How to Clean a Throttle Body

Updated: May 07, 2024

Clean your throttle body for better gas mileage and performance!

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Tools Required

  • Flathead screwdriver

Materials Required

  • Compressed air
  • Paper towels
  • Throttle body cleaner

If your car runs rough when idling, the cause 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. When an engine shuts down, hot exhaust gases and unburned fuel float to the top of the engine. As the vapors evaporate from the engine’s heat, they form black sooty carbon deposits inside the throttle body.

Before you take the car into the shop, consider taking 15 minutes and cleaning it yourself with a spray can of throttle body cleaner and some shop towels. You just might save a bunch of money with a throttle body cleaning on your own, and there’s a good chance you’ll fix the problem.

Finding the throttle body is as easy as following the plastic duct from the air filter housing to the intake manifold. On some vehicles, the throttle body is simple, others will have vacuum hoses and electrical connections to contend with. Either way, it’s a fairly simple bit of preventative auto maintenance that any DIYer can do.

What Is a Throttle Body and What Does It Do?

The throttle body regulates the airflow into the intake manifold of the car’s engine. It has an internal butterfly valve that rotates upon input from the throttle cable (your right foot).

How to Know if Your Throttle Body Needs Cleaning

A dirty throttle body will directly affect the performance of your engine. Indications that your throttle body might need a good cleaning are:

  • Rough idle
  • Little or no power under 30 mph
  • Sluggish throttle response
  • Poor fuel mileage and stalling

Where Is the Throttle Body on a Car?

You’ll find the throttle body positioned between the air cleaner and associated ductwork and the engine’s intake manifold. It may have electrical, and vacuum lines attached, and will have the throttle cables attached to it as well.

When to Call a Pro

If after you’ve cleaned your throttle body, you’re still getting error codes and your car is showing the same symptoms, it’s time to talk to a professional.

Project step-by-step (4)

Step 1

Disconnect the air duct

  • Disconnect the air duct from the throttle body. Some air ducts may be also need to be disconnected from the air box for easier access.
  • Disconnect electrical connectors or vacuum lines. If needed, mark each vacuum line and connector you remove so you remember where they go.

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Step 2

Apply the throttle body cleaner

  • Locate the throttle cables and manually rotate the throttle plate open.
  • Spray throttle body cleaner liberally around the inside of the throttle body.

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Step 3

Clean off the solvent

  • Wipe off the throttle body with a shop rag.
  • Shooting compressed air into the throttle body helps force the solvent to evaporate.
  • Reinstall the ductwork and attach the vacuum lines and electrical connectors.

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Step 4


What happens when a throttle body goes bad?

Reduced engine power, rough idling, and poor acceleration are indications of a dirty throttle body. If your throttle body is really dirty, it can cease to function properly, leading to a non-responsive throttle or, worse, a stuck throttle.

Can you still drive with a bad throttle body?

While the engine may still function, it’s a bad idea to continue driving your vehicle with a dirty, gummed-up or damaged throttle body. Besides a probable reduction in power, lower fuel economy and possible harm to your engine, it may compromise the safety of you and your passengers.

How much does It cost to replace a throttle body?

You can expect to pay between $500 to $800 to have a throttle body replaced in your vehicle. It’s not a big job, but at an average of $150 per hour, labor charges add up quickly.