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.

Engine is sputtering Inspection $79.99 - $89.99 Get a Quote

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.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

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

What others are asking

cylinder 4 misfire code reading?

It is helpful to state what kind of Dodge it is as some motors have pattern failures that other do not. Either way, there are a few simple tests that can be performed on any fuel injected motor to figure...

How to increase power without adding turbo?

Hi there. There are many ways to increase power to your vehicle without adding a turbo or supercharger. You could change the exhaust manifold to a exhaust header and gain more power. You could change the intake to have air...

I have a VW Polo Classic 1.6. Wipers are wiping about 5 to 10 cm and stop. What would be a problem?

Hi. This usually means there is a problem with the wiper transmission being worn-out or the place were the wiper arm attaches is worn-out, too. The wiper motor turns the wiper transmission, which allows the wiper blades to wipe the...

Check engine, traction off lights are showing

The Check Engine Light is likely still on due to the oxygen sensor faults. The unfortunate thing is that engine computers sometimes cannot detect another problem if they are dealing with one already. That may be why it didn't have...

Why doesn't car start after running out of gas girlfriend ran gas out of car now won't start plenty of gas in tank doesn't sound l

Fuel pumps rely on liquid gasoline for cooling. Consequently, it is recommended to keep the fuel tank at least 1/4 full to prevent the fuel pump from overheating. If the pump is run to the point of being dry, the...

Car has intermittent acceleration problems - 2001 BMW 325

There are a couple of places to start looking. The proper fuel pressure is required for good performance and a technician can check fuel pressure to see it if is low which will point to a clogged fuel filter or...

I have an 01 Lexus ls430 the trunk indicator is on as if the trunk is open but it's completely closed. Any ideas?

Hello, thank you for writing in. Something is wrong with the sensor on the latch for the trunk. Scan the vehicle for diagnostic codes to see if anything comes up. You can check the wiring directly to the sensor and...

Car won't change gears.

We would have to know if the vehicle has an automatic or manual transmission, and the exact nature of the problem. For both transmissions, there is a wide variety of reasons as to why a vehicle would not want to...

oil leak: 2008 passat 2.0t driver side near battery down below, leaks oil onto a hose.

Hello, thank you for writing in. The lack of oil in your car until you get this fixed should be a concern. Make sure you are keeping an eye on the oil level and adding some when needed. The oil...

Related articles

Top 10 PZEV Cars for Eco-Friendly Drivers
Teddy Leung / Shutterstock.com The whole idea of a PZEV (that is, a partial zero-emissions vehicle), seems paradoxical. You’d think it’d have to either be zero-emissions or not in the category at all. But as contradictory as...
A Buyer's Guide to the 2012 Volkswagen CC
At At some point, most of us have to choose between the cars we wanted when were kids and the ones we need for our commute to the office or to pick up our own children. With the 2012 Volkswagen...
A Buyer’s Guide to the 2012 Volkswagen Passat
Redesigned Redesigned for American buyers, the 2012 Volkswagen Passat is roomier, has more standard features, and costs less than previous models. All that, and you still get everything you look for in a German-built sedan, including the on-road dynamics, power,...