: Most common causes and how to fix

When your engine is sputtering, you can typically tell right away. It could be backfiring, or it could simply sound and feel like it’s not operating at regular power. An engine that is sputtering is not attaining complete combustion. It could be a signal of a very minor issue or an even more serious engine, fuel, or exhaust system problem.

Engine sputtering

Well, the answer to the following questions will be discussed in this article:

  • What does it mean an engine is sputtering?
  • What causes a sputtering engine?
  • Is it safe to keep driving with a sputtering engine?
  • What to do when you have a sputtering engine while driving?

So, let’s get down to it!


What does it mean when an engine is sputtering?

This is for those who don’t know what a sputtering engine means. When an engine is sputtering, it means it is operating in irregular bursts, which causes a choppy or jerky running condition. It might be characterized as a series of unsteady, hesitant, or abrasive engine noises and vibrations. During acceleration or idle, the engine may sound like it’s struggling or coughing.

What causes a sputtering engine?

The following are the most common causes when your car engine is sputtering:

Low on Gas

The most frequent cause of an engine sputtering is running out of gas. Lack of fuel will cause the engine to struggle, and finally, the automobile won’t start at all. The first thing you should do if your engine is sputtering is to check your fuel gauge. It’s unlikely that you’re out of gas if the fuel gauge still indicates that there is gas in the tank (unless the fuel gauge is malfunctioning).

Leak in the Exhaust

The exhaust system of the car has a big influence on how well the engine runs. The toxic exhaust gases will typically flow back into the engine if you have an exhaust leak, which will result in serious issues.

Unclean Fuel Injectors

The combustion chambers of the engine receive a continuous stream of gas thanks to the fuel injectors. The fuel won’t flow consistently if the fuel injectors are dirty or clogged, which will cause the engine to splutter.

Fuel filter issue

Fuel filters degrade over time because they eventually become full of all the debris and impurities that they are removing from the fuel that is used in engines. You might only need to replace your gasoline filter if your engine starts to splutter.

Ineffective Spark Plugs

Your spark plugs deliver the sparks necessary to start the burning of the gasoline. If one or more of them aren’t functioning properly, the engine won’t obtain proper combustion and will splutter and pop as it loses power.

Faulty catalytic converter

The catalytic converter is an essential component of your car’s emissions system since it burns off the most hazardous substances found in exhaust fumes. A faulty catalytic converter will eventually result in more serious engine problems.

Ineffective oxygen sensors

The exhaust system also depends on the oxygen sensors. The performance of the exhaust system and the engine as a whole will be significantly impacted if an exhaust sensor malfunctions or provides inaccurate readings to the car’s computer.

Vacuum Pressure Loss

The vacuum hoses in every car provide the fuel pressure. You will experience severe fuel pressure loss if one of them leaks or sustains damage in any way.

Poor Gaskets or Seals

The fuel system, exhaust system, transmission, cooling system, and engine all contain numerous gaskets and seals. Engine performance issues will occur if one of these seals gets weak or worn.

Faulty Mass Airflow Sensor

The mass airflow (MAF) sensor controls and monitors the mixture of fuel and air in your engine in the majority of current cars. Your engine may be sputtering because of a faulty MAF sensor.

The reasons for a sputtering engine might vary, however, these are some of the most typical explanations. You should take your engine to a qualified mechanic as soon as you can for an accurate diagnosis and repairs if it is having trouble and is not operating as it should.

Is it safe to keep driving with a sputtering engine?

It’s generally not safe to drive when an engine is sputtering so try to avoid it if you can. A sputtering engine may be a sign of more serious problems with the car that require immediate attention. Driving while an engine is sputtering is dangerous for the following reasons:

  • Reduced Acceleration and Power Loss: A sputtering engine may not be using all of its cylinders, which results in a loss of power. This can be dangerous, especially in situations that require quick maneuvers or merging into fast-moving traffic.
  • Stalling: A sputtering engine has a higher chance of stalling, particularly at slower speeds or when idling. This may result in an abrupt loss of power, making it difficult to manage the car and perhaps resulting in accidents.
  • Increased pollutants: An engine that sputters may produce more hazardous pollutants, which are bad for the environment and can eventually ruin the engine.
  • Damage to the engine: Sputtering may be brought on by a number of conditions, including faults with the air intake, fuel system, or ignition. Ignoring these issues and carrying on with a sputtering engine while driving can make the underlying problem worse and may result in more significant and costly engine damage.
  • Lack of Control: A sputtering engine might result in unpredictable vehicle performance. When braking or swerving suddenly or in emergency situations, this loss of control can be dangerous.

