Throttle Stuck Open

The throttle on my 2008 Vue XE stuck wide open today. I was accelerating hard from perhaps 35 mph and when I took my foot off the pedal around 40 or 45 the car kept accelerating. It basically ran away with me. I literally stood on the brake pedal and fought against the engine to force the car to slow down. I gradually brought the speed down this way over maybe five seconds (it felt like 20 seconds) until I reached perhaps 30 mph, whereupon I heard a sharp “clack,” at which time the throttle closed. I was then able to bring the car back under control.

I assume that what happened is that the speed control somehow engaged with the throttle open and, for some reason, failed to disengage when I hit the brakes. I use the speed control all the time and I’ve never had any problems with it before. I believe the speed control was on at the time of the event, though it wasn’t set (I had only just pulled away from a stoplight).

Anyone know of any precedents or have any other thoughts?

This needs to be reported to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) via their website.

Then, telephone the Saturn/GM customer care people (contact info is contained in your Owner’s Manual), inform them of what has transpired with the vehicle, and also report that you have filed an incident report with NHTSA.

Ask the customer car people how to proceed with this problem. They will likely schedule an appointment with the GM Zone Representative, as even failing corporations are averse to law suits based on defective products.

Also, begin educating yourself about the details of the Lemon Law in your state. In most states, the dealership gets three attempts to rectify a problem, but this could vary, depending on the state.

I don’t think it was the cruise control. If the vehicle has a mechanical throttle cable something may have jammed at wide open throttle (WOT). If the vehicle is drive-by-wire (electronically controlled throttle) the computer, for some reason, decided to keep the throttle open even after you reduced pressure on the accelerator.

Either way, I agree with VDCdriver in that you should report this to the NHTSA. You should also take it to the Saturn dealer ASAP. Luckily, it’s still under warranty.

Just in case this should happen again, shift the transmission immediately into neutral to remove the acceleration force, and use the brakes to slow the vehicle. There’s no sense fighting against the engine. The engine may race in neutral, but that won’t hurt it. Once you stop the vehicle you can shut off the engine.

If you have “floor mats” in the car; there are cases where the mats have shifted out of position and become entangled with the gas petal. Just something to check.

Something caught on the gas petal, if not the mats then as the previous posts state this is an important problem to document and report.

Thank you for your concern and your good advice. I must say, however, that I doubt I’ll keep both my life and this car through the additional three incidents necessary to engage lemon law protection.

CHECK THOSE FLOOR MATS . Absolute step one. with the car OFF, kneel down beside the car and reach in with your hand and work the pedal to it’s max travel. Be sure to pivot the pedal on it’s lever as well and see if it lands anywhere near the leading edge of the mat. Even if it doesn’t this time, pull the mat back a bit so that it won’t.

If you switch the gear to neutral, be aware that the engine will still be revving at a high rpm and could damage it. I would turn off the ignition if this happened. It might prevent a blown engine.

Modern engines have rev limiters. They won’t over-rev at WOT. You can still over-rev them with a bad downshift, but not with the throttle.

Indeed I had a Michelin floor mat on the floor that I’ve determined could interfere with pedal movement under just the right conditions… Dunno, however, whether those were the conditions that obtained when the car tried to kill me.

Would anyone recommend I simply insist Saturn replace the computer and pedal mechanism out of an abundance of caution? Other ideas? Do you think it would help to tell them this would be a chance to stick it to GM one last time?

Never turn off ignition as it will likely lock the steering and panic driver besides losing your braking power.

Put into neutral, the engine will not damage but wear excessively. Modern cars will simply bounce off rev limiter.

“Would anyone recommend I simply insist Saturn replace the computer and pedal mechanism out of an abundance of caution?”

Unfortunately, an owner cannot specify how to repair a mechanical problem during the warranty period. The reason is that, if this “fix” does not resolve the problem, then the parts were wasted, so to speak. Dealers are required to go through a standardized diagnostic protocol in order to determine which parts to replace, so as to not waste time and money on bogus solutions.

Once a warranty is over, a car owner can specify which parts should be replaced–“on his own dime”. However, it sounds like you will have gotten rid of this vehicle LONG before the warranty expires.

Good grief, that’s right. To turn off the engine was my first thought (after hitting the brakes).

Strikes me there really ought to be a safe way to cut power while in motion.

“…Dealers are required to go through a standardized diagnostic protocol…”.

If there were a standard protocol for this complaint, wouldn’t you expect there to be a recall?

There is, shift into neutral.

No, because it can sometimes take YEARS before a recall is initiated.

I’ll practice that.

Once they start replacing parts they are acknowledging the problem. If they can’t duplicate they won’t want to do that.

Since the car has an automatic transmission the ignition (steering) won’t lock until the transmission selector is in “Park”. Power brake assist won’t disappear since it’s vacuum operated, and as long as the engine races there’s plenty of vacuum, and a few more pedal pumps after the engine stops.

That being said, the simplest way to correct this is to shift to neutral. The engine will bounce off the rev limiter in neutral and not over-rev, but even if it didn’t, over-revving the engine is still better than killing a couple carloads of kids.

At the risk of pointing out the obvious, this vehicle’s throttle apparently isn’t working all that well. Is there any reason to believe that the rev limiter is going to succeed in its efforts to limit the engine speed?

On the whole, I think turning off the ignition might be the fastest and safest way to tame this thing on what might turn out to be a number of trips to the dealer and failed attempts to fix the problem (which is pretty weird). But I’d verify early on that the steering really does not lock when the ignition is off. It shouldn’t of course, but a locked steering wheel would not be a design feature one would want to learn about “on the fly” as it were.


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