How To Test The TPS (1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 5.2L, 5.9L Dodge Ram Pickup/Van)

The throttle position sensor (TPS) can be easily tested using only a multimeter and in this article, I'll show you how.

This article covers troubleshooting diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) P0121, P0122, P0123 on the 5.2L and 5.9L Dodge Ram pick up (or van).

NOTE: This tutorial only covers the throttle position sensor on the 1997 thru' 2003 Dodge Ram pickup/van. For the 1992-1996 Dodge Ram pickup/van, see the following tutorial:

  1. How To Test The TPS (1992-1996 5.2L, 5.9L Dodge Ram Pickup/Van).

En Español You can find this tutorial in Spanish here: Cómo Probar El Sensor TPS (Chrysler 3.9L, 5.2L, 5.9L) (at: autotecnico-online.com).

APPLIES TO: This tutorial applies to the following vehicles (since they use the exact same throttle position sensor):

Full-size pickup:

  1. Dodge Ram 1500 Pickup 5.2L: 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001.
  2. Dodge Ram 1500 Pickup 5.9L: 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003.
  3. Dodge Ram 2500 Pickup 5.9L: 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002.
  4. Dodge Ram 3500 Pickup 5.9L: 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002.

Full-size van:

  1. Dodge Ram Van 1500 Van 5.2L, 5.9L: 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003
  2. Dodge Ram Van 2500 Van 5.2L, 5.9L: 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003
  3. Dodge Ram Van 3500 Van 5.2L, 5.9L: 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003

The following wiring diagram may come in handy:

  1. 1996-1998 TP Sensor Circuit Diagram (Dodge 3.9L, 5.2L, 5.9L).

Symptoms Of A Bad TPS

You'll have the check engine light on your instrument cluster shining nice and bright for sure.

You'll also experience one or several of the following symptoms:

  1. TPS diagnostic trouble codes (DTC's).
    1. P0121: TPS Voltage Does Not Agree with MAP.
    2. P0122: Throttle Position Sensor Voltage Low.
    3. P0123: Throttle Position Sensor Voltage High.
  2. Really bad gas mileage. You know that it's not the price of gasoline that has you thinking that your pick up or van is costing you more at the pump.
  3. No power and/or hesitation as you accelerate the vehicle. It feels like all of a sudden someone cut the power out momentarily as you step on the gas to get the vehicle moving.
  4. Engine may not start.

How The Throttle Position Sensor Works

How To Test The TPS (1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 5.2L, 5.9L Dodge Ram Pickup/Van)

The throttle position sensor's job is to measure the angle of the throttle. So here, in a nutshell, is how the throttle position sensor works when you crank and start your 5.2L, 5.9L Dodge:

  1. The fuel injection computer supplies 5 Volts and Ground to the throttle position sensor.
    1. 5 Volts is provided by the wire labeled with the number 3.
    2. Ground is provided by the wire labeled with the number 1.
  2. Now, since the throttle is closed, the TPS (with power and Ground supplied) sends the PCM (Powertrain Control Module=Fuel Injection Computer) a DC voltage signal of about .3 to .9 Volt. This value is what the PCM associates with a closed throttle.
    1. The TP signal is sent to the PCM by the wire labeled with the number 2.
  3. Once you throw your Dodge vehicle in drive and accelerate the car, the throttle opens and the throttle position sensor immediately sends this change of the throttle angle as an INCREASING voltage signal to the PCM.
  4. With this increasing voltage signal, the PCM knows its time to inject more fuel, advance ignition timing, and a host of other things it has to do to keep your 5.2L, 5.9L Dodge running optimally.
  5. As you let go off the accelerator pedal to slow down, the throttle plate closes and of course the TP sensor sends the info to the PCM as it returns to its base voltage signal, till the whole cycle begins again.

Pretty easy stuff? The cool thing is that the tests to check out the TP sensor's performance are as easy too. Since testing the TPS simply involves making sure that the sensor is creating a throttle angle voltage signal (which can be verified with a multimeter in Volts DC mode).

If the TP sensor is not creating a voltage signal, then the next steps are to make sure that it's getting power and Ground from the PCM. These two things you can also verify with your multimeter.

IMPORTANT: Since you'll be working in the engine compartment take all necessary safety precautions and use common sense.

TPS TEST 1: Testing The TPS Signal

How To Test The TPS (1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 5.2L, 5.9L Dodge Ram Pickup/Van)

The first order of business, is to test the throttle position voltage signal right off the bat with your multimeter in Volts DC mode.

What we're looking for, if the TPS is good, is for the TPS signal to increase/decrease as the throttle plate opens/closes.

Depending on your TPS voltage signal test result, you'll be able to conclude the TPS is good or continue on to the next tests.

NOTE: It's best to test the throttle position sensor (TPS) with the engine warmed up. This will increase the accuracy of your test result, especially if the TP sensor is failing intermittently.

OK, let's start:

  1. 1

    Place your multimeter in Volts DC mode and connect the red test lead to the ORG/DK BLU of the TP sensor harness connector.

    NOTE: The TP sensor connector needs to be connected to the TPS, so you'll need to either back-probe the connector or use a wire piercing probe to get to the signal inside the wire (to see what a wire piercing probe looks like: Wire Piercing Probe Tool).

  2. 2

    Ground the black multimeter test lead directly on the battery negative (-) post.

    At this point (with the throttle plate closed) your multimeter should read a voltage between 0.3 to 1.0 volt DC.

  3. 3

    Manually rotate the throttle.

    You'll get the best results by opening and closing the throttle directly on the throttle body instead of stepping on the accelerator pedal.

  4. 4

    The multimeter should show an increasing voltage as you (or your helper) open up the throttle.

    With the throttle plate completely open, your multimeter should read: 3.2 to 4.9 Volts DC.

    You'll get the best results by opening and closing the throttle directly on the throttle body instead of stepping on the accelerator pedal.

  5. 5

    The multimeter should show a decreasing voltage as you begin to close the throttle.

  6. 6

    Using a screwdriver's handle, gently tap the TP sensor as you open and close the throttle and observer the multimeter.

    The purpose (of tapping the TP sensor with the screwdriver's handle) is to see if the TP sensor shows gap's in the voltage signal. Why? Because a good TP sensor will show a continuous increasing or decreasing voltage signal even while getting tapped by the screw-driver's handle.

Let's examine your test result:

CASE 1: The multimeter registered a smooth increase or decrease in voltage with no gaps, this tells you that the throttle position sensor itself is OK and not causing the issue you're trying to troubleshoot.

Now, if the throttle position sensor code won't go away, take a look at the info found at: TPS code Will Not Go Away for a few more suggestions as to what could be causing the TPS diagnostic trouble code (DTC).

CASE 2: The multimeter DID NOT register a smooth increase or decrease in voltage, and you saw the voltage reading skip or go dead when tapping the TPS, then this means that the throttle position sensor (TPS) is bad. Replace the throttle position sensor.

CASE 3: The multimeter DID NOT register any voltage. This test result doesn't condemn the TPS as bad just yet. We need to rule out the possibility that the TPS may be missing either power or Ground.

The next step (and the next test) is to make sure the throttle position sensor (TPS) is getting power, go to: TPS TEST 2: Making Sure The TPS Is Getting 5 Volts.