Is it Safe to Drive With a Misfiring Cylinder?

The cylinder is the part of the engine where combustion takes place. The combustion in the cylinder is what powers the vehicle. The engine block is normally made from cast iron or aluminum. Depending on the type of vehicle, an engine may have as few as two cylinders to up to as many as 12 (the Bugatti Chiron has a 16 cylinder engine!). A misfiring cylinder can cause a proportional loss of power. For example, if one cylinder misfires in a four-cylinder engine, the car will lose 25 percent of its power.

Driving with a misfiring car is not safe. Here are 4 signs and symptoms to look out for if you believe you have a misfiring cylinder:

1. Loss of Power Accompanied by Abnormal Vibrations

One of the biggest signs your cylinder is misfiring is the loss of power along with odd vibrations. Since the cylinder powers the engine, your fuel economy will noticeably start to suffer since the remaining working cylinders have to compensate for the loss of power. In addition, if your vehicle shakes while idling, this is another sign of a misfire. Combine these signs, and they are sure indicators that your cylinder is misfiring and needs to be looked at by a mechanic as soon as possible.

2. Loss of Engine Spark

Another reason a cylinder may misfire is due to a loss of spark. This can be something that stops coil voltage from hopping the gap at the end of the spark plug, such as worn out or corroding parts. Damaged, worn, or bad spark plugs, or a weak ignition coil can cause a loss of spark, and therefore, a misfiring cylinder. This may happen periodically at first, but as components in the ignition system continue to fail, you’ll notice an increase in the number of misfires. Though this cause of engine misfires still requires mechanical repairs, spark plugs, ignition wires, and distributor caps and rotors do not cost too much to replace.

3. Imbalanced Air/Fuel Mixture

If there is not enough gasoline in the air/fuel mixture, this can cause a misfire as well. If the fuel injector is clogged, dirty, or has an air leak, the low pressure will affect all of the cylinders, rather than just one cylinder. A sticking EGR valve may also contribute to the air/fuel imbalance. Misfires caused by the fuel system appear suddenly and tend to be more detectable when idle compared to driving at highway speeds.

4. Intermittent Misfires

Sometimes cylinders have intermittent misfires, which means the cylinder does not misfire all the time. The misfire may happen when it is cold out or while the vehicle is carrying a heavy load. Other times it may seem like the cylinder misfires randomly and without a pattern. These are difficult issues to diagnose, so the vehicle needs to be looked at by a professional mechanic. It could be the car’s vacuum line, intake manifold gaskets, timing belt, or even the valve train.

Driving with a misfiring cylinder is potentially dangerous. If you lose power while driving or a second or third cylinder goes out, this can cause you to get into a car accident, possibly injuring you and others around you. If you suspect a misfiring cylinder, make an appointment with a technician as soon as possible to have your vehicle inspected and repaired.


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Jeremy

20 years of experience
427 reviews
Jeremy
20 years of experience
Cadillac CTS - Engine is misfiring - West Palm Beach, Florida
Unfortunately Jeremy had to deliver the news that my car was beyond repair. But he was professional about it and checked if there was any possible way to fix it affordably. He seem honestly distressed telling me something that I already expected.
Honda Pilot - Engine is misfiring - West Palm Beach, Florida
Very thorough and identified the problem in my 2007 Honda Pilot with almost 260,000 miles. He was on time, worked quickly and found the problem. No overselling.

Rodney

36 years of experience
442 reviews
Rodney
36 years of experience
Toyota Highlander - Engine is misfiring - Sacramento, California
This was a warranty call. Id expect not to be charged even though Rodney wasn't able to duplicate coil/spark plug issue. thank you

Joseph

20 years of experience
545 reviews
Joseph
20 years of experience
Ford Taurus - Engine is misfiring - Salt Lake City, Utah
Joseph is always timely, friendly, knowledgeable and great to work with. He's worked on two of my cars and has always been above and beyond.

Chris

22 years of experience
1992 reviews
Chris
22 years of experience
Buick LeSabre - Engine is misfiring - Perris, California
Chris found the problem right away. Gave me great information about my car and scheduled the follow up for me. Chris is fantastic mechanic.

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