Why Does Your F-150 Sputter During Acceleration?

If when you press down on the gas pedal to accelerate, your engine begins to sputter, lags, and sometimes even stalls, it’s a big hassle. Whether you’re stuck in traffic, trying to merge onto the freeway, or simply passing other vehicles on the road, you need to know what might be causing your truck’s performance issues so that you can fix them.

A faulty spark plug is the most common reason your Ford F-150 sputters during acceleration. Alternatively, leaks in the exhaust, clogged fuel filters or injectors, worn seals and gaskets, or oxygen sensor faults may be the culprit. It’s best to contact a trusted mechanic to address these issues. 

This article will provide information on several problems your F-150 may be facing that inflict a sputter or lag of power during acceleration, as well as various solutions. 

Toronto, Canada - Oct 14, 2017: Black Ford F 150 SVT Raptor Dakar Edition on a parking lot in the city of Toronto

1. A Faulty Spark Plug

A faulty spark plug is the most common reason for your F-150 sputtering during acceleration. The spark plug ensures that combustion within your engine will be as complete as possible, which increases its effectiveness.

A spark plug’s purpose is to ignite your engine’s air/fuel mixture, creating the mechanical energy your truck requires to accelerate. You can probably imagine that this process involves a lot of coordination – the spark plug needs to fire at just the right time to burn fuel to optimum efficiency.

The spark plug also helps maintain a consistent rate of acceleration and overall performance by ensuring no lag between when you press down on the accelerator and when combustion occurs.

If you’ve recently noticed that your F-150 sputters during acceleration, it may be due to a faulty or defective spark plug preventing your vehicle from performing at its best.

How To Fix

The sparkplug sits above your cylinder heads in your engine. Sometimes, it may be dirty and just require a quick clean. To do this, you’ll need the following:

  • Socket wrench with a spark plug extension to remove the plug.
  • A wire brush.
  • An excellent spark plug cleaner.

If you’re looking for an excellent cleaning product, look no further than Sunex’s 3912 Spark Plug Cleaner from Amazon. It is a compact universal spark plug cleaner, making it easy to store. 

After cleaning the plug, if you find that your F-150 is still sputtering under acceleration, you may want to replace the plug entirely with a new one. 

2. Leaks in the Exhaust

Another thing that can cause an F-150 to sputter during acceleration is an exhaust leak. An exhaust leak will rob the motor of power, and it can sometimes make the motor sputter or misfire. These leaks are often straightforward for an auto mechanic to spot and repair.

The most common places for exhaust leaks are at the exhaust manifold. The exhaust manifold is a series of pipes that transfer gasses from the engine to the muffler and then out of the vehicle through the tailpipe. It is connected to the cylinder head and tailpipe and is designed to seal those connections.

The manifold bolts might be loose, allowing exhaust gases to escape through a gap between the manifold and the engine block. 

How To Fix

Fixing leaks in the exhaust manifold are entirely necessary. Often these exhaust gases will find their way into the car’s interior, making it a safety concern for you and your passengers.

The problem here is a severe yet complicated issue. If you suspect your exhaust manifold is leaking, the best action would be to take your F-150 to your trusted mechanic so that he can address the issue correctly and prevent any further damage from happening to the truck. 

For more information on diagnosing your F-150 exhaust manifold leak, here is an excellent YouTube video:

3. Clogged Fuel Injectors

If you’ve noticed that your F-150 sputters and hesitates during acceleration, your fuel injectors may be clogged. 

Fuel injectors are a critical element of your vehicle’s engine. Injectors are responsible for mixing air and gasoline in a precise manner in each combustion chamber under high pressure. When they aren’t functioning correctly, they deliver too little fuel, causing your engine to sputter and lose power.

It only takes a little dust and debris to build up in the fuel injectors for them to start acting up. When this happens, the engine will feel like it’s not getting enough fuel when trying to accelerate quickly – it may sputter and sound like it’s misfiring.

How To Fix

The best action would be to thoroughly clean your fuel injectors. This can be done with a fuel injector cleaning kit. Wisamic’s Automotive Non-dismantle Fuel Injector Cleaner Kit and Tester (available on Amazon.com) is a complete cleaning kit that can clean the three-way catalytic converter, air intake system, and fuel injector.

