Car Jerks When Stopped in Drive: Why It Happens and Fixes

If your car jerks when stopped in drive, it may be due to several underlying issues which, more times than not, are potentially dangerous. Sometimes, the jerk may be caused by vacuum leakage, a bad MAF sensor, or your ignition system. If you’re not a car expert, finding the exact problem can be a lot more challenging and frustrating.

Car Jerks When Stopped in Drive (1)

Fortunately, our automobile team has provided a list of possible causes and lasting solutions that’ll effectively eliminate this problem without much hassle.

Why Does Your Car Jerk When Stopped in Drive?

Your car jerks when stopped in drive due to several mechanical causes such as compromised ignition coils, a faulty throttle position sensor, dirty air and fuel filters, dirty or clogged fuel injectors, a faulty spark plug, or transmission issues, among other reasons.

The issues could include:

– Compromised Ignition Coils

Your car’s ignition system is predominantly run by ignition coils which can develop faults if they’re too close to each other or have cracked cases. Although it is quite rare for both ignition coils to get spoiled at the same time, it is very essential to pay attention to their proximity and casing.

Both coils being too close to each other leads to low spark capacity and, in turn, causes the ignition to underperform. When this happens, you will notice some jerking, especially when you stop abruptly.

– Faulty Throttle Position Sensor

Perhaps one of the most prevalent reasons for any car jerk, whether when stopping or accelerating, is that your throttle position sensor (TPS) is faulty. Your TPS monitors the throttle’s position and the amount of air your car engine consumes. If this sensor becomes faulty, the result is a jerking car. Aside from the shudders, you may also notice your check engine light coming on at intervals.

Dirty Air and Fuel Filters

Every vehicle has both air and fuel filters. Your air and fuel filter work by preventing particles or contamination from disrupting the combustion process. When these filters are not cleaned or replaced for a long time, it results in a buildup of dirty particles, which disrupts fuel and air intake. Having a dirty air filter as well as a fuel filter is likely one of the reasons why you may notice your car jerk when stopped in drive.

– Dirty or Clogged Fuel Injectors

Fuel injectors are responsible for the distribution of fuel in mist form into your car’s engine via a nozzle. Dirty fuel injectors are automatically clogged with debris or contaminants, reducing fuel flow into the engine. When this happens, your engine no longer gets the required power needed for the smooth running of tshe vehicle. The result is that your car would start to jerk since there’s a reduction in engine power.

Faulty Mass Airflow Sensor (MAF)

A MAF sensor works like a fuel injection by measuring the amount of air consumed by the engine, which controls the mixture of fuel and air. If you have a problematic MAF sensor, it can cause an imbalance in the fuel and air mixture. Once the car engine notices this imbalance, a number of issues start to arise, one of which is your vehicle jerking. However, car jerks as a result of bad MAF sensors are more likely to be noticed at high speeds.

Spark Plug Fault

A spark plug is a very important component of a car. It provides the powerful ignition needed by your engine to consume both fuel and air delivery.

Why Does Your Car Jerk When Stopped in Drive

Faulty spark plugs will affect the ignition process, which will, in turn, cause your car to jerk when you stop it in drive. Another indicator that your spark plug may be bad is loud engine noise, especially when you start the car.

– Damaged/Misaligned Tires

Another reason why you’d notice your car jerk when stopped in drive is damaged tires. When your tires are hit by sudden or forceful impact, they can easily get misaligned, if not completely damaged. Your tires may also lack sufficient pressure to perform optimally.

Your tire tread depth may also indicate the need to replace the tires. Otherwise, your tire will be distorted and lose the necessary traction it is supposed to have. When your tire is misaligned or completely damaged, you’d likely experience a jerk, especially when you’re running at low speed or trying to slow down.

Transmission Issues

A vehicle’s transmission system is responsible for connecting the tires with the car’s speed. Misaligned wheels might be the cause of your transmission problems. This could be due to impact, which affects the pressure of the wheels and makes them loose. This, in turn, affects transmission when accelerating or trying to shift gears.

Another reason you’re having transmission problems might be insufficient fluid. Just like most mechanical devices, the fluid aids the smooth movement of your car’s components. When your car lacks the lubricant needed for the engine to run smoothly, it is almost inevitable to experience transmission friction, which causes jerking.

