• Tue. Apr 16th, 2024

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Stock vs Modified Throttle: What Are Throttle Controllers and How They Work

throttle-controllersource: facebook.com/Autobox.au

Performance mods come in different shapes and sizes. Some deliver on their promise of a faster and more fun vehicle, while others are overly complicated, hard to install and not worth your time or money. Simple, inexpensive additions work best, particularly when they get the basics right. Squarely in this category are throttle controllers. They’re small electronic devices that fit between the accelerator pedal and the wiring leading to the ECU and manipulate the signal the ECU reads to adjust basic parameters like fueling and timing.

What Exactly Are Throttle Controllers? 

throttle-controller-4wd
source: facebook.com/Autobox.au

Throttle controllers are pint-sized electronics that modify the input from a series of sensors (those lining the acceleration pedal, and sensors monitoring throttle bodies) to tell the ECU how to adjust the fuel and air mixture and deliver optimal acceleration. Their main purpose is to prevent throttle lag, or the few moments the car hesitates, even with your right foot firmly flooring the pedal. This is a major complaint in newer vehicles, especially those with turbochargers or superchargers. How fast the car reacts and accelerates can additionally be modified to suit driving habits as well as different terrain. 

The unit works by intercepting the electronic throttle and modifying the voltage the ECU receives from the acceleration pedal. The controller harness is wired between the throttle cable and the throttle pedal, and a dash-mounted display shows the dialled settings and modes. These can be changed at any time while driving. 

How Do Controllers Benefit 4WDs?

Aftermarket devices that change the stock throttle response provide numerous benefits to all vehicles, but especially bigger utes and 4WDs. Here, a 4WD throttle controller helps heavier and taller vehicles by increasing performance. Controllers don’t add more engine power but take full advantage of all the power on tap. This helps in a few ways: 

  • Faster acceleration – almost all cars have an inbuilt delay to the throttle response, mainly as a safety precaution, but also to reduce fuel use. Controllers bump up the voltage from the pedal, essentially cutting out any throttle lag. And this means a faster car, with better acceleration from a standstill and between gear changes. 
  • Safer overtaking – diesel engines in heavier cars struggle with overtaking. Here controllers speed things up by cutting input delays from the pedal. The engine can hold onto higher revs and reach overtaking speeds faster. 
  • Easier towing – 4WDs and utes are designed for versatility, and many owners use them for towing. With an installed throttle controller, there’s no dangerous jostling and jolting when leaving the lights or going uphill with a trailer, caravan or boat at the back. 
  • Increased off-roading ability – electronic throttle controllers have multiple modes. Besides modes that help with faster acceleration, the units can also be dialled to reduce the throttle response. This is handly on loose surfaces like mud or sand, where too much or abrupt throttle causes wheel spin and digs the car deeper. The same mode is useful when tackling technical terrain, adding more control and safety. 
  • Built-in safety tech – newer variants prevent theft. They can be set to lock modes, essentially disabling power to the engine. Apps installed on your phone can be used to set different modes and allow phones to communicate with the controller via Bluetooth. 

Modes and Settings

4x4-trottle-controller
source: facebook.com/Autobox.au

Controllers come with several driving modes. All brands feature a performance or sport mode, that effectively increases voltage for snappier acceleration. And this can be adjusted in incremental steps to suit. Set the controller in this mode when on the tarmac or going at highway speeds for improved throttle response. 

The same adjustments are seen in eco, valet or off-roading modes, albeit to cut the throttle response relative to factory settings. If you find the pedal too snappy, then this 4WD throttle controller mode softens the throttle response for better vehicle control at slower speeds, for instance, when parking or negotiating uneven terrain. An overlooked benefit is that the same setting can be used in heavy traffic to cut down on fuel use. 

And if you need automated throttle response, then auto modes change how the car and engine react to pedal input depending on the conditions. The device constantly monitors the position of the acceleration pedal and adjusts voltages using data from related sensors like the ABS and traction control for increased grip. This rules about wheel slip in wet conditions but instantly bumps up the voltage on dry surfaces to maximise engine efficiency. 

Lastly, all units also include a factory mode, basically turning the controller off, and reverting to the factory settings. 

Final Thoughts

The display modules are small, lightweight and easily adapted to any space in or around the dash. They have legible LCD screens to tell you the current mode and setting, and simple up and down and mode input buttons to make changes. Drivers who like to manually adjust settings should place this in arm’s reach. Alternatively, set the controller to auto, and let it do the hard work for you. 

The device is entirely legal as it doesn’t increase power output. Moreover, setup is simple and takes a few minutes. Drivers get a more responsive car, one that’s more fun to drive with a more direct feel, and increased safety when roads turn bad.  So, if you need more from your 4WD, ute, or any car for that matter, this is one of the cheapest and best-value performance upgrades out there. 

By Anthony Hendriks

The life of the party, Anthony is always up for spending some time with family and friends, when not blogging of course! Ever since a child, his love for books of mystery, race cars and travelling keeps on growing so it's difficult for him to single out that one all-time favourite hobby. If there's one thing he hates, though, it's having pictures taken but you already guessed that from his choice of plant photo for the blog.