What should you do when you have a sputtering engine while driving?

What you should do when your car engine splutters

If you experience a sputtering engine while driving, it is essential to address the issue promptly. Here’s what you can do:

  • Pull Over: As soon as you become aware of the sputtering, pull over to a secure area if it is safe to do so. Avoid stopping in dangerous or congested areas.
  • Check the Basics: Make sure that basic components like the fuel, oil, and coolant levels are within acceptable ranges before moving on.
  • Call for Help: It is advised to call for roadside assistance or have the car towed to a trained repair if you are unable to locate the problem or if the engine sputtering persists.

Keep in mind that routine maintenance and fast problem-solving can help prevent unexpected breakdowns and keep you safe while driving. It is always wiser to err on the side of caution and seek expert guidance if you are worried about the safety of operating your car.

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What causes an engine to sputter?

The following are the most common reasons why your engine sputters:

  • Low on Gas.
  • Leak in the Exhaust.
  • Unclean Fuel Injectors.
  • Fuel filter issue.
  • Ineffective Spark Plugs.
  • Faulty catalytic converter.
  • Ineffective oxygen sensors.

What causes an engine to sputter when accelerating?

One of the most frequent reasons for a sputtering engine when accelerating is a problem with the fuel system of the car, specifically the filter, pump, and injectors. Together, these three vital parts make sure that fuel moves smoothly from the fuel tank to your engine’s fuel injectors and then evenly pumps into the engine.

How do I stop my car from sputtering?

Sputtering can be stopped by having your spark plugs examined, cleaned, or replaced by a trained mechanic.

What happens when your car sputters while driving?

A lean fuel mixture in the combustion chamber will cause an engine to splutter. This may occur if there is a blockage in the fuel system that prevents fuel from reaching the combustion chamber. For instance, there may be clogs in your fuel filter or fuel lines.

Can too much fuel cause sputtering?

The engine of your car will sputter if the gasoline level is off, either too much or too little. Both too much and too little fuel can flood the engine, reducing its power.

Can low fuel cause sputtering?

Your car may probably splutter if you have little fuel. Due to the fact that most people are aware when their fuel is running low, this doesn’t happen very frequently. But if you’re not paying attention, it can be the cause of your car’s sputtering. Sadly, a sputtering vehicle usually has additional, more severe problems.

Is car sputtering serious?

The vehicle will misfire or sputter if the spark plugs are dirty or defective because they won’t cleanly ignite the fuel. Either replace them or have them cleaned. It’s critical to rely on a qualified mechanic to identify and fix the issue because engine sputtering is a sign of a more serious issue.

Why does my car shake at idle but smooth out while driving?

A loose gas cap, frayed battery connections, a worn throttle sensor, a damaged engine mount, or faulty spark plugs are a few possible causes of a car shaking when it is idling. Check your engine bay in general for any damage. Take the car to a mechanic if you can’t fix the issue yourself.


Engine sputtering is a serious sign that denotes underlying problems that influence the engine’s performance. It doesn’t matter if the issue is fuel-related, ignition-related, air intake-related, exhaust-related, vacuum-related, electrical-related, or caused by obstructions in the exhaust system, it’s critical to address the root cause as soon as possible to ensure smooth engine performance and stop additional damage. To stop the engine sputtering and keep the car in good overall condition, you must get a professional examination and repair.

That is all for this article, in which the answers to the following questions were discussed:

  • What does it mean an engine is sputtering?
  • What causes a sputtering engine?
  • Is it safe to keep driving with a sputtering engine?
  • What to do when you have a sputtering engine while driving?

Hope you learn a lot. If you do, kindly share it with others. Thanks for reading; see you around!