– Clogged Catalytic Converters

A catalytic converter works by regulating the number of pollutants (smoke) that comes out from your car’s exhaust pipe. When there’s too much mixture of fuel and air, your catalytic converter can become jammed with residue.

When this blockage occurs, you will notice that your car jerks or takes quite some time to respond when you step on the gas pedal. A weird odor, reminiscent of spoilt eggs, is one of the ways to detect a clogged catalytic converter. You also tend to make more stops at the gas station as a jammed catalytic converter results in low fuel efficiency.

– Blocked or Damaged Fuel Line

For a car to function optimally, there has to be an efficient distribution of fuel to the gas tank. A fuel line carries out this simple yet crucial responsibility. Over time, this fuel tank will likely get blocked with particles from the fuel pump. At other times, it may simply be damaged.

When this occurs, you will start to experience jerks while accelerating or trying to stop your car. Another sign of a damaged fuel line is a low and unpleasant humming or vibration. You may also notice a strong sulphuric odor or rotten egg smell coming into your car’s cabin from the instant you start your car’s engine.

How To Fix Car Jerking When Stopped in Drive?

To fix your car from jerking when stopped in drive, you can try checking the ignition coils, fixing the throttle position sensor, replacing air and fuel filters, replacing the MAF sensor, paying attention to the transmission fluid, and replacing the damaged fuel line.

Check your ignition coils to ensure they are correctly used in their casings, and fix any noticeable damage to the throttle body or MAF senseor. You might also need to replace your air or fuel filter, spark plug, fuel line, or fuel injector.

Now that you can identify some possible reasons why your car is jerking when you stop in drive, here are lasting solutions that work.

– Check Your Ignition Coils

One of the first steps to eliminating car jerks when stopped in the drive is by checking your ignition coils. Although ignition coils hardly ever get completely damaged at the same time, ensure that your ignition coils are properly used in their casings.

You should also make sure both are appropriately distant from each other to avoid overlapping. Also, if you notice the plastic casing housing the coils are cracked, replace them with new ones.

– Fix the Throttle Position Sensor

Once identified as the problem by a professional mechanic, you have to immediately repair or replace your throttle position sensor. To do this, simply look for the sensor’s electrical connectors as well as the mounting screws.

Remove both, then take out the throttle position sensor for repair and replace it with a new one. If this proves too difficult, you can always request technical support assistance.

– Replace Air and Fuel Filters

If cleaning your air and fuel filters seems a bit too tasking, you should replace the old filters with new ones. Most car owners agree that replacing one or both of these automatically eliminates the shuddering that occurs when trying to stop in drive.

You simply have to unscrew the clasps used in screwing these filters and then install them in the same position as the old ones. Make sure they are tightly screwed back on to avoid the filters falling off their housing. Once these filters are replaced, it becomes easier for air and fuel to mix without any form of blockage. The process is similar for both automatic transmission and manual transmission vehicles.

– Clean or Replace Fuel Injectors

It is important to clean your fuel injector nozzle as often as you can. You can carry out routine cleaning of these injectors every two to three months. In cases where cleaning the fuel injector doesn’t stop your car from jerking, you may need to replace the fuel injector entirely.

Solutions to Car Jerking When Stopped in Drive

There’s a high chance that replacing it is the solution you need to end the irritating jerking movement when you try accelerating.

– Repair MAF Sensor

If your MAF Sensor is the reason why your car jerks when stopped in drive, you’d need to clean or replace it. To do this, you simply need to find where it is located in your car, which is usually close to the air filter. Once you’ve located the MAF sensor, unscrew the clasps holding it. Pull out the sensor and clean out any dirt that may be clogging it.

After cleaning it, put it back in its housing and screw it tightly. If your car continues to jerk after you do this, then you’d have to replace your sensor with a new one following the same steps.

– Replace Spark Plug

Replacing your car’s spark plug is another lasting solution to eliminating sudden car movements. While we advise that you leave this to a professional mechanic, it can be easy to replace your spark plugs yourself. To do this, you have to turn off the car engine and disengage the negative battery terminal. Once this is done, clean the area of dirt and particles that could get in during the replacement process.

Take out the old spark plugs and inspect them to see if they still appear new or have even ends. If this is the case, then you may not necessarily have to replace the plugs. However, if the spark plugs look crooked and contain too much grime, go ahead and replace them with new ones using a plug starter.

Ensure that you carefully place each plug into the engine, matching the torque specifications of your car. Don’t forget to tighten the spark plugs as well.

