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Signs of a failing ETM and its relation to the MAF sensor

Do you have a failing Electronic Throttle Module? What steps to take if you do, plus the latest ETM news. Volvo 1999-2002 models only please.

Signs of a failing ETM and its relation to the MAF sensor

Postby MadeInJapan » 14 Nov 2008, 03:54

1999s70 (George) over on Swedespeed posted the following which I hope you will find highly informative and helpful:

As one who is on his 5th Electronic Throttle Module (ETM) and 4th Mass Air Flow Sensor (MAF), I’d like to write of my experience with these, in particular noting the symptoms of their impending failure (so that you don’t suddenly find yourself with a stalling car as an 18-wheeler barrels down on you from behind), and also telling you how to replace the MAF yourself and save lots of $$.

The ETM issue is well-known among those lucky Volvo owners who have the 5-cylinder engine in models produced in 1999, 2000 and 2001. Like me . Volvo has extended the warranty on original throttle bodies, for up to 10 years or 200,000 miles, and that discussion has, I’m sure, been had many, many times and is beyond this post. In my experience, throttle bodies last around 70,000 to 90,000 miles, though I did get 118,000 out of my original one.

Background:

The air intake path, at least on a naturally aspirated (NA) engine, is as follows:

Air Filter --> Mass Airflow Sensor (also called the Air Mass Meter, or MAF) --> Throttle Body --> Intake Manifold

The throttle body contains a metal “throttle plate” that pivots along its diameter, allowing more or less air through. The car’s computer determines the plate’s position based upon, among other factors, engine speed and load, engine temperature, and accelerator pedal position. Within the throttle body is a “throttle position sensor” which, I understand, is nothing more than a strip of resistance film, over which the throttle place moves. Depending upon the location of the throttle plate’s edge, the electrical resistance through the sensor strip tells the computer the exact throttle plate position. Minor adjustments to this position are made by the MAF, which senses temperature and humidity. For example, hotter, more humid air has fewer oxygen molecules available for combustion (hot air less dense, oxygen displaced by water vapor), so the throttle plate opens slightly more than “normal” in this situation. If it did not, then you’d have less oxygen in the cylinders, which would either cause the engine to run “rich,” wasting fuel and possibly fouling spark plugs or catalytic converters, or the car’s computer would reduce the fuel charge into the cylinder, with a corresponding loss of power. More precisely, your car would perform noticeably different depending on temperature, humidity, altitude, etc.

Eventually, after the throttle plate rubs over the throttle position sensor millions of times, the resistance film begins to deteriorate. As time goes on, the computer will be unable to determine the throttle plate’s position. My thought is that the MAF tries to compensate for some of the early throttle position sensor failure, and, in turn, it’s quite common for the MAF to fail shortly after the throttle. By “shortly after,” I’m talking, perhaps, 5,000 miles – much too long for most people to connect the failure of these two components – but, since I often drive that much in less than a month, and have had these components fail several times, the connection has been more than obvious to me. As for the throttle position sensor itself – my experience has been that the throttle body will last longer if you drive a variety of speeds, and it lasts the shortest time if you, for example, do the vast majority of your driving at, say, highway speed (minor fluctuations, rubbing the throttle position sensor, all happen at the same place on the resistance film).

Symptoms of ETM and MAF failure:

By the time the ETS light comes on your dashboard, and the car goes into “limp home mode,” the throttle has totally failed, though turning off the engine and restarting it will often clear the ETS light and enable you to drive normally for a short time.

But, here are the earliest symptoms of ETM failure, most of which would probably go unnoticed:

1. The earliest symptom happens in this circumstance – after driving steadily for a while at highway speeds, you come off the highway and have a series of stops – at traffic lights, or whatever – each time, the engine speed will drop noticeably below the 900 rpm idle speed, then come back up to 900, with an ever-so-slight surge. The feel is almost as if your transmission is downshifting from second to first gear too late. A normal throttle will not do this – if you watch your tachometer as you slow down, your engine speed will almost never go significantly below idle speed. Also note that the original idle speed for these engines was 850 rpm – this was increased by 50 rpm during one of the earlier “throttle software upgrades” – which has the effect of masking this particular symptom, at least for a while. My experience is that, once a throttle starts doing this consistently, though it can be intermittent, the throttle has around 25,000 miles left on it.

Later in this stage of deterioration, you’ll also notice that your engine speed drops too low when coasting at moderate or highway speed. For example, normally my tach will read around 1500 rpm when I’m coasting at 40 mph. When the throttle starts acting up, my tach will read as low as 1000 or 1100 rpm while coasting at 40 mph, though the engine is in no danger of stalling. This symptom is also intermittent.

