One of those tasks around the car that sound hard but are not is learning how to clean the throttle body.
Besides solving immediate problems, it will ensure that your car runs properly in the long run. Cleaning the throttle body should especially be done if the car has higher mileage or you know that it hasn’t been done in a long time.
As you’ll see, you won’t need many tools and the whole procedure shouldn’t take much of your time.
If you’re not in the mood for reading, you can watch a video tutorial at the end of the article or watch it on our YouTube channel.
Also, if you want to read about the most common symptoms of a bad throttle body, click here.
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO CLEAN THE THROTTLE BODY?
As mentioned, this task is not needy in terms of tools.
What you’ll need is:
- Smaller wrench or screwdriver
These are used for taking off parts of the air intake. You may need other tools all depending on the type of car. It would be good to take a look before you start so you can prepare the tools on time.
- A clean piece of cloth or an old toothbrush
This is for cleaning or scraping the filth and gunk from the inner part of the throttle body. Best use a cloth, not paper towels so any debris doesn’t finish in the air intake manifold.
In case of a more serious build-up, you can use an old toothbrush. It should scrape off the filth better. The downside of using a toothbrush is worse access to parts under the butterfly valve.
- Throttle body cleaner (in lack of this, use a carburetor cleaner)
Throttle body cleaners are sold in canned sprays and are made exactly for this purpose. I’m saying this as people tend to use other sprays for this task which may cause damage. The next best thing, if you can’t find the exact spray is carburetor cleaner. It’s nearly the same, maybe a bit more aggressive.
To be honest, I’ve used carburetor cleaner and there were no problems. The main thing to remember is to use it properly.
Before you start, make sure the engine is cold. If it isn’t, wait so you don’t accidentally burn yourself.
HOW TO CLEAN THE THROTTLE BODY?
1. Take out the ignition key and pull the handbrake. For cars with automatic transmission, put the car in „P“, for stick shifts put the car in neutral. You can leave the driver’s door open for easier access to the passenger cabin.
2. Gain access to the throttle body. This usually means taking off parts of the air intake system like the air filter housing, air filter, air intake hoses, clamps, and else. The point is to have clear access to the throttle body.
3. Use the spray and spray it into the inner part of the throttle body. Best use short bursts, don’ flood it. Get as much as you can between the throttle body and the butterfly valve. This is usually the cause of the problems as the filth causes the valve plate to get stuck.
4. Wait for a couple of minutes so the spray starts dissolving the filth. Best read what the spray manufacturer recommends on this part.
5. Take the cloth or toothbrush and start scrubbing the filth and gunk away. At this point don’t move the butterfly valve, just clean the accessible parts. The next step will explain why.
6. Once these parts are clean, ask someone to turn on the ignition (not the engine, only the ignition) and press the accelerator pedal. Depending on the type of car, the valve may open giving you access to clean the parts under the valve plate.
7. If this doesn’t happen and the valve stays closed, you may have to give it a slight budge and open it manually. BE VERY CAREFUL ON THIS PART! The butterfly valve is connected, through a gear and lever system to an electric motor. Applying excessive force on it may cause the whole mechanism to break rendering the throttle body useless and you’ll have to replace it. So, just a mild budge should be enough, so much so that you can push the cloth or brush inside and clean it.
8. Repeat spraying and rubbing until the surface is clean and shiny. When you’re done, leave the hood open for some time so the spray can evaporate.
9. Return parts of the air intake into place. Make sure everything is properly tightened and fitted, so you don’t get a check engine light.
10. Turn on the engine. At first, there might be a longer cranking, but if everything is OK the car will start. Check that everything functions normally. If it does, the idling will be smooth and the gas pedal response lively and immediate.
Learning how to clean the throttle body seems like a pretty simple job and it is. Most complications may come from reaching the throttle body itself.
To avoid this, best look up the location and easiest way to reach it on your car if you’re not in the mood to explore.
Now, shown here is how to clean the throttle body without removing it from the car. The other, oftentimes better option is to take off the whole thing.
This way the effect of cleaning is much better as you can reach all of the parts and make a much more thorough and better job.
Just know that if you want to clean the throttle body this way there is a certain procedure you must go through after returning it. It’s called a learning procedure.
This is present on most cars and if you don’t do it, the car probably won’t start or work properly.
After installing, you have to adjust the throttle body via a diagnostic tool and program, so the butterfly valve can open and close properly.
I must again emphasize the importance of not using excessive force on the butterfly valve. If you break the mechanism, you’re in for a replacement and the part isn’t cheap. Even if it’s second-hand.
So, take your time, have some patience and you might well save yourself some serious money in repairs.
Written by: Sibin Spasojevic
Former car technician, life-long car and DIY enthusiast, author for Despairrepair.com
HOW TO CLEAN THE THROTTLE BODY-YOUTUBE VIDEO