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What Should I do if my Engine Makes Coughing or Spitting Noises?


From the moment you start your vehicle to the time you shut it down, you hear a series of sounds as you drive down the road. You know what sounds are normal for your vehicle. So when you hear some unusual coughing and spitting noises coming from your vehicle’s engine while stopped in traffic, it immediately grabs your attention.


Coughing or spitting sounds coming from your engine are common symptoms of a dirty air filter. Listen carefully as you’re waiting at the stoplight and any coughing or spitting noises coming from your engine will become apparent.


Pay attention to the average gas mileage your vehicle is getting. A common sign of a dirty/bad air filter is a decrease in gas mileage. By keeping a clean, effective air filter, you are able to save on fuel expenses.


A dirty air filter prevents the necessary volume of clean air form reaching the engine which affects the emission control systems of the car; reducing air flow and causing a too rich air-fuel mixture which can foul the spark plugs. Fouled spark plugs can create an engine miss, rough idle and even starting problems. In addition, a too rich fuel mixture increases engine deposits which may even cause the Check Engine light to illuminate. 



If your engine is making coughing or spitting noises while stopped in traffic, start by checking the air filter. If it is dirty, replace the engine air filter to see if it resolves the issue. Checking and replacing the air filter is a job that even a novice can tackle. For step-by-step instructions, check out our handy engine air filter installation guide.


If you’re still experiencing spitting or coughing noises after changing the filter, it could be an ignition problem due to fouled or dirty spark plugs. At this point, it’s time to call in professional help. Take your vehicle to your mechanic for further diagnosis and repair. 

Learn more about vehicle maintenance products, find your part, or find where to buy your part today.

The content contained in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be used in lieu of seeking professional advice from a certified technician or mechanic. We encourage you to consult with a certified technician or mechanic if you have specific questions or concerns relating to any of the topics covered herein. Under no circumstances will we be liable for any loss or damage caused by your reliance on any content.

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