Most of the time my 2001 Honda Civic sounds like this... Vrooooooom. But some times when I start driving it sounds like this... Vrooom putt pa putt pa putt pa vrooooom. When it's in the "putt pa putt" mode, pressing the gas makes no difference. The amount of time it spends in "putt pa putt" mode varies, sometimes its a couple seconds, other times its as long as 5-10 seconds.

This always happens within the first 100 yards after starting the car, and it runs fine after that. It is not throwing any error codes, so if it's misfiring it's not reporting it.

What would be the likely cause of this behavior?


It only seems to happen after a cold start (car has been sitting for > 4 hours). The outside temperature does not seem to be a factor, it has happened in winter (0F-20F) and summer (70F-90F).

Spark plugs were changed about 3-4 years ago, but I will be changing them today.

Fuel filter might be original, or at least has not been changed in the 6 years I've owned the car. I am thinking of changing this too, but it is a pain in the ass to get to since it's in the tank.


Replaced spark plugs. The car seems to be running better, and have not yet experienced the reported issue (though it was very random, so it may be to early to call it fixed).


Spark plugs did not solve the problem.

The vehicle is also idling very low (200-300 RPM) once it's warmed up, and occasionally stalls while idling.


Just had the car to the dealer for a software update, turns out there was a service bulletin that mentioned this type of issue. The car seems to be running better, idling normally, and less hesitation when accelerating from idle.


Got a new error code that might help find the cause of this problem, P0420 Catalyst System Efficiency Below Threshold. After reading the comment on the answer to this question, I'm starting to suspect the catalytic converter. I did notice a leak near the manifold, so I'm not sure if that would cause the code or if the catalytic converter is really on its way out. Unfortunately the manifold and catalytic converter are a single unit, so I'll have to spend the ~$500 to find out.

Final Update:

Crushing the car and purchasing a new one, seems to have fixed the problem.

enter image description here

  • 1
    Please give more detail on if this happens after cold starts, warm starts or both. In what kind of ambient temperatures (I know right now it is hot, but for the sake of the future readers, give what temp ranges you are dealing with). How long ago were items replaced such as spark plugs, fuel filter, etc.
    – ManiacZX
    Aug 20, 2011 at 8:23
  • @ManiacZX: see my edit.
    – Tester101
    Aug 20, 2011 at 15:00
  • 3
    I love the terminal image:)
    – Rory Alsop
    Jun 8, 2012 at 17:02
  • 1
    >Crushing the car >2001 Nooooooooooo. It had so much to live for T_T
    – Robbie
    Jun 8, 2012 at 19:55
  • A leaking manifold will give you catalyst error codes, but won't explain the hesitation. That was probably caused by a lack of spark, faulty ignition timing, a dirty fuel filter or even a dying fuel pump. Oct 28, 2014 at 9:43

4 Answers 4


this sounds just like a clogged fuel filter to me.

The car starts fine because the fuel has had time to percolate through the clogged filter but once that fuel is used up the engine starts starving for fuel because the flow through the filter is not great enough to run normally.

Since it occurs randomly it will be hard to test this. But I would try slightly depressing the gas immediately when the car starts and see if you get the engine stuttering. I believe with the gas pedal depressed, the fuel line pressure will be greater so that it can push enough gas through the clog to keep running.

Years ago I had a 1989 Mercury Topaz (US) and when I would sit in neutral at a light it would idle fine, but when I shifted into drive the car would suddenly die. The issue was the fuel filter was clogged and when I shifted into drive the engine would expect a sudden increase in fuel but the clog slowed it down and the engine would stall. Tapping the gas pedal right when I shifted into drive solved the problem until I was able to replace the fuel filter.

  • If the fuel filter was clogged, wouldn't it be less random (and happen more often)? Would I notice other issues, like hesitant acceleration or something if this was the case?
    – Tester101
    Aug 26, 2011 at 16:27
  • I'm fairly sure it is a problem with the fuel air mix, but I'm hoping the recent software patch is the solution.
    – Tester101
    Aug 26, 2011 at 16:29
  • +1 - Even though the OP found an alternate solution. Since the issue is intermittent, it's unlikely to be electrical, meaning it's likely fuel related. I definitely agree.
    – Sivvy
    Apr 2, 2014 at 21:51

Fuel filter. My car had the same problem, no code but the car had cold start problem. It was at the garage for a day, everything checked out good. Out of frustration the macanic changed the fuel filter. That fixed the problem. PS. I didn't know I had to change the fuel filter. I had 90,000 miles on the car, and it was the original fuel filter. My bad.

  • It's supposed to be changed after 15k or 30k miles depending on the car. Apr 2, 2014 at 15:52

My 2000 Cr-v was doing the same thing. I ran fuel injector cleaner through it and have not had an issue. (I ran a lot through it. Only had about a half tank of gas and ran a whole bottle, that treats up to 35 gallons)

  • Were your injectors noisy? i.e. Did they go "tappa-tappa-tappity-tap"? XD Oct 28, 2014 at 9:44

I dont know but my mothers 99 accord had the same darn thing wrong. i cleaned out her throttle body twice and she runs fine now.. has an internal fuel filter.. so that couldn't be helped.. only thing left for me to do was clean out the throttle body and or replace the egr.. or replace fuel pump.. I went with the throttle body first to avoid spending 100.00 for a fuel pump and almost that for the egr .. she is happy with the results for the past week no issues.. if this problem repeats the next step I will take is the egr from a used car, if that holds for 3 - 6 months we will purchase a new one.. if not the issue we will purchase a fuel pump new.. I have learned it is best to go to the u pull it place and get these costly sensors "used" to validate a problem rather then spend hundreds on new parts..I work too hard for my money to throw it out the window..

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .