You can usually tell right away when your engine is sputtering. It might be backfiring or it just sounds and feels like it is not working at normal power. A sputtering engine means that it is not achieving full combustion. It could be the sign of a very simple problem or it could be a symptom of a much more concerning engine, fuel system or exhaust system issue.
Here are 10 of the most common causes for a sputtering engine, according to the Colorado Springs auto repair specialists at LightHouse Automotive:
1. Out of Gas
The most common reason why an engine sputters is when you are about to run out of gas. The engine will struggle as it doesn't get enough fuel and eventually the car will stop running altogether. If your engine is sputtering, the first thing you should do is look at your fuel gauge. If it is still showing gas in the tank, then being out of gas isn't likely your problem (unless the fuel gauge itself is faulty).
2. Failing Spark Plugs
Your spark plugs provide the sparks that ignite the fuel combustion. If one or more of them is failing, you won't get proper combustion in the engine and it will sputter and pop as it loses power.
3. Dirty Fuel Injectors
The fuel injectors keep a steady spray of gas flowing into the engine's combustion chambers. If the fuel injectors are dirty or clogged, then the fuel won't flow consistently and that will result in a sputtering engine.
4. Bad Fuel Filter
Fuel filters go bad over time as they eventually get filled with all the dirt and contaminants that they are filtering out of the fuel that goes into the engine. A sputtering engine may just mean you need to have your fuel filter replaced.
5. Loss of Vacuum Pressure
All vehicles have a series of vacuum hoses that create the fuel pressure. If one of them leaks or is damaged in any way, you will lose significant fuel pressure.
6. Exhaust Leak
The vehicle's exhaust system can greatly impact the engine's performance. If you have an exhaust leak, then that usually causes the harmful exhaust gases to flow back into the engine, and this will cause major problems.
7. Failing Catalytic Converter
The catalytic converter burns off the most dangerous elements in the exhaust gases as a key part of your vehicle's emissions process. If the catalytic converter isn't working correctly, it will eventually lead to bigger engine issues.
8. Failing Oxygen Sensors
The oxygen sensors are also crucial to the exhaust system. If an exhaust sensor fails or gives false readings to the car's computer, then the performance of the exhaust system and the engine itself will be greatly affected.
9. Failing Mass Airflow Sensor
In most modern vehicles, the mass airflow (MAF) sensor monitors and control the mix between fuel and air in your engine. A faulty MAF sensor could be the source of your sputtering engine.
10. Bad Seals or Gaskets
There are various seals and gaskets found throughout the vehicle's fuel system, exhaust system, transmission, cooling system and engine. If one of these seals becomes worn or weak, then you will experience engine performance problems.
These are some of the most common causes of a sputtering engine, but there could be any number of issues at work. If your engine is struggling and not performing like usual, you'll want to take it to a professional mechanic as soon as possible for proper diagnosis and repairs.
If you are in the Colorado Springs area and are experiencing engine issues, call LightHouse Automotive today at (719) 465-0302 or schedule your service appointment online.