2. The next symptom is “hunting at idle.” This means that, when you experience symptom #1 above, but are now stopped at, say, a traffic light, you’ll sometimes see the idle speed fluctuate slightly. Again, a normal throttle, with a warm engine, will not do this. Here, the feel is like, say, the a/c compressor is cutting in and out, which often momentarily raises or lowers the engine’s speed. But – the throttle symptom will happen even when the a/c is shut off. You will not be able to create the hunting situation at this phase of failure, though you will be able to induce it later.

3. Eventually, you’ll feel momentary hesitation when driving at highway speeds, almost as if there’s a gust of wind pushing the car back. When this happens, I look at shrubbery to see whether there is a significant wind – and, if there isn’t, then it’s likely to be the throttle, especially if it has lots of miles on it. At this stage, the car is in no danger of stalling, but it’s one of the last signs that you’re getting close to a true failure – figure 5 to 10 thousand miles remaining on the throttle.

4. When the throttle actually starts “failing,” you’ll feel a significant jerking motion as the engine tries to stall, often at highway speeds. Stepping on the accelerator pedal will, momentarily, do nothing. This can be quite unnerving to the uninitiated driver, or for passengers. However – you CAN get out of a potentially bad situation, merely by manually shifting the transmission down one gear – this increases the engine speed, which means that the throttle plate will now open to a place where the throttle position sensor is not as badly worn, and the hesitation episode will be over. You can upshift and chances are that the throttle will not fail again at that point – though you’re now on borrowed time, and a complete failure can happen at any time. Once the throttle has reached this point, hunting at idle will be very common, even with the engine cold, and the car may also be hard to start. It’s quite likely the there would be no codes stored in the car’s computer, although a failure to start may leave something behind.

You will also be able to induce hunting at idle, especially if the car is warm – with the car stopped, one foot on the brake, and the transmission in drive (I’ve also had this work with the transmission in park, but I’ve found it’s more likely to happen with the transmission engaged), use your other foot to step on the accelerator to raise the engine speed to, say, 2000 rpm. A normal throttle will return the engine speed to 900 rpm in one smooth movement, with little or no overshoot. A failing throttle will often allow the engine speed to significant undershoot 900 rpm, then have the speed go well over 1000, drop well under 900, and continue to fluctuate with no further driver intervention – until the car stalls, or it settles in, sometimes with another tap on the accelerator. I have also had this happen spontaneously – once my car did a command performance on a test drive with a Volvo shop foreman as my passenger – needless to say, that scenario produced an automatic throttle replacement, no questions asked J .

5. Failure of the MAF appears much like those of paragraphs 3 and 4, minus the hunting at idle – except that downshifting does absolutely nothing because the problem is not that you need to run the engine at a different speed to use a different portion of the throttle plate’s path, but that the throttle is getting faulty information from the MAF sensor. Also, MAF failure often presents itself as a staccato of multiple hesitations or attempts to stall, a fraction of a second apart, while ETM failure is often one such hesitation per episode. And MAF failure is more likely to show itself on extreme weather days, since the sensor would normally be providing the most correction to the ETM. Again, early failure often does not leave any codes in the car’s computer.


What to do when the throttle starts failing?

Once your ETM has started to fail significantly, meaning that you’re seeing symptoms from my paragraph 4, you have several options.

First is that you can do nothing, living with the problem until the ETS light comes on. Murphy’s Law being what it is – this will happen when you’ve taken the car camping in a remote location, or when you’re sandwiched between two 18-wheelers at 70 mph, or you pull out to pass on a two-lane road, get to the oncoming traffic side and the car stalls when you step on the accelerator. Besides, stalling and hesitation ought not to be a way of life.

Second is that you can take your car into a Volvo dealer. Note that the ETM must be replaced by a dealer – the actual mechanics of the replacement involve four bolts, a hose clamp and wiring connections, and probably take no more than 10 or 15 minutes – but software has to be loaded so that the new ETM is known to the ECU, and is properly “integrated” into the car’s electronics. If there are no error codes and no ETS light, often a dealer will either do nothing, or they’ll offer you a throttle body cleaning. I’ve heard both good and bad things about this service, though I’ve never had it done, myself. It’s also a DIY project, for those who care to try it. My opinion is – the cleaning, if done at a dealer, costs about $250 – a new throttle costs around $1000 – if the current throttle has at least ¼ of its life left in it, or you’re about to sell or trade the car, then it pays to do the cleaning. But – since throttle failure symptoms made you come into the dealer in the first place, while it’s quite possible that the cleaning may help for a short time, you’ll soon be back again, $250 poorer, facing a throttle replacement, anyway. But – Volvo will often resist replacing the throttle at this point, especially if it’s under warranty. The dealer will test drive the car, but without codes and/or an ETS light – if the car doesn’t do a “command performance” when being test driven, you will have to argue your point. If you have worked with a dealership that knows you and trusts your feedback on the car’s drivability, you may get your way.

