Thinking of a performance upgrade for your truck or SUV? One that doesn’t cost a fortune, is quick to install and doesn’t need constant tinkering to get right? If you’ve done your research, then that list narrows down quite quickly to a few engine additions that can function on their own and still deliver.
Throw in the cost side of things, and you’ll be looking for a throttle controller. With a throttle controller’s electronic wizardry, you can get that rig up to speed that much faster. And when you plan on towing, or are putting bigger tires on your rig, a bump in power is always appreciated.
Forget about quoted 0-60mph times, these things work. If you’re considering getting a throttle body controller, here’s what you should know.
It’s all in the name. A throttle controller is an electronic device that helps with throttle actuation and acceleration. We’ve all had those difficult moments with the right foot down and nothing happening. It can last quite some time until the power comes on suddenly, and the vehicle thrusts forward. Though car manufacturers cite safety and emissions for the inbuilt delay, the sensation can be frustrating and dangerous. And there’s a nasty name for it – throttle lag.
The task of throttle controllers is to deliver the right amount of throttle every time. And cut out throttle related occurrences like turbo lag in forced induction motors. Press the gas pedal, and your rig is up and running. Instantly. Ease off, and the car coasts or decelerates.
Meticulous efforts to reduce wear and ill-aligned mechanical cables that opened the throttle body to supply the engine with air were made in the late 1980s. Bosch partnered with BMW in the 7 Series cars in the first production throttle controller. It was also the first car to have adaptive suspension, traction control, and xenon lights. The electronic throttle body controller did away with cables and relied on sensors along the acceleration pedal and throttle body.
The working principles are still the same today. Acceleration pedal sensors relay the pedal position to the ECU within a defined voltage range and the computer opens the throttle body to supply the right amount of air for combustion. The more voltage to the ECU, the more throttle input.
To remove jerkiness and allow for more linear acceleration, auto makers started including a safety mech to disregard ramped-up signals from the acceleration pedal. With the pedal fully down, the ECU doesn’t read max voltage. The result is the initial delay in throttle response that plagues many fly-by-wire engines today.
And this can prove dangerous in overtaking, when leaving lights or driveways, or replicate a loss of power when towing. The disconnect between driver and vehicle is what an aftermarket throttle body controller seeks to remedy.
Aftermarket throttle controllers manipulate the signal from the gas pedal to the ECU. This way, they remove throttle lag. Controllers can ramp up the voltage compared to factory settings, so acceleration and throttle response happen while drivers press down on the gas pedal.
The sensitivity of the throttle response can be set to individual driver preferences with incremental settings. There can be a slight improvement over stock, more like a gentle nudge. Or a distinct and immediate push from the engine, and something that brings a smile every time.
These are the respective minimum and max settings in controller performance modes. The good news is that drivers can scroll through several settings within this range, or choose other throttle modes according to the driving conditions.
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