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Old 06-15-2013, 11:46 AM   #1
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Engine sputtering like it is out of gas ... local mechanic can't find the problem!

Hey guys, maybe someone here can help me out. I just bought a 1997 Wrangler 4 cyl on Craigslist a couple months ago as my first car. Recently I have been having this problem where the engine starts sputtering and chugging and my speed and rpms start to drop, as if I'm running out of gas even though I may have a full tank. I brought it to a good local mechanic that is very reputable and a friend of the family just because my parents have been going to him so long, but he couldn't find what the problem is! I asked about the fuel filter and fuel pump but he said those are both fine. He can't isolate the problem because he can't replicate the problem on demand, it only happens when the Jeep feels like it.

I don't know if this would help anyone identify the problem, but the other day I found that if I floored the gas pedal, the Jeep would take off and stop sputtering but when I return the gas pedal to a normal cruising level the sputtering would start up again. And by take off I mean take off as much as this Jeep can, I don't know if this is a symptom but it never really "take's off" speed wise. It is really hard to get it to accelerate over 45 miles an hour.
Also, the problem varies at different intensities. Sometimes It sputters like its out of gas and sometimes I can just feel that the Jeep isn't accelerating as much as it should, and then I will suddenly feel the Jeep pick up a bit as the acceleration returns to normal.

Has anyone experienced this problem before? And is it normal for a 4 cyl TJ to not have any accelerating power over 45 mph because its a 4 cyl or is that a symptom? Thank you in advance for any advice!

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Old 06-15-2013, 12:00 PM   #2
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Check the spark plugs? Might need to replace all of them.

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Old 09-05-2013, 07:34 AM   #3
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Question Any Luck?

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Originally Posted by Blackdragon View Post
Hey guys, maybe someone here can help me out. I just bought a 1997 Wrangler 4 cyl on Craigslist a couple months ago as my first car. Recently I have been having this problem where the engine starts sputtering and chugging and my speed and rpms start to drop, as if I'm running out of gas even though I may have a full tank. I brought it to a good local mechanic that is very reputable and a friend of the family just because my parents have been going to him so long, but he couldn't find what the problem is! I asked about the fuel filter and fuel pump but he said those are both fine. He can't isolate the problem because he can't replicate the problem on demand, it only happens when the Jeep feels like it.

I don't know if this would help anyone identify the problem, but the other day I found that if I floored the gas pedal, the Jeep would take off and stop sputtering but when I return the gas pedal to a normal cruising level the sputtering would start up again. And by take off I mean take off as much as this Jeep can, I don't know if this is a symptom but it never really "take's off" speed wise. It is really hard to get it to accelerate over 45 miles an hour.
Also, the problem varies at different intensities. Sometimes It sputters like its out of gas and sometimes I can just feel that the Jeep isn't accelerating as much as it should, and then I will suddenly feel the Jeep pick up a bit as the acceleration returns to normal.

Has anyone experienced this problem before? And is it normal for a 4 cyl TJ to not have any accelerating power over 45 mph because its a 4 cyl or is that a symptom? Thank you in advance for any advice!
I have this exact problem. I've already changed the spark plugs, fuel injectors and a bunch of other things... I was wondering if you ever found out what was causing this. I have a 97 4cyl with EXACTLY the same symptoms.
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Old 09-05-2013, 08:12 AM   #4
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Is it throwing any codes? I have the same jeep and mine was throwing a fuel pump circuit relay code.
If the relay is going bad it can cause the fuel pump to be intermittent, which would cause the symptoms you're describing.
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Old 09-05-2013, 08:39 AM   #5
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My 6 cyl is doing the same thing and it started right after I went to the carwash. It is slowly clearing up but it pretty annoying.
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Old 09-05-2013, 08:53 AM   #6
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Idle air controller?
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Old 09-05-2013, 10:01 AM   #7
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Sounds like the little external filter attached to your fuel pump inside your gas tank is clogged. I had the same thing happen years ago but I fixed it. I assume u didn't drop your tank to look?
Is your intake/exhaust gasket fine? Cap and wires fine? Plugs?
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Old 09-05-2013, 11:33 AM   #8
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I've seen a bad TPS cause the same symptoms.

IAC should only affect the idle speed.

You don't happen to live in Lancaster, PA do you, where the Valero gas station had a delivery truck pump gas into the underground diesel tank, and diesel into the underground gas tank... lots of folks who bought gas there this week are having BIG problems with this... the delivery company has stepped up and promised to pay for any repairs caused by this mix-up...
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Old 09-05-2013, 11:53 AM   #9
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is this an intermittent problem or is this a constant issue?
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Old 09-05-2013, 12:03 PM   #10
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Regarding the fuel pump, I had a similar issue as the one you're describing with a different vehicle - 96 Dodge Ram van. It would sputter like it was running out of gas occasionally (usually only at highway speed). Sometimes it would be a very subtle stumble, other times it would shake and sputter like it was about to die. It was an intermittent issue with the fuel pump, and I actually ended up replacing the pump twice in that truck. On the second pump, I took it to the dealer several times and they could never replicate the problem. I eventually realized that it would only sputter when the tank was below half full. I had the fuel pump changed a second time, and the problem went away.

I guess my point is that there are several potential sources of your problem, but I wouldn't rule out the fuel pump, even if the mechanic says it's not the problem. Unless they're reading the correct fuel pressure while the issue is happening, you will not know for sure that it isn't the pump.

sm

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