Why Do I Have To Push the Gas Pedal To Start My Car?

Many issues can cause this sort of problem, ranging from bad air or fuel filters to idle air valve issues, old gas, and more.

Potential Causes

So, what can cause your car to start only when you press on the gas? There are a handful of potential problems that can be presented in this way. Generally speaking, it’s related to fuel or air intake. Because there are many components to these systems, the problem could be a difficult place to determine.

Potential problems that cause hard start:

  • Vacuum leaks: Cracks or holes in one of the many hoses under vacuum may be the source of the problem, so inspecting all of your hoses and lines is a good place to start.
  • Bad or dirty idle air control valve: The idle air control valve regulates air intake while starting and idling, and a worn-out or particularly dirty one makes it hard for the air system to function properly.
  • Bad fuel pressure regulator: Without proper fuel pressure, the air-fuel mixture will be out of whack. This will make the car hard to start.
  • Clogged fuel filter: A clogged fuel filter will block the proper flow of gas into the engine, preventing the car from starting properly.
  • Clogged injector: A clogged injector also restricts the flow of gas, causing difficulty starting.
  • Clogged or dirty fuel line: A clogged, dirty line restricts the flow of gas and may contaminate the gas.
  • Dirty throttle body: The gunk and grime that builds up in the throttle body can restrict airflow leading to trouble starting up.
  • Worn starter: A worn-out start will naturally cause difficulty starting your car.
  • Old spark plugs: Bad spark plugs don’t fire as efficiently, which can cause your car to have difficulty starting up.
  • Bad gas: Contaminated or old gasoline will cause problems with your car due to low fuel strength relative to what’s required to start it up.

Fixes for Common Issues

Now that we’ve looked at some common problems that may cause hard starting, let’s examine some of the ways you can resolve those issues and get your car starting up properly. Some are simple enough for the layman to handle on their own, while some fixes should be left to more experienced hands.

Methods for dealing with a difficult start:

  • Check hoses and replace any damaged ones: Be sure to thoroughly check all your hoses and lines for cracks and other damage that may be causing a leak.
  • Clean out fuel line: Make sure no clogs or build-up are restricting the flow of fuel and the car may start up just fine.
  • Clean out or replace the fuel filter and/or injector: Making sure these parts are clean and functional is essential for a properly working fuel system.
  • Replace the spark plugs: Changing out the spark plugs may make your car start more efficiently, thereby resolving the problem.
  • Drain and replace the gas tank: Replacing old gas with fresh gas may resolve your starting problems, and is one of the simpler problems to diagnose. If the car has sat for a while, this may be the culprit.
  • Clean the throttle body and idle air control valve: Cleaning the throttle body and idle air control valve will improve airflow to the engine and the car should start and idle much better. This is a key part of good regular maintenance.
  • Replace the fuel pressure regulator: If the fuel pressure regulator isn’t working any longer, you’ll have to replace it to restore functionality to your car.
  • Replace the starter: As with the fuel pressure regulator, you may have to replace the starter if simpler solutions don’t resolve the issue and get your car running as it should.


Always keep in mind the limits of your skill should you try to fix things yourself. Some of the simpler fixes, like replacing hoses, cleaning the fuel line, changing the spark plugs, and draining and refilling the gas tank, aren’t prohibitively difficult. Some of the more complex work may need to be done by a mechanic, so you don’t risk damaging your car further.