My car sputters when accelerating at a light. It feels like it wants to turn off. It feels like I am out of gas or it is not getting through, might be a clogged filter.

I just had the spark plugs, plug wires, distributor cap, timing belt, tensioners, and two of the injectors changed. It is a '91 Honda Accord EX auto station wagon.

  • Welcome to the site! Could you add what you've already tried to troubleshoot the issue? That might be helpful to narrow down the potential causes.
    – Ceshion
    May 2, 2017 at 13:31
  • Also, is this with an automatic transmission?
    – rana
    May 2, 2017 at 13:37
  • I took to a repair shop. They changed the wires, sparkplugs, distributor cap or anything related to a tuneup. They replaced timing chain/belts, tensioner. They replaced the rear brakes. They replaced two injectors. They think 2 cylinders are not firing. I am a woman so they can tell me anything but i know it was not doing that to me before getting all that work done.
    – user28456
    May 2, 2017 at 13:42
  • Yes it is an automatic.
    – user28456
    May 2, 2017 at 13:42
  • Take it to a different repair shop next time. Throwing parts and money at a car without knowing why usually turns out to be expensive, and indicates a garage that doesn't really warrant the title 'Garage'
    – PeteCon
    May 2, 2017 at 16:54

3 Answers 3


Take the car to another garage, and ask them to check the fuel pressure. My money would be on the fuel filter or fuel pump. I'd replace the fuel filter anyway on a car that old, if it's never been done before.


Start with checking what you think it is, pull the fuel filter and see if you can get fuel to flow freely through it.

If you think two of your cylinders aren't firing, run the engine and pull the spark plug wires off one at a time, listen to see if the sound of the engine changes at all. If it chugs or dies, that cylinder is firing. If it doesn't change, the cylinder isn't firing. Put each wire back after you've tested its cylinder. This will help you identify which cylinders are misfiring.

Once you've done that, I would stop the engine and pull the spark plugs out of those cylinders that are missing (and disconnect all 4 plug wires). If the plugs are covered in black soot, whitish powder, or really anything other than tan, make a note of that. Are they covered in fuel or dry? If they have fuel on them then wipe it off, then test them for spark by touching the threads to the engine block, with the plug in its respective wire, and having someone turn the engine over. If you see a strong blue spark, it's good. Otherwise look closer at your ignition system.

If you have good spark and there is fuel on the plugs, get a compression tester like this one here and check the compression on those cylinders by threading the tester into each of the bad cylinders at a time, with the plug wires off the other cylinders, and have someone turn over the engine. It should read at minimum 100-120psi. A good way to confirm the reading is what it should be is to compare it to one of the known good cylinders.

If you don't have the correct level of compression, try adding a small amount of oil to the cylinder and testing again. If the reading goes up, the piston rings are worn and the engine will need to be taken apart to replace them. If it doesn't, it's very possible they skipped a tooth when installing the timing belt at the shop and some of your valves are out of time, but could also mean the valves are damaged.

If you don't have good spark and you know the plugs, wires, and distributor cap have been replaced, I'd look at your ignition coils next.

If you don't have fuel, I would check to ensure the new injectors are correctly connected (double check the electrical connectors for them, and if that looks good then pull them out to make sure their o-rings aren't pinched in front of the nozzles), and that they are flowing fuel. Checking for fuel flow can be a more involved task, but you can find write-ups on how to do it online.

Hope it helps!

  • 3
    P.S. It is a very good idea in my opinion to educate yourself on at least the basics of vehicle maintenance and repair regardless of your gender, and this site is a great way to do that. It helps you to avoid being ripped off by shops, plus (take it from me) people tend to be impressed if you're a woman and you know how to tear down an engine :)
    – Ceshion
    May 2, 2017 at 14:15
  • I totally agree.
    – user28456
    May 2, 2017 at 15:23
  • @user28456 instead of pulling spark plug wires off while the engine is running (which is ill advised without the right tool) unplug the injectors.
    – Ben
    May 2, 2017 at 21:11
  • @Ben I've always just pulled the plug wires, what's wrong with doing that?
    – Ceshion
    May 3, 2017 at 14:09
  • other than getting shocked? you don't want to dump unburnt fuel into the exhaust. honestly though do whatever's easier.
    – Ben
    May 3, 2017 at 14:35

A garage with modern diagnostic equipment can monitor the waveforms and amplitudes of the sparks going to your plugs, and they might see a problem with your coil packs.

I experienced sputtering on acceleration in a Toyota Pickup truck, and the problem turned out to be arcing in a spark plug boot. You have new spark plus and wires, but a weak/arcing coil pack might cause similar behavior.

Good luck!

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