The throttle body regulates the flow of air into the internal combustion system. It links to the gas pedal and the fuel injection.
When you push the gas pedal, the throttle body opens up, allowing more air into the engine. And, electronics kick in to increase the amount of fuel injected with it to keep the air-fuel ratio entering the engine where it needs to be.
Over time, that machine part picks up dust, dirt, and grease which can prevent it from opening and closing smoothly. The result is often a rough running engine, increased fuel usage, or even stalling while you idle.
For that reason, most mechanics recommend cleaning the throttle body every 20,000-75,000 miles. The average cost of cleaning a throttle body ranges between $60 and $400, almost all of which is labor. However, depending on location and the mechanic you go to, those rates can go up or down.
How Much Does Throttle Body Cleaning Cost?*
Almost all throttle body cleaning costs are labor. That’s because you normally only have to remove the throttle body, soak it, clean it, and then put it back.
It’s also a good time to inspect the air intake hoses and the sensors and replace them where necessary. For this reason, your throttle body cleaning might include some parts costs as well.
In most cases, the largest cost factor will be the make and model of your vehicle.
|Car||Estimated Cleaning Cost|
|Hyundai Santa Fe||$141-$200|
*These throttle body price estimates were based on research in December 2022. Pricing and average rates may have changed since the time of writing. Please use this data as a starting point for your own research.
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Cleaning Throttle Body Pricing Factors
Having a throttle body cleaned can take less than an hour of time and often requires no parts. This means that the largest part of costs will always be labor.
However, other factors will impact throttle body cleaning estimates as well.
Cost Of Labor
In most cases, it takes about 30-60 minutes to access the throttle body, remove it from the engine, soak it, clean it, and put it back. That timeline will go up if there are complicating factors, like broken or damaged hoses, caked-on mud, or sensors coming loose.
In addition, many mechanics have a minimum work rate of about an hour. This means you’ll pay their hourly fee, plus the shop fee, plus any lot fee they might have.
On a national basis, hourly fees average at about $95. However, in practice that varies between $15 and $210+.
Shop fees are normally 5-20% of the total fee. And, you can expect to pay a small bill for solvent, grease, and any replacement hoses you end up needing.
Very old and very new vehicles will normally cost more to service.
Here, if your vehicle is over about 15 years old, it likely has a throttle body built into the carburetor. This will mean taking the carburetor off, disassembling it, and cleaning it there. That can take more time than a modern separate throttle body.
The newer your vehicle, the more likely it is to have more sensors attached to the throttle body itself. That can include the throttle body position sensor, throttle body temperature sensor, as well as vacuum and EGR sensors.
Working around those can delay the job. In addition, it can mean paying for replacement parts if one is damaged or knocked loose.
Most cars have the throttle body on the top of the engine, attached to the intake manifold. This means you shouldn’t have to move anything to access the throttle body.
In addition, you should be able to get away with taking off the air intake hose and the vacuum hose to clean the throttle body. Removing it fully should just be a matter of taking out a few clips extra on top of that.
However, labor requirements can change per vehicle. The more compact your car, the more you might have to move parts around to take the throttle body out. That can greatly add to the time to clean the part.
A standard car has just one throttle body.
However, if you have a V6 or V8 engine, it’s highly possible that you have a separate throttle body per bank of cylinders. That can greatly add to the cost of cleaning them.
Many modern vehicles will require that you recalibrate the software after removing the throttle body. That happens because you’ll have to remove sensors.
Some mechanics will work around this by not fully removing the throttle body from the vehicle. In other cases, they will include recalibrating as part of the cost.
This will also impact how you’re able to clean the throttle body at home if you choose to do the work yourself.
What Is A Throttle Body And Its Function?
The throttle body is a butterfly valve that is located between the air intake on the engine and the gas pedal. When you hit the gas, a mechanical or electrical connection opens the valve.
This allows more air into the intake, resulting in more fuel in the mix. That means more fuel is combusted.
The throttle body essentially takes the place of the carburetor, which is used to control both fuel and air inflow into the cylinders.
Using a separate system for each allows you to control the airflow with the gas pedal while the actual fuel is regulated via sensors and electronics to maintain the right air-fuel ratio.
8 Steps For Cleaning A Throttle Body
You can choose to either clean the throttle body while it’s still in the car or by taking it out of the vehicle. In each case, the process is mostly the same.
- Park the car on a flat and level surface and set the parking brake. Take the keys out of the ignition.
- Pop the hood and find the throttle body, it’s normally on the driver’s side, attached to the intake manifold.
- Find and detach the hoses connecting to the throttle body. This includes a vacuum hose and the air duct hose. In some cases, there will be up to two additional vacuum hoses. Here, you may need a flathead screwdriver to remove the hoses. You may also be able to pull the hoses off.
- Inspect the throttle body and assess how dirty it is.
- Spray the inside of the throttle body with throttle body cleaner.
- Wipe the cleaner out.
