Are Random Misfires A Critical Problem?

23 May 2023
 Categories: , Blog


Misfire is a relatively general term that most drivers will probably hear eventually. Your engine needs a few elements to run, including fuel, oxygen, compression, and spark. When one of these elements is missing, mistimed, or improperly balanced, the result is incomplete or delayed combustion. In other words, your engine will misfire.

Misfire severity can vary, although they're usually fairly noticeable. You might miss rare misfires, but an engine that misfires constantly will very obviously run poorly. You'll typically experience power loss, rough idling, and even bucking or vibrations when trying to accelerate. These symptoms can make it difficult to drive a car, but are random misfires a problem that requires urgent attention?

Understanding the Severity of Misfires

While misfires can produce extremely disturbing symptoms, they're often the result of relatively minor problems. For example, neglecting to change your spark plugs can eventually lead to misfires. As the spark plugs wear out, they may no longer fire consistently or on time, resulting in poor engine performance and random misfires across multiple cylinders.

Other minor problems can also lead to misfires, including everything from faulty fuel pumps to vacuum leaks. On their own, these problems aren't critical and typically don't cost much to fix. However, persistent misfires can lead to internal engine damage, especially if you ignore the problem for weeks or months.

Diagnosing Persistent Misfires

Your car's computer can usually detect misfires, allowing it to trigger one or more diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs). DTCs will illuminate your car's check engine light, alerting you to the problem. Since misfires are a relatively severe problem, most cars will flash the check engine light once the computer confirms a misfire DTC.

While reading these codes can sometimes provide some insight into the problem, a misfire code alone won't tell you what's wrong. You can think of this code as being similar to your car complaining about a headache. The code tells you the symptom, but it won't tell you the cause. However, additional DTCs often accompany a misfire code, offering more clues to the underlying issue.

Addressing Your Car's Misfire

Misfires are not always an emergency requiring immediate attention, but you should minimize the time you spend driving a misfiring car. If your misfires are severe enough to seriously affect driveability, such as making it hard to reach highway speeds or climb hills, you should stop driving immediately. These symptoms can make your vehicle a hazard to yourself and other motorists.

Even though briefly driving a misfiring car is unlikely to cause much long-term damage, you shouldn't delay repairs for long. The sooner you contact an experienced shop to investigate the issue, the safer your car will be to drive and the greater your chances of avoiding more expensive repairs in the future.

Visit an auto repair shop for more information.