Modern cars and trucks are constantly evolving, mostly due to advancements in electronics. This allows vehicle systems previously controlled by mechanical hardware to be run by computers that have processing power undreamt of several short decades ago. When applied properly, this processing power can wring out higher levels of your vehicle’s built-in power and responsiveness, without physically making any engine upgrades. One such system found on today’s fuel-injected vehicles is electronic throttle control, commonly known as drive-by-wire.
Electronic throttle controls eliminate the conventional “mechanical” cable that’s attached to your gas pedal at one end, and your throttle body assembly at the other. What’s a throttle body assembly? Mounted under the hood between the air cleaner and the intake manifold, a throttle body assembly controls airflow into the engine via a butterfly valve, or plate, that opens and closes based on accelerator pedal position. On older vehicles with cable setups, the cable literally pulls the throttle plate open when your foot presses down on the pedal.
On modern vehicles with drive-by-wire setups, the cable is replaced by an electronically controlled system using advanced electromechanical actuators, sensors chips and highly accurate potentiometers. So there’s no cable attached to the accelerator pedal any more – just an electronic sensor that determines how far down the pedal is being pressed.
The throttle (gas pedal) position sensor relays this information to the vehicle’s main computer, the electronic control unit (ECU). The ECU takes that information and commands a small electric motor to open or close the throttle plate. At the same time, the ECU increases injector pulse width to boost fuel flow accordingly.
Standard settings for drive-by-wire systems tend to result in throttle response time that’s actually slower than old-school cable setups. But what is throttle responsiveness? More specifically, it’s a measure of how fast an internal combustion engine can raise its power output from a low RPM to a higher, more powerful RPM in response to a driver's input on the gas pedal. While quicker response is often associated with higher power; true “throttle response” is merely a measurement of the time required for a change in power output.
On modern vehicles that are under competitive pressure to yield high fuel economy ratings, throttle responsiveness is deliberately programmed to be more gradual (“sluggish”) in order to save us from ourselves. Truth be told, this trick does help mileage – but it also creates throttle response that feels as if Novocain has been injected into the entire system.
As enthusiasts, we appreciate the need for speed and we enjoy the thrill of pushing our cars to newer limits. Slower throttle response only serves to increase the time it takes to reach your vehicle's maximum power level. To address this issue, we offer throttle controllers that bypass and override the factory electronic throttle control settings and eliminate noticeable time delays.
Throttle controllers take information directly from the accelerator pedal position sensor, “advance” the numbers in a high-speed controller circuit, then send the new-and-improved signal to your vehicle’s ECU – bypassing checks that may cause confusion or errors when a final signal is sent to open the throttle plate. But since throttle controllers are linked in to your vehicle’s ECU, they can also take the opportunity to make useful revisions to air/fuel mixture and ignition timing to increase actual horsepower and torque in addition to speed of responsiveness.
Basic Throttle Body Controllers
If you’re looking for great value, we’ve got several devices that keep it simple and specialize in just this function. For starters, the Weapon-R I-Throttle Controller provides 16 different throttle settings that can be selected at the touch of a button. Nine of them increase throttle opening speed to tailor response to just the desired amount for performance driving and even racing. And when you’re just cruising and want to get better fuel mileage, there are 7 economy mode settings. The Remus Throttle Responder offers 4 adjustable settings for an excellent price as well.
Likewise, the Buddy Club Throttle Booster features a manual control knob which can be rotated to maximize either economy or performance response. The AVO Throttle Controller is designed specifically for Subarus back to 2002, and features a standard (factory) mode along with 9 power and 3 off-road settings which offer extremely gradual throttle response necessary for trail climbing.
The JET Stage 2 Power Control Module is designed for the performance enthusiast who has already made bolt-on modifications such as a freer flowing exhaust system, aftermarket air intake assemblies, upgraded mass air flow sensors, and other items. It also remaps fuel and timing curves to maximize power, and is recommended for use with super unleaded fuel and 180 degree thermostats.
If you’ve got a late-model truck or SUV powered by a diesel engine, the BD Diesel Performance Throttle Sensitivity Booster is engineered for a number of diesel vehicles in addition to gasoline ones.
Throttle Body Controllers With Other Added Features
We've also got throttle body controllers that adjust throttle body responsiveness and perform a host of other functions. Some are offered with built-in video display screens, while others geared toward value will display menus and information using one or two lines of text only. These are actually known as power tuners, or power programmers.
If you're interested in throttle controllers which do more than simply modify your accelerators' drive-by-wire system, be sure to check out all the choices we have for you within our article "Are Superchips Really Super?"
Connection and set-up is a piece of cake because most of the units referenced here either plug into your vehicle’s OBD II port, or require only a simple interface connection to module(s) under the hood. We also believe in the saying “With power comes responsibility”, and these throttle controllers are designed to deliver enhanced performance responsibly – with built-in fail safes in their programming to ensure smooth operation, avoid check engine light glitches, and prevent your vehicle from accelerating wildly out of control. All that’s left to address is one simple question - are you going to wait for power, or are you going to demand it right now?