Here is an informative YouTube video demonstrating how to clean your fuel injectors:

While this may help, the injector could also be damaged due to the excessive build-up of contaminants like dust and other debris. In such a case, consider removing and replacing the injectors entirely

4. Malfunctioning Oxygen Sensors

Your F-150 oxygen sensors may be going bad. These sensors allow your engine to operate at peak efficiency, so keeping them functioning properly is essential. 

The Oxygen Sensor sends data to the Electronic Control Module (ECM) about the amount of oxygen in the exhaust, which helps determine when to enrich the fuel mixture for optimal performance. 

If the sensors are not working correctly, they send the wrong information to your ECM. This causes your truck to feel sluggish and sputter when accelerating or idling, especially when going up a hill or passing another vehicle.

How To Fix

To find out if your oxygen sensors are malfunctioning, inspect them first. If they’re coated in black soot, they need to be cleaned. STA-BIL Carb/Choke and Parts Cleaner from Amazon is safe to use on your oxygen sensors and will help restore your truck to peak performance.

If the sensors are damaged, you will have to replace them. To replace them, it’s recommended to take your F-150 to your local mechanic, who will have all the tools and know-how to tell you what’s gone wrong and advise the correct replacement for your F-150 model. 

5. The Fuel Filter Could Be Clogged

The fuel filter was built to keep dirt and debris out of the fuel system, which is essential for the combustion process and for preventing engine damage. 

When the engine begins to sputter during acceleration, it’s a sign that dirt and other debris have built up to the filter max capacity. A build-up of debris results in a clogged filter, which means the fuel filter will pass through contaminated fuel to the engine. 

A clogged fuel filter will also deteriorate the fuel pressure sent to your engine. This is likely to cause your engine to sputter under acceleration. 

How To Fix

Depending on its current condition, you may need to replace or clean the fuel filter

Replacing the fuel filter is likely the best course of action as a preventative measure. While its recommended that you allow a qualified mechanic to tackle the task of replacing your fuel filter, if you have mechanical knowledge, this can be done at home in your garage. 

Here’s a YouTube video explaining the step-by-step process for replacing your F-150 fuel filter:

6. The Gaskets or Seals Are Worn

If you hear a sputter or stuttering sound when you accelerate, it could result from worn gaskets and seals in your exhaust system, among many other causes

Your F-150 has a complex exhaust system that routes exhaust fumes out of the engine and away from passengers. The system includes plenty of seals and gaskets that allow the exhaust gasses to flow smoothly.

Gaskets and seals keep exhaust gases from escaping into your engine bay and protect truck parts from heat damage. Therefore, they are exposed to extreme amounts of heat, eventually leading to wear and tear. 

Wear and tear on gaskets and seals result in leaks in your exhaust system and cause your F-150 to sputter under acceleration. To check if your seals or gaskets are worn out, you should observe how easily your car accelerates from a standstill

How To Fix

A damaged gasket or seal can lead to loss of power, poor fuel performance, and difficulty in acceleration. Once you notice this issue, you must take your car to an auto repair shop to have it diagnosed immediately. 

Only an experienced mechanic can pinpoint which gasket or seal has been damaged and how to repair it immediately. They will determine this with the help of specific tools and skills needed for this purpose alone.

To avoid this problem, purchase excellent quality gaskets and seals designed explicitly for the Ford F-150. 

I’ve also written another guide on the clicking noise your Ford F-150 might make. Read my guide to learn more about the reasons and methods to fix the issue. [Why is Your Ford F-150 Making a Clicking Noise?]

Bordeaux , Aquitaine / France - 02 01 2020 : Ford F150 pickup truck logo lariat Badge


When your vehicle isn’t running at optimal performance and sputter, it can be a worry for any owner. 

If your F-150 sputters during acceleration, it can be related to several problems – some easier to fix than others. The most common problem is a faulty spark plug, so check this first.

It’s always best to consult a trusted mechanic with the know-how to keep you well-informed on your truck’s issue and replace the necessary parts.