A Drive-By-Wire Pedal Upgrade For Better Response And “Performance”

Automotive drive-by-wire throttle systems were first introduced back in 1986. This electronic throttle pedal eliminated the need for mechanical linkage. This revelation allows the OEs to adjust the rate at which the engine actually responds to pressure applied to the pedal. This is a great way to help with emissions control, but not so good for the driver who likes instantaneous throttle response. Luckily, companies like Bully Dog have created throttle enhancers that allow the user to adjust how fast the throttle reacts to input.

Sometimes, this factory-induced delayed input can create a scary situation that makes one realize a change is needed. For the purpose of this article, I will let you know that my scare came while towing the gooseneck trailer with Project WorkHorse. I was in the right lane of a four-lane highway when I came upon a car that was traveling at, shall we say less than the posted speed limit. I waited for a couple of cars to go around me and when it looked clear, I proceeded to pull into the left lane to pass.

drive by wire

First step? Plug the harness into the Thruster box.

As soon as I did, another small car pulled out from behind me and when I saw him, I quickly pushed on the throttle pedal in hopes of “quickly” getting out of his way. Unfortunately, quickly did not occur as it took several seconds for the truck to respond to my foot’s movement. This almost resulted in a bad situation. Thank you drive-by-wire throttle control.

This prompted me to reconsider my current reservations about the validity of drive-by-wire throttle enhancers. I’m what many would call a “seasoned” driver and I am used to the instant throttle response of a car with a mechanical linkage. I never fully understood how a computer could change the way my truck’s throttle responded, but the previously mentioned incident caused me to consider coming out of the dark ages and take a good hard look at a throttle pedal enhancer.

drive by wire

Unplug the factory harness from the pedal (arrow).

Project WorkHorse already has a Bully Dog GT to alter certain parameters and help with towing chores, so I figured I would stick with what is working and I called Bully Dog to get one of their Throttle Thruster pedal controllers. The Thruster is a plug-and-play device that allows the user to adjust the responsiveness of their vehicle’s throttle pedal. This easy-to-install device gives the driver access to a control knob that increases how quickly their vehicle responds to changes in throttle position, without voiding the vehicle’s warranty. This device can be installed as a standalone or stacked with a tuner.

The kit arrived and was complete with a control box, wiring harness, a dial knob for adjusting the rate of enhancement, cable ties, Velcro tabs, adhesive pads, and a set of OEM quality connectors for hassle-free plug-and-play tunability. This is a very easy install and the only tool required was a wrench for loosening battery cables.

To complete the install, simply connect the Thruster control box to the Bully Dog wiring harness, disconnect the car battery so the ECU can learn the correct starting pedal position when you reconnect it, and then unplug the pedal position sensor (harness on the pedal). Next, plug the Bully Dog harness’ OEM-style plug into the pedal and the truck’s wiring harness and you’re basically done. Okay, you will need to find a good place to mount the Thruster but that will be different for every vehicle, so I’ll let you decide where you want to mount yours under the dash.

Once you have the Thruster connected and mounted, reconnect the batteries and then start the truck. Disconnecting the battery and then reconnecting and starting the engine allows the ECU to rely exclusively on Bully Dog’s Thruster for all throttle input calibration signals.

The installation is technically complete when you plug in the Thruster wire harness to the pedal and the OE harness. Now you just need to mount the box under the dash.

Everybody is different and we all have different wants and needs. The Thruster is designed with that in mind and a control knob is part of the kit so you can adjust the “rate” at which the throttle responds to your inputs. There is a range of 0- to 100-percent which correlates to the rate of response.

You can either permanently mount the control knob so changes can be made at any time, or you can set it to the percentage you desire and then unplug it. The choice is yours.

The Thruster comes with a control knob to adjust the rate of increased response. You can either mount it in a location to allow access and easy adjustments or set it and unplug it.

In my case, the installation of the Thruster took less than thirty minutes to complete and that was with me stopping to take pictures. I know the Thruster does not add horsepower or torque, but with the knob turned to 100-percent, it gives the perception it does. Throttle response is nearly instantaneous, and I have now learned to press ever so lightly on the pedal when I need to get moving. Asserting pressure like I did before the Thruster was installed now results in tires spinning.

While this is not necessarily a performance enhancement or a product that will improve towing or hauling, it does deliver a sense of safety. Having a throttle that reacts when I want it to is so much better than having a throttle that reacts when the OE computer decides it’s time to do something.

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About the author

Randy Bolig

Randy Bolig has been working on cars and has been involved in the hobby ever since he bought his first car when he was only 14 years old. His passion for performance got him noticed by many locals, and he began helping them modify their vehicles.
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