Harley Davidson Electronic Throttle Control Problems & How to Treat Them

Harley Davidson’s Electronic Throttle Control (ETC) is a system designed to control the engine throttle opening and closing. It was introduced in 2008 to cut out the redundancies of the throttle cable that connects the throttle to its body.

Alternatively, it replaces the wired connection with an electronic connection. ETC is a common feature of all 2008-09 Harley touring models. 

Unfortunately, this control system can experience problems that can be inconvenient and dangerous. A few of the Harley Davidson electronic throttle control problems are jerky throttle response, a sudden loss of power, the bike refusing to start, limited performance, etc.

If you wish to get the best performance from your Harley motorcycle, realizing the root of these problems is essential. So, In this blog, I will discuss these problems of Harley Davidson’s electronic throttle control. I will also assist you with possible solutions. Before that, let me share the benefits of having an ETC fine in an HD bike. 

Harley Davidson Electronic Throttle Control Problems

Benefits of Electronic Throttle Control (ETC)

Benefits of Electronic Throttle Control (ETC)

People often call the ETC of Harley Davidson a ride-by-wire” system. It is because the throttle is electronically controlled rather than managed mechanically. The core purpose of ETC was to help regulate the Harley Davidson motorbike’s acceleration and deceleration. As a result, the rider gets a smoother, more consistent ride.

There are several benefits of having a healthy ETC in a Harley Davidson motorcycle. It includes improved fuel economy, smoother acceleration, and improved safety. 

Fuel Efficiency 

The engine runs more efficiently by automatically adjusting the throttle based on the rider’s input. It means you can get more miles per gallon and save money on fuel costs. 

Lesser Emissions

The electronic throttle control helps to reduce emissions. It makes the Harley Davidson motorcycle a more environmentally friendly option.

Better & Smoother Acceleration

By monitoring the rider’s input, the ETC system can adjust the throttle to provide a smoother ride and improved control. You can reduce fatigue and make the ride more comfortable.

Enhanced Safety

The ETC system helps to reduce the risk of engine stalling. It can be a severe safety hazard. Besides, you can reduce the risk of sudden acceleration to avoid a loss of control.

Harley Davidson Electronic Throttle Control Problems And Their Solutions

Harley Davidson Electronic Throttle Control Problems And Their Solutions

In this section, I share the problems of electronic throttle control in detail for better clarification.

1.Limited Performance Mode (LIMP)

Limited Performance Mode (LIMP)

If your bike has a faulty ETC, it may enable limited performance mode (mostly known as limp). When you get limp, you will experience almost regular operation. It is unexpected, especially if you want higher performance or your bike to run more. However, a limp may make the bike be operated with restrictions against unintended acceleration.

One discussion starter on harley-Davidson forums found sudden limp mode. He explains his problem like this: “Going down the road, normally let off the fuel, get back on it after downshifting or up-shifting (it doesn’t matter), and poof! Limp mode kicks in (shuts off rear cylinder) .”

He found a temporary solution for it. You can simply turn off the ignition and restart the motorbike. Then, you will get things normal. But there should be a permanent solution to this problem.

Possible Solution:

You need to know what code is visible on the odometer when you get such a problem. There are solutions for most error codes online. For Limp mode, you will usually get the P1510 code. You will get this code if the throttle position sensor (TPS) or twist grip sensor (TGS) fails to perform. 

Usually, the wire harness reaches the injectors behind the air cleaner. But if it touches the cylinder fins between the front and rear jugs, a Limp can happen. You can tape a wire harness and get a long-term solution from Limp.

2.Power Management Mode

Power Management Mode

A defective ETC can cause a power management mode (P1511 error code) in Harley Davidson motorbikes. Usually, you will get a reduced response to grip sensor input. When this problem appears, the throttle plate actuator will return to an unexpected position like “idle detent” or “limp-home”. It will provide sufficient torque to get around 40 km/h (25 mph) speed or traffic speed. (Source) 

Possible Solution:

You need to check the condition of the throttle plate actuator. You may need to repair or replace it if it has any wear and tear. The throttle plate actuator will be available in motorbike shops at around $20 to $25. Thus, it isn’t a expensive maintenance for the ETC system. 

