Automotive Repair Tips Blog

Performance Issues: What's Causing Your Car to Lose Power?

November 9, 2019
Dig Dev

Poor performance issues will make your vehicle far less entertaining to drive. It’ll also make merging onto the highway and passing a lot more challenging. A lack of maintenance is often the culprit. Here are some of the most common reasons why your car could be losing power.

1. Dirty Air Filter

According to auto repair experts, a dirty air filter is one of the biggest reasons why your car owners experience diminished performance issues. For the engine to run strong, it needs a steady flow of fresh oxygen. A clogged filter will result in especially sluggish acceleration.

Although you should replace your air filter at least every 15,000 miles, some drivers go years without doing so. At every oil change, be sure to have your air filter inspected by a service technician.

2. Worn Spark Plugs

Modern spark plugs can last for up to 100,000 miles. Nevertheless, they eventually need replacing.  It's not surprising to encounter problems like hesitation and rough idling if you are driving with old spark plugs under your hood.

Because worn spark plugs tend to upset an engine’s air-fuel ratio, the check engine light could also turn on. If you live an area that requires annual emissions testing, your car may fail the NC State inspection. Installing a fresh set of spark plugs will quickly restore your car’s lost performance issues.

3. Weak Fuel Pump

Some fuel pumps can last for the life of the vehicle. However, repeatedly running low on fuel can dramatically shorten its lifespan. This is why it’s advisable to never allow your gas gauge to drop below a quarter tank.

If your fuel pump is on the verge of dying, you’ll start to experience serious performance issues. Aside from causing symptoms like hard starting and troubling climbing hills, a bad fuel pump usually starts to make a distinctive whining noise. First have a mechanic check your fuel filter before opting to replace your fuel pump. It’s a lot less expensive to change.

4. Bad Catalytic Converter

Every street-driven vehicle is required to have a catalytic converter, which is part of the exhaust system. It’s designed to help minimize the amount of harmful gases being emitted into the atmosphere. If the catalytic converter happens to become blocked, your engine won’t be able to breathe properly. This leads to a big drop in performance issues. You should see a check engine light as well.

Because the cost of to replace a bad catalytic converter is often hundreds of dollars, try to prolong its life by servicing your vehicle regularly. Never wait to replace bad oxygen sensors. If these parts fail, they can quickly destroy a perfectly good catalytic converter.

5. Using the Air Conditioner

When the summer weather starts to heat up, you’ll likely be using your car or truck’s air conditioner. While the A/C improves comfort on hot days, it can also cause your vehicle to deliver a lackluster performance. The engine is what powers most A/C compressors . When running the air conditioner, cars equipped with a smaller four-cylinder engine are especially prone to losing power.

Low Engine Compression

To operate effectively, your engine must maintain a certain amount of compression. If it happens to lose any amount of compression, your horsepower will also decrease. Leaks from the cylinder heads will definitely cause a loss of compression. In most cases, the only way to fix this issue is to replace worn gaskets and seals. With the use of a compression gauge, an experienced mechanic can quickly track down the root of the problem.

6. Using the Wrong Fuel

Your vehicle is engineered to use a specific type of fuel. Filling the tank with the wrong gas is bound to cause trouble. Contrary to popular belief, high-octane fuel isn’t necessarily better for your engine. Don’t let terms like “super” and “premium” mislead you. If your car isn’t tuned by the automaker to use a higher octane, performance may take a hit. To find out the best fuel for your vehicle, take a peek at the owner's manual.