Car is not getting enough power (low pick up)

When a vehicle shows signs of low pick up, or is not getting enough power when you press down on the gas pedal it is not only annoying, it can be dangerous. The car not accelerating enough when you want it to, can cause serious miscalculations, that can become the reason for accidents.

In most cases a lack of power can be traced back to a fuel system malfunction. Issues can range from a leaking fuel line to a faulty fuel pump. Regardless of the cause, an engine that is not getting enough power should be serviced immediately.

How this system works:

The fuel system supplies fuel to the engine. The combustion chamber is where fuel is mixed with air, atomized and then ignited. Fuel systems vary depending on the vehicle but they all have the same basic components.

Fuel is stored in the fuel tank and a fuel pump pushes fuel through the fuel lines to a fuel filter and then into the fuel injectors. On older vehicles the fuel is delivered to the carburetor and throttle body injection system. The fuel injectors spray fuel into the cylinder where it mixes with air and ignites during compression. The resulting explosion drives the pistons.

Common reasons for this to happen:

  • Defective Fuel Pump or Filter: The fuel pump supplies the engine with fuel and if it malfunctioning the car will experience a loss of power. Over time fuel pumps can wear out or become clogged with contaminants, which prevents it from pushing fuel to the injectors. This can cause the vehicle to sputter at high speeds, stop, or hesitate during acceleration. A clogged fuel filter can also cause these problems. Fuel filters should be changed on a regular schedule.
  • Clogged or Faulty Fuel Injector: Like a fuel pump, injectors can become clogged due to fuel contaminants, hydrocarbons and additives. A clogged injector will degrade performance and the engine will feel like it is not getting enough power. It can also make the vehicle hard to start, idle roughly and affect fuel consumption.
  • Leaking Fuel Line: A leaking fuel line will not provide enough fuel to the injectors, which can result in a lack of power. If there is a strong smell of fuel in the cabin of the car or a puddle of fuel underneath the vehicle a fuel line issue is usually the problem. This should be addressed immediately.
  • Vacuum Leak: A vacuum leak can affect the computers ability to properly regulate the fuel to air ratio, which can cause a lack of power. In most cases, a vacuum leak will trigger the Check Engine light to come on.
  • Dirty Airflow Sensor: An airflow sensor detects the mass of air that is entering the fuel injection system and passes that information to the engine’s computer so it can correctly deliver the right amount of fuel. A failing or dirty airflow sensor will send the wrong signals to the computer. A lack of power during acceleration is a common symptom. This problem will also trigger a Check Engine light.
  • Clogged Catalytic Converter: If your catalytic convertor is clogged or starting to fail it can prevent the proper flow of air through the engine. This can lead to a loss of power. The vehicle will also run hotter than usual.

How important is this repair?

A vehicle that is not getting enough power should be inspected as soon as possible. It can be dangerous to drive, and fuel system problems that are not fixed can often lead to more expensive repairs as more components are affected.