Troubleshooting Engine Problems: Hesitation

Engine Hesitation Diagnosis and Troubleshooting

scared drivers
Don't become a victim of hesitation. Getty

Engine hesitation can be a real pain in the you-know-what. It's not as bad as a full engine breakdown, but when you press the gas pedal with your foot, you want one thing, and only one thing, to happen. You want your car or truck to go. Here's a worst-case scenario involving engine hesitation: It's Monday morning, the day after the Super Bowl, and you stayed up way too late at the game afterparty.

This morning, you pushed the snooze button three times instead of your usual once, spent an extra 10 minutes in the shower trying to sweat out the night before, and skipped breakfast. You can't work on an empty stomach, and you're going to need a gallon of coffee to keep up with your lame non-partying coworkers today. So you stop at the drive thru and grab an egg sandwich and a giant, hot coffee. Sounds like a situation we've all been in to one degree or another, right? You're sitting at a traffic light carefully sipping your coffee between bites of the egg sandwich, which is both satisfying and repulsing, depending on which way your stomach has decided to flop that minute. The light turns green. Now is the point where some people would put their coffee into the cup holder to pull away safely, but you're a coffee-and-driving pro so you smartly tilt your coffee forward at the exact moment you hit the gas -- the tilt compensates for the potential slosh backward on acceleration.

The bad news is that this time, the car doesn't start to move when you press the gas pedal. It hesitates. It hesitates just long enough to throw your carefully planned tilting maneuver out of sync, and you pour hot coffee all over your leg. The pain is enough to cause you to unconsciously make a fist destroying your egg sandwich.

You throw both miserable breakfast substitutes out the window, and so begins the worst day you've had at work all year. 

Here are some things to look for if your engine is hesitating:

Symptom:Engine hesitating. When you step on the gas, the engine seems to bog down or takes a second to respond. You may notice a general lack of power. You may notice the problem when the engine is hot or cold or when you are low on fuel.

Possible causes:

  1. Dirty air filter.
    The Fix: Replace the air filter.
  2. The spark plugs may be dirty or worn.
    The Fix: Replace spark plugs.
  3. The ignition wires may be bad.
    The Fix: Inspect and replace ignition wires.
  4. Ignition system problems.
    The Fix: Check distributor cap or rotor[/link">. Ignition module may be bad.
  5. You may have water in the gasoline.
    The Fix:
    Drain the gas tank and flush with fresh gas and refill. (Generally not a DIY job)
  6. If you have a carburetor (all 3 of you), you may have a bad accelerator pump or power circuit.
    The Fix: Replace accelerator pump or replace carburetor.
  7. The fuel filter may be clogged.
    The Fix: Replace the fuel filter.
  8. Your catalytic converter may be clogged.
    The Fix: Replace catalytic converter.

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