Electronic Throttle Control: What You Need To Know

Electronic Throttle Control: What You Need To Know

Your car’s electronic throttle control gives your car many advantages. If you’re new to cars or don’t really know your way around them, you might wonder why you should care about electronic throttle control. 

What, exactly, is the electronic throttle control, anyway? This is technology that essentially connects the throttle to the accelerator pedal so that there’s no need for a mechanical linkage to be present.

With that in mind, here’s a crash course in electronic throttle controls. We’ll start by looking at the fascinating way in which this system works. 


What’s The Electronic Throttle Control And How Does It Work?

What’s The Electronic Throttle Control And How Does It Work?

The Electronic Throttle Control (ETC) is a complex system that’s sometimes referred to as “drive-by wire.”

How it works is that when you press the car’s gas pedal you activate the accelerator pedal module that converts your pressure into an electric signal.

That signal moves onto the electronic control unit of the car. This opens the throttle.

This system might not be an easy one to understand at first glance, but in layman’s terms, an electronic throttle control helps to prevent wear and tear on the engine, while also improving its performance.

The above description is what’s found on modern cars, but to give you some perspective on this car component, in a traditional vehicle the throttle control works in a different way.

When you press the accelerator it moves a cable that is connected to a butterfly valve, located right in the engine’s throttle.

This valve controls the quantity of air that gets sent to the vehicle’s cylinders and plays a role in the engine’s torque and speed.

However, this has become an outdated throttle design because most cars on the road today make use of the electronic throttle control system, and there are many good reasons for this.

Advantages Of Electronic Throttle Control 

There are many benefits associated with electronic throttle control. These include the following:

  • This type of throttle can be linked to other systems, such as electronic stability control and engine control. These systems can take over from the throttle when required to improve the safety of the vehicle as well as be more fuel-efficient. 
  • It enables the car to automatically regulate the speed of the engine, such as by reducing the throttle opening, without the driver having to do anything. This can enable cruise-control features in cars.  
  • It prevents wear and tear. Since electronic throttle control systems don’t require complicated cable construction, this makes driving cars equipped with them much safer because there’s no risk of the cables becoming damaged over time.
  • Since they can regulate the engine’s acceleration, and idle speed, without any extra hardware being required, this prevents costs from accumulating and keeps the entire system simple. 

What Are The Disadvantages? 

Although electronic throttle control systems work well, they do experience some drawbacks. These include:

  • It can be expensive to add to the engine and replace it.
  • It works via a set of codes. So, any change in the program could result in hazards that can be dangerous for the driver, such as uncontrollable speed.
  • It can’t be worked on manually, which can make it difficult to maintain, especially for car DIY enthusiasts. 

Why Is Your Electronic Throttle Control Light Coming On?

Why Is Your Electronic Throttle Control Light Coming On?

Have you ever noticed that warning light that looks like a lightning bolt with reversed brackets on either side of it? That’s the throttle control warning light.

While you’ll notice that it comes on when you start your car and then it disappears, there might come a time when it stays on or just spontaneously lights up while you’re driving.

This is a sign that there’s something wrong with your electronic throttle control.

You might be wondering if you can continue to drive around with this warning light flashing.

You usually can but it’s not worth doing this for anything more than a quick drive because it could be a sign that there’s something seriously wrong with this system and it requires the attention of your mechanic.

In extreme cases, there’s a chance you won’t be able to accelerate your car or you won’t be able to stop accelerating it.

These are dangerous situations that can land you in accidents so you need to go to your mechanic without delay.

Here are some possible symptoms to look out for that could signal electronic throttle control problems.

  • You can’t accelerate properly: If this is happening, the throttle control system could be damaged. Should this be the case, you need to have your vehicle towed to your local mechanic. Since the engine’s computer is programmed to go into slow mode whenever the system faces a serious problem, it basically forces your car to slow down so that you can’t cause more serious damage to your engine.
  • You’re experiencing a sudden drop in gas mileage: It might feel like you’re always having to fill up your car with gas. This is a sign that your throttle control system is incorrectly controlling the air-fuel blend that your engine needs. It could, for example, be putting in too much fuel. The throttle controller will need to be repaired. 

What Causes Problems With The Electronic Throttle Controller?

There are various things that can cause your throttle controller to malfunction.

These include dirt that’s in the throttle, wear and tear, a blockage in the car’s fuel system, a vacuum leak that affects airflow, and electronic malfunctions in the electronic throttle control itself. 

Can You Test Your Car’s Electronic Throttle Control?

Can You Test Your Car’s Electronic Throttle Control?

If you own an OBD2 scanner that connects to your car’s OBD port and monitors your vehicle’s computer to alert you of any problems that the car is experiencing, you might wonder if you can use it to check the electronic throttle control.

It certainly can be used to diagnose problems with your electronic throttle control.

This is because your car has a throttle position sensor (TPS) that the car’s computer will be able to gain information from and then relay this onto your car scanner tool.

The throttle position sensor basically monitors the engine’s air intake and the throttle’s position. It will try to make sure that the right blend of air and fuel is in the car’s engine so that it can perform properly.

A scanning tool therefore will be able to diagnose problems with the sensor and its circuit. 

What Are The Error Codes For The Electronic Throttle Control?

What Are The Error Codes For The Electronic Throttle Control?

If you’re keen on using an OBD2 scanner tool to check your throttle control for any problems, you’ll need to know what error codes will be displayed to confirm your suspicions that there is something wrong with this part of your car.

The codes that refer to the TPS will range from P0120 to P0124, with the most common code being P0122. This means “throttle position sensor/switch A circuit low input.”

While that might sound a bit complicated, it’s basically an error code that’s activated when the ECU of the car picks up that the throttle control system’s circuit A is outputting a low voltage.

If there’s something wrong with your electronic throttle control sensor, this will have to be replaced. You might wonder if you should clean this sensor, but you shouldn’t try to do that.

You can clean the body of the throttle with a cloth and some carburetor fluid, but cleaning the TPS will cause it to get damaged. 

How Much Will It Cost To Have Your Electronic Throttle Control Replaced? 

How Much Will It Cost To Have Your Electronic Throttle Control Replaced?

If you need to get your car’s electronic throttle control replaced, you’ll want to know how much you have to pay for it.

You can expect to pay within the range of $500 and $600, but don’t forget you also have to take labor costs into account. These can range from between $95 and $120. 

Related Questions 

Can you fix your electronic throttle control yourself?


This is possible, but you have to ensure that you have the knowledge and experience with doing it otherwise you could end up not fixing it properly.

The result is that you could put yourself or passengers in danger when driving around if the electronic throttle control is still faulty. 

Do you need to reprogram your car’s throttle body?

If the throttle body is dirty, this can cause it to not work properly and you will have to reprogram it. You can find out more about this process by watching this YouTube video by 1AAuto.


If you didn’t know what your car’s electronic throttle control was, now you have a better idea of what it does and how it works so you can diagnose problems with it and get them sorted out ASAP.


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