Car Jerks When Accelerating At Low Speeds [Causes and Fixes]

There may be many various reasons why your vehicle would jerk when accelerating. The cause of it all is one thing; your car isn’t running properly. 

These problems with running originate from faulty engines. A lot can go wrong with engines, so it is better to know what can malfunction.

Fuel Injectors

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Fuel injectors are the most common thing that can malfunction in an engine. This is because these injectors can get dirty or build up sludge and debris as you use your vehicle longer. 

If these injectors aren’t kept clean, they can’t supply fuel to the engine efficiently. The result is that the engine misfires and does not have much power, which causes the jerking motion. 

Catalytic Converters

For people who don’t know, Catalytic Converters are responsible for lessening the harmful effects of fumes that a vehicle generates. This part is also responsible for the air intake needed by the vehicle to function properly.

Over time, the filters in these converters can get clogged by debris which results in compromised exhaust system performance. Drivers may notice delayed acceleration response, a jerking motion, or decreased engine performance when this happens.

Defective Spark Plugs/Damaged Pistons

Vehicles that run on gasoline may experience a jerking motion and a decrease in the vehicle’s power if the spark plugs are faulty. This can happen if these plugs aren’t replaced after a certain period. 

Spark plugs are responsible for proper fuel ignition in the engine. Over time, these plugs experience wear and tear, so after around 100,000 miles, these should be replaced. 

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If defective spark plugs are kept in the engine, the fuel that enters it might not be ignited properly. Without proper fuel combustion, the engine can’t function well. 

For diesel engines, jerking motions might signify that there is a problem with the engine’s piston mechanism. It has the same concept as gasoline engines. 

Diesel engines rely on their pistons and air compression as a means to ignite the fuel that is injected. If there is damage to the piston mechanism, it may not compress air properly.

Insufficient air compression will lead to the engine not generating enough air to achieve fuel combustion. This will then lead to improper engine performance resulting in the jerking motion when accelerating.

Manual Transmission

A jerking motion also happens when beginner drivers try to learn how to drive on a manual transmission. This mostly happens when they attempt to switch from neutral to the first gear. 

Remember that practice makes perfect, and the smoother you can shift from neutral to first gear, the better. It will decrease the chances of the jerking motion from happening. 

Try and practice slowly pressing on the gas pedal while letting go of the clutch simultaneously. Once you feel it grab on, it means that it is in first gear, and you can let go of the clutch completely. 


Nothing can better prevent the jerking motion other than keeping your vehicle in prime shape. Proper maintenance scheduling should do the trick. 

You can address the problem yourself. It will be easier if you can find a local mechanic shop to do it for you.

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Most vehicles should be routinely serviced every six months or every 12,000 miles. All the parts should be checked, and all the fluids should be replaced. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do automatic transmission vehicles experience jerking motions?

Since the automatic transmission takes care of shifting already, it is less likely to experience a jerking motion when accelerating. Unless there is an engine problem, these vehicles should run smoothly.

How much is it to get my car serviced?

It depends on your vehicle. Generally, it shouldn’t cost more than a couple of hundred dollars for basic routine checkups.

How much is a full engine wash?

The price for an engine wash varies on where you have it done. It can typically cost from $100 to $500 for engine detailing.

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