How Are Car Sensors Protected From Heat and Debris?

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.


Next Step

Schedule Oil Change

The most popular service booked by readers of this article is Oil Change. YourMechanic’s technicians bring the dealership to you by performing this job at your home or office 7-days a week between 7AM-9PM. We currently cover over 2,000 cities and have 100k+ 5-star reviews... LEARN MORE

SEE PRICING & SCHEDULING

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

Recent Oil Change reviews

Excellent Rating

(21,607)

Rating Summary
20,295
844
177
86
205
20,295
844
177
86
205

Kenneth

20 years of experience
649 reviews
Kenneth
20 years of experience
Volkswagen Passat - Oil Change - Venice, California
Kenneth was engaging, informative, and knowledgeable. He didn't perform one of the requested services because he said it was unnecessary, saving me money and time. 10/10 would and will hire him again.
Land Rover Discovery Sport - Oil Change - Los Angeles, California
Kenneth was on time (on Thanksgiving no less!) and got the work done in a timely fashion. Highly recommended.

Pierre

9 years of experience
183 reviews
Pierre
9 years of experience
Honda Civic - Oil Change - Boston, Massachusetts
My first time using this service and Pierre was awesome! He put my mind at ease and I will definitely be a repeat customer!
Toyota Highlander - Oil Change - Auburndale, Massachusetts
Great mechanic. Made everything easy - showed up right on time, was nice and polite, and did exactly what I needed on the car. Will keep working with Pierre in the future for sure.

Josh

16 years of experience
60 reviews
Josh
16 years of experience
Dodge Grand Caravan - Oil Change - Naples, Florida
He came, did the job quickly and let me know what is needed to keep my van running at its optimal level.
Ford Thunderbird - Oil Change - Naples, Florida
Josh was on time, stayed until he completed the job, very knowledgable. He pointed out that the also need a oil change, came back and completed that job. Very nice young man.

Rodney

36 years of experience
442 reviews
Rodney
36 years of experience
Porsche 718 Boxster - Oil Change - Rancho Cordova, California
Rodney was knowledgeable and professional! Changed the oil in my 2019 Porsche (which is not an easy task.) I am already recommending him to others.

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

Related articles

What Sensors Do All Cars Have? And What Optional Ones Are There?
Modern cars have an increasing amount of sensors. Most cars have an oxygen sensor and a throttle position sensor, but parking sensors are optional.
How Long Does a Cylinder Head Temperature Sensor Last?
The The engine’s performance is largely based on temperature measurements performed by the engine control module (ECM), also known as the vehicle’s computer. As the temperature of the engine increases, the resistance decreases which means the voltage drops. The computer...
How Long Does a Crankshaft Position Sensor Last?
The The crankshaft position sensor monitors the rotational speed and position of the crankshaft in the engine. It reports this information to the engine management system to control the ignition system timing. The crankshaft position sensor is used with the...

Related questions

Bad gas mileage on a 2006 Ford Escape V6 3.0

Generally, if you have a really bad gas mileage on those things, if it's running okay and not misfiring, it's one of two things. Either the MAF sensor is bad so you might just buy a MAF sensor. Try...

Throttle body 2004 Nissan Altima

Hi there - great question! In a few cases, mainly early throttle bodies, or throttle position sensors, require software to be loaded from the manufacturer, but this is not the case with your model. There is a "relearn" procedure that...

Check engine light on & OBD #P0171

P0171 for your car is "system too lean." The most common cause is a vacuum leak and it can come from a leaky hose or a leaky gasket. However, I did a quick search and found someone on the forums...

How can we help?

Our service team is available 7 days a week, Monday - Friday from 6 AM to 5 PM PST, Saturday - Sunday 7 AM - 4 PM PST.

1 (855) 347-2779 · hi@yourmechanic.com