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Is Your Chevy Dealer Blaming Throttle Lag on the Drive-By-Wire System?

Chevrolet is again facing complaints about delayed acceleration response or throttle lag, particularly from owners of Silverado and Malibu models. This complaint is not new to the Chevy brand. Over the years, there have been complaints about sluggish acceleration in multiple models in the Chevrolet line-up. Chevy dealers frequently blame throttle lag on the drive-by-wire system but sometimes this excuse is hiding flaws in design or manufacture that put Chevy owners, or their wallets, at risk.

What are the problems with Chevy’s throttle lag?

Chevrolet owners have reported that their Chevy is not responsive when they try to accelerate. They describe their vehicle as sluggish, slow to respond, and unpredictable. Some drivers, particularly of the Chevrolet Malibu, complain that the car does not accelerate properly until it reaches 4000 RPM. Other Chevy drivers describe a noticeable hesitation or lag when they hit the gas pedal. The Chevy Silverado is another huge source of these complaints. Numerous Silverado owners describe either a dead zone, delayed acceleration, or both, when they attempt to accelerate in their new, and very powerful, Silverado.

While some drivers are frustrated with the performance and driving enjoyment of their Chevy, others are validly concerned about safety. A vehicle that does not react quickly or as expected is potentially dangerous, especially in an emergency situation. When trying to overtake, enter a freeway, or avoid a hazard, a delay in acceleration can be life-threatening. Chevy drivers have reported lucky escapes from dangerous collisions, and being rear-ended because their Chevy did not accelerate as expected.

A lot of Chevy owners have brought their vehicles to their dealership to have the throttle lag and acceleration issues fixed. At the dealership, many owners have faced the common, and frustrating, response that the dealer is “unable to replicate the problem,” and some dealers insist that any lag is inevitable with the drive-by-wire system. Some more helpful dealers will offer a tune-up (which owners report has mixed success) or after-market alterations (which can void your vehicle warranty.) Chevrolet has not, however, addressed the problem, issued a recall, or offered any help to Chevy customers.

What Chevy models are affected by throttle lag?

Acceleration problems are reported across the Chevy line-up. The delay in acceleration response seems to affect some models, and some generations, more than others but other acceleration problems (including sudden unintended acceleration or deceleration) are reported by owners of a number of Chevy models.

The new Silverado pick-up truck is the most recent of the Chevy models to generate complaints about acceleration. The complaints seem to be two-fold. Silverado owners describe both a hesitation or dead zone before the truck begins to accelerate and a sluggishness in the acceleration. Chevy owner forums are filled with complaints, suggestions, and possible work-arounds from disappointed Silverado owners.

The Chevy Malibu has also generated throttle lag complaints, and has been the subject of class action lawsuits across the country. These lawsuits allege that certain Malibu and Buick models have defects in the electronic throttle control, in particular defective accelerator pedal position sensors, which lead to delayed acceleration and sudden unintended deceleration (often at highway speeds.) Chevy Trax owners complain about a similar delay in acceleration that dealers seem unable to diagnose or repair. Chevrolet still insists that throttle lag is a consequence of the drive-by-wire system used in modern vehicles. However, drive-by-wire is used across the auto industry and other car brands do not seem to face the same slow throttle response problems as Chevy.

What is drive-by-wire?

Cars used to have a drive-by-cable system in which the accelerator pedal was physically connected by a cable to the vehicle throttle. Most cars today use a drive-by-wire system which uses electronics, rather than mechanics, to control the throttle. Electronic sensors detect and send information, such as pedal position and engine speed, to an electronic control unit that controls electronic actuators on the vehicle throttle.

The intention of a drive-by-wire system is to reduce the mechanical elements of the system which can succumb to wear and tear. The system has other benefits too. Car manufacturers tell consumers that vehicles with drive-by wire systems are similar to drive so it is easier to transition from one brand or model to another. The electronic drive-by-wire system also integrate well with other electronic safety features such as lane assist and electronic stability control, which can increase the overall safety of the vehicle. Finally, if a drive-by-wire system is malfunctioning, it should notify the user of an error code which immediately identifies the problem. This can make diagnosis and repair of the problem much easier (if the error notification system works.)

The drive-by-wire system also has disadvantages. If the system does not register a specific error code, it can be much more difficult to diagnose than a problem than in a drive-by-cable mechanical system. The delays and sluggishness of a drive-by-wire system can also cause frustration for drivers who are accustomed to a more responsive vehicle. This is a source of argument in the auto world. Chevy insists that any delay in the acceleration of their vehicles is associated with the drive-by-wire system, and is the same in any vehicle with that system. However, many drivers of problem Chevys say that they have driven other vehicles, including other Chevys, with the drive-by-wire system, and they do not have the same throttle lag issues.

Is my Chevy faulty?

Chevy owners should not have to live with sub-standard or unsafe vehicles, and the drive-by-wire system should not be used to distract from true faults in a vehicle. Potential problems that can cause throttle lag and should be repaired are:

  • Faulty mass airflow sensor (MAF)
  • Defective throttle position sensor
  • Defective acceleration pedal position sensors
  • Faulty fuel pump
  • Failing fuel injectors
  • Poor gas pedal design

Chevrolet owners are spending significant amounts of time and money trying to identify and repair these and other reasons for throttle lag in their Chevy. Some owners have had a vehicle tune-up to try to improve performance. Others have purchased throttle controller devices which are designed to reduce the delay in acceleration (but installing after-market parts can void a vehicle’s warranty.) Some frustrated Silverado owners have even used paint sticks jammed in the gas pedal hardware to reduce flex in the pedal.

If you have purchased a Chevrolet and believe that your vehicle is faulty, you may be entitled to compensation for any repairs that you have made, or even a replacement vehicle. State lemon laws and federal warranty laws may protect you. Contact one of our experienced team at Timothy Abeel & Associates for a free case review to find out how we can help you get the compensation you deserve.

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