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A four-word car part might sound confusing, but hang in there. You can keep up, I promise. An idle air control (IAC) valve is responsible for controlling the engine idling speed. See? Told you it was simple. The engine control module (don’t worry, this is just fancy speak for computer) supplies voltage to the IAC valve, which causes a pintle or rotary valve (depending on the car) to move in and out, adjusting airflow. More air means a higher idle. Now, your car might not have an IAC valve, as most modern cars have moved on to electronic throttle bodies. So if your car doesn’t have an IAC valve, you can skip this info. I promise you, it won’t need an IAC valve replacement if it doesn’t have an IAC valve.
Okay, ready for some news that will knock your socks off? If the IAC valve, which is responsible for controlling the engine’s idle, isn’t working...the idling might not work right. If it feels like your car is idling too high or too low, there’s a good chance your IAC valve is the guilty party.
I get it. You might not notice when the idle speed is off. That’s understandable. But you better notice when the engine isn’t performing well. Surging and jerky acceleration is a sign of an IAC valve that’s not up to the task. So is stalling, and, in more extreme cases, a car that won’t even turn on.
Oh, you didn’t want to see this listed as a symptom, did you? I get it. You don’t pay attention to the check engine light. You think it’s meaningless, because it’s small and harmless looking. Spoiler alert: it’s not meaningless. Something’s wrong with your car, and it might be the IAC valve.
It’s not great to ignore an IAC valve that is malfunctioning. Your car won’t perform well, and you might get stuck with a car that won’t turn on, or will stall every time you’re at a red light. Not ideal. But not really a safety hazard either, and driving around with a busted IAC valve typically won’t put your engine at risk of further damage.
So get the IAC valve replaced, but no need to leave your friend’s wedding to do so. Unless you need a good excuse to get out of there.
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