Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

Q: Car starts, but sputters and acts like it wants to stall

asked by on

Beetle would not start unless jumped so the alternator and battery were both tested and both were fine. Now car starts without a jump but will sputter, shake and act like it wants to stall.

My car has 153200 miles.
My car has an automatic transmission.

A: The first question I have for you is whethe...

The first question I have for you is whether it has had its timing belt replaced? The maintenance interval on your timing belt is 105,000 miles. A broken or failing timing belt can certainly display these sort of symptoms. There is also a timing chain that connects the two camshafts This has a tensioner that fails and can cause this. These conditions can be checked with a compression test or you can gently pull the top of the timing cover back to inspect the timing belt. Inspecting the chain requires the removal of the valve cover. If there is a cylinder or two that has significantly lower compression than the others, then this is an indication you have a timing belt issue.

Another possibility is the cylinders could be washed with fuel. When this occurs, you will need to run the motor at a high RPM until the cylinders establish a good seal at the piston rings again. This is often a confusing situation that may seem like much more than it is. Before you go revving the motor though, be sure the timing belt is in good condition. If you were to rev the motor with a timing belt ready to break, you would cause internal damage to the motor and a much larger repair will be needed. If the timing belt was replaced on schedule, I wouldn’t be to worried about it.

Next in line is low fuel pressure. You will need a fuel pressure gauge to test this. VW uses different motor designations mounted on the front of the timing cover. It will be a three digit code that you will need to look up the correct fuel pressure specifications for you specific vehicle.

These are the items I would begin with. If you should need help figuring this out, I recommend contacting a qualified mechanic, such as one from YourMechanic, to inspect why your engine is sputtering.

Was this answer helpful?

Need advice from certified mechanic? Get help now!

Over 1000 mechanics are ready to answer your question.
The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Ask a Mechanic
(100% Free)

Have a car question? Get free advice from our top-rated mechanics.

Ask A Mechanic
Over 10,000 questions answered!

Get an instant quote for your car

Our certified mechanics come to you ・Backed by 12-month, 12,000-mile guarantee・Fair and transparent pricing

Get a quote

What others are asking

Q: Looking to upgrade shocks.

In most cases, a body lift should not affect the size of the shock needed. A suspension lift on the other hand will change the mounting locations for the shocks, and therefore, a different sized shock would be necessary, due...

Q: grinding noise

Hello, thank you for writing in. The vehicle will need to start with a transmission service. With the age of the vehicle, if this has not been done in the last 8 months or so, its time to have it...

Q: Car not idling smoothly

This is typically caused by a carburetor problem. Most of the time it is as simple as an adjustment of the mixture. This is something that must only be done by someone with carburetor experience. If you need to have...

Related articles

What Causes Hoses to Leak?
While the largest part of your engine is mechanical, hydraulics plays a significant role. You’ll find fluids at work in a number of different areas. Your car's fluids include: Engine oil Transmission...
How to Avoid Back Pain in a Car
If you have back problems, sitting in a car for an extended period of time can be excruciating. Even without back problems, you could experience discomfort and soreness from...
P2428 OBD-II Trouble Code: Exhaust Gas Temperature Too High Bank 1
P2428 code definition A P2428 trouble code signifies that the PCM has detected a problem in the exhaust gas temperature sensor circuit in bank 1, which subsequently contains the number one...