3.Forced Shutdown Mode

Forced Shutdown Mode

You may get a P1512 error code due to defective electronic throttle control. This code refers to forced idle or shutdown mode. Usually, it happens for the failure of one or both twist grip sensors, TGS validation error, and brake switch failure.

As a result, the throttle control actuator (TCA) gets de-energized, and the throttle plate is forced to gain a “fast idle” position. Thus, the engine must meet the high idle speed or shut down unexpectedly. 

Possible Solution:

You should check if the TGS brake switch works well to avoid forced shutdown mode. As it happens, replacing the TGS brake switch is your only solution. It can be a little trickier to replace the TGS brake switch at home. So, we suggest you call a professional and hand over the responsibility. You can accomplish replacing the TGS brake switch in less than $50. 

4.Throttle Stuck 

It is the most common issue of having a faulty ETC in Harley motorbikes. The throttle gets stuck due to versatile reasons. Among them, a malfunctioning or loose throttle cable and a faulty TPS are the main ones. 

Possible Solution:

You should check the cable for any wear or tear. Often, older wires may need to be corrected. Also, the wires can wear out. Then, replace it if required. If you find any loose wiring, try connecting it. It may solve the stuck throttle problem soon. 

If the problem persists, check if the TPS is working correctly. The TPS may have the wrong setting. So, adjusting it should solve the throttle problem. 

5.A Jerky Throttle

A Jerky Throttle

It is another common issue with electronic throttle control. It also has several reasons to happen, like a defective TPS, a malfunctioning throttle cable, or an air leak in the intake system. 

Possible Solution:

Firstly, you must ensure that the throttle position sensor is working correctly. Next, check the throttle cable to identify any wear and tear sign on it. You can replace it to solve the issue quickly. Lastly, repair the intake system after inspecting it if you find any air leaks. 

Harley Throttle Position Sensor (TPS) Problem

Harley Throttle Position Sensor (TPS) Problem

It is connected to ETC, so it would be better if you knew about them too. TPS controls or regulates the fuel supply and flows to the engine. Also, it is responsible for direct signal output to the fuel injection system. You can identify if the TPS is bad, which leads to ETC problems in these ways:

  • A bad TPS may indicate your bike fails to remain steady when you are idling it. In such conditions, the engine doesn’t get sufficient fuel which TPS doesn’t report. Hence, the reason for not reporting it is that the TPS is damaged. 
  • TPS may be bad if you cannot get correct fuel readings to the bike’s engine ECU. As a result, you get your bike in idle mode even if you are trying to throttle more. Even the bike engine may shut off due to this issue. 

There are a couple of causes of TPS problems like vibration, excessive operating temperature, and repeated throttle use. The consequences are pretty annoying as you may get poor fuel economy or restricted performance from the bike. Therefore, the solutions to TPS are scheduled fuel system inspection, maintenance, and replacing different motorbike parts. Check out this video to learn more about TPS and relevant problems: 

Tips to Avoid Electronic Throttle Control Problems 

The first step is troubleshooting the issue if you are experiencing ETC problems with your Harley Davidson motorcycle. You can start by checking the battery cables and fuses to ensure a good electrical connection.

If that doesn’t solve the issue, you may check the wiring harness and throttle body for any signs of damage or corrosion. If the issue is more complex, it may be necessary to replace the ETC system. Otherwise, take the bike to a service center for further diagnosis and repair.

Therefore, the cost of replacing ETC in Harley Davidson can vary depending on the make and model of the bike. For example, a new ETC system for a 2016 Harley Davidson Street Glide could cost up to $500 or more. You may look for online resources to get replacement parts or service centers for the Harley-Davidson motorcycle. 


Replacing Harley Davidson ETC is a costly investment. Hence, you better follow our suggestions to solve its common problems quickly. Also, always try maintain your HD motorbike and its ETC system in optimal condition. If you still face any Harley Davidson electronic throttle problem, follow your guideline to fix it efficiently and within your budget. 

Leave a Comment