How To Test The Throttle Position Sensor (2.0L Ford Escort ZX2)

When the TPS fails on your 2.0L Ford Escort ZX2 the engine's performance is going to suffer and the check engine light is gonna' shine nice and bright.

Fortunately for the DIY'er, the throttle position sensor (TPS) can tested with a simple multimeter to find out if it's bad or not.

In this tutorial I'll show you how it's done in a step-by-step way and in plain English.

The contents of this tutorial at a glance:

  1. Symptoms Of A Bad Throttle Position Sensor.
  2. TEST 1: Testing The Throttle Position Sensor Voltage Signal.
  3. TEST 2: Verifying Throttle Position Sensor Has Power.
  4. TEST 3: Verifying Throttle Position Sensor Has Ground.
  5. Where To Buy Your Throttle Position Sensor And Save.
  6. More 2.0L Ford Diagnostic Tutorials.

En Español You can find this tutorial in Spanish here: Verificando el Sensor TPS (2.0L Ford Escort ZX2) (at: autotecnico-online.com).

Symptoms Of A Bad Throttle Position Sensor

A failed throttle position sensor (TPS) will light up the check engine light (CEL) on your 2.0L Ford Escort ZX2.

You'll also see one or more of the following symptoms:

  1. A TPS diagnostic trouble code (DTC) stored in the PCM's memory:
    1. P0121: Throttle Position (TP) Circuit Performance Problem.
    2. P0122: Throttle Position (TP) Circuit Low Input.
    3. P0123: Throttle Position (TP) Circuit High Input.
  2. Your 2.0L Ford Escort ZX2 fails the smog check (state mandated emissions test).
  3. Bad gas mileage.
  4. Hard start and/or extended cranking time (after shut off).
  5. Black smoke coming out of the tailpipe.
  6. Hesitation when accelerating your vehicle down the road.

Thankfully, the TPS can be tested without a scan tool and in the next section we'll start with the very first test.

TEST 1: Testing The Throttle Position Sensor Voltage Signal

Testing The Throttle Position Sensor Voltage Signal. How To Test The Throttle Position Sensor (2.0L Ford Escort ZX2)

The TPS engine wiring harness connector has 3 wires coming out of it. The wire that carries the throttle angle voltage signal is the middle one.

This middle wire is the gray with white stripe (GRY/WHT) wire and this is the one that we're gonna' tap into with a multimeter.

What we're gonna' verify is that the TP signal voltage increases when we open the throttle plate and then decreases when we close the throttle plate. It's as simple as that!

IMPORTANT: The throttle position sensor has to remain connected to its connector for this test to work (this is where a wire piercing probe comes in handy to get to the signal inside the wire. To see what one looks like, click here: Wire Piercing Probe Tool.)

OK, let's start:

  1. 1

    Place your multimeter in Volts DC mode and with the RED multimeter lead probe the middle wire of the sensor's connector. This is the GRY/WHT wire that connects to TPS connector terminal #2 in the illustration above.

  2. 2

    Ground the BLACK multimeter test lead on the battery negative terminal. Have you helper turn the Key On, but don't start the engine (this will power up the TP sensor).

  3. 3

    Your multimeter should report a voltage between .2 to .9 Volts DC. If your multimeter doesn't, don't worry about it just yet, continue with the other steps.

Part 2

  1. 4

    Now, slowly open the throttle (by hand and from the engine compartment) while you observe the change in voltage numbers on your multimeter.

    For this test result to be accurate, you need to open the throttle by hand and not from inside the vehicle.

  2. 5

    As the throttle opens, the voltage numbers will increase. This increase in voltage should be smooth and without any gaps or skips. Once the throttle is wide open, your multimeter should read somewhere between 3.5 to 4.5 Volts DC.

  3. 6

    Now, slowly close the throttle. As the throttle is closing, you should see the voltage decrease smoothly and without any gaps or skips, to the exact same voltage you noticed in step 4.

Part 3

  1. 7

    OK, now you'll need someone to help you lightly tap on the throttle position sensor with the handle of a screw-driver (or something similar, and I want to emphasize the words ‘lightly tap’) as you slowly open and close the throttle and observe the multimeter.

    If the TPS is bad, the tapping will cause the voltage numbers to skip or go blank. If the TPS is OK, the tapping will have no effect on the voltage numbers.

  2. 8

    Repeat step 7 several times to make sure of your multimeter test results.

Let's take a look at your test results:

CASE 1: The throttle angle voltage increased and decreased as you opened and closed the throttle plate. This confirms that your 2.0L Ford Escort ZX2's TP sensor is OK and not defective.

CASE 2: The throttle angle voltage DID NOT increase (and/or decrease) as you opened and closed the throttle plate. This tells you that the TPS is bad and causing the TPS trouble code lighting up the check engine light (CEL) on your 2.0L Ford Escort ZX2.

Before you run out and buy it... I'm gonna' suggest that you do two more tests. One is to check that the TPS is getting power. The other is to check that it's ground. To check that the TPS is getting power, go to: TEST 2: Verifying Throttle Position Sensor Has Power.

CASE 3: Multimeter DID NOT register any voltage, this test result doesn't condemn the TP sensor as BAD just yet. Why? Because...

... the TP sensor may be missing either power or ground. So the next step is to check that the TP sensor is getting power, go to TEST 2: Verifying Throttle Position Sensor Has Power.