Sidebar – why should the throttle body need cleaning, in the first place? After all, it’s on the output side of the air filter – the throttle body should only be seeing filtered air. It turns out, however, that Volvo vents the crankcase fumes into the throttle body, so that they can go into the cylinders and be burned. Great for the environment; bad for the throttle. After a while, the throttle will have an accumulation of gunk that probably should be cleaned – but this will, more than likely, have no impact on the deterioration of the throttle position sensor resistance strip. And – I’ve also heard of dealers who offer throttle cleaning as a way to postpone throttle replacement until after a warranty expires, so that they don’t have to replace the throttle for free.


Replacing the MAF sensor

As I’ve mentioned, my experience (and that of several dealers to whom I’ve mentioned this) is that the MAF sensor often fails shortly after the ETM. Fortunately, this is a very simple DIY fix that requires a new MAF sensor (available at a nice discount from FCP Groton, for example), a 10 mm socket, a screwdriver and about 5 minutes of your time.

1. Locate the MAF – it’s inserted into to the output side of the air filter housing. It’s held in by two 10 mm hex head screws, and has a large diameter air hose clamped on to its output – this hose goes to the throttle body. The MAF sensor also has a wiring connection on it.

2. Disconnect the wiring connector – there’s only one way that it can be reattached, so don’t worry about keeping its orientation.

3. Locate the hose clamp’s screw and loosen it a few turns – enough to slide off the hose.

4. Loosen the two 10 mm screws holding the MAF and remove them – don’t drop them into the engine, making a 5 minute repair take an hour while you look for them .

5. Pull the MAF sensor out of the air cleaner housing – it’s simply pushed into it and held in place by its rubber gasket. Gently twisting the MAF, or rotating it, may help. If you want, you can take off the air cleaner housing top and pull out the MAF with the air cleaner housing off the car.

Installation of your new MAF sensor is the reverse of removal.

I keep a spare MAF sensor in my garage – now, when an ETM gets replaced, I go home and replace the MAF sensor that day, then order another one when I can get a good deal on price, free shipping, etc. on a replacement spare.

I do hope that this post helps identify failing throttles and MAF sensors, and saves someone from driving a car with a potentially dangerous situation. It can also give you advance warning of an upcoming maintenance expense if your throttle needs to be replaced outside of warranty.

Please feel free to add your experiences to this thread, especially any other early failure symptoms. I'm hardly a "Volvo Expert" - just someone who's been through the ETM and MAF replacement process a few times.
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Re: SIGNS OF A FAILING ETM AND ITS RELATION TO THE MAF SENSOR

Postby Checksix » 26 Nov 2008, 22:23

I've been looking for this information for about 6 months (guess that doesn't bode well for me at being efficient, Ha Ha)! A great post, thanks for taking the effort to give us the info we need to make better decisions. I'm planning on a long camping trip this summer up to Montana (remember that part in your post :D )? My 01 V70 T5a has 92K miles, and I've been worried about the trip should the ETM fail on me. So far, I've not had any of the symptoms, but then I haven't been watching that close as I didn't specifically know what to look for. I have a lot more confidence in taking my car now. Heck I almost had myself talked into taking my wife’s 06 Matrix XRS!

I've seen you on some of the other forums, and am surprised this isn't pegged on there too.

Jerry
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01 V70 T5a 133K miles on 8/12
73 P1800ES 370K miles (RIP)
73 145 about 320K mile (gone with the "X" long ago)
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Re: SIGNS OF A FAILING ETM AND ITS RELATION TO THE MAF SENSOR

Postby MadeInJapan » 26 Nov 2008, 23:09

Hey Jerry,
Thanks for the vote of confidence...actually I got it from over on Swedespeed, so it's not totally mine. I hope the information helps you with your trip and you can go with peace of mind!
Happy Turkey Day!
-MIJ
'98 S70 T5 Emrld Grn Met/Beige Tons of Upgrades Mobil-1
'04 V70 2.5T Red/Taupe Some Upgrades Mobil-1
94 850 Sedan NA Drk Blue/Tan
'00 V40 Purple/Grey Mobil-1
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Re: SIGNS OF A FAILING ETM AND ITS RELATION TO THE MAF SENSOR

Postby Checksix » 27 Nov 2008, 01:01

MIJ,

I was sooooo glad to find the information I'd forgotten that George deserved the credit. I'm a member at Sweedspeed and the Brickboard, and did some research, and didn't find this. Again thank you for the post!

