How far Can You Drive a Car with Cylinder Misfire? – All You Need to Know about Cylinder Misfire

Last Updated on July 13, 2022 by Domingo E. O’Reilly

There is no definitive answer to how long you can drive a car with a cylinder misfire, but most cars can cover up to 50,000 miles with a cylinder misfire. However, for your vehicle to push this far with a faulty cylinder, it must have the capability to use the replaced air-cooled 4-cylinder engines easily.

Any car owner can attest that driving with a misfiring cylinder isn’t a pleasant experience. A misfiring cylinder can cause a car to lose power proportionally, negatively impacting performance. Veteran drivers who drive with a misfiring cylinder are frowned upon as a rule of thumb.

Unbalanced fuel/air mixtures and faulty spark plugs contribute to cylinder misfiring. If you neglect the issue and fail to accord it the required attention, your engine might damage and cost you too much money for repairs. 

However, if push comes to shove and you must be on the road, you can push mother luck and drive with a misfiring engine. But how far can you try your luck with a misfiring cylinder?

If your car is computer-controlled, you have no qualms driving around with a misfiring cylinder. Immediately the system detects the misfiring issue; it puts your vehicle in a “limp mode,” decreasing the engine’s performance further.

What Causes a Misfiring Cylinder?

Identifying the causes of a misfiring cylinder is critical so that you will understand how to troubleshoot the issue. You might decide to ignore the problem altogether and go for a ride with a faulty cylinder. Still, you risk damaging your vehicle’s engine if you don’t resolve the misfiring issue.

Here are the causes of a cylinder misfire that you need to know:

Loss of Spark

Generally, loss of spark is triggered by damaged and worn-out wires or spark plugs. In this scenario, the electrical spark cannot jump the electrode gap found at the end of the spark plug due to faulty wires or spark plugs.

Lack of Balance in Air/Fuel Mixture

The lean air/fuel mixture happens when there is no sufficient gasoline in the mix to ignite due to excessive air. The fuel pressure is the primary cause of this situation.

Loss of Compression

Loss of compression usually occurs when the cylinder loses the air/fuel mixture before ignition. The primary causes of this mishap can be either a blown head gasket or a leaking exhaust valve.

What Are the Symptoms of Cylinder Misfires?

What Are the Symptoms of Cylinder Misfires

Identifying a cylinder misfire from a driver’s perspective is straightforward if you pay close attention to how the car behaves while riding. For instance, if your vehicle consists of a four-cylinder engine and one cylinder misfires, the cylinder can’t generate sufficient power since there is a 25% decrease in engine power output.

Other notable misfire symptoms include; 

  • Instant drop in fuel economy.
  • A rapid increase in harmful emissions.
  • The Shaking of the engine when idling.
  • Feeling vibrations via the steering wheel.
  • The car experiences stalls often.

How Far Can I Go If My Car’s Cylinder Is Misfiring?

When faced with an impossible situation, you can drive several miles with a misfiring engine in several vehicles. If the misfire is from a single-cylinder, other cylinders will provide power (though compromised) and enable you to drive close to 50,000 miles.

The compromised power will see you through your ride but be prepared for shakes, stalls, and compromised acceleration.

However, driving a car with a cylinder misfire is unadvisable unless the situation is dire. Sometimes, your vehicle will switch to “limp mode,” limiting its speeding power, making driving an impossible experience.

You could do yourself loads of favors if you drive to the nearest mechanic or any other safe location and get your cylinder sorted before going further.

What Are the Repercussions of Driving with a Cylinder Misfire?

Many drivers may ignore cylinder misfire and go on with their ride as if nothing happened but be warned that this is a risky affair. Here are the consequences of driving with a misfiring cylinder:

  • You risk losing the engine power entirely if the second cylinder also malfunctions.
  • High chance of accidents if the second cylinder malfunctions unexpectedly.
  • You risk damaging your car’s engine.

When driving with a misfiring cylinder, the fuel doesn’t burn correctly in the chamber. Therefore, fuel will enter the catalytic converter, increasing its heat and severely damaging it. 

The pistons and cylinders are also not spared from the potential damage, and your engine faces warping issues in valves and pistons.

A Detailed Guide on How to Troubleshoot Cylinder Misfire for DIY Geeks

Before starting any remedy, first, ensure you have identified the root cause of the issue. Most drivers prefer going to a mechanic as the number one option. However, DIY (Do It Yourself) nerds opt to give it a shot. Here are the hacks to guide you to remedy cylinder misfire in your car:

5 Steps to Solve Cylinder Misfire
Step 1      Check for any diagnostic codes that trigger misfires using the OBD2
Step 2      Seal all leaks in the fuel system vacuum lines
Step 3      Check the spark plugs to figure out damages and replace them
Step 4      Use a pressure gauge to test your fuel system
Step 5      Use your multimeter to test the spark plugs’ coil pack      

Step 1: Check Any Diagnostic Trouble Codes

The first thing to do when you want to fix a misfiring cylinder is to use an OBD2 scan tool to determine any diagnostic trouble codes related to a cylinder misfire—the tool assists in guiding the diagnosis.

Note that even codes that are unrelated to misfires can also help. Such codes may include a code for the fuel delivery system and oxygen or MAF sensors emanating from the issues that cause the misfire.

The best tools to use for this purpose include;

Step 2: Identify Any Leaks

After checking the trouble codes, identify and seal any leaks in the fuel system’s vacuum lines. If you fail to address the air leaks issue, it will lead to an imbalanced air/fuel ratio and cause the cylinder to misfire.

Step 3: Inspect the Plugs

Do a thorough inspection of the plugs to identify any available damages. Suppose you witness any damages, or the plugs are worn out or soiled with oil, ensure you replace them.

Step 4: Test Your Fuel System

Ensure you use a fuel pressure gauge tester to test your car’s fuel system. Suppose you get a low or inconsistent reading, please, ensure that you replace the fuel pump and the filter.

Step 5: Test the Spark Plugs’ Coil Pack

The final step is to use the multimeter to test the spark plug’s coil pack to ascertain uniform resistance across all spark plug wires. In case you witness varying resistance, ensure you replace the coil.

Frequently Asked Questions about Cylinder Misfire

What Are the Dangers of Driving a Car without a Spark Plug?

If your car doesn’t have a spark plug, avoid driving it. You will be at the risk of exposing your car to fire. The fire can be caused if sufficient air/fuel mix accumulates under your hood and access an ignition or a spark source.

Do Misfiring Engines Explode?

Yes. A misfiring cylinder can cause an explosion due to oil lubrication that increases pressure and temperatures.

The Bottom Line

Even though driving a vehicle with a cylinder misfire is discouraged, sometimes you might be forced by circumstances to do so. Suppose you venture out with a misfiring engine; remember that you risk damaging your car’s engine further. If you want to push luck and complete your journey, please, don’t drive for more than 50,000 miles with a misfiring engine.

Reference 1: Is It Safe To Drive With A Misfiring Engine? – European Car Repair in Dallas & Plano | European Auto Shop – Autoscope (autoscopecarcare.com)

Reference 2: Driving With A Misfiring Cylinder & How to Fix Misfiring Cylinder | The Grumpy Mechanic

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