Why does my car idle, but then die when I hit the throttle?

My car starts just fine. And if I sit there idling, everything seems normal. But if I give it any throttle, it dies. What would cause a car to idle, but then die with throttle?

Patrick Price · Answered on Mar 25, 2022
Reviewed by Shannon Martin, Licensed Insurance Agent.
Oh no—I’m sorry to hear your engine is dying! Issues like this can be very frustrating. The most likely culprit is a dirty or clogged air filter. Issues with your fuel pump or fuel filter can also cause your engine to idle then die with any throttle. If you have an older car, it could also be a bad carburetor.
The good news is that the air filter, which is likely the cause of the trouble, is easy to change yourself. If the air filter is dirty or clogged, your engine will not get enough oxygen and die with any significant throttle.
If, however, the problem persists after the air filter has been changed, you may be looking at a more involved repair. Have a mechanic inspect your fuel pump and fuel filter, as these can also cause the engine to die.
If you have an older car from the 1980s or before, it might still use a carburetor. If so, the carburetor could be faulty and cause your engine to die due to a lack of adequate fuel. Make sure that you get a mechanic to work on it that is familiar with these antiquated pieces of equipment—many mechanics today have rarely (if ever) had to work with carburetors.
Car trouble like this is a good reminder to always make sure you have quality insurance for your vehicle. The insurance comparison app Jerry works with top insurance companies to find the best quotes. Jerry customers save an average of $887 each year on their car insurance!
View full answer 
Jerry partners with more than 50 insurance companies, but our content is independently researched, written, and fact-checked by our team of editors and agents. We aren’t paid for reviews or other content.

Easiest way to compare and buy car insurance

No long forms
No spam or unwanted phone calls
Quotes from top insurance companies
Find insurance savings — it's 100% free