What Is ETC Red Lightning Bolt On Dash – How To Fix?

Malfunctioning of the vehicle due to electronic throttle control issues is pretty common. If the ETC has problems, the red light on the dash will illuminate.  

The primary function of ETC is to control the information of the accelerator pedal to the throttle body. It will also control the speed of your vehicle. So, simply, this red lightning means the car is warning you about the issue to find and diagnose. 

We will discuss the details of the red light issue. Also, we will provide causes that may help you to overcome any throttle problem. Hence, keep reading. 

Electronic Throttle Control Red Lightning Bolt-On Dash Meaning

If you see the red light illuminating, that certainly means the dropping performance of the car’s electronic throttle control. It refers to an issue with the throttle system that you should repair fast. Most commonly, it indicates problems with the accelerator pedal and wires. 

The Electronic Throttle control red light shows in two ways. Either it stays on, or it blinks. In both conditions, it indicates different types of problems. Generally, blinking is not a big issue, but steady light indicates fatal issues

Usually, You can see the throttle control light on your car’s instrument panel. However, sometimes you may not find the light in the right place. In this case, you have to pick up the manual and can find the light by using that. 

However, you can use diagnostic tools to find the specified trouble. The diagnostic tools can detect the trouble codes and determine the problem by decoding these.

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Electronic Throttle Control Red Lightning Bolt Light On – 4 Reasons To Check

The ETC usually doesn’t go bad. Lack of regular maintenance and some physical damage cause the issues. However, if the issues are too severe, you must have to replace them.

Here is a list of causes illuminating the electronic throttle control red lightning bolt warning light. We will discuss the causes in a later section in detail. 

  • Building up of filth and grime
  • Electrical problem
  • Vacuum leaks
  • The faulty position sensor of a pedal

Building Up Of Filth And Grime

It is the most common reason that causes problems with ETC. Hence, the dashboard shows a red light. This occurs mainly for higher mileage. 

Generally, using low-quality fuel causes the deposition of Filth and grime. Also, the lack of regular maintenance is another reason for these deposits. 

Usually, the butterfly valve permits air to get through. The grime residue jams the valve and interferes with the opening and closing. Sometimes the grime blocks the valve, which leads to bad fuel economy. 

Electrical Problem 

Though this cause is the rarest one, you can’t neglect it. This issue usually occurs in cars with higher mileage because of wear on the wires over time. 

However, the connections are sensitive to heat. In most cases, the physical damage causes connection problems. Any occurrence of the previous fixing may lead to electrical issues sooner. 

The physical damage may lead to issues like broken wires and loosening the connections. For this reason, the electric motor can’t work correctly. Besides, the butterfly valve loses its functions. 

Vacuum Leaks

Vacuum Leaks
Vacuum Leaks

Often you may find vacuum leaks that allow more air to get into the system. Sucking unusual air will cause a change in the air-fuel mixture. This issue changes the ratio that exceeds the allowed level of the throttle body. 

Generally, broken hoses and clamps, faulty gaskets, and improper seals lead to vacuum leaks. Moreover, problems in solenoids and actuators also cause leakage. 

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Faulty Position Sensor Of Pedal

The acceleration pedal sensor is an integral part of the Electronic Throttle Control system. See the diagram to understand how ETC and position sensor pedals are connected together.

Faulty Position Sensor Of Pedal

The function of this sensor is to give information to the Engine Control Module about the speed. With this information, ECM guides the opening and closing of the throttle. 

Sometimes the ECM fails to get specific information from the sensor. That’s why your car won’t go at the speed you want. Whenever the computer identifies this problem with the accelerator sensor, the electrical control light will come on.

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Fixing Of Electronic Throttle Control

Electronic Throttle

There are no specific solutions for the throttle except replacing one if it goes bad. However, if you detect some normal issues, you can fix them with easy tasks. These include Cleaning the throttle and the wires and tightening the electrical connections. 

To replace the Electronic throttle, follow these steps: 

  • Step1: Figure out the Electronic Throttle Controller 
  • Step2: You have to detach the negative cable of the battery 
  • Step3: Take a screwdriver to loosen the clamps to remove the air intake tubes 
  • Step4: Disconnect all electrical connections with the throttle 
  • Step5: Pull out the controller 
  • Step6: Take the New Controller gasket (Our Recommendation) and install it first 
  • Step7: Install the body bolts 
  • Step8: Reinstall the connections and air intake tubes, and reconnect the battery 

Here is a YouTube video that may help you: 

Symptoms Of Faulty Electronic Throttle Control

Electronic Throttle Control gives information to the Engine Control Unit. Its primary function is to notify about the gas pedal position. For this reason, the failure of electronic throttle control can lead the car to severe symptoms. 

Falling Fuel Mileage

If there is a fault in Electronic Throttle, the butterfly valve will allow little or much amount of air to pass through. For this reason, ECM compensates and hence, lowers the fuel mileage. 

Slow Speed

If there is any issue with the electronic throttle control, ETC, your car will run at a slow speed. When the ETC malfunctions, the car’s computer will induce a limp mode. As a result, you won’t be able to drive your car faster than the idle.

Acceleration Trouble

You will notice a sudden rise or drop in acceleration if your ECM goes bad.  If you find your car is stumbling while accelerating, it means that the ETC isn’t getting the correct signals. 

These incorrect signals are responsible for your vehicle’s lack of smooth acceleration. This is dangerous as it indicates that your car is going out of your control.

Idling Issue

Sometimes your car can show irregular idling. Mainly, you will encounter this issue at either a higher or lower RPM. For this, you may also experience some additional matters like:

  • Engine stalling 
  • Rough running of the engine 
  • Misfiring of engine 

Difficulty In Engine Starting

Sometimes, if there is any problem with the ETC, you will face a starting issue. The malfunctioning ETC will fail to allow an appropriate amount of air inside the combustion chamber.

Thus, there will be no spark, so the ignition can set off. As a result, you may have to try multiple times to start the engine. Sometimes, the vehicle may not start, no matter how much you try. Luckily, this problem is too rare.

Black Exhaust Smoke

Generally, black exhaust smoke refers to the incomplete combustion of fuel. When there is an insufficient amount of oxygen in the combustion chamber, incomplete combustion will take place.

When the ETC sensor fails, it will hinder the entrance of sufficient air inside the combustion chamber. As a result, the inappropriate air-fuel ratio will result in black exhaust smoke.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

In this FAQs section, we will discuss the common questions related to Electronic Throttle Control.

What Is The Cost Of Replacing A New Electronic Throttle Controller?

The replacement cost ranges between $300 to $1,500. This depends on the time duration and the place. Thus, the labor cost varies between $100-$125. 

Can You Drive With the Electronic Throttle Control light Illuminated?

Yes, you can drive with the illuminated light. The light warns about the ongoing problem but can’t stop the cat immediately while driving. But you should stop the car and diagnose the problem as soon as possible. 

How Long Does Electronic Throttle Control Last?

The average lifespan of a throttle controller is 75,000 miles. However, it is not specified for all Electronic Throttle controllers. You may extend the lifespan by regular cleaning and maintenance. 


The Electronic Throttle Control unit is recognized for its reliability and durability. It doesn’t fail often. However, any issue with the throttle will illuminate the red light. 

Now you know the meaning of the Electronic Throttle Control red lightning bolt on dash. You can reset the light with a simple process if it’s just a warning. If severe damage occurs, the light will return until you repair it.

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