What Happens to Sensors if They are Dirty?

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On average, there are more than 30 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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Nazareth

26 years of experience
110 reviews
Nazareth
26 years of experience
Mazda 3 - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Los Angeles, California
Nazareth provides excellent service. He is very friendly, flexible and proactive, I can only recommend booking him.
Mazda 3 - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Glendale, California
Nazareth was great to work with. I would highly recommend him for future vehicle work. He was able to get the job done quickly and in a professional manner.

Michael

7 years of experience
16 reviews
Michael
7 years of experience
Honda Accord - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Scottsdale, Arizona
Michael is awesome! Extremely knowledgeable, competent, and has strong integrity. He was able to help me understand why I didn’t need certain fixes that the dealership recommended (which ended up saving me almost a thousand dollars). He’s very personable, charismatic, and skilled at what he does. I can confidently say that the “YourMechanic” website is beyond blessed to have this man working with them.
Jeep Wrangler - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Chandler, Arizona
Very professional and knowledgeable. I would highly recommend Michael to anyone looking for car maintenance. Great service! Thank you.

Jason

31 years of experience
167 reviews
Jason
31 years of experience
Fiat 500L - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - San Jose, California
Unbelievably efficient and knowledgeable. Jason just comes and gets it done. I so appreciate his commitment to Excellence as evidenced by his refusal to use the wrong oil for my oil change, even though it meant him coming out another day. Just had my brakes done in less than an hour. So happy I found this and so happy that Jason's my mechanic. I highly recommend him. Meghan in San Jose
Nissan Altima - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - San Mateo, California
Jason was very professional and friendly. He provided extremely honest and helpful advice on issues with my Altima that would require proactive future maintenance.

Pardeep

20 years of experience
655 reviews
Pardeep
20 years of experience
Honda Civic - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - San Jose, California
Thank you for helping to problem solve and being professional. I will likely be seeing you again soon.
Ford Fusion - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Fremont, California
Again 5 star service. And already scheduling him for my next appointment. Highly recommend Pardeep for your car needs.

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