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

TL;DR

Many Chevrolet generations suffer from delayed acceleration due to a slow response in the drive-by-wire electronic throttle system. The throttle lag can be frustrating at best, but can also leave drivers in dangerous situations. Unfortunately, diagnosing throttle delay can be difficult and Chevrolet doesn't seem too worried about it.

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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

The Worst Chevrolet Generations For Delayed Acceleration

This problem has been reported by owners of the following generations. While there's no guarantee it affects all the listed model years, most years within a generation share the same parts, manufacturing processes, and problems.

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

More Information About The Affected Models