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Cleaning a Throttle Body

Try this 10-minute throttle cleaning fix to solve a rough idle problem and save the cost of taking your car into the shop.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Clean a throttle body

If your car runs rough when idling, the cause just might be a dirty throttle body. The throttle body controls the amount of air the engine takes in, and when it gets dirty, the engine can't idle smoothly. So before you take the car into the shop, consider taking 10 minutes and cleaning it yourself with a spray can of throttle body cleaner and paper towels. You just might save a bunch of money and there's a good chance you'll cure the problem.

Here's how the throttle body gets dirty. When an engine shuts down, hot exhaust gases and unburned fuel float to the top of the engine. As the vapors bake from the engine heat, they form black sooty carbon deposits inside the throttle body.

Follow the plastic duct from the air filter housing up to the throttle body. Remove the duct and locate the throttle cables and rotating mechanism. Rotate the throttle mechanism and spray the cleaning solvent around the inside of the throttle body. Give it a moment to work and then wipe out the crud.

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • 4-in-1 screwdriver
    • Nut driver

You'll also need plastic gloves.

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

    • Throttle body cleaner, spray can
    • Compressed air
    • Paper towel

Comments from DIY Community Members

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October 24, 6:30 PM [GMT -5]

This is a common problem, the build of residue, or "coking" on the back side of the throttle plate.
However, it is recommended to spray the cleaner onto a rag or towel, open the throttle plate, and wipe off the coking from the throttle plate and the inside of the throttle bore.
Most major automotive manufacturers actually do not recommend cleaning the throttle plate due to the use of these sealed bearings.
Most newer vehicles use sealed bearings for the throttle plate shaft, and the cleaners used will damage the seals and bearings resulting in a sticking or binding throttle plate. You may actually damage the throttle plate to tune of about $100-200 for a non-electronic controlled throttle body, If you have a vehicle with an electronically controlled throttle body ("drive by wire"), your replacement cost could $400 on up.
Review any service information for the applicable vehicle before proceeding, and use the above mentioned procedure cleaning process if you need to proceed.

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Cleaning a Throttle Body

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