What Happens When The Electronic Throttle Control Goes Bad?

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electronic throttle control

For decades, the Electronic Throttle Control has been utilized with our cars. It has gone by various names and has been the topic of gearheads at times; however, these systems are accountable for increasing fuel efficiency, lowering exhaust emissions, safeguarding powertrain components, and offering a more enjoyable vehicle performance.

Although ETC is advantageous, it does have certain drawbacks. These malfunctions may be aggravating for both motorists and technicians. Fairly often, an intermittent failure may occur for a bit of time but will lead the user to a limp-in situation.

What happens when an electronic throttle control goes bad?

ETC uses sensors instead of cables to deliver gas pedal information to the ECM, and when it fails, it can cause serious problems.

Among these are sudden surges in idle and engine stalls, intermittent engine light flashes, and major mileage decreases.

Continue reading to the bottom of this article to learn everything you need to know regarding the electronic throttle controls.

What Is Electronic Throttle Control?

etc systems

Numerous complex systems operate in unison to keep our automobiles running. Most drivers are clueless about how they function. However, having a basic understanding of it might aid in future car problems.

An electronic throttle control system is a kind of technology seen in automobiles. It links your accelerator pedal towards the throttle of your car. In a nutshell, this eliminates the need for the conventional mechanical connection. Additionally, this system is identified as the ETC.

Typically, electronic throttle control systems consist of three major components.

  • The first is the accelerator pedal module. A high-quality one will have two or more separate sensors.
  • The second is the throttle valve component; this component moves open and close in response to the engine, also known as the Electronic Throttle Body (ETB).
  • Finally, the Engine Control Module (ECM) or Powertrain Control Module (PCM). This is a type of Engine Control Unit or Electronic Control Unit (ECU), an integrated device that detects the exact stance of your Throttle Position Sensor (TPS) by using its software. It makes use of input from the cars’ various sensors.

This might comprise the speed sensor for the engine and the cruise control buttons. Additionally, you can rely on your accelerator pedal position sensor and the car’s speed sensor. There is no immediate connection between your pedal and the car’s throttle with this kind of system. That is why electronic throttle control systems are often also known as drive-by-wire systems.

Electronic Throttle Control Function

In its most straightforward configuration, the ETC system receives data from the Accelerator Pedal Sensor (APS) and sends servomotor commands towards the throttle body. Essentially, whenever the driver steps on the gas pedal, the Electronic Throttle Control opens the Electronic Throttle Body; then, when the driver lifts the gas pedal, the ETC shuts the ETB.

Today’s modern electronic throttle control functionality is more sophisticated and valuable, bringing several advantages with it. Listed below are some of the Electronic Throttle Control system functions.

Cruise Control

Newer electronic throttle control systems electronically manage the car’s speed, using programming signals from the Vehicle Speed Sensor (VSS), set speed, and shift position. Reactive cruise systems augment sensor feeds with extra sensor inputs, such as SONAR, RADAR, or LINAR systems.

Idle Air Control

The idle rate of the engine must be modified to compensate for engine capacity and temperature. Certain cars equipped with Electronic Throttle Control do not have an idle-up vacuum switch or idle-air control valve but instead utilize the Electronic Throttle Body to manage the engine’s idle speed.

Traction Control

Electronic Throttle Control can control engine power to decrease wheel rotation while accelerating over low-traction terrains such as gravel, mud, ice, or snow. This is accomplished by using additional sensor data such as Vehicle Speed Sensor, individual Wheel Speed Sensor, and shift position.

Electronic Stability Control

Electronic Throttle Control can regulate engine power production at higher speed rates to enhance automobile stability by the throttle response with various sensors such as G-force, Yaw Rate, Wheel Speed, and Vehicle Speed Sensors.

Transmission Revolutions Per Minute (RPM) Operation

ETC can utilize shift position, Revs per minute (RPM), VSS, and various sensors on some cars equipped with sports gearboxes to synchronize RPM to the desired gear set. The motorist generally regulates this in a manual gearbox, such as pushing the gas pedal during a downshift; however, in an ETC-equipped car, throttle blips are precisely timed with gear changes for quicker activation and smoother power delivery.

Pre-Collision Systems

Electronic Throttle Control can halt engine power based on data transmitted from the vehicle’s pre-collision system (PCS) in the circumstance that an accident or collision is quickly determined to be inevitable.

Benefits Of Electronic Throttle Control

After taking some time to understand how the electronic throttle control functions. But what are the advantages? Is it really beneficial to replace mechanical actuation with electrical signals? There are several advantages to using an electronic throttle control over a mechanical one, even though most of us may be unaware of these benefits provided by an ETC.

However, even while it operates quietly in its corner, you can appreciate some advantages of an ETC more than a mechanical linkage.

