Service Electronic Throttle Control: How Is It Solved?

Service Electronic Throttle Control (ETC) is a message that means that the ETC system has developed some fault and would require immediate attention. The Electronic Throttle Control System is a group of sensors and actuators that coordinate all the activities of the throttle body.

What Is Service Electronic Throttle Control


Therefore, what causes a service ETC message and how can the problem be solved? This article will discuss what Electronic Throttle control is, the problems that commonly befall the system, and how to resolve these problems.

What Is Service Electronic Throttle Control?

Service Electronic Throttle Control is a message which means that the ETC system needs to be fixed before it causes problems for the driver and other road users. Since the ETC is made up of three principal components, any of these components could be the culprit and will require attention.

The Throttle Position Sensor (TPS) is found on the butterfly shaft, making it easier to monitor the position of the throttle. It has a fuse which is located in the underhood fuse panel and is regulated by the actuator relay. It is important to be familiar with where these parts are located in your vehicle.

– Electronic Throttle Control System

As already mentioned, the system is a bunch of sensors and actuators that help in controlling the speed of a vehicle. It was introduced in the 80s and the first vehicle to utilize one was the BMW 7 series. The ETC was invented to replace a system of cables that were connected to the throttle and the throttle control manually regulates how fast the car should go.

Electronic Throttle Control System

For example, there was a wire that was connected to the accelerator which regulated the amount of air that entered the engine through the throttle. Now, that cable has been replaced by the accelerator pedal position sensor that performs the same function even more efficiently. The system works by sending electronic signals to the electronic control unit, which works with other inputs to determine how wide to open the throttle to allow air into the engine.

This improves the performance of the car as the electronic signals are more accurate than the mechanical signals sent by the previous system.

– The Parts of the ETC System

The ETC system has three main parts that help to move the vehicle and determine the pace at which the vehicle should run. The parts are the accelerator module, electronic throttle body (ETB), and engine control module (ECM). 

The accelerator module has a sensor that communicates to the ECM how far down the accelerator has been pressed. The electronic throttle body allows air to enter the engine based on information from the engine control module.

– The ETC System Light

This is the light connected to the ETC and monitors the system to ensure that it is working optimally. It only illuminates whenever your vehicle is performing a systems check or having issues with the ETC system.

When you turn on your vehicle and the light illuminates, it only means that the car is checking the entire system to make sure every component is working properly. Once the checks are over, the throttle control warning light should go off, however, if it stays on, it’s an indication that there’s a problem with the ETC.

Also, if you notice that the light suddenly comes on while you’re driving, it is a sign that the ETC has developed a fault. Otherwise, the ETC light should stay off all the time, indicating that it is in prime condition and working well.

– The Advantages of ETC Unit

Since the introduction of the ETC unit, drivers have witnessed many improvements in their cars. They now prefer cars with ETC units over cars that use mechanic systems, leading to a reduction of distraction in the latter. Here are the advantages ETC unit cars have over their competition:

The use of the ETC has led to better fuel efficiency as the system adjusts the throttle according to the messages it receives from the accelerator sensor. Thus, if the pressure applied on the accelerator is minimal, the fuel allowed in the engine is proportionate to that minimal force. This is different from the mechanical system where the fuel might be slightly disproportionate

Also, when driving on the highway at a constant acceleration, the ETC, working with other modules, can adjust the accelerator pedal so that you don’t have to keep pressing it. The ETC helps drivers to save money on fuel, and that’s one reason they gained popularity over the last three decades.

The ETC has also improved the performance of engines because every droplet of fuel is put to good use. This is possible because the unit monitors every input from the accelerator sensor and adjusts the throttle body accordingly. It improves the performance of the engine as the throttle allows the right amount of air/fuel mixture into the engine for combustion. This, in turn, improves the speed of the car by reducing hesitation or lag and is helpful when a driver is cornering. It also helps when you’re joining a highway.

What Are the Factors that Cause the Service ETC System Light to Illuminate?

