Car Idles Fine But Dies When Given Gas [Reasons + Solutions]

The main reasons behind car idles fine but dies when given gas are a clogged air filter, dirty fuel filter, malfunctioning fuel pump, faulty air control valve, vacuum leak, faulty mass airflow sensor, and a bad carburetor.

Keep reading this article to find out more about these issues that cause your car to die when you step on the gas pedal. You’ll also learn how you can fix each of these issues. Let’s jump in!

Car Idles Fine But Dies When Given Gas [Reasons + Solutions]

To find out that your engine dies when the throttle is applied common problem that many car owners face. Here are the main reasons behind this issue:

Note: You can also read how to fix Car Overheated and died now won’t start problem.

1. Clogged Air Filter

An air filter prevents dust particles in the air from entering the engine. But in the process, dirt and debris accumulate on the filter and make it clogged. When the filter gets clogged, the air won’t get enough oxygen and it can cause the engine to die when you step on the gas.

You can inspect a clogged air filter by shining a bright light behind it. If the light becomes too dim or almost invisible, the filter is too clogged and it needs to be replaced.


You’re in luck if the air filter causes your car dying issue. Because air filters are cheap and easy to replace. More often than not, a dirty air filter is the main culprit behind this issue. Inspect your air filter and replace it if it has become dirty or clogged.

2. Dirty Fuel Filter

If you’re still wondering why the car idles fine but sputters when accelerating after changing the air filter, the next thing to look at should is the fuel filter.

The fuel filter prevents small micro dirt present in the fuel from entering the engine. But if you don’t replace your fuel filter at regular intervals, it can become dirty and give you problems when you start your car.


Just like the air filter, fuel filters are also easy to replace. Check if the fuel filter seems dirty and replace it if that’s the case. You should always replace the fuel filter at regular intervals to keep your engine safe.

3. Malfunctioning Fuel Pump

The fuel pump is responsible for supplying adequate fuel from the gas tank to the engine. The fuel pump supplies fuel to the carburetor in the older cars that were generally made before the 1980s. If your carbureted engine dies when given gas, it could be due to a faulty fuel pump.

When the fuel pump malfunctions, the engine gets less fuel than necessary. There’ll most likely be performance issues at first and then eventually, the vehicle won’t even start.


Get your fuel pump inspected by a mechanic and see if it’s malfunctioning. If there’s something wrong with it, you must replace it. Changing the fuel pump won’t go as easy in your pocket as changing fuel and air filters but you must do it to get your engine up and running again.

4. Faulty Air Control Valve

If you’re still wondering why my car sputter then dies, take a look at the ACV in your car. It controls the flow of air in your engine to maintain the correct speed. When you step your foot on the gas, the vehicle needs more power and the air control valve increases the flow of air.

But if the ACV gets stuck or becomes clogged, it can cause rough idling and fail to start. A faulty control valve will also cause the check engine light to flash in modern vehicles.


There could be two things wrong with the air control valve – it’s either dirty or damaged. If it’s dirty, you can get away by cleaning it with a towel and spraying some carburetor cleaner or WD40 on it. But if it’s damaged beyond repair, you must replace it.

5. Vacuum Leak

A car’s engine basically works as an air pump that supplies air to the cylinders and creates combustion by mixing it with fuel. For the engine to work effectively, it creates a vacuum. 

But if there’s a vacuum leak anywhere, it can cause the car to misfire and even fail from starting. If you notice your car making a whistling noise right before it stalls, that’s a sign of a vacuum leak.


A vacuum leak can be caused by the simplest of issues like a leaking hose or a major problem like a blown gasket. The only way to know for sure is to have your car inspected and find out what’s causing the issue.

If it’s a simple fix like a leaking hose, it will be an easy and cheap fix that won’t put a dent in your wallet. But if there are cracks in major engine components, it can be quite expensive to fix them.

6. Faulty Mass Airflow Sensor

If the car idles but dies when put in gear, there could be an issue with the mass airflow sensor. It determines the mass of the air that’s entering the fuel system and sends that information to the ECU.

The ECU takes that data into consideration and tries to achieve the optimum balance of fuel and air. But if the airflow sensor goes bad, it’ll give a false reading and keep the car from starting in some cases.


It’s the accumulation of dirt that keeps the mass airflow sensor from functioning properly in most cases. You can solve this issue by cleaning it. You can clean it yourself by following the below steps:

  • Locate the air box in your vehicle.
  • Get a flathead screwdriver and take out the sensor.
  • Make sure that you don’t touch any wire when you pull the sensor out.
  • Clean the sensor in one of these two ways:
  • Put it in a bag that’s filled with rubbing alcohol if you want the cheap cleaning option.
  • You could also buy a dedicated Mass Airflow Sensor cleaner and spray it for a better but more expensive option.
  • Let it sit and dry for at least 20 minutes.
  • Reinstall the sensor once it’s completely dry.

That’s all you need to clean the airflow sensor. But in some cases, the sensor will be damaged. When that happens, your only option is to replace it.

7. Bad Carburetor

Majority of the older cars that were made before the 1980s use carburetors. It’s the job of the carburetor to mix the fuel with the air to get the ideal mixture for combustion and fire the engine.

With time, the carburetors can get dirty and need to be cleaned. But if any of the components of the carburetor like its spring or butterfly valves are damaged, it needs to be taken to a mechanic.


If you suspect that a bad carburetor could cause the issue, take it out and inspect it. If it’s dirty, clean it with a towel and spray some carburetor cleaner on it. Put it back in and see if your car starts.

It’s a good idea to take it to an experienced mechanic to work on your carburetor if cleaning it doesn’t do the trick. Make sure the mechanic you choose has previous experience working on carburetors as the newer ones aren’t likely to know much about them.


Why does my Chevy Equinox dies when given gas?

When a car dies if it’s given cause, that means there’s most likely a problem with the fuel delivery system. Check the fuel filter, and fuel pump of your Chevy Equinox and you could find the issue.

Why does my car bog down when I give it gas?

The most common causes of a car bogging down when you give it gas are the air filter being too dirty, your car sucking in too much air, or not getting enough fuel.

Can bad gas cause idle problems?

Yes, bad gas can cause many problems in your car like rough idling, knocking and pinging sound from the engine, engine misfiring, and stalling.

Can a faulty spark plug cause the engine to die?

If the spark plugs are dirty or corroded, they won’t ignite the mixture of air and fuel which will result in your engine dying.


Now you know the most common reasons behind why a car idles fine but dies when given gas and how you can fix these issues.

We hope this guide will help you find out the exact problem that’s causing the problem and fix it. Let us know if you have any more questions about this engine dying problem by dropping a comment below.

About John M

John contributed as a technical head at an automobile company just 2 years after his post-graduation in Automobile Engineering. He loves to lead a free life, so he left his job & started blogging. Now, he does research on every automotive problem, part & product and seeks a better solution & best products & shares his findings with his readers to help them as well as to minimize their struggle.

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