8 Reasons Why Your Car May Sputter When Starting

You are ready for the day, get into your car and start it, but it does not start and only sputters. You try again, but the sputtering continues.

So, what do you do? Your first thought maybe that the fuel is low, but this is not the only reason why cars sputter. 

Driving is enjoyable only when it is smooth, and if you notice sputters and jerks while you drive, you will be annoyed and anxious.

Car repairs are expensive, and the more you delay and ignore a problem, the bigger it becomes. It is better to understand the various reasons why your car sputters and then take remedial actions. 

Top 8 Reasons Your Car Sputters

Your car is sputtering, and you want to take it to a garage, but it is better if you understand the problem. There are many reasons why a car may start to sputter, and these may include:

  1. Spark plugs can wear out and function less effectively with age, or sometimes they are faulty to start with. Spark plugs provide the ignition, but you will get misfiring and sputtering from the engine with faulty plugs. You can remove and check the spark plugs for damage or excess dirt. Replace them according to the manufacturer’s schedule. You can also check the ignition coils because they can also cause the same problem. 
  2. Check the fuel filter and the fuel pump because they will not allow the correct fuel pressure to form if they are clogged. Low fuel pressure will result in the engine sputtering and running weakly. Oil filters have a fixed schedule for cleaning and replacing, and you must follow this always to keep your car running smoothly. They are easy and cheap to replace. 
  3. A leak around the intake manifold or the hoses will not allow enough fuel to pass through and cause the engine to sputter. If you notice high-pitched noises around the engine bay while the engine is running, it could be due to the leaks. Another way to check is to use soap water around the suspected leaks to see air bubbles. 
  4. The fuel injectors spray the fuel on the cylinders into the combustion chambers. The fuel injectors also have small filters inside them, and if they get clogged, they will not work properly. The filters inside the fuel injectors are also replaceable, and any garage will take care of it. 
  5. The computerized monitors help to keep a check on the engine parts. Oxygen sensors are connected to this and are responsible for regulating the fuel through the combustion chambers. Faulty Oxygen sensors can relay wrong information to the computer, making them release either too little or too much fuel. 
  6. The catalytic converter is crucial in keeping the exhaust clean by removing harmful gases. When it gets old, it gets clogged, and some parts may come loose, which can also clog the pathway. This results in high back pressure on the engine, leading to sputtering. A sign of this is a foul smell emanating from the engine like that of rotten eggs. Maybe you should use a catalytic converter that can prove to be beneficial.  
  7. A malfunctioning ignition switch can also cause the problem. If the ignition switch is faulty, it will not send the right signals to the engine and cause the engine to sputter. 
  8. A cold engine results from clogged fuel injectors and a grimy throttle box. So when you start the car on a cold start, you may notice a sputter. It will take some time for the engine to warm up before starting and running. 

How Do You Usually Find Out?

There can be many causes for sputtering in a car, and it is difficult to know exactly what is causing the problem. However, you may notice the check engine light switch on, and then you can use a diagnostic scanner and read the code. 

Every vehicle comes with a manual that explains the codes and what they stand for. Going through the manual will help you understand the problem better and accordingly fix it. If you have a weak battery, you won’t be able to scan and read the code. 

So, if you don’t see any code and the car is sputtering, then it is reasonable to start by checking the battery first. Most other issues will have a code but not a weak battery, which is not bad. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What does a car sputter mean?

A. Usually, a sputter means that the engine cannot reach the full combustion stage. Sputtering noises can signify a simple problem or some bigger issue that requires immediate attention. 

Q. Can a bad battery be a cause for a sputter in the car? 

A. When the car battery does not supply enough power, the alternator needs to work harder to run the engine. When the car stops or stalls, it acts as a domino effect, and everything comes to a halt, and there could sputter. 

Q. Why does a car sputter while idling? 

A. A faulty oxygen sensor or a mass airflow sensor may wrongly calculate the air and fuel mixture. Fuel injectors that are dirty or clogged can cause fuel puddling and cause the engine to sputter while idle. Sometimes, the problem could be caused by other factors such as a faulty engine computer, low fuel volume, or even a cold start-up. 


It can be not very pleasant when you start your car, and it only sputters instead of starting. Most of the problems which cause sputtering can be fixed easily. Moreover, most fixes are affordable and easy to take care of.

The best thing that you can do is to take care of the problem as soon as you notice it. If you waste too much time, you may end up with serious damage to your car, which may cost much more to take care of.

Take care of the sputtering and stalling when you first notice it and ensure that your car is always ready for a smooth drive. 

Liam Dare

As CEO of ReplicarClub.com, my passion for the automotive world motivates me to build online businesses that provide information and entertainment to users. I am proud to contribute in a positive way to the automotive community.