The factors that cause the service ETC system light to illuminate include several reasons such as a broken throttle accelerator position sensor and a faulty throttle control sensor. However, take note that these problems should be diagnosed with an OBDII scanner to give you the exact problem.

We present to you a detailed analysis of the most common problems that affect the system. This guide will help you know the root cause of your service electronic throttle control problem and how to fix it.

– A Fouled Throttle Accelerator Sensor

When you press down the accelerator, a sensor picks up how far down the pedal has gone and uses that to determine how far the throttle valve has opened. The name of this sensor is the accelerator sensor. This sensor then communicates to the “brain” of your car known as the Engine Control Module (ECM), which determines how fast the vehicle should go. This means the further down you press the accelerator, the faster you want the vehicle to move.

When a throttle position sensor is damaged, it sends a wrong message to the Engine Control Module. A faulty TPS can cause the loss of power, delayed acceleration or rough idling and this can cause the ETC light to illuminate.

– A Damaged Throttle Position Sensor

This sensor monitors the position of the throttle and informs the vehicle’s ECM. The ECM then uses this information to determine the quantity of fuel to enter the engine and the timing of the spark. The throttle position sensor plays a crucial role in the combustion process which allows your vehicle to move. Thus, a bad throttle position sensor won’t give accurate information to the ECM which, in turn, will give bad commands.

This can ultimately lead to a lack of power as the engine is not getting the proper amount of fuel which can cause the ETC system light to come on. You’ll also notice this when you press down the accelerator but the engine doesn’t respond accordingly.

– Frozen Throttle Body

The throttle body’s job is to determine how much air will be allowed into the engine, depending on how far down the accelerator is pressed. However, the throttle body can get stuck, leading to too much or too little air entering the engine.

Frozen Throttle Body

This can lead to surging of the engine where there’s uncontrollable speed or stalling where the engine stops working. Encountering these issues can be extremely dangerous, especially if it happens when you’re driving on a busy road. A frozen throttle body is usually caused by a build-up of carbon, filth or dirt.

How Do You Fix A Service ETC System Light?

To fix a service ETC system light, you can start by scanning with an OBDII scanner to determine the exact cause of the problem. The OBDII will highlight the cause of the problem in codes, and in most cases, you’ll need to purchase a replacement.

This should help fix the service ETC Light. However, if the light remains when all systems are functioning properly, then the next step is to reset the ETC.

To reset the Electronic Throttle Control, disconnect the car battery from all other connections for approximately five minutes then reconnect it. This should reset most electronic systems including the ETC, but if it doesn’t work then try disconnecting the throttle body for about five minutes then reconnecting it again. If this also does not work, then you’ll need to follow this detailed procedure to reset the system. 

– Set the Ignition Timing to Factory Settings

First, ensure you warm up the engine to its normal working temperature then set the ignition timing to its factory settings. Make sure the car’s radio, air conditioner, heater and all other systems that use the engine are off to avoid affecting the position of the throttle plate.

Put the front wheels in the neutral position, that is, put them in a vertical position. Once you’ve gone through with all these steps, you are now ready to reset the ETC.

– Turn the Ignition on and Off

Turn on the car’s ignition for about two seconds without stepping on the gas pedal then turn it off for about ten seconds. Repeat the same sequence and then the ECM would be notified of the current position of the gas pedal.

Next, turn on the ignition for exactly three seconds then step five times on the accelerator within five seconds. Wait for about seven seconds then step down once on the accelerator and release it after 20 seconds so your Check Engine light doesn’t go off. Then take your foot off the pedal.

– Start Your Engine

Now, you can start your engine and allow it idle for 20 seconds, if your idling speed is not up to what is specified in the car’s manual, you can rev the engine to bring it up to speed. This should reset Electronic Throttle Control, if it doesn’t work, then repeat the process.

Start Your Engine

If you refuse to service the ETC, your car will develop several problems including engine breakdown, which can be very expensive to replace.

