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

asked by on August 05, 2016

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.

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.

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