Offers Improved Safety

A mechanical throttle body is entirely dependent on the driver’s gas pedal action to determine the throttle opening. But, the electronic throttle control detects your pedal touch and compares it to data acquired by various sensors throughout the vehicle. In this manner, it can monitor the vehicle’s performance.

For instance, it can detect when the vehicle is sliding and lacking traction. It will indicate whether the wheel has more or less traction. Alternatively, it may evaluate steering and braking inputs as well. Using such data can assist you in correcting your faults and maintaining vehicle and engine control.

Lower Maintenance

Mechanical throttle body designs from yesteryears include several moving components. As such, it may experience increased wear and tear throughout the duration, demanding further repair. Otherwise, one or more of those components might wear out and break, jeopardizing the whole throttle body system.

On the other side, the ETC has fewer moving components. Typically, it is simply concerned with processing and transmitting electrical impulses. ETC is less prone to wear with fewer moving components and needs much lesser maintenance.

Driving Convenience

We benefit from many comforts and devices that help drive a vehicle as comfortably as possible with contemporary automobiles. One such feature is controlled cruising in certain recent cars. Imagine that without the ETC, modern cruise control systems would not be conceivable. With an ETC, your automobile’s complete throttle body or unit can accept inputs from various sources. 

Signs and Symptoms Of A Bad of Electronic Throttle Control

The electronic throttle controller, in most cases, will last the lifetime of your car. However, like with every single electrical or mechanical part of your vehicle, it will sometimes fail, deteriorate, or just shatter. If this happens, a couple of symptoms may manifest; frequently notify the driver that an issue with the throttle control arises and that remedial treatment by a professional technician is required. A few of the most prevalent warning indications of a malfunctioning or failed electronic throttle controller are listed below.

Decreased Fuel Mileage

If your electronic throttle controller is malfunctioning, it might make the butterfly valve within your throttle body open or close excessively, allowing a small or large amount of air to go through. If this occurs, your ECM will very certainly attempt to adjust, resulting in a significant reduction in fuel economy.

Acceleration Problems

In rare instances, a broken throttle controller or bad throttle position can lead the engine to struggle to accelerate or will produce a stumbling impact whenever the driver engages the throttle. This can cause decreased performance and might pose a safety risk if not examined and fixed promptly.

Improper throttle control could result not just in the illumination of the Electronic Throttle Control Light, but worst, in catastrophes such as a locked throttle or a sudden unintended acceleration without reason. Scary, right?

Irregular Idling

If the Throttle Position Sensor chooses to retire, you will undoubtedly see unexplained idle spikes. With irregular idling, you might experience engine misfires, running rough, or engine stalling. Additionally, your vehicle’s idle speed may be set too low or too high.

Electronic Throttle Control Light

Your car’s engine is intended to operate at the highest potential efficiency. As a result, it could toss the whole system out of rhythm when anything is not functioning properly. Fortunately, this is what the check engine light is for.

If your throttle position sensor, gas pedal position sensor, or the throttle body fails, you will indeed be warned suddenly by a flickering electronic throttle control light or check engine light.

Electronic Throttle Control Repair Cost

Repairing an electronic throttle control ranges from around $580 up to $700. A technician’s labor charges run roughly around $100 up to $125, excluding other fees, and further fixes in other areas might be necessary.

Because this car component is critical to the engine’s internal system, the cost of repair could be as great as $670. Additionally, some additional variables affect the rate of service. For instance, repair charges will be lower if your car’s throttle system is located in an open spot or is reachable and visible. It might be as little as $520 or perhaps less.

However, suppose your car’s throttle position is really sophisticated and concealed. In that case, it will be rather costly due to the extensive disassembly required, including the removal and reinstallation of other engine components. The cost of repair may escalate to as much as $700. If your vehicle is modern, this could significantly increase the repair cost.


The electronic throttle control represents a good advancement in your vehicle’s throttle and its operation. At the same time, it has several advantages in engine performance, efficiency, and safety. However, neglecting it when it needs immediate response could physically hurt you as you run your car. The only minimal hazard is that it might result in significant engine problems and damages. Therefore, keep in mind to take extra care of your car and its ETC.


How do I reset my ETC light?

Manually resetting your ETC light might be a difficult task. To begin, ensure that the gas pedal is completely depressed. Then, switch on your ignition and switch it off, then wait for 10 seconds to pass. Throughout these 10 seconds, listen carefully to the sound of your throttle valve operating, which indicates a moving valve.

What happens when your electronic throttle control goes bad?

When an ETC fails, the car’s throttle body ceases to operate correctly. It could either remain closed or may fail to close correctly; both are a serious concern. If the throttle is jammed open, your car will get an excessive amount of air, resulting in a higher or erratic idle.

What causes throttle control to go bad?

Dirt, carbon, and debris may accumulate in the shell, obstructing air movement called “coking” this process causes the generally smooth operation for air transport to get clogged with junk, creating an imbalance.  It disrupts the optimum air/fuel mixture, causing the butterfly valve to jam.

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