Lightning Bolt Symbol Car: Causes and How To Repair

The lightning bolt symbol car warning appears due to various throttle issues such as vacuum leaks, electrical problems, or sensor defects. Resetting the control unit or replacing the damaged components usually works, and the symbol disappears.

Read on to find all the reasons behind the dashboard warning and learn to resolve it in no time.

Why Does the Dashboard Show a Lightning Bolt Symbol?

The dashboard shows a lightning bolt symbol because of vacuum leaks around the intake manifold or electrical problems in the electronic throttle control system. The symbol also appears when the car activates limp mode, or the throttle or accelerator position sensors are damaged.

Vacuum Leaks Due to Gasket Damage

A red lightning bolt meaning is sometimes associated with a vacuum leak in the car. Vacuum leaks occur when if the gasket is worn out or damaged in the system.

These gaskets seal the engine head and intake manifold to prevent any gaps or gas leakages. However, the gaps become prominent as the gasket ages or gets damaged.

A lightning bolt on dashboard Dodge Journey or other cars is expected if there’s a vacuum leak due to one of the following reasons:

  • Cracked or worn vacuum hoses cause the air to leak into the intake manifold. These hoses are made up of rubber and are prone to damage due to high pressure or impact.
  • A damaged actuator causes vacuum leaks. Vacuum actuators control different engine parts, such as electronic throttle body and power brake booster and when it malfunctions, the lightning bolt symbol pops up on your dashboard.
  • Loose or improperly connected vacuum hoses lead to air leaking into the intake manifold and a vacuum leak ultimately resulting in lightning bolt symbol car.
  • A defective intake manifold gasket creates leaks. The gasket seals the engine block and manifold.
  • A cracked or damaged intake manifold causes the air to leak.

Once you start noticing the symptoms of a vacuum leak, you should verify the problem. Look for signs such as rough idle, stalling, high fuel consumption, poor fuel economy, engine misfires, and hesitation to start the car.

You can confirm the leakage by visual inspection. It usually works when there’s a small leak. To identify, you can look for cracks or holes around the hoses, gaskets, and the manifold.

You can also look for loose connections that can be a potential cause of leakage. There’s usually a hissing sound coming from the leak point.

If visual inspection does not work, go for a pressure test. You’ll need a vacuum pump to create negative pressure inside the manifold. The air will escape in case of a leak, and you will detect it once the pressure drops.

Moreover, you can use a smoke machine to conduct a smoke test. It involves blowing smoke into the manifold. If it comes out of the hoses, you will detect the leaks.

Mechanics also conduct the propane test by spraying propane around the hoses and connections. In case of a leak, the engine will draw the propane and rev up.

Electrical Problems Triggering the Symbol

If you want to know the electronic throttle control red lightning bolt on dash meaning, you should consider various electrical problems. These include connection and wiring problems, a faulty electrical motor, or a defective ETC module.

It’s not necessary to have all the problems at the same time, so you will need to check each of them one after the other. The electronic throttle control (ETC) system contains many parts that are connected to each other with connectors and wires.

If one of these connections breaks, the bolt sign appears on the dashboard. Visual inspection lets you detect frayed, corroded, or faulty throttle wiring. You can also wiggle the wires to see if they are loose.

Otherwise, use a multimeter to analyze the resistance of the wires. You will know there’s a fault if a wire has higher resistance than expected. You can hire a mechanic if you’re uncomfortable running this electric test.

Handling the wires carefully is essential because they are delicate and get easily damaged. Apart from the wires, you should check the connectors and the motor. These components get damaged if exposed to moisture or if the car experiences impact due to an accident.

Moreover, the ETC module gets damaged if there is a software glitch or manufacturing defect in the computer of your vehicle. The module becomes faulty if dropped or hit in an accident or exposed to extreme temperatures or environmental conditions.

It can also fail due to a short circuit or high current flowing through the circuit. You can prevent the failure of the ETC module by keeping it clean and avoiding too many accessories because it overloads the circuit.

Limp Mode Activation in Some Cars

Limp mode activates in some cars when the control unit detects a problem with the transmission or engine. It is a safety feature that limits the engine’s performance and power to save it from severe damage.

The feature may activate due to engine misfire, damaged sensors, or low oil levels. Limp mode activation is mainly followed by a red lightning bolt and check engine light on the car’s dashboard.

The feature makes the car run slowly and creates difficulty in shifting gears. You will also notice the following symptoms:

  • Erratic shifting
  • Ineffective  braking
  • Sluggish acceleration
  • Loss of power steering
  • Reduced engine power

It’s important to note that the limp mode is not a fixing mechanism and does not repair the car. It’s just a preventive feature that saves your vehicle from further damage. Therefore, you should always consult a mechanic to diagnose the underlying problem.

Damaged Gas or Accelerator Pedal Position Sensor (APP sensor)

The APP sensor measures the position of the accelerator pedal in an automobile. It is a vital part of the car’s engine, as it tells the engine how much power to deliver.

The APP sensor sends signals to the control unit based on the pedal’s position. The control unit then uses the signal to decide the fuel quantity to inject and how much air to let into the engine.

