Chevrolet's Electronic Throttle is Slow to Respond and Causes Delayed Acceleration

Key Points

  • Chevy owners complain about delayed acceleration and dangerous throttle lag.
  • There's an electrical delay somewhere in the drive-by-wire throttle system.
  • Some have said they can improve performance with an additional throttle controller.
A snail on the road
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Author
Scott McCracken
Tagged
#electrical #engine

Remember drive-by-cable systems? Back in the day a car's accelerator pedal used to physically be connected to the throttle via a cable. So when you "step on the gas" the cable and mechanical linkages would open the throttle and off you went.

Nowadays most throttles are controlled electronically in what's called a drive-by-wire system. Instead of an actual cable, a series of sensors relay information to an electronic control unit (ECU) which then does some on-the-fly calculations before opening or closing some electromechanical actuators on the throttle.

It has some big advantages, which we'll touch on later, but it comes at the cost of complications and frustrating problems like delayed acceleration response.

Throttle Lag and Delayed Acceleration

One of the more common complaints about Chevrolet's implementation of the electronic throttle control is a delayed acceleration or throttle lag.

In other words when you step on the gas, it takes the car a second or two before it starts to move. Those seconds can feel like an enternity when you're driving. At best it's a frustrating experience. At worst it can be downright dangerous, like when trying to cross traffic.

What's causing the delay?

Man counts on his fingers with a confused look on his face
Chevrolet ECU Trying to Figure Out Throttle Position

Each system is unique to the automaker but they all have a variety of computers, sensors, and potentiometers that need to talk to each other in perfect sync. Even if every component is operational, sensors can still send delayed information or the computer can experience some hiccup in its calculations. All it takes is a little electrical delay.

And it doesn't matter how hard you stomp on the accelerator pedal, that delay translates to throttle lag or "dead zone."

Tracking down specific electrical delays can be a nightmare. Sometimes things can be improved by replacing sensors, updating software, or replacing / cleaning the throttle body. But without specific error codes it can be a bit of a wild goose chase.

The worst years for throttle lag

So Is Drive by Wire Worth It?

Generally, yes. Drive-by-wire systems offer a number of advantages:

  1. It's able to work in conjunction with safety systems such as the electronic stability control (ESC) and lane assist.
  2. It makes convenience features like adaptive cruise control possible.
  3. Some are even programmed to help with fuel efficiency.

Improving performance with a throttle controller

Automakers are trying to improve the drive-by-wire experience by installing a range of "throttle controllers" to counteract lag.

Throttle controllers can catch the signal between the accelerator sensor and the ECU, and modify it if needed. There are aftermarkt sensors that can be installed and automakers are continuing to try to improve performance with each subsequent generation.


Snail image courtesy on Marian Beck on Unsplash.com

Generations Where This Problem Has Been Reported

This problem has popped up in the following Chevrolet generations.

Most years within a generation share the same parts and manufacturing process. You can also expect them to share the same problems. So while it may not be a problem in every year yet, it's worth looking out for.

  1. 1st Generation Aveo

    Years
    2004–2011
    Reliability
    66th of 80
    PainRank
    20.84
    Complaints
    481
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Aveo
  2. 1st Generation Cruze

    Years
    2011–2015
    Reliability
    80th of 80
    PainRank
    48.27
    Complaints
    940
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Cruze
  3. 1st Generation Equinox

    Years
    2005–2009
    Reliability
    74th of 80
    PainRank
    36.18
    Complaints
    1019
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Equinox
  4. 9th Generation Impala

    Years
    2006–2013
    Reliability
    69th of 80
    PainRank
    28.86
    Complaints
    1217
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Impala
  5. 7th Generation Malibu

    Years
    2008–2012
    Reliability
    76th of 80
    PainRank
    36.62
    Complaints
    799
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Malibu
  6. 9th Generation Malibu

    Years
    2016–2020
    Reliability
    44th of 80
    PainRank
    8.59
    Complaints
    117
    Continue Front 3/4 view of a Malibu

OK, Now What?

Maybe you've experienced this problem. Maybe you're concerned you will soon. Whatever the reason, here's a handful of things you can do to make sure it gets the attention it deserves.

  1. File Your Complaint

    CarComplaints.com is a free site dedicated to uncovering problem trends and informing owners about potential issues with their cars. Major class action law firms use this data when researching cases.

    Add a Complaint
  2. Notify CAS

    The Center for Auto Safety (CAS) is a pro-consumer organization that researches auto safety issues & often compels the US government to do the right thing through lobbying & lawsuits.

    Notify The CAS
  3. Report a Safety Concern

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the US agency with the authority to conduct vehicle defect investigations & force recalls. Their focus is on safety-related issues.

    Report to NHTSA