When Ames and I decided to buy the Civic, we wanted to try to sell our 1997 Camry outright instead of trading it in. The one thing we forgot was how picky people are when looking at used cars. Okay, so its not a fancy car, never was. There is no Jaguar logo lights or heated seats, and the paint is not in the best condition, but the thing runs good and has less than 100k miles…and it’s a Toyota – so it’ll run forever, right? Anyway, the biggest complaint we’ve had from test drivers is that the gas pedal sticks. Yea, well…we’ve known that but never thought it was worth getting checked out. When you go to press the gas pedal, the initial touch of the pedal sometimes requires a little force, sometimes you almost have to stomp on the gas to get it to go. A while ago, I tried squirting some WD40 wherever the wire was exposed thinking it was a friction issue…but no dice.
Amy and I both ended up Googling for a solution on the same day (after our last potential buyer decided he wasn’t interested) and found that the solution was simple. According to the forums and websites that we found, the problem was that the butterfly valve that allows air into the engine is gunked up by carbon deposits and is getting stuck. Sounds complicated to fix, but it really, REALLY isn’t.
Here’s what you’ll:
- A can of Carburetor Cleaner
- An old Toothbrush
- Some Paper Towels
- Phillips Screwdriver
- Metallic Chewing Gum Wrapper
- Titanium Bike Frame Pipe
- A friend (or spouse) who’s willing to sit in the car with their foot on the gas pedal for about 5 minutes.
If you can park your vehicle so that the passenger side is higher, than the the driver side, great! If not, no worries, you’re just going to make a lot of smoke. I’ll explain later. Turn the car off, open up the hood, and look for the large black flex pipe that runs from your air filter to the top of the engine. There should be a metal wire on a pulley near where this pipe connects. When you press your gas pedal, this pulley turns, opening up the valve that lets air into the engine. This valve is what needs to be cleaned. To remove the hose, you’ll need to loosen up the hose clamp with the screwdriver. Once the clamp is loose enough to move around, pull the pipe off of the throttle body and push it to the side like the picture below. Then, push a wad of paper towels under the opening. This is not a picture of our Camry, but is mechanically very similar.
This is the part where you need someone to get in the car and hold the gas pedal down. DO NOT start the car. You’ll notice that when they press the gas, the circular butterfly valve inside the throttle body will be open like the picture above. With this valve open, you’ll want to attach the little plastic straw to your can of carburetor cleaner (which is about $3 at an auto parts store) and saturate the inside of the throttle body. Be sure to get the entire surface of the valve flap as well. This should loosen up some nice black gunk around where the valve usually touches the walls of the throttle body. Use your toothbrush to scrub the walls and the flap as thoroughly as possible. If you can still feel grit around the edges of the flap, or the groove where the valve touches the walls, keep scrubbing and squirting carburetor cleaner as needed.
When you’re done scrubbing, wipe up as much of the carburetor cleaner as you can. Push the black hose back on to the throttle body, and tighten the hose clamp. Now this is the fun part. Crank you engine and let the car sit running for a few minutes. Depending on how much carburetor cleaner is still in your throttle body, your car exhaust will put off a nice steady flow of white smoke. We must have had quite a bit of cleaner left in ours because it made quite a spectacle. I’m talking voluminous puffy white clouds. I think everyone walking or driving by felt bad for us – like our car was dying or something…but it WILL go away. After about 5 or 6 minutes I ran up to the apartment, grabbed my camera, and took the picture below. This was nothing compared to the opaque gases we were making at first though.
The result: The acceleration on the Camry has never been smoother. Instead of having to stomp on the gas, it responds appropriately to the lightest touch. Ahh…I love do it yourself repairs when they actually work.