A clean throttle body is essential to the operation of your vehicle, as it’s a part of your engine’s air intake system. If your vehicle’s throttle body is dirty or corroded with carbon deposits, enough air will not be able to get to the engine, which will affect its performance and cost you hundreds of dollars to repair. So, we made this easy guide on when you should clean your throttle body and problems to spot after cleaning.
How often to clean the throttle body
On average, you should clean your vehicles’ throttle body every 75,000 miles or 120,000 kilometers. But this number is standard across the industry.
The actual number of miles between cleanings varies greatly, depending on the age of the vehicle, its make, accident history, and damage, etc.
Depending on the kind of vehicle you have, you may be able to drive it farther before cleaning the throttle body.
There are two other ways to know if you should clean your throttle body: by checking the manufacturer recommendations or maintenance guide for the model of your vehicle or by detecting issues with your vehicle’s airflow with an oxygen sensor.
Other Standard Rules
75,000 miles is the most common mileage, but it is not the only rule. For certain cars, especially ones that don’t travel far, their throttle body will never need service or cleaning.
Some trucks, especially gas-guzzling ones, may require throttle maintenance every 30,000 miles. Smaller vehicles and hybrid electric cars can wait until the 100,000-mile mark.
Every vehicle has a manufacturer-created maintenance guide designed to educate the owner on how to maintain the vehicle and keep it running smoothly for as long as possible.
The cleaning instructions for the throttle body should be in the manual as well. If the manual does not have it or you don’t have the manual at all, you can send an email to the manufacturer,
The other way to determine if you need to clean the throttle body is by checking wear and tear and monitoring the oxygen sensor. The oxygen sensor in every vehicle lets you know much usable oxygen is still in the engine’s system and is available to burn for fuel.
If there is not enough air reaching the engine, the sensor will activate the check engine light. Once you take your vehicle to a mechanic, they can use the vehicle’s diagnostic system to learn about the airflow problem.
How much does it cost to get the throttle body cleaned?
For many types of vehicles, cleaning the throttle body is not a cheap service. On average, the cost of throttle cleaning can be anywhere from $100 to $300, depending on how easy or difficult it is to reach and remove the throttle.
If your mechanic has the tools to clean your vehicle’s throttle without removing it from the engine, then the price could be much less.
But if you waited too long to get your vehicle serviced and your throttle needs to be replaced, then the price could rise to over $500. So, the price of replacement maybe doubles the price of cleaning.
Throttle cleaning might be included in tune-up service
However, if you are in need of a tune-up, then it would be a great chance to also have your throttle body cleaned. Most places offer throttle cleaning as part of a routine tune-up service.
If your mechanic does not clean the throttle during a routine tune-up, it may be time to call around to other mechanic shops and see if anyone else is offering the service.
Problems after cleaning the throttle body
So now that your throttle body is squeaky clean, your vehicle should run smoothly and not need any more maintenance. Well, this would be true if the throttle body is the only issue in your vehicle’s system that controls airflow.
If you still have issues with your vehicle after getting the throttle body clean, unfortunately, that means you have to go back to the mechanic.
There is a whole range of issues your engine could experience so you have to monitor any symptoms and changes that appeared before and after the cleaning.
So here is a list of the most common issues to watch for after throttle cleaning to know if you have more problems to deal with in your vehicle’s engine.
Car requires more power than usual to accelerate from a full stop
When there is not enough or too much air in the combustion chamber of the engine, the air/fuel mix will be off and cause bad engine performance, especially when accelerating.
If you have already cleaned your car’s throttle, then the issue could be from a vacuum leak.
Loud noises while your car is on but in idle
If you notice a loud rumbling noise while your truck or car is stopped at a stoplight, it may not mean that there is a brand-new problem.
Remember, as carbon and grime build up around the throttle body, there is less room for air to flow. So, less air will flow into the engine and your vehicle’s sensor will detect that reduction and adjust the fuel and combustion.
Now that there is no carbon build-up, air flows freely and the sensors have to readjust to the improved airflow. This is known as ECU adaptation. If this is the issue, then allow your car some time to adjust or reset your airflow sensors.
Air Sensor still forcing check engine light
If your vehicle sensor system is still signaling that there is an issue with your throttle, even after getting it cleaned, then the issue must now be with the sensor itself.
Sensors can malfunction and need replacement just like any other part. The average cost of replacing an air sensor is around $240 to $350 if you take it to a mechanic.
But if you have the skills to do it yourself or your friend who is good with cars owes you a favor, then you will only have to buy the sensor replacement. A new air sensor costs around $150. But in foreign vehicles, sensors by themselves can cost up to $400.