Why Shouldn’t You Drive With an Electronic Throttle Control Light On?

You shouldn’t drive with an electronic throttle control light on because it leads to bad fuel economy, uncontrolled acceleration or deceleration, vibrating when idling, and even the break down of your vehicle’s engine. As already highlighted, driving with an ETC light on will cost you more money in the future.

Because of this, you have to attend to it immediately. It is not advisable to drive with the throttle control light blinking as it could cause engine breakdown or even an accident on the road. Make sure you reset the ETC or have an expert diagnose the problem and fix it to save the life of your engine.

Here are the most common issues you can expect to experience if you drive with a faulty ETC:

– Bad Fuel Economy

One of the major highlights of the ETC is its efficient use of fuel, therefore, if it is damaged, it is only reasonable that the fuel efficiency will be affected. This happens when the ETC is unable to send correct signals to the throttle body to adjust properly to match the driving conditions.

Thus, the driver has to use more throttle input to maintain the same speed, leading to more fuel consumption. Also, the amount of air/fuel mixture allowed into the engine is affected, which may lead to excess fuel than expected.

– Uncontrolled Acceleration or Deceleration

This happens when the system is broken and causes the throttle body to freeze in an open position. The car then accelerates disproportionately to the pressure applied to the accelerator, causing the driver to lose control of the car.

The opposite can happen when the car decelerates all of a sudden even when more pressure is applied to the accelerator. An out-of-control car can result in road accidents, causing harm to the driver and other road users.

– Vibrating When Idling

Another danger in driving with the ETC light on is the rough vibrations you’ll feel when the car is idling at a traffic light in a parking lot. This is because the ETC is unable to monitor and properly regulate the throttle body causing the engine to shake. Rough idling is quite uncomfortable and can be injurious to your health and the car.

– The Engine Breaks Down

In the worst-case scenario, the engine could break down and might need to be repaired or replaced. This happens when the system is unable to regulate the throttle, forcing the engine to either overwork or underwork. The extra strain put on the engine, over time, can cause the engine to stall or break down. 

The Engine Breaks Down

– The High Cost Involved in Servicing Electronic Throttle Control

If you don’t want any of the above to affect the power and life of your car and engine, then you’ll need to fix the ETC system or replace it. We give you an estimate of what you should expect to pay for fixing the system. Know that this price is not fixed and would vary slightly depending on several factors such as the type of vehicle, location of the auto shop, the component of the system to be fixed, etc. 

Our checks reveal that a replacement cost is between $600 and $800, though some may come cheaper. This is minus the labor costs involved which range between $125 and $140 without taxes and other fees. Note that fixing the ETC may require fixing other parts that may not necessarily be part of the system but work with it, which comes with additional costs. Also, if your car’s ETC system is easily accessible, the cost of repair may be cheaper compared to the system that is difficult to access.

This is because a hidden system may require the disassembling and reassembling of other parts of the vehicle probably unrelated to the ETC. An easily accessible system should cost about $600 or less, while its counterpart should be around $650. Also, a newer car’s ETC system may be more expensive than an older version of the same car. The reason is that the newer version may come with some upgrades that the older version may not feature.


So far, we’ve looked at what service ETC means, the various parts of the system, how to fix an ETC light, and why it is dangerous to drive with the ETC light on. Here is a recap of all that we’ve studied:

  • The service ETC message means that the ETC has developed a fault and should be attended to immediately.
  • To fix the system, diagnose the exact problem with an OBDII scanner or you can follow the steps listed above. If all else fails, then consult an expert to help you out.
  • The ETC system was designed in the 80s to replace the mechanical system and it has been a game-changer by helping to improve vehicular performance and fuel efficiency.
  • The total cost of fixing the ETC system ranges between $600 and $800 without taxes and fees, and it could be more depending on several other factors. 

It is not advisable to drive with the ETC light on as it could cause engine breakdown or even cause a road accident. Therefore, make sure you reset the system if you notice that it is not functioning properly to keep the integrity of the engine.

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