- Use a small amount of engine oil (a drop) to lubricate the throttle shaft.
- Put everything back.
In this case, if there are any electrical attachments or sensors, you can simply leave them in place. This normally avoids the need to have to recalibrate the software.
However, if your throttle body is completely clogged, you may have to take it completely out, which will mean detaching the electrical clips and then removing the throttle body from the engine. This can normally be achieved using a ratchet to remove a single bolt.
From there, you can spray or soak the throttle body to loosen any debris, clean it with a stiff wire brush, and then grease and put everything back together.
4 Dirty Throttle Body Symptoms
A dirty throttle body will have the same symptoms as issues in any other part of the air intake or fuel injection system. This means it’s difficult to tell whether your issue is with fuel injection, exhaust, air filters, vacuum system, etc., without an inspection.
However, if it’s been a while since you’ve cleaned and inspected the throttle body, there is a good place to start.
1. Rough Idle
Rough idling is the first symptom of air intake issues. Here, you’ll normally hear stutters, a louder engine, or other disruptions when normally idling the engine.
At any point when you hear this, it means something is going wrong with the air intake or fuel injection. You should always get it checked.
However, it doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong with the throttle body and there are a number of different physical causes for the problem.
If your throttle body is stuck open or closed it could cause the engine to stall when you hit the gas. That usually happens because the vehicle either doesn’t allow enough air in or it lets too much in. As a result, you flood your engine, and the vehicle stalls.
Again, this isn’t necessarily a throttle body issue. There are plenty of different reasons you could be having this exact issue with any other part of the fuel injection system including the exhaust.
3. High Fuel Usage
If the air in the engine increases your vehicle will start to use more fuel.
If your throttle body is stuck open or not opening enough, you’ll also use more fuel without seeing noticeable performance improvements. In fact, you may even see drops in power.
4. Jumpy Acceleration
If your vehicle is sluggish or jumpy to accelerate, it could mean you have throttle body issues.
However, it certainly means you have issues with the fuel injection system. In this case, it’s a good idea to take your vehicle to a mechanic to run a diagnostics check.
How To Clean The Throttle Body Yourself
You can almost always save money by cleaning the throttle body yourself. Here, your technique should depend on whether you’re able to take the vehicle to have the software calibrated afterwards.
In any case, you’ll need:
- Flat screwdriver
- Throttle body cleaner
- Shop towels
- WD-40 Throttle Body or similar product
- Toothbrush or other small plastic brush
- Allen wrenches
- Nut driver
- Torque wrench
Clean The Throttle Body In The Car
You can normally expose the throttle body by removing the air duct and a vacuum line. This allows you to spray the inside of the throttle body with a carb and choke cleaner or throttle body cleaner.
These allow you to remove deposits of oil, grease, and fuel from the inlet area, in the idle control valves, and in the throttle body without fully dismantling the throttle body.
Here, you can expect to spend about 30 minutes from start to finish. If you have a V6 or V8, you should expect to spend about 15-20 minutes per throttle body.
Take The Throttle Body Out
In some cases, the throttle body is clogged, rusted, or too dirty for a throttle body cleaner to effectively restore it. In this case, you’ll have to remove the full throttle body from the engine. That means detaching the air duct and any vacuum hoses.
From there, you’ll have to detach sensor harnesses and wiring. Then, you can remove the throttle body from the engine.
Taking the throttle body out of the engine will normally take at least an hour. However, it does allow you to do a better job cleaning the part.
Here, the throttle body may be attached using bolts or with Allen bolts. Inspect your model to see what you need to take it apart. Then, remove it from the engine.
Wipe down the full outside and inside of the body using a throttle body cleaner. Then, clean the inside, rotating the butterfly valve to fully clean around it.
You can use a small brush to scrub anything out. If there’s rust, remove the electronics completely and then soak the throttle body and scrub the rust out.
To finish, spray the throttle body with a WD-40 Throttle Body or similar product and reinstall everything. Use a torque wrench to put the throttle body back into manufacturer specifications.
Money Saving Tips
Having the throttle body cleaned can often cost upwards of $100. The following tips will help you save money:
- Do the work yourself. In most cases, you can clean a throttle body yourself for $6-$20 in parts. Just be careful not to push debris further into the engine, where it could cause more issues.
- Have your mechanic inspect and clean the air intake and the fuel intake at the same time. You’ll pay more in total, but less for the individual jobs.
- Choose a reputable local mechanic rather than going to the dealer.
- Compare quotes before you hire a mechanic. Of course, the cheapest isn’t always the best, so consider reviews and what you’re getting for the money before making a decision.
The throttle body controls air going into the fuel intake on your vehicle. Over time, it does become clogged and dirty, which can impact the performance of your car. While there’s no set timeline for how often you should clean the throttle body, most mechanics recommend anywhere between every 20,000 and 75,000 miles. That should cost you about $60-$400 depending on the local mechanic’s rates and your car. Of course, you can also do the work yourself to save money.
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