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High mileage 3rd generation Toyota 4Runners are notorious for having excessive throttle play. This is the result of excessive slack in the throttle cable under the hood, which directly affects throttle response. When you step on the accelerator pedal, you are physically pulling on the throttle cable which runs from the pedal, through the firewall, to the throttle body. In the below photo, you can see the throttle cable run through its housing from the right side of the engine bay.
When the accelerator pedal is depressed, it pulls the throttle cable back. The butterfly valve then pulls open inside the throttle body, directly controlling the amount of air that enters the engine.
Over time, this throttle cable stretches loose. You can imagine with slack in the cable, that there can be a delay before the cable catches and tugs on the cable. By tightening up this slack, you will be creating a quicker and more direct pull whenever stepping on the accelerator pedal.
Throttle Cable Adjustment
To perform a throttle cable adjustment, use two wrenches to break the two 14mm nuts loose (as seen below.) Now, the throttle cable can be moved back to its desired position, and then nuts tightened back in place. You want to make sure the wire is taut, then relaxed up a bit before tightening the bolts up again.
Optimally, the cable should have no tension before pressure is applied to the accelerator pedal. The throttle should also pull the cable right away when you press on the gas pedal.
If the throttle cable is pulled too tight, then there will already be some cable tension at idle and therefore the car will idle at a higher RPM. If this occurs, you will need to back off the nut to loosen the throttle cable.
Below is an example of a 3rd generation Toyota 4Runner with throttle, cruise control, and transmission “kick down” cables. The same tightening procedure can be done for the other cables to improve the cruise control function and provide better downshifts when the transmission needs to “kick down” a gear. Doing a bit of easy maintenance here can produce some quick results and easily revive your 3rd gen 4Runner!