Jerry
01 V70 T5a
01 V70 T5a 133K miles on 8/12
73 P1800ES 370K miles (RIP)
73 145 about 320K mile (gone with the "X" long ago)
59 Austin Healey Bugeye 2000cc Hemi 150HP
69 F100 (original owner) This truck will RUN FOREVER! (Sold for 2008 F250 diesel)
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Re: SIGNS OF A FAILING ETM AND ITS RELATION TO THE MAF SENSOR

Postby Travisceo » 13 Jul 2009, 01:24

I have a 1999 S80. Thanks for the detailed information. I am no mechanic but, armed with this instruction, I went for it. The symptoms were: rough cold idle, poor acceleration and the Transmission would not shift into passing gear but the engine would. (strange). Service light and Check Engine light were on. I changed the MAF, removed and cleaned the throttle body. The Dealer estimate was $1,700.00. I did it in about 3 hours for $130.00. A local auto supplier cleared my codes and they never returned. It runs great!

Thank you.
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Re: SIGNS OF A FAILING ETM AND ITS RELATION TO THE MAF SENSOR

Postby evans_sa » 13 Aug 2009, 01:06

Well, I'm new to this website but I've learned sooo much already. One of the things I'm wondering is if I too have ETM. I definately have the 'hunting at idle' symptom and it's even shut off while at a redlight once or twice. However, I haven't really noticed any problems while on the highway with an 18-whlr behind me :wink:
I took it into a regular mechanic and they said my I probably needed an a/c injector/flush of some sort. At the time it seemed that it only occurred when the a/c was on but now it doesn't matter. I guess I'm a bit nervous to take it to the dealer when I don't have any warning signs and am not 100% certain that it's the ETM. I also have a 'bad taste' in my mouth from previous dealings with this dealer (basically I feel I was sold a lemon as it's been one problem after another).
Any suggestions? I want to sound confident when I go in but I'm not sure if I should wait for a/some warning light(s)??
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Re: SIGNS OF A FAILING ETM AND ITS RELATION TO THE MAF SENSOR

Postby stat435 » 14 Nov 2009, 03:06

im new to this forum and seem to have a failing etm. i have had the etm (updated) as they called it. well after getting it fixed (6 weeks ago) i have since noticed a high idle in the 1000-1800 range. well it wasnt a big deal until today when my throttle crashed! it acts as though it is cutting out and wont go above 35 mph and that is only when it wot. ive got coes p1620,p1610, p1026. now the dealership told me they would replace it if that was the problem and would pay for towing( its over 200 miles away) and labour. is this alone enough evidence to prove that the etm needs replacement? i cant afford to have it towed.

thanks matt. the car has 140000 miles on it.
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Re: SIGNS OF A FAILING ETM AND ITS RELATION TO THE MAF SENSOR

Postby evegreen » 13 Feb 2010, 17:57

Thank you for this post, it was extremely valuable and easy to translate for me(a total illiterate when it comes to car talk but I know my car). Just one question if I call the dealer of my second hand car will they honestly tell me if the ETM was changed?
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Re: SIGNS OF A FAILING ETM AND ITS RELATION TO THE MAF SENSO

Postby whippingtazz » 15 Mar 2010, 03:53

I have a 1999 V70 XC with a 2.4L turbo with 170k miles (appears ETM has been replace before since it has a yellow sticker on it), I am trying to decide if I have a failing ETM as well. My symptoms are a little different then the ones listed above, so I am hesitant in removing my ETM. The code I am getting states replace throttle position sensor and this will fix all problems, however my symptoms are as follows. When I start the car the ETM light and check engine light both come on and the car runs very rough and smells very rich. It also goes into limp mode and will not accelerate over 2k RPMs. I can cycle the car on and off several times and it will reset. It will also go into limp mode when I am driving down the road. Does this sound like the ETM? It kind fits what I have read but not exactly. I found a throttle position sensor at a local auto parts chain but am hesitant to buy it because I do not feel it will fix the problem. PLEASE HELP!!!!

