Grille Shutter Malfunction (How To Fix?)

grille shutter malfunction

When it comes to car maintenance, it’s crucial to be aware of potential issues that can arise. One such issue is active grille shutter malfunction. Many car owners may not even realize that their vehicle is equipped with active grille shutters or what problems can occur if they malfunction.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the causes, symptoms, and solutions for active grille shutter malfunction in cars.

Whether you own a Toyota, Ford, Chevy, or any other car brand, this guide will provide you with the knowledge you need to understand and address this issue.

1. Understanding Active Grille Shutters

Active grille shutters are an integral part of a car’s cooling system and aerodynamic design. These shutters are located at the front of the vehicle, covering the grille opening. Their primary function is to regulate airflow into the engine compartment, improving cooling efficiency and reducing aerodynamic drag.

1.1 How Active Grille Shutters Work

Active grille shutters are operated by an actuator that receives signals from the car’s engine control module (ECM). The shutters can open or close based on the driving conditions and temperature of the engine. When the engine requires cooling, the shutters open to allow air to flow through the radiator, preventing overheating. Conversely, when the engine is at optimum temperature or during high-speed driving, the shutters close to reduce drag and improve fuel efficiency.

1.2 Benefits of Active Grille Shutters

Active grille shutters offer several advantages for car owners. First and foremost, they enhance cooling efficiency by controlling the amount of air that enters the engine compartment. This helps to prevent engine overheating and ensures optimal performance.

Additionally, the ability to close the shutters at high speeds reduces aerodynamic drag, leading to improved fuel economy. Overall, active grille shutters contribute to a more efficient and eco-friendly driving experience.

2. Common Causes of Active Grille Shutter Malfunction

Active grille shutter malfunction can occur due to various reasons. Understanding these causes is crucial for diagnosing and resolving the issue. Let’s explore the most common factors that can lead to active grille shutter malfunction in cars.

2.1 Bumper Collision

One of the primary causes of active grille shutter malfunction is a bumper collision. The front bumpers of cars are typically made of plastic and are located in front of the grille shutters.

A severe impact can damage the shutters, causing them to bend, shatter, or become misaligned. This damage hinders their proper opening and closing, leading to malfunction.

2.2 Water Intrusion

Water infiltration is another common cause of active grille shutter problems. If the seals covering the shutters are defective or torn, water can enter the shutter system and damage its internal components. Over time, this can cause the shutters to become stuck open or closed, preventing them from functioning correctly.

2.3 Debris or Dirt Buildup

Shutters located at the front of a vehicle are susceptible to debris and dirt accumulation. After driving for a prolonged period or in dusty environments, debris and dirt can accumulate on the shutters, obstructing their movement. This buildup can affect the proper opening and closing of the shutters, resulting in malfunction.

2.4 Snow Buildup

In cold weather conditions with heavy snowfall, snow can accumulate on the active grille shutters. This can lead to the shutters becoming jammed or blocked, preventing them from opening or closing as needed.

Snow buildup can also damage the temperature sensor, triggering diagnostic trouble codes related to the sensor’s functionality.

2.5 Electrical or Sensor Failure

Active grille shutters rely on electrical signals from sensors to regulate their operation. If there is a malfunction in the sensors or electrical components, the shutters may not receive the proper signals, leading to malfunction. This can occur due to wiring issues, sensor damage, or sensor misalignment.

3. Symptoms of Active Grille Shutter Malfunction

Detecting active grille shutter malfunction early is essential for preventing further damage and ensuring the optimal performance of your vehicle. Here are the key symptoms that indicate a potential issue with the active grille shutters in your car.

3.1 Check Engine Light

One of the most common indicators of active grille shutter malfunction is the illumination of the check engine light on the dashboard. When the car’s engine control module detects a problem with the shutters, it triggers the check engine light to alert the driver.

This warning light should not be ignored, as it indicates a potential issue that requires attention.

