Up until the late 1980s, most cars had a fairly straightforward throttle control. You stepped on the accelerator pedal which was connected to a cable that actuated a mechanical linkage mounted on a carburetor that moved a valve to adjust the vehicle’s fuel and air mixture. So in a nutshell, the harder you pushed the gas pedal, the faster you went.
With the proliferation of computer technology, the Automotive Industry saw the introduction of a new electronic throttle control system, sometimes called drive-by-wire, which uses electronic signals to control the throttle. In its simplest form, in place of cables and mechanical linkages, electronic throttle control uses an accelerator pedal module that converts the pressure created when you press on the gas pedal into an electronic signal. This signal is then sent to an engine control module (ECM) that operates an electronic throttle body that opens or closes a valve that regulates the vehicle’s fuel/mixture for optimum efficiency and performance.
Benefits of Electronic Throttle Control
The benefits of electronic throttle control generally go unnoticed by most drivers as it was designed to provide a smooth and seamless driving experience, but the move to this new system has provided drivers with several substantial improvements:
- Less moving mechanical parts reduces wear and maintenance
- More precise air-fuel ratio control and reduced fuel consumption
- Improved throttle response and increased torque
- Simpler cruise control and traction control systems
Common Symptoms of Failure
On the flip side, determining the reason for a failed electronic throttle body can be challenging as it’s a more complex system that requires an ODBII diagnostic tool for analysis. To determine if your vehicle has a bad throttle body, look for these telltale symptoms to know if it’s time to change it out for a new one:
- Throttle hesitation or problems accelerating
- Intermittent throttle control
- Vehicle Limited to ~25 mph, very slow acceleration (also known as “Limp Mode”)
- Triggered check engine light
Why Do Electronic Throttle Bodies Fail?
Despite being a more efficient and precise system, it’s not infallible and over time electronic throttle bodies can fail for a number of reasons:
- Dirt, grime and carbon deposit build-up inside the housing can cause interruption in air flow resulting in vehicle hesitation and sluggish throttle response
- A damaged electronic sensor within the throttle body can cause inaccurate or intermittent information being relayed to the ECM which results in faulty corrections made to the air/fuel mixture that results in intermittent throttle control.
To address the common failures found with original electronic throttle body units, NAPA Solutions has introduced an aftermarket repair solution that improves the original design. For select vehicle applications, such as Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep (from 2017-07), NAPA Solutions’ replacement is manufactured with a redesigned electronic board that features a new hall effect sensor. The hall effect sensor is a magnetic, no-contact system that replaces standard OE designs which employ a carbon tract sensor that is susceptible to friction and mechanical wear. The mechanical wear caused by carbon tract sensors can create excessive signal noise, whereas the NAPA Solutions’ part is designed to eliminate signal loss by employing the magnetic, no-contact design. As a result, the OE design can be susceptible to a “limp mode” error which occurs when a vehicle’s computer detects excessive signal noise and puts the vehicle in a protective reduced power mode.
Check out all the fuel & emission system parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on the question of what is an electronic throttle body, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.