How to Tell If the Idle Control Valve Is Bad?

Updated July 20, 2017

All cars today have a number of systems that control every aspect of their operation. Years ago when all cars were carburated, the engine operation was dependent on the carburator for all fuel management. Now with fuel injection the responsibilities are computerised and taken care of by valves. One of the valves is the idle control valve. Ir is a mechanical valve and therefore subject to failure, which is a condition that is easy to recognise.

Start your car, and listen to the idle. Does it sound faster or slower than usual? Does it "stumble?" All of these things are symptoms of a failing control valve.

Locate the idle control valve on the intake. In every car they look different so refer to the repair manual of your specific car to know what it looks like.

Remove valve from the intake and clean with carburator cleaner. It will probably be covered with black varnish so some amount of cleaning will be necessary. Once clean, reinstall.

Start the car and determine if the engine's idling has improved. If the idling has not improved, you may need to replace the ICV.


ICV valves rarely need more than a cleaning and tend not to break.

Things You'll Need

  • Carb cleaner fluid
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About the Author

Adam Paul has been writing professionally since 2007. His work has been featured in "BMW Owners News" and he also wrote a motorcycling column for Paul studied environmental science and journalism at the University of Maine and holds a Bachelor of Science in conservation law from Unity College.