Q: What causes sensors to be damaged or get dirty?

asked by on

What causes sensors to be damaged or get dirty?

Modern vehicles are equipped with dozens of different sensors. Sensors are small electrical components, typically housed in plastic, that provide readings to different computers in a vehicle. While their role is big, the sensors themselves and the wires that connect the sensors to the computer, are not necessarily very large. But like any other component on or in a vehicle, these small components are subject to getting damaged or dirty due to their natural exposure to the elements and in time need to be cleaned or replaced.

Sensors that are installed or attached to the engine/transmission, or to other external areas of the vehicle like tires, are more susceptible to damage due to the number of elements they can encounter on a daily basis. Exposure to extreme heat and cold, as well as rain and debris are enemies to many parts of a car. Shifting cold and hot temperatures causes the parts to expand and contract, eventually cracking them. A cracked sensor will allow moisture to get inside of it and short out the sensor.

Other sensors, such as the Mass Air Flow and Idle Air Control sensors, get dirty due to fine dust particles that make their way past the engine’s air filter. Over time this fine dust can build up and prevent these sensors from doing their job.

Some sensors, such as brake wear sensors, cannot be cleaned and are designed to be used only once and then disposed. A sensor can also become shorted out by receiving too much voltage. Such an incident can happen from simply jump starting a vehicle.

As there are so many sensors that come into play with a vehicle, the most important step for sensor health is making sure that they are regularly inspected during routine maintenance. While we cannot escape sensors getting damaged or dirty, we can make sure they are replaced often to avoid a vehicle from experiencing the repercussions of a failed sensor.

Was this answer helpful?

Need advice from certified mechanic? Get help now!

Over 1,000 mechanics are ready to answer your question.
The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
  1. Home
  2. Questions
  3. What causes sensors to be damaged or get dirty?

Get an instant quote for your car

Our certified mechanics come to you ・Backed by 12-month, 12,000-mile guarantee・Fair and transparent pricing

Get a quote

What others are asking

Q: Would a failing oxygen sensor cause lack of power and shifting problems?

As you may know, the oxygen sensors, which are part of your emission's system, read exhaust gases to determine whether or not the appropriate amount of oxygen is present in the exhaust. Based upon this reading, this information is relayed...

Q: How does the automatic climate control system detect the temperature?

In order for the automatic climate control system to work, it needs to know the temperature inside, as well as the temperature/amount of sunlight entering the cabin. It gets this information from two sensors. Sunlight Sensor: The sunlight sensor...

Q: DTC code P0106

Hello, thank you for writing in. The most likely cause of the issue is a bad MAP sensor. Before changing it out, you will want to check for any other obvious signs of problems. These would include frayed or damaged...

Related articles

How Do Power Car Windows Increase Passenger Safety?
Power windows are responsible for approximately 2,000 emergency room visits every year. When a power window closes, it exerts enough force to bruise or break bones, crush fingers, or restrict an airway. Though...
How Much Does a Mechanic Make in Vermont?
Automotive technician jobs in Vermont have an average mechanic salary of $37k, with some mechanics earning a salary of $53k.
P2103 OBD-II Trouble Code: Throttle Actuator Control Motor Circuit High
P2103 means there is a fault with the throttle actuator control motor circuit, likely due to a defective electrical component or part.