Car Starts Then Sputters and Shuts Off [Causes & Fix]

Having your engine die when you want to start your car is one of the most bothersome issues that car drivers have to deal with. 

Occasionally, it would backfire or simply sound like it is not operating at normal power before it shuts off.

This indicates there is a minor issue or an even more serious problem with the engine, fuel system, or exhaust system.

There are several reasons your vehicle will start, sputter, and then shut off. In this post, we’ll explore most of them.

Car Starts Then Sputters and Shuts Off

Why Car Starts, Then Sputters and Shuts Off

1. Empty Tank

One of the most frequent causes of a car dying after starting is a low gasoline tank. To start, combustion engines require fuel. If there is a tiny quantity of gasoline in the fuel line to start the engine, your car’s engine may momentarily start, but it will quickly shut off owing to a shortage of fuel to keep it going.

Fixing a fuel tank that is empty is as simple as filling it up at the gas station with fresh fuel. If your car’s issue is an empty fuel tank, adding gas should solve the issue.

2. Clogged Fuel Injectors

The combustion chambers of the engine get a continuous stream of gas from the fuel injectors. Therefore, since the function of the fuel injector in a combustion engine is to inject the proper amount of fuel into the engine to start and maintain it, a malfunctioning fuel injector can cause your engine to misfire or stall.

Your gasoline won’t flow consistently if the fuel injectors are filthy or clogged, and the engine might operate on fewer cylinders than necessary if the fuel injector breaks. This situation can cause the engine to splutter. 

3. Bad Spark Plugs

Your car will start, sputter, and eventually shut off if the spark plugs are bad, and are unable to provide a powerful spark to ignite the air/fuel mixture effectively. However, at greater engine speeds, these symptoms might disappear or diminish.

Note that, to ensure your car has good spark plugs, you need to always change the plugs every 80,000 to 100,000 miles, since they are serviceable and subject to wear. 

Symptoms of Bad Spark Plugs

  1. Rough idle
  2. Stuttering
  3. Surging and misfiring
  4. Low performance and high fuel use

4. Pump Leak

Another necessary component for a combustion engine to function is air. Your engine might stop or misfire if you have a vacuum leak because of the unequal distribution of fuel and air.

5. Faulty Fuel Filter

Your engine might malfunction if your gasoline filter is blocked or broken. Because the fuel filter and fuel pump synchronize to control how much fuel it feeds the car’s engine. 

Also, fuel filters degrade over time because they always get filled up with dirt removed from the fuel that is used in engines.

Therefore, you should always carry out routine maintenance on your automobile, including replacing or cleaning the gasoline filter to stop your engine from sputtering.

6. Weak or Damaged Battery

Your engine can start and then abruptly shut off if your battery is discharged. Therefore, if you discover this is the root of the problem, you might need to recharge or replace the battery if your car won’t start.

7. Faulty Fuel Pressure Regulator

The fuel pump always runs at its highest speed in most cars, since that is how the fuel system functions.

Considering that the engine doesn’t use all of that fuel, a fuel pressure regulator at the end of the fuel rail releases it all so it may go back into the fuel tank.

Since the fuel pressure regulator is often mechanical, if it breaks, it may become stuck. Meaning that it will raise the fuel pressure and, as a result, the amount of fuel entering the engine rather than allowing the extra gasoline to return.

This causes a rich air/fuel mixture, and the most noticeable symptoms are sputtering, a fuel-like smell, and stalling.

8. Failed Ignition System

Your automobile can die right away after starting or idle erratically if there is a problem with something in the ignition.

For cars using coil-on-plug ignition systems, when one or two coil fails at once, you will tend to get the same result as with a dead spark plug. Because the spark required to ignite, a combustion engine comes from the ignition system.

Some of the possible ignition issues are simple DIY fixes. However, you might think about contacting a specialist if you have trouble identifying the exact problem.

9. Faulty MAF Sensor

By measuring the airflow and transmitting it to the ECU, a MAF (mass airflow) sensor directly controls the air/fuel ratio in your car.

The very sensitive, tiny wire that the MAF sensor is dependent upon may break or become soiled over time. Therefore, you might need to clean the MAF sensor first if you think it’s the source of your problems.

Additionally, you won’t see a check engine light if the MAF sensor is the cause of these problems. Nevertheless, cleaning it is rather simple and inexpensive, so if you can’t identify the problem, you might as well take care of it.

However, among other symptoms, if the MAF sensor has failed, you will experience a check engine light and a P0101 failure code.

10. Failed Oxygen Sensor

The exhaust system also depends on oxygen sensors. The performance of the exhaust system and the engine as a whole will be significantly impacted if an exhaust sensor malfunctions or provides inaccurate information to the car’s computer.

What To Do When Sputters and Shuts Off

1. Check your Battery and Fuel Level

Once the engine begins, your fuel tank must have enough gasoline to keep it going. If it does not, then you should top up your fuel tank.

Also, you need to check the battery connection and charge if your automobile still won’t keep running despite having fuel in the tank.

It’s possible that your battery is not properly connected and as a result, it is impossible for your automobile to start. The battery could require a complete replacement if it is damaged.

2. Replace the Fuel Filter

Find out whether your fuel filter is clogged or damaged. If this is the case, you ought to think about changing it rather than attempting to clear it. Because, usually, it takes more effort to clean a fuel filter.

3. Locate and Fix Leaks

Within the combustion engine, leaks can occur in any of the pipelines and valves. If you suspect there may be leaks, you might wish to do a smoke test. When you find any, you can replace the pipe.


Can Bad Spark Plugs Cause Sputtering?

The vehicle will sputter if the spark plugs are dirty or defective because they won’t properly ignite the fuel. Either replace them or have them cleaned.

It’s critical to rely on a qualified mechanic to identify and fix the issue because engine sputtering is a sign of a more serious issue.

Read: Traction Control Light Wont Turn Off


When your engine sputters, it is either a signal that you are going to run out of gas. However, when your engine sputters and you have adequate petrol, it means you have a more serious issue that requires rapid treatment, such as ignition issues, vacuum leaks, and a few other potential component failures.

Therefore, if you can’t figure out the problem yourself, we recommend you don’t keep attempting to start your car after you’ve tried several times; doing so will destroy the engine. However, you might need to engage a professional mechanic to help you diagnose properly and get it fixed.