What Happens to Sensors if They are Dirty?

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On average, there are more than 20 individual sensors installed in modern vehicles on the road today. They range in sizes smaller than a quarter to the size of a rolled up dollar bill. Car sensors are typically used to collect data from various systems and relay it to the ECU. However, if the sensor is dirty, it's effectiveness can be compromised significantly.

If something’s malfunctioning on your vehicle and you have a mechanic inspect the issue, they may look at the sensor that has an impact on the problem. Checking to make sure the sensor isn’t dirty is one of the least expensive repair options but is the most common. By recognizing the symptoms of dirty sensors you can be better prepared to resolve these issues.

Oxygen sensor

Cars today have at least one oxygen sensor, and may have as many as four or five depending on the model. These sensors are prone to becoming dirty because they are located around the exhaust. Their job is to monitor how much unburned fuel is present in the exhaust system. When they are dirty, they may provide inaccurate information or none at all, which prevents the system from making changes in the air-fuel mixture to reduce the amount that is unburned. This will reduce the car's performance and the engine will have to work harder.

Manifold absolute pressure sensor

The MAP (manifold absolute pressure) sensor changes the voltage and frequency of the intake vacuum, depending on the air pressure in the manifold. When the sensor is dirty, it doesn't make the necessary changes, which slows down or speeds up the ignition timing. As a result, the car hesitates when you try to accelerate or go up an incline and has poor overall performance, even though it will continue to run.

Mass airflow sensor

The MAF or mass airflow sensor measures the volume and density of airflow to tell the engine how much fuel must be added. When the sensor gets dust or dirt on it, incorrect information can be sent to the diagnostic computer. The wrong amount of fuel is added, which can lead to stalling, sputtering, and hesitation as well as loss of power or lower fuel efficiency.

Wheel speed sensor

The ABS sensor or wheel speed sensor helps you maintain control of your vehicle when you need to brake or when you are driving on slick pavement. If this sensor gets dirty, it can cause the ABS light to turn on, indicating a problem when none actually exists.

In general, sensors that work with the engine impact the performance when they get dirty. The engine may sound rough, not run as well, or have less efficiency or power. For instance, the oil pressure sensor tells you when the amount of oil is getting low. If it’s dirty, it may not respond and you could run out of oil and damage your engine. Keeping your sensors clean is important to ensure optimal performance and a long life for your vehicle. If you ever have an issue with your car you think is related to a dirty sensor, contact a professional mobile technician from YourMechanic.


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Rigoberto

9 years of experience
706 reviews
Rigoberto
9 years of experience
Chevrolet Equinox - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Niles, Illinois
Rigo was great! He got there early, finished the job early, left everything clean. He changed my rear pads and rotors. The original quoted time was 90 minutes, he was done in about 60. He knows what he is doing and I am recommending him to all my friends and coworkers.
Mercedes-Benz C250 - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Chicago, Illinois
Rigo is a maverick hands down. Don’t take your car for work elsewhere. Especially great at Mercedes—this guy knows his profession! I will be using him for everything related to my car going forward.

Arturo

25 years of experience
35 reviews
Arturo
25 years of experience
Kia Forte - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - San Diego, California
ARTURO is great! very professional , fast, replaced my front brake pads and oil an filter change. everything now works and works well. Brakes have much improved stopping power and engine is smooth and quiet.Arturo is also kind and thoughtful. "Your mechanic" is very fortunate to have Arturo Lopez represent your company. I enthusiastically recommend him and "Your mechanic> as a fine operation Best regards to the Team Peter Marto
Nissan Maxima - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - San Diego, California
Arturo was prompt and completed my brake repair, including new rotors in a very efficient manner. I am very pleased with the quality of the work and the parts and will definitely look to have him service our other car in the near future.

Scott

32 years of experience
345 reviews
Scott
32 years of experience
Lexus IS250 - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Denver, Colorado
Always on time, speedy, professional, and pleasant to interact with. The work is always consistent and we'll done. I can't reccomend Scott highly enough!

Michael

10 years of experience
15 reviews
Michael
10 years of experience
Nissan Sentra - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Conyers, Georgia
He was promptly on time and got the job done efficiently in a timely manner. I really appreciate the rapid respone on getting the job done! I would most definitely use this service again.

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