Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

How Are Car Sensors Protected From Heat and Debris?

Oxygen sensor

The sensors installed on your vehicle are designed to continuously collect and relay data from various systems to the on board computer. As your engine runs, heat builds up under the hood. In fact, it's estimated that temperatures inside the engine bay can eclipse 200 degrees in some occasions. Although they have improved in construction, design, and are much more sturdy, sensors can fail on occasion. Since car sensors relay important information, if they don’t work correctly, or are damaged due to exposure they may send faulty information or none at all. The result is that the car may not start, doesn’t run as well, or even leave you stranded.

Keeping the sensors clean can extend their use and prevent damage. There are many ways that engineers ensure that sensors are protected. Noted below are a few of the common ways automotive manufacturers ensure the sensors are kept from harm and high heat.

Protected by Design

Some sensors, such as the coolant sensor, are placed in an area where they are less likely to come in contact with dust or other debris. This sensor is located on the cylinder head, or sometimes the intake manifold.

Other sensors are located in a precarious area, and prone to exposure by exhaust, dust, and debris. These sensors need a special design to protect them from these elements. For instance, the oxygen sensor is built in such a way that it keeps working even when it comes into contact with contaminants. It features a shell with a laser-welded body to keep out all types of contaminants.

With no moving parts, the mass airflow sensor has fewer things that can go wrong with it. The main concern is how dust and contaminants can touch the heating element and prevent it from working.

Protected by Cleaning

Many of the sensors can be maintained by cleaning. When the engine is washed, the dirt and dust are removed. Using safe cleaning fluids allows you to get the sensors clean, so they keep working the way they are supposed to. The throttle position sensor can be cleaned with a solvent and toothbrush. It is important to be careful and mindful of how these sensors are cleaned and maintained. In some cases, using high pressure washers under the hood can cause electrical harnesses to become damaged or detached.

Another sensor that should be cleaned frequently are the wheel speed sensors. Over time and use, wheel speed sensors collect road grime, brake dust, and other debris, which can impact their ability to effectively monitor and relay data to the ABS module, cruise control, and even the transmission. Most professional mechanics agree that the simple act of spraying water behind the wheel rim is the best way to remove debris from wheel speed sensors.

In most cases, you can complete routine service to keep your sensors clean. However, any time you notice a warning light on the dashboard, it is typically due to a sensor malfunction and should not be ignored. Contact a professional technician from YourMechanic to complete a check engine light inspection to determine if sensors are damaged and need to be replaced before major symptoms occur.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
Icon-warranty_badge-02

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

More related articles

P0240 OBD-II Trouble Code: Turbocharger Boost Sensor B Circuit Range/Performance
P0240 code definition Turbocharger Boost Sensor B Circuit Range/Performance What the P0240 code means P0240 is an OBD-II generic code triggered when the Engine Control Module (ECM) detects the intake boost...
Rules of the Road For Iowa Drivers
Driving on the roads requires knowledge of the rules, many of which are based on common sense and courtesy. However, even though you know the rules in...
The Traveler’s Guide to Driving in Malaysia
CraigBurrows / Shutterstock.com Malaysia is a popular destination for many tourists today. The country has amazing sights and attractions that you will want to explore....


Related questions

Q: Shifting gears and speed

Hello. From what you describe it would appear that your vehicle is in some sort of limp mode. If the computer detects a serious issue with the engine management or transmission system it will put the vehicle in a power...

Q: Transmission speed sensor and the internal lights don't work

Hi there. According to what you've described, there could be a wire harness issue, a ground that has failed, blown fuses, and so on. Check all the fuses and replace any fuses that are blown. Check relays for a...

Q: My car has a rough idle and misfires once its warmed up

Hi, and thanks for contacting YourMechanic. First of all, the mass air flow (MAF) sensor requires its screen; the air registering through the sensor is monitored with the elements in the screen. By removing the screen, you actually destroyed the...