What Does the Red Lightning Bolt Mean on My Jeep

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When driving you never want to have a light pop up on your dashboard. While a light letting you know that your gas is running low or you need to get an oil change is annoying, it is more stressful to see one like a red lightning bolt. What is this light on your jeep’s dashboard, and what is it trying to tell you?

A red lightning bolt on a jeep’s dashboard means there is an issue with the vehicle’s Electronic Throttle Control (ETC). A malfunctioning ETC is dangerous and needs to be repaired. Some people can correct their ETC by taking a couple of simple steps. More complex issues will require a mechanic.

While it is good to know what the light means, you want to make any necessary repairs before your jeep suffers any more damage. Here are some tips that can help you determine if there is a glitch in your ETC or if there is a simple fix that you can do. If these steps do not clear the red lightning bolt of death off of your dashboard, you will need to seek out a mechanic to help you repair your jeep.

What Causes Issues With Your Electronic Throttle Control

This may be the first time that you have heard of an Electronic Throttle Control. This control system often shortened to ETC is a relatively new addition to motor vehicles being introduced in the last 30 years or so. One of the reasons that many people are not familiar with their ETC is because it is an automatic system using computers and linked components throughout the vehicle that doesn’t require any input from the driver.

The goal of the ETC is to adjust your engine’s throttle based on terrain, temperature, and the torque placed on the engine. This helps you save gas and stress on the components of your vehicle.

There are three main portions of an ETC system that each can set off the red lighting bolt warning. These are sensors on the accelerator, a throttle valve, and an engine control module (ECM). Depending on the piece of ETC will determine what, if any, repairs you can perform for yourself and which will require a mechanic to assist you.

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Can You Drive Your Jeep When You Have the Red Lightning Bolt

When you see a light pop up on your dashboard you might be wondering if you can still drive with the light active. Some dashboard lights like an empty gas tank or a warning of excessive engine temperature reflect issues that should be addressed immediately. Others like a reminder to get your oil changed are less urgent. The red lightning bolt that has appeared on your dashboard falls somewhere between these two types of warnings.

You can still drive your jeep while there is a red lightning bolt on your dashboard. However, you should get the issue resolved quickly because if your engine is unable to throttle itself properly it can damage other components within your vehicle. A study done by NASA and the NHSTA found that they could find no vehicular accidents that were caused by a faulty ETC.

Even engines that run at full power cannot override your brakes. As long as you are aware while driving you can still drive with a red lightning bolt. There are a couple of situations in which you should not drive with this lightning mark on your dashboard.

If the red lightning bolt is flashing while you are driving you should stop driving immediately. If your jeep will not accelerate past a relatively low speed or has excessively high RPMs you should also not drive it. Finally, if your jeep won’t start you should not drive it, because well you will not be able to. As long as you keep these things in mind you can make some short trips with your jeep even with this lightning bolt staring at you.

What Can You do to Repair Your Jeep Yourself

When anyone has a light come up on their dashboard it immediately causes stress. One of the biggest things people will be thinking about is how much it will cost to repair this issue. Mechanics can cost several hundred dollars even for a simple fix.

If this is something that you do not want to pay for, you can always try and address this issue with your ETC by yourself. Sometimes the light is due to an error or bug in the system, and you will not need a mechanic to test if this is the case.

The first thing that you are going to want to do is see if you can reset the sensors in your acceleration pedal. To do this you will want to do the following steps.

  • Put the key in your jeep and turn it to the on position (don’t start the engine).
  • Once the key is here press the acceleration pedal slowly down.
  • Once the pedal is all the way down to the floor hold it there for at least 10 seconds.
  • Ease your foot off of the pedal letting it return to its starting position slowly.
  • Turn the key to the “off” position.
  • Start the jeep’s engine and check and see if the red lightning bolt has gone away.

If after following these steps the lightning bolt of death has not gone away you will want to move to the next section of this page.

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When Should You Take Your Jeep to a Mechanic

If after following the steps above the warning light has not vanished from your jeep’s dashboard you are going to need to speak with a mechanic. There is a good chance that the less accessible portions of the Throttle System have sustained some damage and need to be repaired. A common issue in these cases is the Engine Control Module is dirty or damaged, or the wiring linking the systems together is worn.

Accessing the ECM can require removing several other parts from your engine as well as replacing them once you have addressed any issues with the Engine Module. Faulty wiring can be dangerous to manipulate and should be left to someone with experience. Finding a mechanic or jeep technician in these cases is the easiest and safest option that you can choose.

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