Why Does The Electronic Throttle Control Light Flash?

Unless you are driving a car dated back to 1990 or older, it is likely to have an electronic throttle control (ETC). Most vehicles these days have dozens of computer-controlled electronic systems and ETC is one of them. Unlike the older vehicles, there is no coupling between the gas pedal and the throttle in the newer models. Instead, the ETC acts as the connection between these components. The electronic throttle control light comes on if there is a problem with this system.

When you depress the throttle pedal, the ETC receives an electrical signal and sends command actions to control the throttle’s opening and closing. When this cycle disrupts for some reasons, the ETC light on the dashboard starts flashing.

The Reasons For The Electronic Throttle Control Light To Come On

Each malfunction in the ETC system triggers an OBD-II error code stored in the engine control module (ECM). A mechanic will use a digital scanner to pull out the codes and determine the source of the trouble. After that, it is all about taking the correct repair action.

electronic throttle control warning light
The ETC light of a 2010 Dodge Avenger. Source: Dodge Forum


Still, knowing about the causes of a flashing electronic throttle control light will give you a head start over what repair work to expect.

1. Irregular Throttle Control Operation

One of the most common electronic throttle control problems is the intermittent response from the throttle controller.

As you already know the ETC controls the throttle through an electric signal. The system cannot function when something disrupts the signal such as an issue with the relay control, a loose electrical wire, or a damaged sensor.

In any case, the throttle control will lose signals, causing it to work properly at some times and not at others. The problem will affect the car’s acceleration and may cause the total loss of control on the throttle pedal or the shutdown of the car.

You should stop driving when the vehicle does not accelerate upon the pressing of the throttle pedal. Tow it to a servicing center and have them diagnosed the problem.

2. Throttle Hesitation Or Stumbling

Damage in the throttle control is another occasion when the electronic throttle control warning light comes on. It causes an erratic operation of the system that leads to hesitation or a stumbling effect in acceleration when you engage the throttle.

The acceleration problem can lead to major safety risks. The worst case scenario is a stuck throttle that may lead to road accidents. So, take the car to the mechanic when it shows the symptom.

3. A Serious Drop In Mileage

A flashing electronic throttle control light can be connected to an abrupt change in the fuel economy. You may need to fill up the tank more than usual. It happens due to a damaged throttle controller. The system controls the air-fuel mixture that goes into the engine. Wrong signals can mess the system up, making the engine burn more fuel than necessary.

electronic throttle control problems
Speed drops when ETC fails. Source: Shutterstock

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4. Limited Acceleration

A serious failure in the ETC system will also cause the electronic throttle control light on. The problem may cause the engine to go into the limp mode. When it happens, the car cannot accelerate beyond a fast idle. The ECM limits the speed to save the engine from further damage.