A faulty sensor will send the wrong information, and the ETC system will fail to operate as intended. The sensor may fail due to one of the following reasons:

  • The sensor can get damaged due to road impact since it’s located on the accelerator. It may get damaged due to potholes or car collisions.
  • Electrical overload, such as short circuits, can damage the sensor since it’s an electrical part.
  • Debris, dirt, or sand may lodge in the sensor housing and damage the sensor.
  • Exposure to moisture or road salt damages the APP sensor
  • The sensor might be defective from its production

Damaged Car Throttle Position Sensor (TPS)

Your car’s TPS analyses the throttle valve positions. The sensor helps the engine management system decide the amount of fuel or air to release for combustion.

However, if the sensor gets damaged, the electronic throttle control light on car won’t start. The TPS fails to send signals to the control unit or sends false signals. The warning light appears when the control unit has difficulty figuring out the timing of specific processes.

A damaged or faulty TPS causes problems that affect the engine’s performance. These include acceleration issues, activation of limp mode, or the engine may not start or stall.

A damaged TPS can cause the throttle valve to stay shut or open. If stuck closed, the engine won’t get air and fail to start. Contrarily, a stuck open bad throttle body valve allows too much air into the engine and results in high idle.

How To Fix a Car That Shows Lightning Bolt Sign on the Dash?

To fix a car that shows lightning bolt sign on the dash, you should connect a scanning device to diagnose the problem. After detection, you can reset the car, clean the throttle, or replace the wiring or sensors to make the lightning symbol disappear.

Read Trouble Codes To Identify the Problem

Before you start fixing the problem, it is vital to identify the exact issue. You can use a code scanner to read the diagnostic trouble codes (DTC) shown by your car’s control unit.

All you have to do is connect the scanner to the OBD port in your car. You can find the port under the dashboard. The scanner will display the diagnostic code after a few seconds.

The diagnostic code is a series of letters and numbers with specific meanings. These codes are associated with a particular problem, which you can find in the scanner manual.

You can follow the steps below to find the problem:

  1. Find the OBD port under the dashboard and connect the scanner. Ensure the scanner is compatible with your car model, and be gentle with the port.
  2. Turn on the scanner and let it scan the computer.
  3. Once the scanner displays the DTC, record it.
  4. Find the same DTC in a code manual and diagnose your car’s problem.

You can hire a mechanic to avoid performing this diagnosis yourself. Also, sometimes the scanner shows too many faults. In that case, it would be best to reset the system, drive the car briefly, and try again.

Reset the Symbol on Dashboard

Wondering how to reset red lightning bolt on Dash Dodge Avenger or any other car? Sometimes, resetting can make the lighting bolt disappear from the dashboard. Manually resetting the ETC can be easy when you know the right procedure.

So here’s what you can do:

  1. Turn off your car and wait for a few minutes.
  2. Turn the key to ON, but do not start the vehicle.
  3. Press and hold the gas pedal all the way down for 10 seconds.
  4. Release the gas pedal.
  5. Start the car.

However, it would be best to be careful while pressing the pedal because pressing too hard or for a long time can damage the engine. Also, before resetting, ensure your car is in park or neutral.

Repair Bad Connections or Replace Wires

If none of the previous fixes work, you must inspect the wiring and connectors near the throttle to get rid of this warning light. It will take you some time to detect the damaged or frayed wiring. But once you find them, here’s how you can replace them:

  1. Find the throttle body in the intake manifold.
  2. Remove the battery connection to prevent electrical shorts.
  3. Use a wrench or socket to remove the throttle system from the engine.
  4. Closely inspect the wiring and look for any cracks, corrosion, or breaks.
  5. Remove the insulation from the end of the new wire and connect it to the throttle body. Always connect the wires to the accurate terminals.
  6. Install the throttle body back in the engine and reconnect the battery.
  7. Start the engine to check for any problems.

Clean Throttle Body or Replace Its Sensors

Since a dirty throttle body triggers the dashboard bolt light, cleaning it makes it disappear. You can buy a throttle cleaner and follow the steps below:

  1. Park the car on an even surface, turn off the engine, and disconnect the battery.
  2. Detach the air duct from the throttle system.
  3. Remove the vacuum lines or electrical connectors and mark them to remember during reconnection.
  4. Move the throttle plates and spray the cleaner on the internal parts of the throttle body.
  5. Dry the area by spraying compressed air.
  6. Reinstall the connections only when the throttle body is completely dry.
  7. Connect the vacuum lines, connectors, and battery.
  8. Take the automobile for a test drive to see if the warning lights disappear.

If you detect defective throttle control sensors, hiring a mechanic to replace them is better. The procedure is a bit complicated, so you might worsen the situation if you don’t have prior experience.


After reading all lightning bolt symbol car causes and fixes, you can move to the next stage and get your tools or hire a professional. Remembering the following key points will make the process easier:

  • A lightning bolt warning light appears because of a vacuum leak, electrical faults, or damaged sensors.
  • It can also illuminate due to the limp mode activation or contaminated throttle.
  • You can resolve the warning by replacing the faulty sensors and connections or cleaning the throttle.

These steps will go a long way and protect your engine’s performance.

Rate this post
Ran When Parked