– Inspect Tires Regularly

Regular inspection of your tires is another great way to stop your car from jerking when stopped in drive. Make sure you check the tread depth as often as possible and ensure that they still provide the needed traction. Also, ensure that your tire pressure is intact. You can use a pressure gauge to take readings to determine if your tire needs to be filled with air.

If needed, ensure you fill your tires with the right amount of air specified for your car model. Another thing to do is determine the condition of the tires and if they need changing, depending on how long you’ve been using them.

– Pay Attention to Transmission Fluid

While inspecting your tires is also a great way to solve transmission problems and stop your car from jerking, checking the transmission fluid is important as well. Since insufficient fluid is one of the causes of unpleasant car juddering, ensure that you apply this fluid as often as you can. Use an engine lubricant regularly to optimize your engine’s performance and ensure that your car moves smoothly.

– Clean Catalytic Converter

If your catalytic converter is the reason why your car shudders frequently, then you’d need to clean out the catalytic converter. To do this, simply get a catalytic converter cleaner from any automobile store and ensure your car has enough fuel as well.

Pour the catalytic converter cleaner into your fuel tank, following the specifications on the cleaner’s label. Once done, take a drive for as long as is needed; as you drive, the cleaner is circulated within your car’s exhaust system.

– Replace the Damaged Fuel Line

A damaged fuel line needs total replacement as it can’t be repaired. If a damaged fuel line is diagnosed as the cause of the jerking, you need to replace it as soon as possible. You should take note that replacing your damaged fuel line is a very technical and, oftentimes, messy job. It also requires that you get under your car, which can be potentially dangerous, especially if you have no technical experience with automobiles.

Replacing Damaged Car Fuel Line

Hence, you’d need to contact a professional to fix this issue. Some other solutions to cars jerking when stopped in drive include checking and fixing your accelerator cables, fixing the brake pads, and ensuring your alternator charges your car battery well.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can Tire Distortion Cause Juddering?

Yes, distorted car tires can cause juddering when accelerating or stopping in drive. Make sure you inspect your tires as often as possible and carry out maintenance when needed. When you notice this happening, it would be best to immediately get your car checked by a professional.

2. Why Does My Car Jerk When I Fill Up?

Your car is jerking when you are giving it gas because of a clogged catalytic converter. When the mixture of fuel and air becomes too rich, it can block the exhaust system. This is the reason why your car jerks when you step on the gas pedal.

Other reasons may include faulty fuel injectors, damaged fuel lines, or transmission oil leaks.

3. Why Is My Car Jerking When I Accelerate?

Your car is jerking when you accelerate because of several reasons such as a faulty transmission, damaged fuel lines, or fuel leaks. Other causes include damaged tires, clogged catalytic converters, unclean fuel injectors, bad spark plugs, and dirty air or fuel filters.

A bad battery can also be the cause for a car to jerk. This happens when the battery is weak. If your car’s battery isn’t sufficiently charged by its alternator, it would surely not have enough voltage to power the car and ensure smooth running. When this happens, you will notice that your car jerks, especially when you’re accelerating.

4. Why Does My RPM Fluctuate When I Park My Car?

Your RPM is fluctuating while your car is parked because of some underlying issues such as a faulty idle air control valve, dirty or blocked fuel injectors, or a bad throttle position sensor. It may also be caused by malfunctioning spark plugs, bad MAF sensors, or vacuum leaks.

Conclusion of Car Jerks When Stopped


Understanding why your car jerks when stopped in drive is a great step in the right direction, and from our guide, you now know how to resolve this issue. Here’s a quick summary of the key points discussed in this article:

  • Some of the many causes of car jerks when stopped in drive include faulty MAF sensors, dirty air and fuel filters, clogged catalytic converter, compromised ignition coils, and so on.
  • One way to stop your car from jerking when you stop it in drive is by cleaning your air and fuel filters as well as your catalytic converters. Also, replace old or bad spark plugs and change damaged fuel lines.
  • Aside from the solutions discussed in the article, other ways to fix car stuttering when stopped in drive include changing the accelerator cable, charging weak batteries, and fixing vacuum leakage as well as faulty brake pads.

Now that you are able to identify the common causes of car jerking and their solutions, you no longer have to deal with the sudden unpleasant movement that happens when you stop in drive.

5/5 - (12 votes)
Ran When Parked