Throttle Position Sensor (TPS)

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About
Throttle Position Sensor (TPS)

An engine requires an a continuously adjustable volume of air for powerful acceleration when you want it and the ability to idle when you let off the throttle. But how does the car’s computer know how much air to deliver? That’s where the throttle position sensor comes in. The throttle position sensor, or TPS sensor, measures where the throttle body valves are positioned, and the computer makes adjustments that allow you to have precise, predictable control of your car with the gas pedal.

How Does a Throttle Position Sensor Work?

Unless you’re faced with a problem, you may have never wondered, “What does a throttle position sensor do?” It starts with an understanding of the throttle body. When you press the gas pedal, the throttle control – whether electronically opened in a drive-by-wire system or a throttle cable – opens a butterfly valve on the throttle body to allow air into the engine. It’s then precisely mixed with fuel to be burnt. This air-fuel mixture is what the engine detonates to run.

The throttle position sensor keeps constant tabs on the butterfly valve position and reports it back to the engine management system in the powertrain control module. Because of where it’s located, it’s sometimes simply called a throttle body sensor. A few types of TPS sensors can be found in modern cars such as Hall effect sensors and magneto-resistive sensors, and older vehicles tend to use potentiometers that measure resistance.

Symptoms of a Bad Throttle Position Sensor

A bad or damaged TPS sensor will mess with your vehicle’s performance since the air-fuel mixture is all but guaranteed to be incorrect. In most cases, the Check Engine Light will illuminate with active or stored trouble codes. Other symptoms that commonly show up include hesitation when you’re trying to accelerate some or all the time, as well as less-than-stellar performance.

Since so many vehicle systems are related, a bad TPS sensor can also create a delay or difficulty in your transmission shifting gears. You could also feel a surge at idle or when you’re accelerating since the computer isn’t aware if the throttle body valve is open or closed, or how much airflow there is.

None of the symptoms are exclusive to a TPS sensor, unfortunately, and it can be tricky to diagnose the problem accurately. It’s possible to measure a sensor’s resistance, but if you can monitor its operation on a scan tool, you’re more likely to find if it’s working correctly or not.

Throttle Position Sensor Replacement Cost

Luckily, the TPS sensor is in a rather convenient location to change on most vehicles, right on the side of the throttle body. The throttle position sensor cost ranges from around $40 and up, depending on your car.

Find the right fit for your needs at AutoZone. Filter by year, make, model, and engine size to see TPS sensors and other automotive sensors that work for your car from top brands like Duralast, Dorman, and Santech. Take advantage of Free In-Store and Curbside Pickup to get your parts fast, or select Free Next-Day Delivery on eligible orders.