3.2 Abnormal Noise During Shutter Operation

If you notice unusual noises, such as grinding or clicking sounds, during the opening or closing of the active grille shutters, it may be a sign of malfunction.

These noises can indicate mechanical issues or misalignment of the shutters. Paying attention to these sounds can help you identify and address the problem promptly.

3.3 Reduced Fuel Efficiency

Active grille shutter malfunction can lead to a decrease in fuel efficiency. When the shutters are stuck in the closed position or fail to open properly, it increases aerodynamic drag, forcing the engine to work harder to maintain speed. This additional strain on the engine results in increased fuel consumption and reduced fuel efficiency.

3.4 Overheating Engine

One of the critical functions of active grille shutters is to regulate engine temperature by controlling airflow. If the shutters are stuck closed or fail to open when needed, it can cause the engine to overheat. Overheating can lead to engine damage and compromised performance.

If your car’s temperature gauge consistently shows high readings, it may indicate active grille shutter malfunction.

3.5 Loss of Engine Power

Malfunctioning active grille shutters can also lead to a loss of engine power. The shutters play a crucial role in maintaining optimal airflow to the engine, and their malfunction can disrupt this process. Reduced airflow can result in decreased engine power and performance, affecting your overall driving experience.

4. How to Diagnose Active Grille Shutter Malfunction

Diagnosing active grille shutter malfunction requires a systematic approach and, in some cases, professional assistance. Here are the steps you can take to identify the root cause of the problem and determine the appropriate course of action.

4.1 Visual Inspection

Start by visually inspecting the active grille shutters for any visible damage, misalignment, or debris accumulation. Check for any broken or disconnected components, as well as signs of water intrusion. Additionally, inspect the wiring and sensor connections for any loose or damaged parts.

A thorough visual inspection can provide valuable insights into the nature of the malfunction.

4.2 Scan for Diagnostic Trouble Codes

Using an OBD-II scanner, retrieve the diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) related to the active grille shutter system. These codes can provide specific information about the malfunction and guide the diagnostic process. Consult your car’s manual or seek professional assistance to interpret the retrieved codes accurately.

4.3 Test the Shutter Operation

If the active grille shutters appear to be intact, you can test their operation manually. Start the engine and observe the movement of the shutters while driving at different speeds.

Ensure that the shutters open and close as needed based on the driving conditions. If you notice any irregularities or the shutters fail to operate correctly, it indicates a malfunction.

4.4 Seek Professional Assistance

If you are unable to identify the cause of active grille shutter malfunction or if the issue persists after performing initial diagnostics, it is advisable to seek professional assistance.

Automotive technicians have the expertise and specialized equipment to diagnose and repair complex issues related to the active grille shutter system.

They can perform in-depth inspections and utilize advanced diagnostic tools to pinpoint the exact cause of the malfunction.

5. Solutions for Active Grille Shutter Malfunction

Resolving active grille shutter malfunction depends on the underlying cause and severity of the issue. Here are some common solutions that can help address this problem and restore the proper functioning of the shutters.

5.1 Clear Debris and Clean the Shutters

If the malfunction is caused by debris or dirt accumulation, you can start by cleaning the shutters thoroughly. Remove any visible debris or dirt using a soft brush or cloth.

Pay attention to the tracks and hinges, ensuring they are free from obstructions. Once cleaned, test the shutters’ operation to see if the issue persists.

5.2 Repair or Replace Damaged Components

If there is visible damage to the active grille shutters or their components, such as bent blades or broken links, repair or replacement may be necessary.

In some cases, you may be able to realign misaligned shutters or replace individual damaged parts. However, if the damage is extensive or affects the overall functionality of the shutters, it may be necessary to replace the entire assembly.

5.3 Resolve Electrical or Sensor Issues

If the malfunction is caused by electrical or sensor failure, it is essential to address these issues to restore proper operation. Check the wiring connections and sensor alignment, ensuring they are secure and undamaged.

