How to Test the Idle Air Control Valve in Your Car

The idle air control valve manages the amount of air which flows into your engine. This, in turn, allows the valve to manage the idle speed of the engine.

Of course, the engine control module communicates with the idle air control valve. It is what tells the valve when to open or close, resulting in more or less air flowing to the engine.

The engine idle speed refers to the number of RPM (revolutions per minute) while the vehicle is not moving. Based on the current conditions, the RPM adjusts accordingly by letting in just the right amount of air into the engine.

However, when your idle air control valve becomes dirty or clogged, the idling process is more difficult. Suddenly, the engine’s RPM will be more difficult to manage. That is why you need to clean your idle air control valve periodically. The longer you wait to clean the valve, the more frequent your engine will idle rough.

Testing and Cleaning the Idle Air Control Valve

test idle air control valve

How will you know whether your idle air control valve is dirty or not working altogether? Well, you can use a multimeter to determine whether the valve is working.

If the test shows that it is working, then it means your valve is simply dirty. But if the test shows the valve is not working, then you need to replace your valve.

The tools and accessories you will need to do the test include a screwdriver, multimeter, socket wrench, electronic parts cleaner, and likely a 10mm socket.

Test and Clean Procedure

  1. Open the hood of your vehicle. Go behind the engine and unscrew the idle air control valve from the throttle body.
  2. Pull the electrical plug off the control valve. If the top has a release tab, then squeeze that as you pull.
  3. Take out the idle control valve and flip it over. You should see the valve openings there.
  4. Take your multimeter and set it to “Ohms.”
  5. One multimeter lead should touch one end of the valve terminal, and the other lead should do the same for the other end. The normal reading is between 0.00 and 0.05. Anything outside of this means your idle air control valve is bad.
  6. If your valve had a normal reading, then inspect the valve openings and see if there is any dirt in them. You should see dirt on the sensor if the valve is functional.
  7. Now comes time to clean. Spray an electronic parts cleaner solution onto the sensor of the valve. Let the fluid drain through the openings of the valve.
  8. Once the fluid is drained, keep waiting until the sensor is totally dry. After that, screw the valve back onto the throttle body. Basically, start from step # 3 and then go in reverse.

5 thoughts on “How to Test the Idle Air Control Valve in Your Car”

    • I doubt it. I would expect a failing idle air control valve to let your engine start, then immediately die when the car couldn’t hold idle.

      Have you tried scanning for codes yet?

  1. Could I use mass air flow sensor cleaner to clean this part? The car ran fine til I replaced the abs control module and I cleaned the engine with some exterior cleaner made for cars. I’m thinking I may have messed up and gotten some into this part by accident.


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