Q: My car is jerking back and forth at high speeds

asked by on August 16, 2016

Hi, I recently bought a car from a private seller and the check engine light has been on. When I go on the highway and speed up the car jerks back and forth. It does it almost every time I speed up but after I travel about 20 miles or maybe a little bit more it doesn't do it. What could possibly be wrong with it? Will it cost me a lot of money?

My car has 110800 miles.
My car has an automatic transmission.

The first thing that needs to be done is to connect a scanner to the car and retrieve the code. This information will lead a technician down a diagnostic path. There is an important distinction that needs to be made here. Does your car "jerk back and forth" while accelerating or at a cruise when the throttle and speed are held steady? These are different circumstances in regards to what could be wrong.

Surging at a cruise is usually a sign of a lean running condition caused by fuel system components. This could be the MAF, an injector, fuel pressure regulator, or fuel pump. Bucking and jerking while accelerating is usually do to ignition components. If there is a vacuum leak or the fuel pump can’t supply enough fuel, you can get similar symptoms. The problem could be a mixture of several of these.

As for why it doesn’t happen after twenty miles, this could be because a motor needs more fuel to run when it is cold. If the fuel system is performing as it should, this could easily be the cause. Several components have warm up cycles that may not be working correctly. If they warm up to slowly, numerous drivability issues can arise.

I recommend having your Check Engine Light diagnosed by a qualified technician, like one from YourMechanic, to help you figure this out.

Good luck!

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

My Check Engine Light is on - code P0430

Hi there. If you are getting this code along with a loss of power, it usually means that the catalytic converter is failing. When it fails internally it begins to clog the exhaust which will cause the lack of power....

Car lacks power on acceleration and stumbles at highway speed

This vehicle and engine has a list a mile long of various engine, cooling, computer, transmission, fuel and other possible problems that could contribute to causing the problems you are having. My best recommendation is to have a mechanic test...

How do I remove heater core in a 1994 nissan pickup

Hello, thank you for writing in. The heater core is a difficult component to get to. Typically, you must go through a lengthy process of accessing the core from behind the dash. Once you have access to it, you can...

When first starting the car for the day, it wants to bog down intermittently only at idol. it never dies but

It may be time for a tune-up and cleaning of the induction system. Carbon build up around the throttle plate or worn spark plugs may cause the engine to run a little rough, especially on a cold start. Consider hiring...

Check Engine light on due to misfire

Code P0301 indicates a misfiring issue. You likely need an ignition coil. There is a possibility that oil is leaking into your valve cover, which is causing this. If you haven't replaced the spark plugs, you will need to soon....

Steering column was replaced because of a recall, but it is not working again!!

There are different recalls that may pertain to this vehicle. There are recalls for steering sensors and shafts. You may want to call another local GM dealer and have them run your VIN number to check for open recalls for...

Slow acceleration and gasping noise -1985 Chevrolet C10

Hello. There are multiple possibilities here. There could be a vacuum leak to the engine (which affects timing, mixture, etc.) all of which kick in when under a load (vs. idling). Also, check ignition timing, especially ignition advance mechanisms, for...

P0236 circut A range performance

Hello. The boost sensor is on the intercooler exit hose, driver side, bottom of the radiator area, close to the rubber coupling down there. The intercooler looks like another radiator, and sits in front of the coolant radiator. This is...

3 warning lights on, power steering, VMS, and electronic lights. Any clue?

The fact that these lights are on is a warning to the driver that there are fault codes stored because one of more control systems have detected a problem. The vehicle will have to be read with a code scanner...

Related articles

P0619 OBD-II Trouble Code: Alternative Fuel Control Module RAM/ROM Error
P0619 means a problem in the alternative fuel control module RAM/ROM, caused by its malfunction or faulty wiring within the CAN Bus harness.
P2734 OBD-II Trouble Code: Pressure Control Solenoid E Stuck On
P2734 means a transmission solenoid has malfunctioned due to a failing transmission, bad sensor or solenoid, low fluid level or other electrical issue
P0260 OBD-II Trouble Code: Injection Pump Fuel Metering Control “B” Intermittent (Cam/Rotor/Injector)
P0260 P0260 code definition Injection Pump Fuel Metering Control “B” Intermittent (Cam/Rotor/Injector) What the P0260 code means P0260 is an OBD-II generic code that the injection pump fuel metering control valve circuit has intermittent current flow when the engine control...