Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Throttle Kicker Actuator

In the past, when a driver was driving up a hill, with an extra load in the back of their vehicle or they just turned on the AC, their right foot was the only way to increase their speed. As technology has improved and more vehicles transitioned from the manual throttle cable to electronic throttle controllers, there have been multiple improvements to the fuel system that increases engine efficiency and driver comfort. One of these components is the throttle kick actuator. Although this is an electrical actuator, it can become faulty, which will require it to be replaced by a certified mechanic.

What is the throttle kicker actuator?

A Throttle Kicker Actuator is a component of the throttle control which helps to regulate throttle control in situations where additional throttle is needed suddenly or when there is a sudden drop in throttle needed. When there is a sudden release of the accelerator pedal, the throttle kicker actuator serves to gradually slow engine speed rather than allowing a sudden drop. A throttle kicker actuator also helps to maintain certain throttle positions when additional load or strain is put on an engine such as using various vehicle accessories like AC, engaging the PTO system on a truck with an onboard welding system, or even operating the lift feature on a tow truck.

The throttle kicker actuator can be operated electronically and by vacuum. In a vacuum operated setting, the actuator opens the throttle slightly to increase air/fuel flow. An idle speed control actuator is controlled by an idle speed control actuator solenoid. This solenoid is controlled by a control module. When this solenoid is turned off, no vacuum is routed to the idle speed control actuator, allowing it to open the throttle slightly to increase idle speed. In order to decrease idle speed, this solenoid is turned on, routing vacuum to the idle speed control actuator, allowing the throttle to fully close.

Like most mechanical parts built on vehicles these days, the throttle kick actuator is designed to last the entire lifespan of a vehicle. However, it is susceptible to wear and tear and can become damaged, faulty or broken. If this occurs, it will cause a few symptoms to be recognized by the driver, alerting them that a potential issue with the throttle kicker actuator exists and that it may need to be replaced.

1. Throttle hesitation

Most of the time, the engine responds to throttle pressure applied by the driver without stumbling or hesitation. However, when the throttle kicker actuator is damaged, it can send inaccurate readings to the ECM and cause more fuel to be sent inside the motor than air. In this case, a rich situation is created inside the combustion chamber, which can lead to the engine delaying igniting the fuel/air mixture. The kicker actuator is typically the component on an electronic fuel injection system that will display this symptom when a sensor is damaged and needs to be replaced.

2. Poor fuel economy

Similar to the issue above, when the kicker actuator is sending bad information to the onboard computer, the air to fuel ratio will be inaccurate. In this case, not only will the engine stumble, but it will consume more fuel than it should. A side effect of this situation is that the unburnt fuel will exit out of the tailpipe as black smoke. If you notice that your car is blowing black smoke and your fuel economy has reduced significantly in recent days, contact a mechanic so they can diagnose the issue and replace the throttle kicker actuator if necessary.

3. Engine stalling often

In some cases a damaged throttle kicker actuator will impact the idle ability of the engine after it has been under a load. When the idle goes too low, the engine will shut off or stall. In some cases this is caused by an actuator that is not working at all, which means that a mechanic will have to replace it soon in order to get your engine back running the way it should. On most new cars, trucks, and SUVs, a failure with the throttle kicker actuator will cause an OBD-II error code to be stored in the ECU. If you notice any of the above symptoms, or think you may have a problem with your throttle kicker actuator, contact a local ASE certified mechanic so they can download these error codes and determine the right course of action to get your car back running the way it should.


Next Step

Schedule Fuel System Inspection

The most popular service booked by readers of this article is Fuel System Inspection. Once the problem has been diagnosed, you will be provided with an upfront quote for the recommended fix and receive $20.00 off as a credit towards the repair. YourMechanic’s technicians bring the dealership to you by performing this job at your home or office 7-days a week between 7AM-9PM. We currently cover over 2,000 cities and have 100k+ 5-star reviews... LEARN MORE

SEE PRICING & SCHEDULING

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Recent Fuel System Inspection reviews

Excellent Rating

(6)

Rating Summary
5
0
0
1
0
5
0
0
1
0

Arturo

27 years of experience
303 reviews
Arturo
27 years of experience
Nissan Titan V8-5.6L - Fuel System Inspection - La Mesa, California
Informative and efficient

Johnny

33 years of experience
264 reviews
Johnny
33 years of experience
Toyota Corolla L4-1.6L - Fuel System Inspection - Sacramento, California
Johnny did a great job

Michael

4 years of experience
230 reviews
Michael
4 years of experience
Volkswagen Jetta L5-2.5L - Fuel System Inspection - Indianapolis, Indiana
professional ,informative and knowledgeable

Kenneth

20 years of experience
775 reviews
Kenneth
20 years of experience
BMW X5 L6-3.0L - Fuel System - Rancho Palos Verdes, California
Kenneth was extremely knowledgeable. He correctly diagnosed my vehicle by actually going under the hood, removing a section and running some sort of test that told him exactly what the problem was. He also arrived 15 minutes early and had prepared for the visit by contacting me the day prior to get further clarification.

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

Related articles

How to Replace a Throttle Controller
The throttle controller uses data to open and close the throttle. Common signs of failure include poor performance, stalling, and and rough idling.
How to Replace a Trunk Lock Actuator
A car trunk is secured by a trunk lock that uses an electronic or mechanical lock actuator. A bad actuator prevents the lock from working properly.
How to Replace a Throttle Kicker Actuator
Throttle kicker actuators regulate the throttle during changes in the RPM. Hesitation and rough acceleration show the need for actuator replacement.

Related questions

Throttle issue
What you are describing sounds like hesitation. The most common cause of hesitation is the MAF, or Mass Air Flow sensor. This sensor is solely responsible for measuring the air going into the engine, and with the air, the computer...
Irregular revving
Is your Check Engine Light on? That may indicate that there is a diagnostic trouble code (dtc) stored. The code may help pinpoint which component requires further testing. Sometimes a dirty idle air control valve (https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/idle-control-valve-replacement) will stick during operation...
My turbo will sometimes work and sometimes will not work.
Hi there. The wastegate actuator is not functioning correctly or the boost sensor (https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/barometric-sensor-replacement) is not working making the turbo boost properly. Check the wastegate actuator hose (https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/wastegate-hose-replacement) and see if its broken and listen for leaks when you drive...

How can we help?

Our service team is available 7 days a week, Monday - Friday from 6 AM to 5 PM PST, Saturday - Sunday 7 AM - 4 PM PST.

1 (855) 347-2779 · hi@yourmechanic.com