If necessary, replace any faulty sensors or repair the electrical system. Professional assistance may be required for more complex electrical or sensor-related problems.

5.4 Calibrate the Active Grille Shutter System

In some cases, the active grille shutter system may require calibration to ensure proper functionality. This calibration process involves resetting the system to its default settings and allowing it to recalibrate based on the car’s driving conditions.

Consult your car’s manual or seek professional assistance to perform the calibration process accurately.

5.5 Consult with Automotive Technicians

If you are unable to resolve the active grille shutter malfunction on your own or if the issue persists, it is advisable to consult with automotive technicians. They have the expertise and specialized tools to diagnose and repair complex issues related to the active grille shutter system.

They can provide professional guidance and ensure that the malfunction is addressed effectively.

6. Preventive Measures for Active Grille Shutter Malfunction

Taking preventive measures can help reduce the risk of active grille shutter malfunction and prolong the lifespan of these components. Here are some tips to keep your active grille shutters in optimal condition:

6.1 Regular Inspection and Cleaning

Perform regular visual inspections of the active grille shutters to check for any damage, misalignment, or debris accumulation. Clean the shutters and their components regularly to prevent the buildup of dirt and debris. This will help maintain smooth operation and prevent potential malfunctions.

6.2 Drive with Caution

Be mindful of your driving habits, especially when it comes to starting and stopping the vehicle. Sudden impacts or collisions can damage the active grille shutters, leading to malfunction. Drive cautiously, avoiding situations that may cause excessive stress or impact on the shutters.

6.3 Maintain Seals and Weather Stripping

Ensure that the seals and weather stripping around the active grille shutters are in good condition. Damaged or worn-out seals can allow water to enter the shutter system, leading to malfunction. Regularly inspect and replace any damaged seals or weather stripping to prevent water intrusion.

6.4 Perform Regular Maintenance

Follow the recommended maintenance schedule for your vehicle, including routine inspections and servicing. Regular maintenance can help detect potential issues with the active grille shutters before they escalate into major problems.

7. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

7.1 Can I drive with active grille shutter malfunction?

It is generally not recommended to drive with active grille shutter malfunction, especially if the shutters are stuck in the closed position. Closed shutters can cause the engine to overheat, leading to potential damage. Additionally, malfunctioning shutters can reduce fuel efficiency and engine performance. It is best to address the issue promptly to prevent further damage and ensure safe driving.

7.2 How much does it cost to repair active grille shutters?

The cost of repairing active grille shutters can vary depending on the extent of the damage and the specific make and model of the vehicle. Minor repairs, such as cleaning or realigning the shutters, may cost less.

However, if significant components need to be replaced or the entire assembly requires repair, the cost can be higher. It is recommended to consult with automotive technicians for a detailed assessment and cost estimate.

7.3 Can I fix active grille shutter malfunction myself?

While some minor issues, such as cleaning or realigning the shutters, can be addressed by car owners, more complex problems may require professional assistance.

Active grille shutter systems involve electrical components and intricate mechanisms that require specialized knowledge and tools for repair.

If you are unsure or inexperienced, it is advisable to consult with automotive technicians to ensure the problem is resolved correctly.

Grill Shutter Malfunction Message On The Dashboard Fixed >> Check out the video below:


Active grille shutter malfunction can pose significant risks to your car’s performance and efficiency. By understanding the causes, symptoms, and solutions for this issue, you can take proactive steps to address and prevent it.

Regular inspection, proper maintenance, and prompt repairs are key to ensuring the optimal functioning of active grille shutters. If you encounter any signs of malfunction, seek professional assistance to diagnose and resolve the issue promptly.

By doing so, you can enjoy a smooth and efficient driving experience while maximizing the lifespan of your active grille shutters.

Steve P.

Steve is an automotive technician, technical writer, and Managing Editor. He has held a lifelong passion for cars, with a particular interest in cars like the Buick Riviera. Steve is based in Boise, Idaho.

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