Thanks in advance for any comments

James
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Re: SIGNS OF A FAILING ETM AND ITS RELATION TO THE MAF SENSO

Postby cknapp58 » 27 Mar 2010, 01:23

Hi Guys, this is my first post. I just bought a 99 S70 turbo with 193k miles on it. The ETS lamp just came on. After buying it I started hearing the stories about the electronic throttle and started looking for signs. The other day I was driving at about 75 MPH, when I let my foot off the gas,I felt hard deceleration almost like it had a bad motor mount. Then It seemed like I could feel the throttle a bit unresponsive but not bad. After stopping for a couple hours the car seemed fine.
The bummer here is, I bought this car for my wife to drive while I swapped out the motor on our 2001 Camry.That year Toyota v6 had a sludge problem and blocked the screen. My wife drove it 2 blocks with zero oil preasure. I thought she would keep the S70 and give the Camry to my daughter who just starting college. I hate to just start changing parts or take it to the dealer and blow a ton of cash. Is there a testing proceedure I can due other than cleaning everything.

Also where can I get a good repair manual. The ones at the local auto parts store are a joke.

Thanks in advance
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Re: SIGNS OF A FAILING ETM AND ITS RELATION TO THE MAF SENSO

Postby jjsull » 27 Mar 2010, 01:42

Take it to a Volvo Dealer or shop with the proper diagnostic tools request an "ETM Potentiometer Sweep Test." It should take less than a half hour. This is the test that Chris from XeModex recommends to eliminate chasing the problem. Don't give the service writer the list of symptoms, just ask for the test. If you give the list of symptoms they will run up quite a bit of diagnostic time.

If it fails the sweep test they will give you a service quote. Then check out the XeModeX repaired units.

Good luck,

Jerry
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Re: SIGNS OF A FAILING ETM AND ITS RELATION TO THE MAF SENSO

Postby Thoth » 29 Mar 2010, 15:07

Just replaced my ETM (2000 XC70) with one from XeModex. Whole job took about 1.5 hours in my backyard and now the car drives perfectly. It probably could have taken half the time if I had put the car on ramps (sore back). Total cost $600Cdn (just for the part) would have been $1200+ at Volvo and would have ended up with an ETM that would have failed again anyway.

Great description in the initial post, Thank You.
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Re: SIGNS OF A FAILING ETM AND ITS RELATION TO THE MAF SENSO

Postby cknapp58 » 31 Mar 2010, 22:59

Hi Guys,
I haven't taken the car for the sweep test yet the ETS lamp went out, the car seems to be driving OK, Although my wife can't tell when something is going wrong only when something get real bad. I have a few questions.
1. Right around the time the ETS lamp came on she called me to say all the elect windows got stuck, Later she said that that actually she lost all accessory power. She either turned it off or put it in park,(no clear) she heard a wine like nose and everything came back on. It has been ok for a few days now. I am am crossing my fingers!
2. When I took it to the dealer to be checked out the tech said the an air hose to the turbo had a leak and he could hear it. I also think the turbo has an odd sound when it is working. their service manager who by the way was very good. (Power Volvo) said that if not replace the engine will run rich and then kick on a lamp. I order what should have been the part since it was the only on his list pertaining to the turbo. I receives a 4.5 inch long hose x about 5/8 which looks more like a water line. I was expecting to see the large inlet hose. I should have asked him to point it out, I thought I already took too much of his time.
3. How much of a job am I looking at to: A) clean the throttle body, b)if I can clean the MAF, C) repair oil leak at oil trap.
4. where can I get a real repair manual, I was a mechanic for years and was used to using the 3 inch thick shop manuals. Are any of these on line ones any good. I would like something better than what's at the auto parts store.
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Re: SIGNS OF A FAILING ETM AND ITS RELATION TO THE MAF SENSO

Postby cknapp58 » 21 Apr 2010, 05:06

Guys,
It's been a about a mounth now. The 99 S70 has been running good since that one time I had prolems at about 70 MPH 3 weeks ago. Then the other day I drove about 60 miles out and then on the way back I fellt the quick power shut down again when I took my foot off the gas at about 70 MPH, It happened a couple more times and then went into limp mode the ETs lamp came on. I was able to get off the freeway, pull over shut it off and restart. The car drove home fine and the ETS lmp went out after a while. I am now concerned my wife is driving it to work every day. I have told her to stay over to the right until I figure it out.
My questions
1. Does this sound like the throtle body or Map sensor?
2. Can I clean the throtle body, will it help?
3. How is this going to progress?
4. when it starts to happen, can I do any thing to keep it from progressing into limp?
5. Sounds like the Map and throtle body give the same simtoms, do I replace map first since I have been reading that it wil fail shortly after the throtle body.
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