REPAIRING MY CAR > My Car is Driving Like a Bucking Bronco

My Car is Driving Like a Bucking Bronco

Does your car ride like a bucking bronco. It could be a bad throttle position sensorI had a strange experience with one of my cars that involved a bad throttle position sensor. I am going to share the symptoms of this problem and discuss how this affects the performance of your car.

My Experience With a Bad Sensor

At one point I had a used Chevy S-10 SS pickup. This little truck came with the powerful 4.3 liter V-6 engine, a lot of power in a small package. I had done my research on these trucks and came across rave reviews on the power plant and the handling of the SS model.

However, after driving the truck for a few months I began noticing some problems. I was getting progressively poorer gas mileage and the truck was hesitating on acceleration. It was suddenly surging while driving on the freeway. It stalled a few times at traffic lights. Occasionally the idle would surge up and down. However, the most troubling symptom was that the truck would violently buck and jerk at random times. Is that how it feels to be a rodeo cowboy?

I knew I had a problem but I wasn’t quite positive what was causing it. I didn’t want to guess. I drove the truck to my local auto parts store and had my car hooked up to an engine analyzer. These are handheld computers that read error codes from the car’s electronic brain. In this case it read a code showing that it was a bad throttle position sensor. The best thing about it was the check- up was free. Most auto parts stores and some repair shops offer this service at no charge.

What Is A Throttle Position Sensor?

The throttle position sensor is an electro-mechanical part that sends information to the car’s computer. It monitors the position of the car’s throttle – the gas pedal. These parts are subject to wear and tear over time. A failing sensor sends improper data to the computer. The computer system monitors and controls engine performance.

Having a proper diagnosis through reading the computers error codes saves quite a bit of money. I have seen folks try to fix this problem by replacing things like spark plugs and wires, distributors, ignition coils and in some cases the whole engine management computer. This stuff can get very expensive – especially on newer cars. A bad throttle position sensor cost can be a bit expensive in itself. So having the right diagnosis is extremely important.

Replace a Bad Throttle Position Sensor

Replacing the faulty sensor isn’t especially difficult. The job simply entails removing the bad sensor and reinstalling a new one. There are no mechanical or electrical adjustments to make. The computer will receive the correct information and it will run normally.

For the backyard mechanic I suggest purchasing a factory repair manual. This will show where the throttle position sensor is located on the engine. It will have diagrams and photos of the part as well.

A Faulty Throttle Position Sensor Can Lead to a Little Panic

The experience of a faulty sensor can cause a little panic. It feels like there is something very wrong with the engine. If you need a professional shop for this repair make sure to do some online research on part pricing and on the shop you are considering. You want it done at the right price and fixed the first time.

In this section we have covered the symptoms of a bad throttle position sensor. We know how the part works and how it affects the performance of your car. You don’t want to let this go because it can leave you stranded on the side of the road. Fix it right away.


11 comments on “My Car is Driving Like a Bucking Bronco

  1. Hi, I never knew it before that “Throttle Position Sensor” could also play a role in misfunctioning of car. Shall I buy a Throttle Position Sensor fom a local shop or from authorised dealer only.

    • Hello, thank you for checking out my website. I think the first thing I would do is get a price for the parts and labor for both the local shop and the dealer. These prices can very depending on the labor cost and mark up on the part. It is also a good idea to call an auto parts store and get a price on the part. Prices for sensors can be all over the map depending on the brand of car. Gathering all of the information will help you make an informed decision and insure you are not paying too much. One thing I would add is to have which ever shop you choose is to have them check out the sensor before doing the repair just to make sure that is exactly what is wrong – as I say on my site, I am a car fanatic not a professional mechanic. Best of luck getting the car to run smooth! Thank you, Bradley.

  2. Thanks for the information it was good to know kept me from spending time and a lot of pain and suffering did a diagnostic test that was the problem.

  3. I have a 2000 ford f150 that just started bucking like crazy but not all of the time. Would the sendor be the same problem there maybe.

    • Hi Mark. It can be a little frustrating when the problem isn’t constant. I would still suspect the sensor. This reminds me of a 1998 S-10 pick up I had. It would be running just fine then start jerking bad. It would act up for a mile or so then go away. This got old pretty quick. I decided to take it into a shop for some diagnostics. It was the sensor acting up the whole time. You might want to have it checked out before you start buying parts you might not need – some places won’t take electrical components back if you used them. Call around for some prices first thing! Good luck, Bradley.

  4. Could it be the TPS if the problem is happening only in drive? Just got home from a harrowing trip; lots of bucking in my 20 year old Ford Econoline 350, but when I slowed down and went into 2nd gear it was fine. Drove home on the shoulder at 25 mpg. I haven’t had the van for very long or driven it very much – maybe 800 miles since October – and this was it’s first long trip. It sat for about two years before I got it, but it’s been inspected and has been fine until now.

    • Hi Katie. From what you have described I would really suspect the throttle position sensor. However, there are a few other things that could be causing this. I must admit I am a little baffled as to why the rig would drive well when shifted down into second gear. In this case I think it is time to have a professional mechanic inspect the vehicle. I don’t want to see you buying and trying parts you may not need. Most often they are not returnable once installed and used. The car may have skipped a tooth on the timing chain. Make sure you do some solid research on any potential shops. Get more than one quote. I am sorry I can’t nail this one for you with a 20 year old car. Best of luck.

      • Thanks, Brad. My skills are very limited so I’m not about to tackle this myself. but it’s helpful to go into the conversation with the mechanic with some understanding of the possibilities, so I wanted to do some research ahead of time. Fingers crossed!

  5. Adding to previous: the speedometer was fluctuating like crazy right before I started having trouble. Dunno if that’s related.

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