Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Idle Control Valve

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The idle control valve, also commonly referred to as the idle air control valve, is an engine management component that is found in one form or another on the majority of road going vehicles. Its purpose is to control and regulate the engine idle speed, increasing and decreasing it as necessary to keep up with operating conditions.

Most idle control valves come in the form of a motorized valve or motor that is mounted somewhere on the vehicle’s intake manifold. The valve or motor is controlled by the engine control module, which will adjust the idle speed according to parameters such as engine temperature and electrical system load.

When the idle control valve fails it can cause all sorts of issues with the vehicle, and in some cases may even render it undrivable. Usually a bad or failing idle control valve will produce a few symptoms that can alert the driver of a potential issue.

1. Irregular idle speed

One of the most common symptoms commonly associated with a problematic idle air control valve is irregular idle speed. The idle air control valve is programmed to regulate and maintain the engine idle speed at a constant rate. If the valve fails or has any issues it can cause the idle speed to be thrown off. This may result in an unusually high or low idle speed, or in some cases a surging idle speed that repeatedly climbs and falls.

2. Check Engine Light comes on

Another symptom of a potential issue with the idle control valve is an illuminated Check Engine Light. If the engine control module detects an issue with the idle air control valve circuit or signal, it will set off the Check Engine Light to notify the driver that there's an issue. The Check Engine Light can also be set off by a wide variety of issues, so having the computer scanned for trouble codes is highly recommended.

2. Engine stalling

Another more serious symptom of an issue with the idle control valve is engine stalling. If the idle control valve fails completely, it may leave the vehicle without a source of air to maintain a proper idle. This may result in the engine stalling while operating, and in some cases may result in an engine that will not idle at all, and stalls as soon as it is started.

Usually a faulty idle control valve will produce symptoms noticeable enough that the driver will quickly become aware that there is an issue. If your vehicle is experiencing any of the symptoms above, or you suspect that your idle control valve may be having a problem, have the vehicle diagnosed by a professional technician, such as one from YourMechanic, to determine if the idle control valve needs replacement.


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Joel

19 years of experience
742 reviews
Joel
19 years of experience
Acura RL - Check Engine Light is on - Jacksonville, Florida
very knowledgeable and precise. able to fix electrical issues in my car. Right on time for the appointment.
Toyota Highlander - Check Engine Light is on - Jacksonville, Florida
Joel was very efficient with inspecting my vehicle. He told the issues with the vehicle and gave great advice on what needed to be done for the repairs. I will definitely use this service again.

Matthew

31 years of experience
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Matthew
31 years of experience
Jeep Patriot - Check Engine Light is on - Norfolk, Virginia
Matthew was on time which was a relief, he is very knowledgeable and was easy to understand what was wrong and what was being done. I am recommending to friends and family due to the great experience Matthew gave me. Extremely professional 10/10
Mercedes-Benz E320 - Check Engine Light is on - Williamsburg, Virginia
MATT WAS AMAZING! HE EXPLAINTED EVERYTHING SO WELL! HIS EXPERTISE AS A MECHANIC IS EVIDENT AND I HIGHLY RECOMMEND HIM.

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14 years of experience
502 reviews
Michael
14 years of experience
Ford Mustang - Check Engine Light is on - Decatur, Georgia
Michael was extremely courteous and knowledgable, he diagnosed and solved my issue in record time. Will definitely look to him next time I'm in need of a mechanic!
Chrysler Sebring - Check Engine Light is on - Atlanta, Georgia
Michael arrived on time and was efficient. He also explained the issues my car was having in an understandable way, and gave me good advice on what to do moving forward with the repairs.

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44 years of experience
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Walter
44 years of experience
Jeep Grand Cherokee - Check Engine Light is on - Tulsa, Oklahoma
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