Toyota vehicles, namely the Tacoma, 4Runner, Tundra, and Lexus GX 460/470, suffer from, among other things, a weak pedal. We call it “low RPM dead pedal,” but essentially there is a delay between pressing the gas and accelerating. So why does this happen? Well, manufacturers limit the response of the throttle in 2 ways. First, they limit how much of the throttle body will open. For example, you can press the gas pedal all the way, but the ECM may only allow 60 degrees of throttle position. Second, the program decides how fast the throttle body will open. In other words, it doesn’t really matter how fast you are flooring the gas pedal. The ECM controls the speed of the signal so your foot can not make the throttle plate open faster.
This leads vehicle owners to the logical question of, “How can I fix this?!” To solve this issue, many folks are either running a tune or some sort of throttle controller device. I often come across debates about which solution is best, so in this article I will go through the pro’s and con’s of each.
ECU Flash Tuning:
Flash tuning (the service my company provides) is a process where you re-write the contents of the vehicle’s Engine Control Unit (ECU). Basically we override the stock tune and replace it with an aftermarket tune that has been modified to improve the drivability of the vehicle. These modifications include things like:
- Increased low-end power
- Consistent and predictable throttle response/input
- Significantly improved transmission control through improved shift logic and refined torque targets resulting in smoother and properly timed shifts, smoother power delivery
- Elimination of the low RPM dead pedal.
More comprehensive solution, as it improves more than just throttle input adjustment
Depending on the vehicle, it can be dialed in for your vehicle’s tire size, aftermarket gearing and even battery type (i.e. higher alternator settings to push more voltage for an AGM battery)
Higher up-front investment
Less real-time adjustment potential
A throttle controller (such as the Pedal Commander or Sprint Booster) is a device that interrupts and modulates the electrical signal between the gas pedal and the engine management system. Throttle controllers will receive the signal from the pedal, alter the signal, and the signal is relayed via the system’s electronics to the motor. It essentially modifies the system’s response (how sensitive it is to pedal input – can be more or less). There are an assortment of pre-sets that can be selected by the user, including (example below for Pedal Commander):
36 different settings to choose from (4 modes, 9 levels for each)
Quick, DIY install
Reasonably affordable price
Only addresses throttle by intercepting and modifying the input signal sent to the ECM
Certain modes can turn vehicle into a gas guzzler
Can cause vehicle to throw codes or engage limp mode
So which option is best for you? Well, that’s really only a question you can answer for yourself. I may be biased, but I think a tune is a more comprehensive way to improve the drivability of your Toyota. By investing a couple hundred extra dollars, you can completely rewrite your ECU to not only add smooth throttle power, but you also get the added benefits of shifting improvements and torque.
I’ve tuned many customers who have been able to unplug their throttle controller and sell it after getting tuned. And I have yet to have someone contact me saying they want to get flashed back to stock so they can go back to using their throttle controller!