Electronic Throttle Body
Before the late 1980s, most cars had relatively straightforward throttle control systems. Upon pressing the accelerator pedal, you activated a cable that moved a mechanical linkage on the carburetor that opened a valve to adjust the vehicle’s fuel and air mixture. So in case, you harder push the gas pedal, the faster you will go.
During the rise of computer technology, the Automotive Industry introduced electronic throttle control, sometimes called drive-by-wire. A system that uses electronic signals to control the throttle. In simple words, instead of using cables and mechanical components, electronic throttle control uses an accelerator pedal module that converts the pressure into an electronic signal whenever you press on the gas pedal. A signal is then sent to the engine control module (ECM) that operates an electronic throttle body to open or close a valve to regulate the fuel mixture in the vehicle for optimum efficiency and performance.
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What is an Electronic Throttle Body
Almost from the beginning, vehicles with internal combustion engines have used a throttle to control and amount of air entering the engine. Over some century, it was controlled by a carburetor, allowing the air to enter the vehicle and mix with fuel, whereas throttle was controlled by a rod or cable. Nearly 30 years, fuel-injected vehicles were equipped with a mechanical throttle body that controlled air intake and throttle with a lever and linkage assembly similar to a carburetor.
However, for most vehicles, this is not even longer a case on the road today. Instead of it, an electronic throttle body now gets the job done quickly and efficiently. In addition to ETB, you may also hear it referred to as a drive-by-wire or throttle-by-wire system, since the throttle is controlled electronically with no manual linkages.
What Does An Electronic Throttle Body Do?
In your vehicle, a throttle body connects the intake manifold and the intake assembly to control how much air the engine receives based on how much you pedal. As a general rule, more airflow means more power. With an electronic throttle body, a small electric motor opens and closes the body plate. As you can also notice that the computer controls the ETB. So, depending on the vehicle type you drive on, this computer might be an engine or powertrain control module or a dedicated ETB module.
- ETB modules control the electronic throttle body
- Engine control modules (ECM) are computers that control the engine
- Powertrain control modules (PCM) control both the engine and the transmission
If the vehicle does not have an ETB module, the electronic throttle body is controlled by the ECM or PCM.
ETBs are more likely to be found in cars manufactured after the mid-2000s. Cars with ETBs typically produce fewer emissions and offer better fuel economy.
Benefits Of Electronic Throttle Control
Electronic Throttle Control benefits are most likely unnoticeable by most of the drivers as it was developed to deliver a smooth and seamless driving experience. But, this new advancement has provided drivers with several substantial benefits:
- Mechanical parts with fewer moving parts last longer and require less maintenance
- Increased air-fuel ratio precision and reduced fuel consumption
- Enhanced throttle response and increased torque
- Simpler cruise control and traction control systems
Drawbacks Of An Electronic Throttle Body
Even with some benefits, ETBs has also lots of drawbacks with it:
- Corrosion: The design of some ETBs has a potentiometer design. To function, these ETBs rely on a brush-and-rotor system that corrodes with time. Additionally, dirt, dust, and other debris may enter your vehicle’s ETB, harming your vehicle’s performance.
- Failure: The other types of ETBs have Hall-effect sensors. These ETBs do not corrode, even not invincible. If you have a Hall-effect ETB that is about to fail, you might not receive a warning. Instead of causing problems, these ETBs may simply stop working.
- Maintenance: ETBs tend to be more difficult to maintain than many other electronic components. If you want to maintain your vehicle’s ETB, professional assistance may be necessary. Also, you might need to flash reset the control module of your vehicle.
- Diagnostics: Lastly, diagnosing ETB problems may be trickier than troubleshooting a manual system. This means that several trouble codes could point to a problem with the ETB. It may take some patience and time to determine the root cause of the problem.
Typical Troubles and Inspection Methods
Following are the troubled that would appear related to the Electronic Throttle body:
- The idle speed becomes unstable
- When the driver steps on the accelerator pedal, the engine doesn’t accelerate, or the engine cannot be started
When an Electronic Throttle Body is replaced, the “Throttle Valve Closed Position Learning” procedure has to be implemented, and other procedures may have to be performed on the ECM side (related to the model of the vehicle). Depending on the maker and model of the vehicle, the inspection method for an Electronic Throttle Body will differ. Consult the maintenance manual for the vehicle in question.
Routine Maintenance Of ETB
Carbon and other contaminants will likely accumulate over time within your vehicle’s ETB. It may be a good idea to have your ETB system cleaned periodically, even if most vehicle manufacturers do not include regular maintenance in their service schedules.
Note: However, that some vehicles may require relearning the idle speed after cleaning the exhaust system.
It can be seen that on many vehicles, the electronic throttle body is an integral component that provides valuable functionality. Although you can mostly ignore the ETB on your vehicle, you should still understand what it does. It is also important that you recognize the warning signs of a failing part. No matter what, when servicing your system, choose top-quality components from reputable manufacturers.