Throttle Position Sensor Symptoms and Replacement Procedure

If your vehicle is having engine issues, it can be difficult to find the culprit. Many different components, including the throttle body system, work together to provide the engine with smooth acceleration. If you’re concerned with the throttle body or are experiencing acceleration and idling issues, review these throttle body symptoms to determine whether your vehicle needs a new throttle position sensor and what you can do to repair, replace or reprogram your sensor.

What Is a Throttle Position Sensor?

This vital sensor allows your engine to maintain a proper amount of air. This feature is dependent on the throttle valve. When you press down on the gas pedal, your throttle body unit's valve opens. This causes your throttle position sensor to adjust the engine intake manifold accordingly.

This little sensor is essential to a correct mixture of air and fuel. It’s integrated with your engine control module and helps keep your idling and acceleration smooth. When this sensor is damaged or not working properly, it’s important for you to replace it to restore your vehicle to its full performance and power.

Symptoms of a Failed Sensor

There are many symptoms of a failed throttle position sensor. While some of these symptoms could also be signs of other engine issues, watch out for these symptoms of bad TPS, or throttle position sensor.

The most common symptom is your check engine light. This indicator is a vague symptom, as it could also point to a variety of issues, but you can expect to see it if there’s any issue with your throttle position sensor.

Next, any unusual changes in your acceleration could be linked to this sensor. During your normal driving, consider inspecting your sensor if you experience any of these acceleration issues:

  • Hesitations during acceleration
  • Poor power
  • Difficulty and/or delay in gear shifting
  • Unusual surges while accelerating

Each of these could be signs that your throttle position sensor isn’t working correctly. Too much airflow or too little could cause poor acceleration performance, but it could also be linked with other engine issues. If you notice your fuel economy has dropped dramatically, it could be a result of an improper fuel and air mixture.

Similarly, if your engine struggles to idle efficiently, it could also be a result of a damaged throttle position sensor. Stalling, surging, or hesitating while idling all can be caused by this unassuming sensor.

The best way to determine if these issues are caused by your throttle position sensor is to go to the source. By using a multimeter, you can determine if the sensor has an electrical connection issue. Check the engine control module for the trouble code that resulted in your illuminated check engine light to see if it is linked with your throttle position sensor. These two steps can also help you determine whether you need to repair, replace or reprogram your sensor.

Repair, Reprogram, or Replace Your Sensor

Once you’ve gone through the symptoms of a bad throttle position sensor, it’s time to find a solution. Completely replacing your sensor may be the best way to avoid future issues, but some issues can be easily fixed by reprogramming or repairing your sensor.

Reprogramming or resetting your sensor can sometimes solve these issues. This step can also be necessary when you install a new sensor. The easiest way to reset your throttle position sensor is to unhook the negative cable from your battery for up to five minutes or to remove the fuse for your engine control module. Don’t attempt this if you’re uncomfortable working with electricity, as removing the wrong fuse or cable from your battery could be dangerous. Resetting is sometimes all that is required to restore your sensor. Code errors can cause your throttle position sensor to work erratically or incorrectly. Otherwise, you’ll need professional software to reprogram your sensor. This job is best done by a professional mechanic.

If your sensor just needs repairs, it could be the result of faulty or loose wiring. Just like any other electrical wiring, your throttle position sensor is susceptible to corrosion and faulty connections. Once you’ve established the issue is with your sensor and that it isn’t a programming fault, check the wiring and connection points before purchasing a new one.

Finally, sometimes your sensor is irreparably damaged. A broken sensor needs to be replaced in order to restore full functionality to your vehicle.

How to Replace Your Throttle Position Sensor

1

Removing Your Sensor

Follow these steps to replacing your sensor. First, find the sensor. It should be mounted to your throttle body, which is on top of your engine.

You should disconnect your negative battery cable before removing the sensor. This helps you avoid the risk of electrical shock or causing an error code on your engine control module. Your throttle position sensor should be attached using electrical connectors. These connectors are easy to remove using the tab on the side.

Once the electrical connectors are removed, look for the mounting screws on your sensor. Carefully unscrew and remove your throttle position sensor. Be sure to read your owner's manual and compare it with your current sensor when shopping for a new one. Shop at your local auto parts store to find a quality brand or exact OEM match.

2

Installing a New Throttle Position Sensor

Install your new sensor by working backward through the removal steps. Start by installing the sensor using the mounting screws. Next, connect your sensor to your vehicle's electrical system using a convenient electrical connector. You should be able to easily push it together and hear a distinct click. Check to ensure a firm connection.

Connect your battery and prepare to double-check your work. Start your car and test the idle and acceleration. Depending on your vehicle and the sensor you've installed, you may need to manually adjust the sensor. Other options automatically adjust to offer your car the optimal levels of air and fuel for a smooth idle and powerful acceleration.

Whether you follow these installation steps or ask your local mechanic to replace your throttle position sensor, looking for these symptoms can help you avoid costly engine repair, poor fuel economy or exponential damage to your vehicle. Inspect your throttle body when you see these symptoms and determine whether you need to reprogram, repair or replace your sensor.

Advice, how-to guides, and car care information featured on AutoZone.com and AutoZone Advice & How-To’s are presented as helpful resources for general maintenance and automotive repairs from a general perspective only and should be used at your own risk. Information is accurate and true to the best of AutoZone’s knowledge, however, there may be omissions, errors or mistakes.

Be sure to consult your owner’s manual, a repair guide, an AutoZoner at a store near you, or a licensed, professional mechanic for vehicle-specific repair information. Refer to the service manual for specific diagnostic, repair and tool information for your particular vehicle. Always chock your wheels prior to lifting a vehicle. Always disconnect the negative battery cable before servicing an electrical application on the vehicle to protect its electrical circuits in the event that a wire is accidentally pierced or grounded. Use caution when working with automotive batteries. Sulfuric acid is caustic and can burn clothing and skin or cause blindness. Always wear gloves and safety glasses and other personal protection equipment, and work in a well-ventilated area. Should electrolyte get on your body or clothing, neutralize it immediately with a solution of baking soda and water. Do not wear ties or loose clothing when working on your vehicle.

FREE Loan-A-Tool® program requires returnable deposit. Please note that the tool that you receive after placing an online order may be in a used but operable condition due to the nature of the Loan-A-Tool® program.